A teaser trailer posted on Rooster Teeth’s official YouTube channel in early 2022 confirmed that RWBY Volume 9 was being delayed to “early 2023”, after first being announced for 2022. We’ve now finally been given a release date, with Volume 9 scheduled to commence this month on Crunchyroll.
In the lead-up to Volume 9’s release, let’s recap the series so far…
RWBY has always been growing. To rewatch the whole show is to watch Rooster Teeth’s budget, team, and scope grow in time-lapse. From Volume 1 — which could have passed as a visual novel rather than an animated show — to the cultural phenomenon that is the RWBY universe today, it’s been an epic journey.
At this point in the show, seven of our eight main characters have witnessed their school and the surrounding city destroyed by Salem and her underlings. They’ve split up and reunited in a bid to save the rest of their world, firstly in Mistral, and now in Mantle.
In Volume 7, General Ironwood (played by Jason Lei Rose) completed his villain arc, the main crew broke up again, and main villain Salem (Jennifer Lee Taylor) made her steady approach to Mantle and sister-city Atlas. Volume 8’s job is to pay it all off — bring Salem to the fore, reunite the crew again, and see Ironwood’s defeat. It doesn’t seem like much to accomplish — but in the midst of side-plots and rumination, the show loses its focus.
RWBY writer Miles Luna told CBR in a 2019 interview that “Volumes 7 and 8 are going to be more connected, with [a focus] to improving the balance of character storylines”.
Volume 8 marked the first time that one season leapt directly out of the last, with the rest acknowledging time gaps between them.
This change in pace indicates that RWBY is diving headlong towards a finale, though Luna assured Inverse in 2019 that “there’s plenty of seasons to go around”. The result feels like a Shepard tone — increasing infinitely in pitch without ever hitting its final note.
To Luna’s credit, Volumes 7 and 8 certainly feel “connected”. So much so that the distinction between Volume 7 and 8 feels hazy; I had to go back to see where 7 ended and 8 began.
At the beginning of Volume 8, Ironwood’s transformation from potentially dangerous utilitarian to all-out villain isn’t fully developed. Salem still isn’t here yet. Starting on this foot, the supposedly big character death that ended the last season doesn’t feel significant enough to warrant a new volume right there.
On rewatch, Volume 7 presents as a setup — devoid of a satisfying resolution — but Volume 8 struggles to pay it off.
Looking back on the rest of the show, I misremember how quickly the team travel across the world of Remnant, and yet how slowly they come to understand what they’re up against. Some of this is on the failings of these previous volumes, but some of it is influenced by the pacing of Volumes 7 and 8.
Improving the balance of character storylines supposedly means that RWBY’s newest volume will introduce us to a range of perspectives and character goals. But could this wider focus actually be to the show’s detriment?
It should be Salem — the big bad, whole-show villain, coming for them right now, to literally destroy the world. But it isn’t.
RWBY has handled more than one volume with the same characters, in the same setting, with the same threat, previously in Volumes 1-3. With one main plot shoved to the front and a few sub-plots to spice things up, RWBY’s writers hit the beats, got the moments, and let us know which elements were fluff.
Each episode could be significant and take breaks in its own way, but in treating every character and every sub-plot equally, RWBY crowds its episodes with countless conflicts and character-building moments that I struggled to remember, let alone care about.
While crawling through the season with a friend, I had to pause more than once per episode and ask, “Who is that again?” or “Please explain why Ironwood is like this”. Clicking on a new episode, I would have to double-check that I hadn’t seen it before.
When too many people try to get through a door at once, none of them get through. In Volume 8, RWBY’s full cast of characters seem to be trying to squeeze through the door of plot relevance.
That said, despite some overwhelming plot setups and underwhelming character sub-plot payoffs, the season’s final episodes come out as a triumph.
The best moments of this season all arrive in the last three episodes, where the team comes together to coordinate a plan against the now fully evil General Ironwood, then Salem’s underlings — all while the city of Mantle falls in the background. I think back on those moments with a bittersweetness, because it’s hard to tell what they’re really worth.
Just another city fallen. One more to go.