RWBY: The announcement of Ice Queendom shocked both fans and critics of the original animated series Rooster Teeth, on which it is based, as most of them were excited about the participation of Studio Shaft and Gene Urobuchi. But is Urobuchi’s participation enough with such a large production to dispel people’s concerns about the quality of the show?
RWBY began in 2012 as a 3D animated series by Monty Ouma from Rooster Teeth, and then became a popular web series, and screenwriters Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross continued the series after Monty’s tragic death in 2015. The series tells the story of four young women. Train to become monster hunters in a modern fantasy world, and this new anime aims to tell an original story based on a web series. Ice Queendom looks like a retelling of the beginning of the original series, but with an original story after the initial introduction centered around Wyss Schni, one of the central characters. At the moment, little is known about this original story, however, early promotional images suggest that Weiss—or another version of her—will be the antagonist.
Complex reception of RWBY
The original web series was loved for its colorful interpretation of oriental animated tropes to create a fun fantasy series with intense and complex action sequences. Monty Oum’s reputation as a performer of dynamic dance choreography brought him a lot of fans, and despite some setbacks with the artwork, the show fulfilled its promise.
After Monty’s tragic death, there were noticeably more serious obstacles in the production, and fans were divided, but many were still interested in the story he created. Without paying due attention to the action, critics were quick to point out the shortcomings of the show, such as its inconsistencies, problems with pace and contradictory narrative moves.
RWBY is a show that is difficult to recommend to people who have not invested yet, and for many it is more “inspired by anime” than anime itself, although this is a completely different matter. Nevertheless, watching how this series has been adapted to 2D animation by a famous Japanese studio is exciting, almost as if it were an opportunity to save the franchise.
Studio Shaft and Gen Urobuchi
Shaft is loved by both the mainstream audience and otaku for their work on the artfully indulgent Monogatari series, as well as for such favorites as Madoka Magica. The studio, it seems, is never satisfied with creating something traditional, having nurtured the talents of directors such as Akiyuki Shinbo. But the name of Gene Urobuchi is especially tempting.
Urobuchi is the author of Madoka Magica in addition to stories such as Fate/Zero and Psycho-Pass, not to mention his work on visual novels such as Saya no Uta. He’s a storyteller who doesn’t shy away from darker, more shocking plots in favor of strong themes that some might criticize him for expounding too much. Urobuchi’s involvement in anything involving women is reminiscent of Madoka’s suffering, which makes his role in this RWBY anime particularly intriguing.
However, it should be noted that Gen Urobuchi is not the author of this story, although his name attracted many to this new project. Anime News Network credits Urobuchi with “The original concept of animation”, and MyAnimeList.net doesn’t even mention him for being involved in the project at all. While the latter may be an example of the site not being thorough, it calls into question how involved it really is.
Tau Ubukata, writer
If Urobuchi wrote only the concept of the story, and Tau Ubukata, like him, writes the real story, then this situation brings back unpleasant memories of the same thing that happened in 2014. After the hugely successful first season of Psycho Pass, Urobuchi went on to write the film’s script, but not before writing the narrative concept for the second season, which Ukukata wrote. This season, by all accounts, was the weakest and most significant reason that Psycho-Pass did not need to continue.
Ubukata wrote Psycho-Pass 2 and 3, in addition to writing Ghost in the Shell: Arise, a series that, again, is largely considered good, but lacks the power of other parts of the franchise. He’s not a bad writer, but compared to Urobuchi, the shocking moments in his stories are blocked by plot holes, and his stories can suffer from a lackluster pace.
There may be interesting ideas in the Urobuchi concept, highlighted by important points in the journey, but without a strong writer to connect these points, the story will suffer. Given RWBY’s detractors and their thoughts on this story, a writer with a dubious track record may not be the greatest consolation.
Fortunately, Shaft employees are very consistent in their work history and participation in some of the studio’s greatest works.