Review: RWBY Manga Anthology Volume 3 “From Shadows”

What’s new, pussy cat? WOAH WOAH WOOOAAAAAAAAAAHHH

We’re back with the next installment of the RWBY Anthologies, this time about the titular team’s black sheep…cat, Blake Belladonna. Blake has the honor of being the first of her team to be given voice, as her first appearance in the “Black Trailer” was the also the first RWBY related animation to feature more than music and action. Said trailer was also a highlight of her and her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Adam Taurus on her last mission with the group we would come to know as the White Fang. We wouldn’t find out until the series officially began exactly who this group was or what they supposedly stood for; that being fighting for the constantly threatened rights of the animal-hybrid people known as Faunus, of which Blake belongs to. We’ve discussed the rather messy treatment of this group in relation to race metaphors before, but it has basically dominated pretty much all of Blake’s character throughout the series up till now, for better or worse.

Luckily for her, this is where one of the major strengths of these anthologies comes in. While the characters in the main series seem to have been caught up in the enormity of the grand quest around which the plot revolves, these collections of character-focused short stories allow for a distillation of what each of the four members of RWBY is at their core. In Blake’s case, she actually has more facets to her than the rest of her teammates for these stories to explore, hence why the most prevalent theme of this book is identity. Blake hides her cat ears for most of her time at Beacon (that time being when these anthologies take place), as well as hiding her former association with the White Fang, and even her divided loyalties between two separate factions OF the White Fang. The girl has some issues, is what I mean.

Blake has her relationships with her friends (even getting a story to show she and Ruby actually talk to each other and exchange books!), but she’s also dealing with life as a Faunus and the discrimination that comes with that, as well as the baggage of formerly being part of a terrorist organization. The latter two, while related, are separate matters of an identity crisis for her to the point that she isn’t sure how to show her real self when she’s trying to hide so much. Weiss’ stories were mainly split between her lives as a rich heiress or as a member of the team and Ruby is just herself at all times, and so the stories you can make from each of them (at this point in the story, at least) are pretty limited. Blake has so much story potential, I’m surprised they didn’t make SECOND anthology for her!

Though what really impressed me, and made this volume my favorite of the three thus far, is the creativity shown in using existing tools and character relationships to make genuinely interesting stories in their own right. One story has some specific debris from the end of Season 2 going up for auction on the internet and the girls scrambling to buy it in time. Another has Blake taking care of an actual cat while the rest of the team looks for a possible owner. Another still has Blake teaming up with Ruby’s dog Zwei, (who Blake has been known to have a contentious relationship with, can’t imagine why) against a Grimm in the school that, without giving too much away, is used in a way I wish they would do in the show. Pretty much all of this taking place in between Seasons 2 and 3, when Blake’s character was the most stable.

Blake has been a pretty contentious character among the fanbase, mainly because of her being nearly inseparable from the more problematic elements of the bigger issues and implications of the White Fang plot, but these stories finally give her a chance to breathe outside (or at least away) from that. Like the last two, I genuinely think the creators should really taking notes from this book for how to take Blake moving forward. With their sixth season running full steam and another manga just starting in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, it’s possible this might get lost in the shuffle, but if you’ve read the past two or are just a fan of Blake in general, I implore you to not cat nap on this one.

We’ll be back in February for the next and last of these anthologies focusing on Yang, “Burn”.

Score
8/10

David Kaldor

Green Lynx (David Kaldor): Aimless 20-something given a paid outlet for his thoughts on cartoons. Fears being boring slightly more than being outright disliked.

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