RWBY Ice Queendom Episode 1 Review

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here, finally ready to begin reviewing the RWBY Ice Queendom series properly. In all honesty, it was off to a shaky start when the first three episodes released as promotional hype.

You can read all about my RWBY Ice Queendom first impressions here. That’s just a broad look at the first three episodes, mind you. For now let’s dive into the actual and proper review, shall we?

To begin, I want to say that the first episode is as rushed as it could possibly be. I don’t think anyone should go into this anime as their first experience with RWBY. It isn’t exactly what I would call a strong start for those unfamiliar with the main series.

You see, we knew going into Ice Queendom that the first two episodes would rehash a lot of plot elements from Volume 1. My god, did it ever do that… but I’m going to be honest here. It is super fast, and it’s not for a non-fan to try to absorb.

No newbie can hope to truly understand the depth of what is actually going on without having seen Volume 1 of the original show first… so if you’re going to watch Ice Queendom, awesome!

Just… uh… watch Volume 1 first too, okay? I promise if you did feel a little lost, don’t be too concerned… even I felt a little lost, but we could have a diamond in the rough here, so let’s not be too hasty.

That said, we did get some pretty stellar moments, and we got some clunky ones. Spoilers ahead, be warned

If they were going to re-hash volume one, they should have done it from scratch. Enough is changed in this iteration to argue a complete and total overhaul. Here’s the thing, the first volume of RWBY is only two hours long. That means they could have rehashed all of what they needed to do in six episodes (no I’m not joking). They should have done that.

Take for example the Weiss battle from the RWBY White Trailer and compare that fight to this one. The battle is cleaner in Ice Queendom for sure, but it lacks some of the emotional character development we get from the Weiss Trailer and her introduction song. Also, the battle feels just a little rushed and choppy. Thanks to the break-away scenes with Blake and Adam running around doing a separate fight entirely, the combat feels very segmented.

Winter’s inclusion so early in Ice Queendom is a welcome addition, but it is just a little jarring without context… Winter wasn’t in the RWBY White Trailer and didn’t make an appearance until a later volume. The same is true for all the Schnee family.

It is very nice that some of these plot points were touched on in the first episode, but why not slow down and really contextualize it? I don’t understand the need to rush, and that is a bit annoying.

I do like this fight, though, and I think Studio Shaft had the best of intentions. It was merely that those intentions fell a little flat. The same is effectively true for a great deal of the first episode during the re-hash scenes. They’re a bit cobbled together, demanding you have some concept of the show to start with, and not particularly caring to slow down if you don’t.

That said, there is a highlight moment every now and then when Ice Queendom extrapolates where the original RWBY series never does. For example, at least Taiyang isn’t strangely absentee this time around, which is something I’ve brought up in my character analysis of him. His lack of development in the original series really paints him in a really bad light.

It’s nice to see him as the father we knew he could be, and not the complete jerk-ass father that the original series implies him to be. Again, super nice gem here. Whoever had the mind to add this in and push it through should get a standing ovation.

Taiyang’s scenes with Yang, and later Ozpin, really help to flesh out what Volume 1 failed to really cover earnestly.

However, a few good narrative calls doesn’t help the show when the rest of it can be somewhat crammed together at such a break-neck pace. There’s little room to breathe.

This may sound harsh, but I’m not trying to rip on the show here.

I’m just pointing out that there are some really good choices when the creators choose to take the time to flesh things out. When they do, it’s amazing. When they choose not to take that time, it’s obvious. In some ways that’s very annoying to me as a fan.

Ice Queendom is “canon adjacent” or so they call it. That means some canon remains the same, and some become different… when you do this, you need to be clear about what changes and how it changes.

You can’t be vague about this. Many of us aren’t coming into the series with fresh eyes. We’re coming in as fans from the original show. We have preconceived notions and biases that needed to be challenged under these new ideologies.

In any case when the fights are this clean, they’re pretty good. If you just want action with no combat choreography or subtext, this will do you just fine. It feels fun and it’s entertaining, that’s for sure.

Once again though, welcome to my biases at play here. I’m a huge fan of the original show, there is a lot to live up to here in terms of combat. This show has big shoes to fill and I’m not entirely sure that it could have hoped to live up to the original fight scenes.

If you want actual choreography that sticks with you and hits home, this just won’t hold a candle to a lot of the battles in Volume 1. Sorry, but for me it holds true. If you don’t mind losing some of the charm of choreography and just want a good brawl, this will do just fine as it is though… it’s serviceable.

In losing some of the charm in the fights, we do lose a little something in the characters too. That is the main issue here.

All of the characters feel watered down and distilled in ways that just pull me out of the experience. Yang especially feels so watered down I don’t even recognize her as Yang anymore. We just don’t have the time with her to really get a sense of who she is, what she wants, or how she feels as an aspiring huntress.

There is no combat at the bar scene to really amp up her temperament, or showcase some of her poor decision making. To highlight my point look at these two comparison photos.

Let’s be real honest here guys, which one best represents the Yang that’s adventuresome, ready to throw down in a fight? Yang is a complicated, deep character. She spends all of volume one trying to get Ruby to go out and make friends, find her own way, get on her own team, and become a huntress. That’s not the Yang I see portrayed in Ice Queendom even slightly… she doesn’t get enough screen time to get that portrayal.

Now, that’s not to say I expect Yang to be the same… or any character for that matter. At this point in time, I just don’t know who she even is as a character. I’m a huge RWBY fan. I should have a very firm idea of who Yang is, but she’s not really anything at the moment.

I want to know who these girls are in this iteration of the show, and the show itself doesn’t seem to want us to know.

It’s like that with all of the characters to one degree or another, even Weiss… considering Weiss is supposed to be the focal point, that’s a problem here. I’m only using Yang as just the most notable problem with this in the first episode… and I know it will be a problem with JNPR in episodes two and three because I’ve already seen those episodes.

You can’t scream canon adjacent in one breath, and fail to really take the time to flesh out these characters in the earliest episodes. I just don’t think that’s the best way to endear fans to a series that we’re not coming in completely blind on.

So my final thoughts on RWBY Ice Queendom are simple. Let’s wait and see. It might be a trash fire, it might get really good. As of right now, there’s just no way to tell. There are enough tidbits to make me feel like we’re going to get something good, and enough red flags to have me concerned. Either way, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Another take on episode 1 can be found here, reviewed by DoubleSama. I’m not entirely sure that they have seen the original RWBY series, but I do think their take adequately describes some of the confusion a person might feel if they are going into RWBY Ice Queendom entirely blind, or rusty on the wider show. That’s why it might be worth it to give it a look.

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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