Hey everyone, it’s Kern here, time for another RWBY related fandom post. Today I’m talking about romance in RWBY.
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As of Volume 3 the “Arkos” ship in the past, and although it is canon content Pyrrha died in that volume. Regardless of that, I still enjoy the concept of the ship and thought it prudent to talk about it today. At the time of this post Volume 8 is in full swing, and soon to be completed.
I really want to get into discussing RWBY content and this is as good a place to start as any when it comes to shipping since it is a ship that (as far as fans know) doesn’t need to compete with possible cannon content in later volumes yet to be released.
Pyrrha Nikos and Jaune Arc comprise the pairing affectionately named “arkos” by the fan community. For the first three volumes of RWBY, Jaune and Pyrrha are teammates that grow into being vague lovers. In the end of volume three Pyrrha dies and Jaune must live on.
Volumes four, five, and six show Jaune learning to heal from his grief. His slow emotional recovery is well done, probably some of the best I’ve seen in a production like RWBY.
As of Volume 8, it’s safe to say that Jaune has mostly recovered from his grief at this point. Though there are moments where it crops up on occasion. So let’s take a look at this romantic pairing a little more closely.
In volume one, the romance is entirely one sided. Jaune’s eyes are on Weiss, not Pyrrha. Of course, Pyrrha doesn’t make her feelings truly known, either. Jaune is typically very dense, but at the very least he’s earnest.
In volume two Jaune and Pyrrha become a cannon pairing. However, Pyrrha’s tragic death in volume three also opens the way for Jaune to pair off with someone else in later seasons. Unless the writers of the show somehow bring Pyrrha back to life, it’s safe to say she’s gone for good.
I don’t personally sail this ship from a cannon perspective, but I do read fan fiction with the pairing in it. For me, it depends entirely on the setting. Alternate universe fan fiction, or fan fiction in the Beacon/Vale timeline can be well written. People who choose to write the pairing earnestly can often offer an entertaining read.
I do think that Jaune and Pyrrha have better pairings for each of them. The “Arkos” ship is a bit of a mess as far aa romantic pairings are concerned. In early cannon, Jaune is oblivious and has other interests. This is compounded by the fact that Pyrrha doesn’t make her affection obvious until much later. Then once she does, she doesn’t live long after.
That said, I respect “arkos” and its cannon roots. It certainly is a popular pairing, and I’d never disparage that.
Reasons to “Ship” Jaune and Pyrrha (Arkos)
Just like other ships in RWBY, the first volume of the series focuses on how completely incompatible Jaune and Pyrrha really are. Whiterose, and to a lesser extent bumblebee, also suffer from this trope. The first volume wanted to imply how vastly different hunters can be. Showing that off between teams and partnerships really gets the point across.
Let’s be bluntly honest, early on Jaune is not a good candidate to become a good huntsman. He has a noble ambition, but that’s about it. Like Ruby, he’s awkward beyond belief too. He lacks basic combat skills, common sense, and he lied on his school documents. Beyond that, Jaune has his priorities in the wrong order. That’s a fact most of the others around him notice, Ruby particularly.
He is constantly bullied for lack of skill in the early parts of the series. Jaune has no right to be a Beacon student in the first place, and he knows it. Let’s be real honest here, it’s going to take a lot of volumes before he finds his footing, six of them to be exact.
Meanwhile, Pyrrha Nikos is an accomplished student. It’s implied that she’s somewhat of a celebrity, but this isn’t touched upon as heavily as it is for other characters. Pyrrha has won tournaments and received a sponsorship. No matter how loosely it’s touched upon, she’s famous, and her face is plastered across cereal boxes.
Weiss Schnee, heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, regards Pyrrha with the utmost respect. Considering how rude Weiss can be in volume 1, this is a mild indication that Pyrrha has dabbled in high society. There is firm subtext that Weiss and Pyrrha may have even crossed paths before. They don’t formally introduce themselves, and Weiss seems particularly friendly with her. Despite Pyrrha’s popularity, Jaune doesn’t even know who Pyrrha is.
