The first episode of Volume 9 introduced the audience and RWBY to a new world separate from the world of Remnant and the protagonist’s mission to save the world from Salem and her Grimm hordes. Now “Altercation at the Auspicious Auction” has them stuck in the Ever After with no obvious way to return home, and the girls must explore this fairy tale land for answers.
“Altercation at the Auspicious Auction” begins with the team determining that they are in a fairy tale with various levels of conviction. Blake believes they are in a fairy tale called “The girl who fell through the world,” or Remnant’s equivalent of Alice in Wonderland (or Alyx in this version.) Weiss is the one who believes their circumstances the least, which continues the trend of Weiss being uncharacteristically comedic.
After determining this, Little resolves to help the group find Crescent Rose, as she thinks the Jinxy Peddler – a talking racoon merchant voiced by Brendan Blaber – may have it, along with Yang’s missing arm. Along the way, after a joking prod, Blake and Yang idly stroke the other’s hand, with Weiss commenting it’s “about time.”
Whether Blake and Yang are close teammates or a romantic item has been a topic of discussion argued by the fandom for a long time. On the one hand, the writers have been hinting at it but never fully invested in it. If they are going to do the romance subplot, just do it. However, considering Rooster Teeth’s previous queerphobic controversies, if they do the romance at this point, it’ll feel like pinkwashing from the creators to appeal to fans of the ship rather than a tangible relationship.
There is a decent character moment from Weiss, as she shares with Ruby her feelings about Atlas being destroyed, her “having nothing to go back to”, and their failures in the past. It’s a decent piece of dialogue between the pair and could turn into some substantial development, with Weiss doubting themselves and Ruby feeling crushed. It’s a shame that half of the interaction doesn’t focus on the character’s faces but instead on Weiss’ sword or Ruby holding Little. It feels like the animators lazily cutting corners, and distracts from what is otherwise a good character moment.
And then “Altercation at the Auspicious Auction” gives us another instance of ill-timed comedy. As they reach the area Little thinks the Jinxy peddler will be, she reveals she doesn’t know how to get back home. This volume so far is inconsistent in terms of tone, having a moment where the main cast despair at their situation, only to then play the next scene for laughs.
As they reach the market and the peddler’s stall, Blake points out that they should follow Alyx’s story, with some details being changed, like Alyx’s dagger being replaced with Yang’s arm. Jinxy presents three items, disguising them to make would-be customers think they’re more valuable. They focus on RWBY trying to guess which item could be Yang’s arm, but only one item matches her colour scheme. There was potential for an interesting moment – maybe have the arm be one of the other items, making the audience and Yang pick the obvious choice, only for it to be a different item. But no, it’s the choice everyone thinks it is.
Jinxy sells one of his items to a crowd member for a hug, and the crowd is so poorly animated. Animation is difficult, and animating a full crowd is no easy feat. RWBY had the same issue when it first started, but half of the crowd here looks like Roblox characters. Jinxy sells Yang’s disguised arm to a member of the king’s guard since it’s the king’s birthday, and he gets what he wants by royal decree. Ruby tries to buy a doll she is drawn to. Jinxy asks for “enough hope to fill this jar” in return, and when Ruby can’t afford it, Little ends up stealing it for her, revealing the true nature of all the items.
While Yang successfully takes her arm back, the item that Ruby gets is a fantasy version of one of Penny’s swords, stunning her. Ruby has always been the beacon of hope for her companions and, sadly, the most underdeveloped of the team. So having this Volume focusing on the reality of her lost loved ones and her diminishing hope is an intriguing direction to take.
RWBY escape the crowd, with an appropriate moment of comedy from Yang asking for a high five and Blake lamenting that they are ruining everything, just like in the book. Weiss points out, “that’s your biggest concern right now?” Which, honestly, feels like too much of a meta moment from the writers. If they follow the story’s events, RWBY will get home much quicker, not to mention Remnant being on the brink of destruction, so Blake’s concern about being the story’s focal point is odd.
Weiss tries to go straight for the tree, only to return to the group, and out of Weiss’ comedic moments, this is the one that genuinely was funny. But there’s another moment with poor animation. While Yang and Blake react to this happening, Ruby sits stock still. Not her cape blowing in the wind, not even her hair blowing from Weiss falling over, just absolutely still. While Weiss is in the foreground and the main point of focus of the scene, it’s really distracting when noticed.
The king’s guard eventually catches up with RWBY. Before they do, Blake tells Ruby that in the book, Alyx went to the Crimson Castle, so when the guards say they will take the girls as prisoners, Ruby instead offers them Penny’s sword as a replacement for Yang’s arm.
And the monologue that Ruby gives is great writing: “What if I offered you something better? The weapon of a powerful warrior. Not just a powerful warrior – the most powerful to ever live. She was touched by magic, and she gave her life for thousands. She took a message of hope to the stars, and she saw the world through better eyes. Take us to the royal birthday, and allow us to present this most precious gift.”
Coupled with the soundtrack, it makes for the best scene in the episode. Moving the royal guard to tears – who do the same stupid “hup hup” gag as Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Volume 6 – “Altercation at the Auspicious Auction” concludes with RWBY going to the birthday party, a dejected Ruby determining that if this is similar to a story that they read as children, they might as well keep going.
“Altercation at the Auspicious Auction” is a mixed bag, leaning more toward bad than good. The way the animation cuts corners is distracting, especially considering the stories about animators being overworked by Rooster Teeth. Trying to make Weiss, the prim and proper heiress of the SDC, the party’s funny member is an odd writing choice. Also, the whole Bumblebee ship is a thing in and of itself. Shipping is a contentious topic in the fandom at the best of times, never mind when a potentially gay relationship is being written under a company with a history of anti-LGBT issues. There’s also a strange formatting issue with Crunchyroll, as they say the only available audio option is Japanese, but it’s in English.
There are some strong points though – the path this Volume is taking harkens back to Salem’s legends quote in the pilot episode, and there is some really good writing here. Some crew members have said this Volume will act as a point to flesh out the characters more, which is something to look forward to. However, apart from one chuckle and a couple of genuinely touching moments, there isn’t much to enjoy here.
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