The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
RWBY Anthology

What's It About? 

RWBY: Official Manga Anthology Volume 1: Red Like Roses collects the short manga works of various manga illustrator enthusiasts of the original American anime production.

The stories therein all focus on main character Ruby Rose, a Huntress training at Beacon Academy to battle the “Creatures of Grimm,” evil forces that pose a threat to the world of Remnant. Along with teammates Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long, Ruby spends her downtime between adventures engaging in all manner of hijinks.

RWBY: Official Manga Anthology Volume 1: Red Like Roses (5/15/2018) is available in paperback for $12.99 and digital for $8.99 from VIZ Media and on comiXology. A variety of illustrators contributed to this anthology series based on the original Rooster Teeth creation from Monty Oum. The American anime-influenced series is currently five seasons long and is streaming in its entirety on Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth.


Is It Worth Reading?

Amy McNulty

Rating:

RWBY: Official Manga Anthology Volume 1: Red Like Roses is exclusively for fans of the series, tossing new readers into a world that's barely explained, a place populated by a plethora of characters that are only surface-deep. In fact, no characters other than Ruby herself and Weiss, one of her closest friends, even get a reasonable amount of time on the page in order to establish any personality whatsoever, not even the other two-quarters of Team RWBY. The other girls are to be featured in future anthology volumes, so it makes sense to focus more on Ruby, but it does make the series even more inaccessible than it might have been to the new reader. Not that many new readers would be interested in an anthology ode to this anime, but if the creative team behind this anthology volume hoped to garner new fans from this release, they failed to establish what makes the series so appealing to so many.

Though the focus of the Hunters and Huntresses seems to be to battle ill-defined shadowy enemies, most of these stories focus on Ruby just having a ball in the halls of her academy. She searches for a boyfriend in a clunky, clueless fashion. She tries out a wig to see what it's like to have long hair. Each story shows off the love the creators have for this series, but individually or together, they do little to give a sense of what the series is like at a whole. As is, both Ruby and Weiss, the most developed characters, seem like common anime tropes: bubbly, optimistic and somewhat unintelligent (Ruby) and a tsundere that seems to have a crush on her (Weiss). Neither is particularly memorable.

Where the volume does shine is in the art. Though there are many different art styles, they all seem in line with one another, with no illustrator taking a big risk and changing things up. Still, the characters are pleasant to look at and the character designs do stand out. Only a few stories feature the world at large—and not very much of it at that—so the art doesn't help much with establishing the setting for newcomers.

RWBY: Official Manga Anthology volume 1 will likely appeal to RWBY fans and Ruby Rose devotees in particular, though even then, the stories are simply short, humorous interludes that don't particularly add much to the overall RWBY canon. A poor starting point for anyone who hasn't watched the series, it nonetheless has some charm to it, though it feels more like a talented fan manga collection than a must-read spin-off series.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating:

There are two questions to ask yourself before you pick up this book: 1) How much do you know about RWBY as a whole? and 2) Is Ruby your favorite character? If the answers are some variation on “not much” and “not really,” this is perhaps not the manga for you. The first of presumably four anthologies of character-centric short stories, Red Like Roses features twenty shorts featuring Ruby Rose, the Little Red Riding Hood and leader of team RWBY. Most of them are only tangentially related to the main plot of the series, instead acting as character studies or gags. (Interestingly enough, there are two separate stories about changing the team's outfits.)

The mangaka participating have a variety of art styles that does make the book interesting on a visual level, with everyone choosing a different level of detail that allows for an engaging artistic diversity. Stand outs include Amaya, whose fluffy shoujo look is unique within the anthology and gives her story about baking cookies a much softer, more emotional feel, and Xily's piece about a group of thugs attacking Ruby – the bold lines and deep blacks give it a grittier appearance that not only works, but adds a more pulpy tone to the overall book. Probably the most interesting thing to keep track of artistically, however, is Weiss' scar – pretty much every artist draws it differently in terms of length, width, and general prominence, making it the single most diverse artistic aspect of the anthology.

Story-wise, Ritsu Hayami's “As a Hunter” is an interesting piece, largely because in it Ruby and the other team leaders must fight alongside each other rather than with their teammates. This shakes the dynamic up a bit without making anyone feel too horribly out of character. A lot of the stories focus on the interactions between Ruby and Weiss, again largely in a gag sense, so that may be an added attraction for readers who favor that pairing. On the whole, unfortunately, not many of these stories really stand out – they're short and don't feel like they're particularly interested in making an impression or being memorable. Basically this feels like officially sanctioned fanfiction, and while that can be a lot of fun for creators, it also risks being a book-length inside joke or self-indulgent. This never quite crosses either of those lines, but it does feel like it comes close.


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