Welcome to a world of new solutions.
A year ago, I wrote an editorial about Ruby Rose, the main protagonist of Rooster Teeth’s popular animated series “RWBY”, and her concerning decrease in relevance or development in that story despite her apparent placement as the lead role. I was partially happy to see I wasn’t the only one who noticed this as several dozens of comment threads and video essays starting popping up over the last few months, shortly after its fifth season concluded in January. This is mainly due to the fact that this major issue, and all the minor ones that sprang from it, hadn’t been addressed during that fifth season and actually been made worse. Even with as many distracting flaws as that season had, the neglect of the seemingly most important title character is going to be a standout.
Ruby continued to have no real role in the events as they played out beyond fighting when necessary (which was itself pretty minimal that year). Characters around her progressed plenty, and even if I had mixed feelings about those executions, at least they were progressions. Even things that relate only to her either ignored or poorly utilized. Her character remained the spunky little ball of red-clad sunshine, having no moments that gave her any reason to challenge or question the way she’d handled things thus far, despite learning things that could’ve potentially turned her world upside down. And even her insistence on remaining the way she had been doing virtually nothing to impact events around her, leaving her usual positivity as benign as ever. Essentially, as of this writing before the release of the upcoming Volume 6, Ruby Rose is still standing still, which means she’s still getting left behind.
However, we’ve had an editorial explaining why this is a problem, and even though we’re over five years into this story, and one episode into Volume 6, I don’t think it’s too late to remedy it. This time, I’d like to offer some potential solutions and paths that Ruby could take with the time her story has left in order to capitalize on what we know about her. Some of these are ones many fans have been wanting for years, some are things that are less requested. But any of them, even ones that I can’t think of, would be better than leaving Ruby where she is now.
And of course most of these are based on massive speculation and guessing that I could pull from the very minimal knowledge we know about certain parts of the show, so please understand this will be largely fanwank.
- Controlling the Silver Eyes
I figured I’d get the most obvious one out of the way since this is something fans have been begging for more and more since they were introduced. Though they’ve only been used a couple times, the Silver Eyes are a unique and rare ability in Remnant that so far only Ruby has. They’re something both establishing a direct link to her mother Summer, who also apparently had this power, as well as supposedly the most powerful anti-Grimm weapon, which is something someone whose biggest goal in life is to become someone with the explicit purpose of stopping Grimm would probably care a lot about. But somehow, Ruby has yet to show any signs of interest in honing this ability to become stronger, or even to be more usable than only when she thinks a friend might die. Which is a really big shame because the idea of this sort of power holds so many possibilities to both expand the lore of the show and the character of Ruby herself. And while I’m not exactly fond of simply dropping a special skill into a character’s lap just to make them seem more unique, this could be a good opportunity for Ruby to look inward.
We haven’t really gotten much in the way of showing how Aura training works in this world, but the concept behind controlling Aura mainly centers on calming the mind, and sometimes that requires looking into one’s self and facing thoughts and emotions people don’t normally like to think about but drive their actions every day. The one thing we have a clear handle on in regards to how Ruby activates her eyes (at least until it’s contradicted) is a fear of loss and rage at being unable to protect people who matter to her. And that means happy-go-lucky Ruby in her current state isn’t going to be able to use this ability unless things are at least seemingly utterly hopeless, which isn’t really the most healthy way of learning how to control it.
So, based on what we know, the most effective way of training Ruby’s Silver Eyes is to put her in a situation that either makes her think she’s about to let friends and family die, or strike at the core of that fear which is probably her mother’s death. Once they can identify a trigger for her to grasp, from there they can start putting some twists on the powers, possibly explore existing techniques that previous warriors used, or even create new ones that fit Ruby’s own existing Semblance and quick-thinking, dynamic fighting strategy. These eyes are a part of both her body and her being, so learning more about them could very easily help her to find out more about herself.
- A Rival Appears!
Something a good fleshed out protagonist needs is a foil. A Sasuke to their Naruto, a Bakugo to their Deku, a Joker to their Batman. Someone who has the same starting point as them and/or is looking for the same destination or goal but is taking a different route and exposes the protagonist to the possibility that their own methods and ideas have their limitations. Unsurprisingly, Ruby does not have this, partly because her own goals are as simple as “I want to be a Huntress and help people”. She has many good potential matches amongst both her friends, family, and enemies, but none have ever truly been at odds with her over the same goal or idea to ever truly make that connection.
Ruby and Weiss come from wildly different backgrounds and both want to be Huntresses, but they’ve never given anything for the other to learn from as people. Ruby and Yang are siblings with seemingly vastly different views of the world, but they’ve never been given a chance to see how much those views set them apart or could teach the other. Ruby and Jaune are both team leaders with supposedly differing dynamics with their teams, but have never shown to teach the other how their respective leading philosophies could better the other (aside from “hey, buck up!”) Ruby looks up to Qrow, who has a lot of harsh adult experience that shatter her optimistic outlook on life, but he hides a lot it from here when he can. Her relationship with Cinder MIGHT be the closest since, as enemies, they are obligated to learn from their encounters for the next fight, but Cinder’s mindset is basically about as single-minded as Ruby’s.