In fact, in my re-watching of the series, I realized how much of a jerk Jaune was to Pyrrha even when she tries to introduce herself to him.
He practically pushes her out of his way just so that he can talk to Weiss. It’s obvious that Weiss isn’t interested in him, but he doesn’t seem to realize that.
At first, Jaune and Pyrrha are simply unfit for each other. As a pairing, his sights aren’t even set on Pyrrha as a romantic interest. Instead, he’s much more interested in Weiss. This is what I mean about the pairing being a little messy. It’s not even a love triagle, so much as it is Jaune being unable to “read the room” so-to-speak.
For Pyrrha and Jaune, volume one is nothing more than establishing personal growth for these characters. While Pyrrha holds a romantic fondness for Jaune, he’s too dense to really notice. With his sights so firmly planted on Weiss, he doesn’t see the love and affection that Pyrrha wants to offer him.
If it sounds like I’m harping on that a lot, that’s because I am. The series is very focused upon the unrequited love dynamic going on between them, and it all comes to a boiling point eventually, but until then, that’s what we get out of them. Jaune acting like a dunce, and Pyrrha still caring very deeply for the misguided and well-meaning idiot. Jaune still has a lot growing up to do, but that comes later.
Until then, Pyrrha acts as a supportive partner for Jaune flawlessly. She unlocks his aura, and helps him with his training, teaching him the basic skills he doesn’t have. At first, Jaune fails to return that level of loyalty. Instead he befriends Cardin, and allows himself to be bullied. Even with Pyrrha’s best efforts, Jaune finds himself failing, both as a team leader, and a huntsman-in-training.
As I said though, the second volume is when Jaune begins to understand the important role he has as a team leader. He starts to emulate Pyrrha’s actions, learning to be humble. He isn’t exactly happy when Pyrrha forces him to study, but he doesn’t argue with her either. Pyrrha shows growth in her own ways too. Much like Weiss, Pyrrha has learned that small moments of immaturity aren’t a bad thing. Pyrrha joins the food fight between teams RWBY and JNPR. She reads comic books, and enjoys spending time with her teammates.
Jaune still fawns over Weiss, even though she isn’t interested in him.
Pyrrha isn’t obvious about it, but now she shows signs of being jealous. This becomes a major turning point during the school dance. Jaune is so sure that Pyrrha will find a date to the dance that he says he’ll wear a dress if she doesn’t have one. After being rejected by Weiss for the umpteenth time, Jaune attends the dance alone.
When he sees Pyrrha sad and alone, he can’t help but follow her. When he asks where her date is, she tells him that she never had a date to begin with.
Pyrrha explains in detail that her privileged place in society makes it very difficult to connect with others. For the first time, she’s being blunt with Jaune. Upfront and honest about her feelings for him, she lets him know exactly how she feels. She makes it obvious he’s the sort of man she wants in her life… so, needless to say, Jaune eats his words.
Jaune goes and puts on a dress. Returning to the dance, he spends the rest of his evening with Pyrrha. This moment is what officially sets their relationship into motion in cannon.
To be honest, we don’t get much else for Jaune and Pyrrha in volume two after this point. Major plot elements and story elements take place for team RWBY, meaning that other teams get sidelined.
It should come as no surprise when I say that the “arkos” pairing is strongest during volume three. Pyrrha shows affection for Jaune openly, and he returns it. She’s much more open about her feelings now, and Jaune reciprocates that. All of this relationship for the past three volumes culminates into a sudden and climatic kiss. Then Pyrrha rushes off to face a battle all on her own, knowing it’ll get her killed.
This is where the “arkos” ship sadly sinks. After her fight, volume three ends. Jaune learns to live without Pyrrha Nikos in his life. While volumes four, five, and six have moments of him recalling his time with Pyrrha, that’s all there can be anymore. During the sixth volume, Jaune comes across a memorial statue of Pyrrha, and finally comes to a catharsis about her death.
