Mini-Review: RWBY Chibi, episodes 1 & 2
So, the debate on whether or not RWBY can be considered an anime has raged on ever since the show premiered, and I’ve grown to calling it an ‘honorary anime’ as a form of compromise. Now, a lot of anime get spin-offs where non-canon versions of the characters engage in hijinks that are entirely removed from the main story, giving the creators more freedom to explore them outside of the limits that they’ve set in place. Some of these spin-offs are called “Chibis,” where the characters are drawn in a super-deformed way, normally with a huge drop in budget and a far more relaxed atmosphere.
RWBY has recently thrown their hat into the ring, by producing a series of CGI Chibi shorts called “RWBY Chibi…” Which I would have called something less obvious like “RWBY TOONZ” or “Beacon Elementary,”but whatever. There are only two episodes out right now, so I thought I’d go ahead and give those two episodes an early first-impressions review. I feel surprisingly confidant about this, seeing as how my first impression of any of the seasons thus far has usually stayed consistent through to their conclusions. So to do this, let’s go clip by clip!
Clip 1: For our first clip, we have Ruby Rose recreating that epic moment from the series where they all made cookies! No, wait, actually, I didn’t even know anybody at Beacon did that. Anyway, she pops up from behind the counter, taps the egg a few times, but when it won’t break, she gets frustrated and slams it down, splattering it. She has similar results with the flour, which won’t come out of the bag until she dumps it and it goes everywhere, and the chocolate chips that she sneaks upon and starts eating. And then… The bowl gets glued to the counter, with the spoon stuck, and she just fails all over the place, and…
Okay, look, if you’re not sold on the cuteness of the imagery, this is probably the worst clip out of the first two episodes. And yet it’s also the first one. That’s the foot we’re getting off on. It’s just confusing, from beginning to end. Why won’t the egg break? Why does Ruby get pissed off so easily? Why did the flour stick? Why can’t she break the cookie in half? There’s no reason behind any of it, so it’s hard to find any meaning in her struggle. Yeah, I get what you’re going for… A slapstick routine where the chore of doing a simple thing is made inexorably difficult. It’s a classic concept, but it doesn’t work if the things going wrong are completely random and there’s no sense of escalation.
In this clip, Ruby reminds me very clearly of the Squirrel from the Ice Age movies, and while the clips involving him aren’t exactly comic gold, the people writing him understood how to keep the audience engaged and amused through at least the first viewing. They had him destroying planets in his latest outing, and I still didn’t say “What the fuck?” or “That doesn;t make any sense” as much for him as I did in this clip. Also, it’s a skit that any character could have performed, but I’m pretty sure Nora would have been a better fit.
Clip 2: Weiss gets thrown at a donkey… Okay… She has a sword, so someone throws her like a dart at a donkey. I have no idea what they’re going for here.
Clip 3: Ruby reads Blake’s romance novel, probably yaoi(I’m assuming here, based on the direction of the joke, but there’s no rule stating women can’t be ninjas). Apparently it has dirty pictures in it? This could be funny, if her expressions didn’t drag on for so many seconds. Also, I hate to have the ‘logic doesn’t apply’ nazis up in my business, but this clip just doesn’t make any sense.
Ruby is flipping through that book in such a way that she can only read a paragraph at most at a time, and yet she’s reacting like the contents are getting her horny. Must be some really steamy random paragraphs? Pair that with the fold-out joke, and I feel like the joke would have been much better delivered if she’d found the novel, looked disappointed by it, then tossed it aside and picked a ninja-themed porn mag out of Blake’s bed instead. Stil, I do feel it’s kind of weird that after three seasons of this series never making a single dirty joke, Ruby herself makes one here.
Clip 4: This is honestly the first clip I found kind of funny. Weiss and Yang are sparring, moving really slowly for some reason, when Weiss gets disarmed, and Yang goes for a rocket punch. Her gauntlet fails, and Weiss teases her, so she just straight up punches her. The fight animation turned me off a bit, but with the conclusion, they found a great way to utilize both characters. They used Weiss as a brat who receives comeuppance, which is how a chibi version of her probably should be written, and they had Yang deliver said comeuppance by proving she doesn’t need her gauntlet to pummel a bitch. A classic comedic exchange, executed nicely.
Clip 5: So… I was wondering what kind of personality a chibi version of Ruby would have. After Blake realizes she stole her book, Ruby judges her, shames her for her tastes, then fucking punches her, all while being completely obvious about the fact that she wants to read it some more. Apparently, Chibi Ruby is a horrible bitch. Good to know.