So, what goes into the ideal character foil for Ruby? Ruby often sees the world through rose-colored glasses, so maybe someone who’s more jaded could teach her that expecting the best in others does is not always realistic. Perhaps someone who is also looking into becoming a Huntsmen or Huntress, but is using it for the money and fame instead of protecting innocent lives, or even hates the idea of Huntsmen that Ruby idolizes. Even a differing fighting technique or Semblance ability could do this job, such as someone who plans things out instead of rushing in or can slow things down as a response to her speed, or someone who’s just better at being fast.
These are just a few things that can be applied to future characters or even existing ones to both keep Ruby on her toes and always learning from the conflicts she faces. Protagonists often manage to have several foils throughout a story to learn from their flaws and find ways to grow as people. Ruby still has plenty of chances to find things to learn in the people around her, which could give the cast some much-needed development on top of finding out just what path Ruby will have to take to become her best self.
- Summer Rose
Part of many coming-of-age stories like is the concept of the younger generation learning from the mistakes of the older generation to be better adults themselves. The problems the previous decades has come back to haunt them, and it’s up to the kids dealing with the results to find a solution. Part of finding out those solutions is realizing that the people who helped raise you and taught you everything you knew are aren’t infallible and make mistakes just like you, and sometimes they learned to grow from them and sometimes they didn’t.
Before anyone thinks it, I’m not suggesting giving Ruby’s enigmatic mother some “terrible dark secret” that actually makes her a monster whom Ruby and Yang were wrong for loving or seeing as a good person. What I am suggesting is making Summer a person, because right now, she’s just a white cloak and a few good stories about cookies. We’ve had plenty of ominous hints about the dark lives from the depressed former members of the team she led, Team STRQ, the others being direct relatives to Ruby and Yang, but Summer almost never comes up in conversation. Putting aside my worries that she just turns out to be an older and slightly more mature Ruby, I think there are at least some interesting bits out of her existing backstory that could help show how Ruby can honor her mother’s memory, especially by not becoming her.
Besides her also having Silver Eyes, Yang has said she was a slayer of monsters, something Ruby clearly takes after, Raven has said she shares Ruby’s optimistic views, but she’s also the only member of her former team that’s died. That means that, somewhere along the way, her views and her plans and her seemingly masterful abilities failed her. These are all things that Ruby idolizes, seeing no better purpose in life than following her mother’s footsteps and become a Huntress. Summer’s dedication to her work while being a mother is admirable on its own, just as any police member, firefighter, or soldier who risks their lives while also being a parent, but it’s possible this may have taught Ruby a potentially lethal lesson: The fight never ends. Ruby’s long-term goals as we currently know them don’t have a tangible endpoint anymore than erasing every Grimm is remotely possible at this point in the story, but Ruby’s most influential role models are people who dedicate their lives, dreams, and sometimes happiness to serve others. It’s possible the biggest challenge she will have to face is knowing when the fight is over.
- The Breaking Point
Since the end of Volume 3, I’ve noticed a lot of people making guesses on when something will push Ruby past her typical smiling self. After all, she saw three people die in front of her, two of which being friends she’s known for months, on the day that the school she dreamed of enrolling at was invaded and destroyed by terrorists. No one goes through something like that without getting REALLY messed up.
And somehow, Ruby has persisted with that usual peppiness for the past two seasons with practically no moments of reflection about what happened and how that might have impacted her. In fact, she seems more eager than ever to stop the baddies behind it, so much so that she brought some of her friends on a (largely unnecessary) hike across continents with no plan. But surely this means she is hiding her true pain, and something will occur in the near future to show her smile was merely a façade, bringing a major turning point in her character!
Well, it might and it might not. It is odd how she is the least emotionally affected by the Fall of Beacon, but the thing about a breaking point is that it needs to break something. When a character learns a massive revelation that contradicts how they’ve been handling things up until this point and shows that going back to those methods would only cause them harm. The problem is that Ruby’s solution to every problem (primarily fights) has just been getting back up and trying again, which ends up not meaning much lately because the last few major fights have all been won by characters other than her. There’s never been a moment where Ruby’s been made to learn that something she chose did more harm than good, and she’s long overdue for one.