So, why should you ship this pairing? It’s quite simple. Jaune grows from a cocky teenage boy into a resolute young man during the first six volumes. Pyrrha was the catalyst for that growth. Pyrrha’s own self-discoveries, while subtle, shouldn’t be understated either. As a fan, it’s interesting to think about how these characters would have grown into adults with full fledged hunting licenses.
While other pairings in the series focus on grandiose character moments and memorable witty dialogue, it’s not the same for Jaune and Pyrrha. For these two, it’s all about the things left unsaid. The simplicity of mundane life that gets taken for granted. It’s profoundly beautiful and tragic. This is perhaps what allows the pairing to live on within the fandom.
Reasons to Sail a Different Ship
There is only one reason, and for now it’s just the way the cannon story played out. Pyrrha’s dead, and Jaune isn’t. Even so, you can still find Pyrrha alive and well in fan fiction. Although those usually take place before the events of volume three, it’s an alternate universe entirely, or follows a peaceful timeline… one where the fall of the kingdoms either don’t occur, or they occur with her still alive and well.
As of right now, Jaune stands in an interesting place within the series. He can have his past love of Pyrrha, and still have another cannon pairing down the line. Even if he does get into a new pairing, that doesn’t change the cannon timeline and the past.
Pyrrha Nikos will always be his first love, and his first real loss. He’s also shown a cannon interest in Weiss in the past. Depending on what later volumes do with Weiss, they may become a cannon pairing down the line. Although, that’s only speculation on my part.
As far as “fan related shipping is concerned, there are many implied options to choose from. Jaune can easily be shipped with Ruby or Weiss. Cannon gives him just enough moments with both girls both to provide fan fiction fodder. He can also be placed in a bisexual triad relationship with Ren and Nora, which is a common thing to do too.
Jaune plays the role of the underdog in the series. He acts as a vessel for male viewers to latch onto and relate well with. Fan fiction showcases this in spades. Jaune is often put into unnaturally erotic situations that he usually wouldn’t find himself in. Women who canonically show no interest in him, start to fawn over him in the world of fandom. This makes him a strange outlier among male characters in the series, and his pairings are practically endless when it comes to erotic fantasy.
For Pyrrha, There are also a few implied options. Ruby and Weiss are the stand out choices for monogamous relationships, but the fandom doesn’t stop there. Ruby, Blake, Yang, Ren, and Nora are stand out options for polyamory ships.
In fact, much like Jaune, open relationships tend to run rampant with Pyrrha. Fans often ship Pyrrha using polyamory with her teammates and trusted friends. Countless other characters, male and female alike will occasionally be thrown into Pyrrha’s polyamory blender, making for some of the more interesting pairings within the fandom.
The “arkos” pairing is one of the most dynamic pairings in the RWBY series. Jaune and Pyrrha are side characters, particularly during the early volumes. They don’t get a whole lot of screen time compared to team RWBY.
In spite of this, their romantic progression is on display almost all the time. The hints are subtle, most of them are buried deep under subtext, particularly in the first volume.
For me, the ships are less about who they’re paired with, and rather, the dynamic itself. I’d rather read about Pyrrha in small polyamory groups. However, I generally prefer Jaune when he’s steadfast in his monogamy.
I think there’s something to be said for reading Jaune as a bisexual, and seeing him in an open relationship with Ren and Nora. Lastly, I believe shipping all of team JNPR together is just as valid as shipping all of team RWBY together. Perhaps, it’s even more valid simply by the notion that there are no siblings involved (sorry enabler fans).
All in all, like all pairings, there’s no “right” ships to sail. It’s up to you as fan. Getting to decide how best to enjoy these characters, and the ships that come along with them is one of the hallmarks of fandom, and that should never be forgotten.
This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.
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