Clip 1: So in this clip, team RWBY is listening to the radio news about a cat burglar being in town. They look at Blake, who goes off on them about racial profiling, while stealing everything in sight. She runs away, and the news reports chasing her.
Yeah, they’re talking a catburglar on the prowl, and Blake just starts stealing everything in sight like a kleptomaniac, making no effort to hide what she’s doing. That’s not how a catburglar acts, guys. If that’s her MO, then there’s no way she’d have not gotten caught for this long. And there’s no reason she;d want or need any of the things she just took. If you’re doing this for the cat pun, have her steal cat things.
Also, calling it a cartoonishly large amount of objects? Fuck you. This is a cartoon. It’s a cartoonier version of what was already a cartoon. Nobody in any cartoon has ever accused someone or something of being cartoon-like without deliberately winking to the camera over it, which you just forgot to do. “What will they think of next?” I don’t know, but it can’t be better than this clip, and this clip sucks.
Clip 2: Weiss is ice skating, it turns out she froze the pool to do so. The other girls, sitting on the pool fully clothed, look bored. Why are they sitting on the ice in the first place? I don’t know, and I don’t care.
Clip 3: It looks like Yang and Blake are fighting, but it turns out they’re just setting up a rope for Ruby to jump. She says a rhyme, replacing Jack with Jaune, who broke his ankle tripping over Blake’s candlestick. The timing on this clip isn’t too bad, but I feel like it would be funnier if it were set up by a previous clip. It’s not one of the worst clips so far, but it’s not really very funny.
Clip 4: Yang tries to tempt Blake into playing with a cat toy, but Ruby steals it and starts banging around the room with it instead. It appears that, much like Teen Titans Go, there’s nothing Ruby can do that wouldn’t be out of character for her, because in this universe, she has no character to speak of. Great job.
Clip 5: HOLY SHIT, THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN FUNNIER. Zwei, the dog that RWBY ripped off from Cowboy Bebop, enters into a room, and starts sniffing around. In chibi form, I’ll be honest, he looks a lot cuter than in the series. Ruby calls him back out, and Blake peeks in from offscreen, as though she’d been hiding from him. Yeah, remember in the series, how she’d be perched atop a dresser and hissing at him if he came near her? That was pretty funny, wasn’t it? Well, they should have done something similar here. Maybe if she popped out of a drawer, or fell out of the bed, or the camera zoomed up to show her precariously positioned on a stack of wobbling objects… There’s so much they could have done with this idea, so of course, they didn’t. So close, guys. so close.
So, based on the first two episodes, how does this series fair? Poorly. Very poorly. This was, in my opinion, a terrible idea. Non-canon spin-off shows… Like chibi shows… Are supposed to offer something the series is missing, for relief purposes. Hellsing Ultimate was great about this. Toradora’s “Hooray for Foodies” was not. There are any good and bad ways to do this, but when your characters in chibi form are doing things that wouldn’t feel unusual in context, that’s not funny.
The series version of RWBY used tons of random, interchangeable ideas, so it’s not any fun to see the chibi series just rely on using a bunch of random smaller ideas. It feels just as disconnected and lackadaisical as the series felt at it’s worst moments. Honestly, the chibi show had to be a lot more different than it actually was. It should have used a different animation style, like flash, so it wouldn’t look like it was trying so hard. It should feature more dialogue, and unusual character interactions. Hell, on of the most shocking moments towards the end of season 3 that rocked everyone’s foundations fell completely flat for me, because Ruby was giving a devastating emotional reaction over the death of a character she’d barely ever interacted with.
This chibi show shouldn’t be telling cheap gags… not only because it’s unnecessary, but because the writers clearly are rubbish at it. This chibi series is the perfect opportunity for the show’s writers to flesh out their characters and show us what kind of people they are in their free time. Have Blake interact with Nora. Have Lin interact with Ruby. Have Weiss get into a heated competition with the bunny girl. There’s no story to tell, so there’s no limit to the amount of interactions you can explore. You suck at writing gags, so let us get to know your characters better.
Will I keep watching? For now. I mean, if I got through the first season of RWBY, this will be a piece of cake. Every episode is less than three minutes long, after all. I chuckled at one clip, and my friend liked the Katana joke. They could make me laugh in a future episode. If it starts to get too painful to sit through for even that long, I’ll probably bail.