#1 Awkward animation
RWBY is an interesting show from an animation standpoint, as it is made primarily in 3D and was a passion project by Monty Oum, who grew to fame through videos containing impressive cross-over battles. I fondly remember watching Haloid when I was younger and when I found out its creator was now getting a full, anime-styled show, I was pretty excited to see how well his animation would hold up outside of spectacular fights. The answer is “not at all”.
While it is definitely watchable, it’s rare for an entire episode to pass without reminding the viewer that this is made by a small crew operating with less-than-optimal animation equipment. Character movements look off, entire models look simplistic and janky, and background design is just all-around kind of meh. There is a stiffness to it all that stands in sharp contrast to the fast-paced, fluent animation shown in its best scenes and trailers. When it first aired I more or less accepted that these were issues that would be improved upon, but season 2 is perhaps even worse, featuring a fight scene that is so poorly done we considered giving up on the show.
By season 4 the overall style receives an overhaul thanks to new software, but still issues persist that make key moments kind of cringeworthy to watch. It’s not Berserk 2016 bad, but I certainly felt embarrassed for dragging a friend into watching this under the assumption it would get better.
#2 Season 2
As I briefly mentioned above, season 2 was a point where the series honestly risked losing us, and we actually did take a prolonged break after watching its ending. Season 2 is just a compilation of the series’ worst, featuring some of its worst comedy, poorest set-design, and introducing many of my least favorite characters.
While I won’t outright spoil the ending, I absolutely despise it because it manages to create a really strong setup. Events are set into motion that we, as the viewer, understand will radically change Remnant. And then it happens, utter chaos breaks out, this could potentially turn the entire balance of the world on its head and doom everything and everybody. You know what happens? They solve the entire issue within an episode without any apparent casualties.
That is the sound of an entire season worth of build up falling flat on its face, a whole lot of raising the stakes for a big plot twist that does happen, only to be immediately reversed. And this is not so easily forgotten, as I felt my cynicism towards the show’s storytelling lingering well into season 3, which appeared to head in the exact same direction all over again.
#3 Attempted comedy
The humor in RWBY is kind of a mess and partly to blame on Roosterteeth’s intention of making the show appeal to a mid-teen audience. The jokes are kind of obvious and mostly just left me entirely cold, but I did find myself cringing at the show’s many attempts to be deliberately cringe-worthy or attempts to mimic anime gimmicks. Already in episode 2 there is a ridiculously poor attempt at an animation shift to make main character Ruby into an excited chibi version of herself, which is just an amateur 2D sprite of her bouncing around a bit. Even as late as season 4 they are still attempting this, with a stupid scene where Ruby’s head is really huge as she laughs at another character, reminiscent of a particularly unfunny Garry’s Mod skit.
Comedy in RWBY work best when it’s genuine dialogue from the characters themselves, such as Jaune or Yang’s many fun moments. I find that it works less when the show actually tries to be awkward, like the dancing scene that I am sure some will inform me is comedic gold, but I personally found impossible to watch. Likewise a later season suddenly featured a bit with incredibly loud opera singing, as well as this “quirky” butler dude. I couldn’t even understand a word the latter was saying, but the delivery and animation made it feel like the target audience’s age was suddenly reduced by 10 years.
#4 B-grade fight scenes
People often argue that while the moment-to-moment animation is kind of rubbish, RWBY really comes alive during its fight scenes. While I admit that a number of the battles look fantastic, the fight against the Nevermore was pretty much the highlight of season 1 for me, only a few fights manage to be on par. The scenes against the Grimm in season 2’s Mountain Glenn are poorly directed and most of the fights in the season 3 tournament arc really cheap out on their animation quality. This even meant that some of the fights, the big set pieces meant to be the selling point of the show, end up being its most awkward scenes.
The team RWBY versus team FNKI battle is probably the absolute nadir of the show and I am still only cautiously optimistic that the new look introduced with season 4 will translate to better fights as well, since not many have happened yet since the shift.
#5 Directionless and lost at sea
With five seasons out at the moment, I am still not at all sure what RWBY as a show is shooting for. With a random amount of episodes per season and a variable runtime per episode, progress on the overall story is tediously slow. This is strange, because we found ourselves remarking that we were blasting through episodes while at the same time complaining about how little actually happens.
The first three seasons together feel like a single season in any other show, as they introduce us to the cast, send them to school, and then conclude with events that upset the carefree balance of the school life and force the heroes into an adventure. Sure, the tournament arc takes a bite out of it as well, but it doesn’t change the fact that after 40 episodes it feels like the adventure is only just starting. That episode is even titled “End of the Beginning”.
And while the show has gotten more expedient since then, it still feels like it’s lacking in direction. Those first three reasons really reminded me of that Winx Club show from back in the day, with a school setting serving as the backdrop for all kinds of magical adventures. Season 4 feels more like a journey, as characters split up and set out on their own individual adventures, which completely overthrows what we have been led to assume was the core cast of characters. In fact, there is no Team RWBY in RWBY season 4, and some of the members currently absent only get a pitiful few scenes throughout to remind us that they are still there.