RWBY: Volume 5 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Flatiron Films / Cinedigm
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (12th July 2018).
The Film

In the aftermath of the fourth volume of RWBY, team leader leader Ruby Rose (voiced by Lindsay Jones) arrives in Haven with uncle Qrow (voiced by Vic Mignogna), Juane Arc (voiced by series co-writer/co-director Miles Luna), perky but brave Nora Valkyrie (voiced by Samantha Ireland), and Lie Ren (voiced by Neath Oum) to meet Professor Leonardo Lionheart (voiced by Daman Mills) at Haven Academy where one of the relics is hidden. Having escaped her domineering father, former RWBY member Weiss Schnee (voiced by Kara Eberle) has hitched a ride on a cargo ship toward Mistral but it crashes and she finds herself held ransom by the members of the Branwen tribe (including Ruby's estranged mother Raven [voiced by Anna Hullum]). Blake Belladonna (voiced by Arryn Zech), a member of the cat-like Faunas species and former White Fang revolutionary, and Sun Wukong (voiced by Michael Jones) have rallied their fellow Faunas to the notion of White Fang as a peaceful organization but encounter opposition when they suggest siding with the humans against the splinter Faunas group lead by Adam Taurus (voiced by Garrett Hunter) that are planning on attacking Haven Academy, particularly from Ilia Amitola (voiced by Cherami Leigh) whose hatred of humanity has led to her blind allegiance to Taurus despite her conflicted feelings for Blake. Long thought dead, RWBY's professor Ozpin has been reincarnated in Oscar Pine (voiced by Aaron Dismuke) and he has grown doubtful of Lionheart's loyalty since he has let his own students take vacation, leaving him alone to guard the Relic against attack. Like the other volumes of the series, the fifth volume is divided into chapters which each advance the plot and subplots without their own thematic and character arcs in more of a serialized adventure format which die-hard fans may find compelling enough to watch in weekly installments but perhaps plays best to casual viewers as binge-watched streamed episodes or here on Blu-ray which allows for viewing both episode-by-episode or in a "movie format" with one set of opening and closing credits. Fourteen episodes over the ten of first volume and twelve each of the subsequent four volumes allows for more time to be devoted to character and subplot relationships (for better or worse) while trying to include all the principal characters in each episode, but the action sometimes feels padded into inaction in order to delay their progress alongside the others. While the first couple series seemed fresh to this viewer who is not really a fan of anime or animation in general, the fifth volume seems less interesting in spite of the greater plot complications.


With the series alone presented on a BD50, the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen the series switched from 1080i to 1080p with volume four animated image is gorgeous with bold colors and an increasing sophistication in the creation of background environments that at times looks almost photographic rather than drawn, particularly in some close-ups of characters in which the shallow focus that looks like a realistic effect of a telephoto lens rather than digital defocusing.


This is the first volume of the series to present its sound mix in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - previous volumes were Dolby Digital - and the track delivers during the action scenes as well as travel sequences with plenty of directional effects and surround activity, although dialogue scenes are more iffy when it comes to atmosphere beyond background crowds. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided.


The entire series is accompanied by an audio commentary by directors Miles Luna, Kerry Shawcross, and Gray G. Haddock who start off discussing how they conceived the fifth volume in light of fan feedback from the fourth volume in finding space for the separated main characters into each episode as opposed to devoting entire episodes to one character at the expense of the others, which lead to a season opener without any fight scenes. They also discuss the use of more static matte paintings backgrounds for more production value over a more limited amount of 3D models and, most interesting, the integration of new software that allowed for the ability to "light" the sets and characters individually beyond the two zones of lighted and shadowed areas in the previous volumes. The track was recorded with the playback options in mind, so the opening and end credits of each episode that appear when individual episodes are selected feature banter that does not carry over into the discussion as heard in the play all option. The crew audio commentary features different trios of behind the scenes artists on each episode discussing some of the same factors as well as eastern influences in the design choices, how character concepts changed from original conceptions Lionheart was conceived along the lines of The Wizard of Oz's Cowardly Lion and it was more of a matter of altering facial expressions rather than the overall design to make him look less heroic with the alternating commentators allowing the viewer a more diverse impression of the production workflow from different departments.

The second disc features the video supplements. "5 Years of RWBY" (10:30) is an overview of the series from the initial concept of the late Monty Oum (who died in 2015 at age thirty-three after suffering an allergic reaction during a medical procedure) to the initial warehouse setup for the first volume and the expansion with volume two onwards. Also included are the three character shorts (12:29) "Weiss" (3:55), "Blake" (4:33), and "Yang" (4:02) which aired before the fifth volume and were mentioned on the director commentary track as having been conceived to compensate for the lack of "action" in the volume five opener. CRWBY (53:38) is a compilation of the fourteen "Behind the Episodes" behind-the-scenes web shorts covering the season's visual effects conceived to resemble traditional 2D anime with 3D enhancements including multiple layer sequences more complex than in the previous seasons layout and camera movement, software from the professional-capable open-source Pencil to the mainstream Maya program and the crowd-simulation Golaem that applies a series of movements from an individual character to several with randomized movement and timing set design, lighting, character modeling, motion capture, compositing, audio, storyboarding, fight choreography, technical support, and the show's fandom. Also included is the trailer (1:31) and trailers for other Rooster Teeth shows.


Included in the case is "Mirror, Mirror", the official RWBY manga anthology sampler.



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