As a preamble to this rec post, I do have a bunch of RWBY reviews and editorials up, so here's: RWBY Series 1 review, RWBY Series 2 review, 5 Things They Should And Shouldn't Do In RWBY S3, 5 Fights We'd Like To See In RWBY, and Fission Mailure's Top 5 RWBY Characters.
RWBY Series 3.
I said before this volume of RWBY even started that I wasn't going to do a review, largely because recent (well, not too recent anymore, a little over a year ago now, but recent at the time the volume started) events meant that I couldn't assure my own objectivity, as, had the volume been bad, I wouldn't have felt comfortable leveling the amount of criticism and vitriol that I usually do at things that fail to reach my standards.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried, because this volume has been top-notch, but I'm still not doing a review: Instead, I decided I would do a rec post, since those have always been meant to be less 'objective reviews of the strengths and flaws of a piece of media' and more 'Murphy squees about things he likes.'
So, I think like everyone, I came into the third volume slightly apprehensive. Nobody knew - we still don't really know - how much work Monty Oum had done on the volume before his death (bar that he'd written story notes far enough in the future for a dozen or so volumes), and more importantly, I think it was important to a lot of fans that this third volume be good, that it be a worthy tribute to Oum and his work. If it had been poor, or even if it had represented a significant reduction in quality from the second volume, it would have been quite tragic, in a way.
As it turns out, the third volume was really, really good. Mechanically, this volume sees RWBY edge closer to the standards that professionally made cartoons with the backings of massive studios have, with longer episodes (the average episode was about seventeen minutes - I'd say that the professional standard for that is about twenty-two minutes); beautiful and sharp animation at a professional standard; voice actors that have improved significantly over the course of the show so far (Miles Luna and Jen Brown do excellent performances as Jaune and Pyrrha), along with some veteran voice actors added to the cast (Vic Mignogna, Yuri Lowenthal, and Elizabeth Maxwell all join the cast in major roles, and Jen Taylor, famously the voice of Cortana, sees an increased role from the small narration parts she got in the first tow volumes); and an excellent soundtrack that shows a marked improvement from previous volumes.
That's a massive step forward from the standard of previous volumes, and it's not as if the previous volumes were low quality - RWBY has always been a marvel of indie animation, and it remains such, but the fact that we see noticeable and marked improvements with every volume that comes out is fairly astounding.
This volume also kicks the plot into high gear, with the Vytal Tournament, or 'Fighty Eurovision', which has been being set up since the middle of the first volume, finally beginning. While the tournament is a lot of fun, where the plot really shines is in the menacing events brewing beneath, as Ozpin and Cinder make their moves against each other. In the process, we end up finding a lot more about the world and getting possibly the best idea we've had yet of where the plot is going - and when, in the final three episodes, all that set-up and menace pays off in the form of three explosive, rocks-fall episodes, it feels horrible, but earned.
While the end of the volume - which is also, functionally, the end of the first arc, with the show all but guaranteed to be drastically different when it returns (hopefully) later this year - is bleak, and miserable, and violent, with no less than four characters, one of whom is a fan favourite and a major main character, being killed off, it's clear that this is only the proverbial disk one. There's more to come, happy endings to be earned, and, it's just been revealed, an even more major villain than the one we already know about to defeat.
While I'm apprehensive as to whether this will still be the show I've enjoyed up until now, I will be fascinated to see where the series goes from here, both in terms of story and in terms of how it continues to improve upon its production values, and I highly recommend a watch to anyone reading who hasn't yet seen the first three volumes.