After nearly a ten-month hiatus, Rooster Teeth’s animated web series is back and firing on all cylinders. While this episode promises us new locales, allies and enemies, it also looks like the audience will receive answers to questions that have been neglected up until now, if ‘The Greatest Kingdom’ is anything to go by.
Spoilers ahead for RWBY.
The new volume starts exactly where the last one left off, with the gang being confronted by the Atlesian military, confused at the display of force, especially Weiss. When prompted to land on one of the airships, the team ditch their stolen ride in Mantle, the city below Atlas, and look for someone to help them.
One of the biggest questions asked by the fandom was who would be replacing Vic Mignogna as the voice of Qrow Branwen, and whether they would do the role justice. Well, Jason Liebrecht is more than a worthy replacement. Having done many voice acting roles in the past, previously working on projects like Black Butler and One Piece, he breathes new life into such a beloved character and is truly a happy addition to the RWBY cast.
‘The Greatest Kingdom’ presents an interesting contrast in the designs of Mantle and Atlas. For one, Atlas is a city floating high above the clouds, shown in colours of cold blues and white, while Mantle is coloured in fiery reds and black down below. The floating city is connected by tethers to the ground below, so the idea of these cities being symbolic for heaven and hell is obvious, as although not much of Atlas has been explored, the people of Mantle are struggling and seem to be in poverty.
Despite all of this, there is propaganda from the powers that be, with billboards showing regular broadcasts from General Ironwood (now sporting a handsome beard) and Winter Schnee, telling the populace that despite the problems in the rest of the world, Atlas will remain strong. The design of the Mantle’s streets are also unlike anything seen in the show before: the streets are tight and have a claustrophobic feel about them, with robots constantly monitoring everything that is going on, looking more like something from a neo-noir piece than something from RWBY.
It is during ‘The Greatest Kingdom’ that the gang and audience are also introduced to a new character: Pietro Polendina. He is an engineer who works for Atlas, but also volunteers down in Mantle to help the less fortunate, even being responsible for recalibrating Maria’s mechanical eyes every ten years. Even though he appears as a fairly pleasant person, it almost seems like he may not be all he seems.
“Down here, I get to help the locals and have a little fun” – the way this bit of dialogue is worded is a bit unusual. What does he mean by have fun? Is he talking about indulging in his engineering, or does he have a darker, serial killer-esque secret?
During the exploration of the city and after meeting Pietro, an alarm sounds off, signalling a Grimm attack. It is here a new design of the creatures is introduced: giant sabretoothed tiger-like creatures called Sabyrs, fast moving skeletal cats. While this design is moving away from the traditional variations of fairy-tale inspired creatures, like the Sphinx that was seen in the previous volume, it is still a unique and awesome Grimm for the protagonists to challenge. It’s during this fight scene that Rooster Teeth’s improvements are made most obvious: each new iteration of the RWBY volumes has shown a clear increase in the quality of animation, and this battle is no exception, showing especially in the particle effects when each of the Grimm die and turn to dust.
It is also here that an old face returns to the screen. The last time Penny Poledina showed face on RWBY, her time on the show was, shall we say, cut short at the end of volume three (all the puns intended). However, she returns to the screen better than ever before, finishing off the rest of the Sabyrs before reuniting with her old friends in a truly wholesome scene, revealing that her damaged body was recovered shortly after the events of the volume three finale.
However, the feels don’t have long to set in before Penny is sent off to clear another portion of Mantle, and the episode concludes with the team being captured by a military group called the Ace Ops. Though they work for the Atlesian military, there isn’t much known outside of the group. Are they huntsman and huntresses? Mercenaries? All that is known is that RWBY are being dragged straight to the military command that they have been spending the episode trying to avoid.
‘The Greatest Kingdom’ treats the audience to a new style of opening. While each of the volumes have had Casey Lee and Jeff Williams consistently providing the tracks, the animation has changed up a little, at times showing the silhouettes of the characters, reminiscent of the Red, White, Black and Yellow trailers that aired before the show’s pilot. It’s very stylish and a nice call back to a much simpler time.
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‘The Greatest Kingdom’ is probably the most promising opening episode of any of the volumes since Volume 3. With the promise of interesting conflicts, the cities of Mantle and Atlas to explore, and new friends and enemies.
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