When I saw RWBY The Official Manga volume 1 appear on NetGalley I thought it’d be the perfect chance to get into something I’d seen listed on Netflix. I imagine I’m not the only one to presume that this franchise had followed the “normal” route of being a manga series in Japan first before being made into an anime and then being translated for a Western audience, how wrong I was, in fact, it’s gone completely the opposite direction, being created as an “anime-inspired” web-series in America, shown on Crunchyroll and Netflix and now being made into a Manga series, though a glance at the Fandom Wiki suggests this manga tells a different story featuring the same characters? Maybe I should add the show onto my Watchlist (and never get round to watching it like with 99% of my Netflix Watchlist).
So, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know anything about it other than it having a strange spelling and not knowing how to pronounce it, it’s “Ruby” if you didn’t already know and is actually the name of a team of four trainee Huntresses (made up of their initials: Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang) who are new attendees at the Beacon Academy. In this volume, we get to meet each of the girls, plus a few others, see them take on a Grimm (big monsters that roam the land, its the Hunterman and Huntresses jobs to vanquish them) and be assigned their team, whilst learning a little of the background of the world they inhabit, some of their histories and a glimpse at their unique abilities. Its kind of like a Harry Potter meets Monster Hunter affair and there’s some scope there for it to be quite fun.
However, it’s still very early and this first volume, comprising of the first five chapters don’t provide us with a huge amount of content considering it is around 180 pages in length. Instead, the art is tasked with doing a lot of the heavy lifting, which, in my opinion, leads to a bit of confusion in the tone.
Now manga and anime are pretty well known for being able to rapidly shift through the gears tonally, the medium makes use of over the top emotions and action sequences to entertain the reader/viewer and here the artist tries to play with the medium in the same way. It’s easy to say I’m being prejudiced because this is an American license, but the manga adaptation is being helmed by Bunta Kinami who’s artwork is mostly excellent, it doesn’t quite hit its landings (much like Ruby in the book, haha) as the tone and focus of the pages and panels jumps around a little too erratically. I’m used to things being erratic, I read One-Punch Man, and I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t feel it quite works here, but it was something that niggled at me as I worked my way through this volume.
Which is a shame, there’s enough here to keep me interested, and I think the rest is available on the Shonen Jump app (which I subscribe to), so I can jump in and carry on when the mood takes me (if only they had an app on the Kindle store, instead I’ll have to stick to reading Viz Media’s output on my Huawei P20) because when the art does work with the story, it works incredibly well, there’s some wonderful, moody full-page spreads and the panel work knows when to ramp things up a bit and create exciting set pieces, but the shift in moods of the characters is sometimes a little at odds with whats going on in the story.