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Monday, June 5, 2017

RWBY: VOLUME 4 -- Blu-ray/DVD Review by Porfle

If you're a RWBY fan, then you're already stoked for the next installment in the series as presented in this Blu-ray/DVD combo from Rooster Teeth and Cinedigm.  If not, then RWBY: VOLUME 4 (2017) should be a good introduction to those four color-coordinated heroines Ruby Rose (red), Weiss Schnee (white), Blake Belladonna (black), and Ruby's sister Yang Xiao Long (yellow).

Long story short: after a catastrophic war that almost destroyed everything, the world of Remnant has been divided into four kingdoms dedicated to maintaining peaceful relations.  Also drawing them together is a common enemy, the Grimms, a never-ending army of terrifying supernatural beasts that constantly attack both urban centers and outlying villages, drawn by negative emotions such as fear, panic, and hatred. 

The main line of defense consists of hunters and huntresses, those born with various super-powers who train from a young age at special academies until ready to take on the Grimms.  This is where we first met Team RWBY shortly before their academy was attacked and virtually destroyed by a combination of Grimms and a group of terrorists known as White Fang, made up of human-animal hybrids called Faunus under the command of a secret cabal of sinister villains.

Volume 4 opens after the previous season's terrific climactic battle has left all four kingdoms in chaos and the RWBY team scattered.  Weiss has returned to her palatial home where her stepfather runs the family "Dust" business in decidedly shady fashion and all is definitely not well.  Blake has also returned to her parents estate on the Faunus continent accompanied by Sun, a boisterous young fellow with an eye for her.  Ruby's sister Yang is still recovering from the loss of both her right arm in the battle and her self-confidence and resolve, which the girls' father is doing his best to restore. 

The main thrust of the season's story, however, is the cross-country trek of Ruby and her friends Jaune, Ren, and Nora (formerly of team JNPR until the tragic death of the valiant huntress Pyrrha) to reach the kingdom of Mistral.  It's one of those grand, heroic journeys filled with much self-discovery and character revelations, not to mention intense life-or-death battles with some of the largest, fiercest, and most horrific Grimms that we've seen thus far. 

The route takes them through the vast wilderness between populated areas and also through various secluded villages, some of which need their help vanquishing particularly hostile Grimms, and others which have already been utterly destroyed by either Grimms or marauding bandits.  One smoking ruin prompts Ren to recall his history as a boy whose parents were killed before his eyes by a bloodthirsty beast, and how he assumed responsibility for another lost soul, the destitute orphan Nora.

While Yang struggles to regain her confidence and learn how to use her new robotic arm, Blake and Sun's ocean cruise to the Faunus continent is both incredibly scenic--the show is pictorially intoxicating as usual--but highlighted by a spectacular battle with a flying sea dragon.  Once they've reached their destination, the drama continues with Blake's parents clashing with the socially-awkward Sun as well as two highly-suspicious emissaries from the White Fang group.

As usual, we're left with a cliffhanger ending to keep us on edge until the next season begins, with Ruby's team reaching Mistral but discovering that much is not as they expected.  Meanwhile, the main villains of the saga, led by mysterious white goddess Salem and her evil underlings (including last season's traitorous huntress Cinder) keep a low profile and bide their time for a later, more catastrophic strike, with only the near-invincible madman Tyrian directly engaging our heroes in fierce battle during their journey.

Through it all, RWBY VOL. 4 carries on this sharply-written series' tradition of scintillating dialogue and character interactions that make the less action-packed segments just as riveting as the frentic battles--which, as usual, are both lightning-paced and imaginatively staged, striking just the right balance between humor (especially with the girlishly excitable Nora) and dead seriousness, as when a key member of Ruby's group is critically injured.

Visually, the series is a feast of colorful CGI settings and pleasingly executed motion-capture figures that move well and are exquisitely designed. While I still prefer cel animation in my cartoons, I gladly make an exception when a three-dimensional CGI simulation of old-school anime such as this is rendered to such lavish and eye-pleasing effect. Voice performances and music are outstanding as well.

The "It's Also a Gun" Special Edition Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack contains both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD, along with a collectible Crescent Rose lenticular card featuring Ruby's distinctive scythe-shaped weapon ("It's also a gun").  Also available in Blu-ray/DVD and DVD editions.  Total story running time: 190 minutes.  Widescreen with English Dolby 5.1.  English captions are available.

Bonus featurettes include: "World of Remnant: Kingdoms", "World of Remnant: The Great War", "World of Remnant: Schnee Dust Company", "World of Remnant: Faunus", "World of Remnant: Between Kingdoms", "Behind the Scenes: A Grimm Introduction", and "Behind the Scenes: RWBY 4 Production Diary", plus audio commentaries. 

With RWBY: VOL. 4, this series remains one of my favorite and most eagerly-anticipated of any genre adventures being created today.  While not quite as action-intensive as the previous season, this one more than compensates with a richness of story and character that lends even greater impact to the slam-bang battle sequences.

Buy it from Rooster Teeth

Read our original coverage

Street date: June 6, 2017                                                 


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