Part of being in an occupation like being Huntress means making quick decisions that could have major consequences that you will have to live with for the rest of your life, and that requires taking responsibility. A moment like that would require Ruby to be at a certain level of control in a situation that she’s never been in before, such as whether someone lives or dies. These kinds of decisions are never easy, but they’re ones many in Ruby’s line of work have had to deal with before, so she may just have to face that herself one day. Regardless of the outcome, the concept of failing to protect someone, something she could never consider happening as she is now, could be enough to break the person she is now that let that happen. From there, it might be difficult to find her way back from such an experience, but as the apparent focal point of this story’s ideas and themes, she could likely come back stronger than ever. Though as to where that initial failure could come from…
Ruby’s uncle is an all-around fan favorite from his cool look and attitude to his weapon to his voice actor, but he’s currently in a weird position as a mentor. He was introduced in Volume 3 as a bad boy Huntsmen who played by his own rules, as well as the only straight speaker in a cabal of vague expositors among Oz’s secret group. In Volume 4, he had to become the voice of reason and caretaker to RNJR despite his clear inability to do that (even without the bad luck power), and was then incapacitated for the back half of that season. Last season, he finally owns his leadership role amongst the group…for one whole episode before Ozpin returns and effectively takes over, and now that they’re headed to Atlas along with Ozpin to meet Ironwood, it’s going to make him feel that much more out of place. So, as much as some might not like it, I think it’s about time for Qrow to exit the story. Preferably in the most tragic way possible. And it needs to be Ruby’s fault.
Besides his role in the story being diminished (and whatever potential he could have had as a fighting trainer being thoroughly wasted), pretty much the only contribution Qrow could have now is be a casualty in an upcoming serious fight in order make sure the other heroes know they still have a ways to go in being ready for the threats ahead. This is a battle for the fate of the world after all, and while the team has had their share of recent victories, that can’t always be the case. The loss can only be someone who most of the major characters and fandom know and like, and currently, only Qrow fits that criteria to make that loss impactful.
As for why it has to be Ruby’s doing, that goes back to some of the previous points. She needs something to trigger her Silver Eyes like the two times before and she needs to feel the burden of responsibility and leadership in order to grow out of her current simple self. If I were writing this moment (which I’m sure plenty of people reading this now hope I never do), it would be started from Qrow finally giving Ruby free reign over their next major decision in their journey, leading to either an ambush by some of the show’s villains and/or vicious Grimm or some other awful result. Qrow is forced to sacrifice himself so Ruby may live so his cross necklace finally makes sense, and Ruby is forced to realize what parts of her she has to change to become a better person who can learn how to possibly keep this from happening again. In ways, she never would have bothered to think about until that moment because she was never given any reason to.
And what’s weird about this is that we’ve almost had something like this before in the show. In Volume 4, during Qrow’s fight with Tyrian, Ruby jumps into the fray against Qrow’s wishes, which leads to him being poisoned the rest of the season. Something Ruby decided to do based on her own existing but narrow ideals caused someone she loved to almost die. Aside from one moment of self-pity that is immediately snuffed out by Jaune, nothing ever comes of this for the remainder of that season or the next, and Qrow is healed off-screen somehow and is never put in any immediate danger. So, we have come close to a moment like the one I’m describing, but we need to take that extra, more permanent step.
- Losing the Scythe
This is the one I expect to go over the least well with readers. Ruby’s scythe, Crescent Rose, is the most iconic weapon of the show, something she (usually) uses with much grace and expertise, and the very first thing that brought in fans to the idea of watching a series about cute girls fighting giant shadowy monsters in the first place.
And yet, it’s still way too impractical even for this show. It’s practically Ruby’s security blanket, apparently “one of the most dangerous weapons ever designed” according to Ozpin, and only barely makes sense in battles with Grimm, which are very easily cut. Even Qrow, the guy whose own weapon Ruby based hers after, has a sword configuration that he ends up using most of the time because it covers all the ground and mobility a scythe can’t. And while it may work well enough against Grimm, they aren’t the only enemies Ruby will be facing. So, a new weapon must be made that accounts for these possible changes in opponents.
Ruby’s weapons obsession is sadly one of her most interesting but least used quirks, but it could be possible that delving into that more could bring up an understandable reason she feels her weapon is best for her. Maybe she keeps track of her weight and its weight in order to fully know how to handle certain dynamic maneuvers, or changes out certain parts to account for terrain and wind resistance, or maybe she just loves scythes. But without any of that, it’s something I think is probably the most radical but still necessary aspect of her that could benefit her to change as the story progresses. Not necessarily just a sword, but at least a step away from Crescent Rose’s current design to show that the weapon-loving side of her is still growing and learning to change and adapt when necessary.
I have no doubt that Miles, Kerry, Gray, and everyone else at Rooster Teeth have probably thought of many of these concepts and ideas (probably aside from the last one) in some way, shape, or form years ago during the show’s initial development and long before I thought of writing this post. But if they have, it’s not coming across in the show and that’s why I felt compelled to pour these ideas out to whoever may be reading them (and get my friends to do amazing artwork to represent those ideas).
I wrote this piece because I have a (sometimes irrational) amount of faith in the potential of these characters, their world, and the people who make it all because they’ve helped fuel my creativity in a lot of ways, not the least of which makes a 3000 word list of risky hopes and requests that they have no reason to fulfill. But I put this out because I believe RWBY, and more specifically Ruby, have a lot of potentials to be amazing. Maybe we’ll see that with this new season, but for now, thanks for reading.