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General Questions Thread, November 20, 2020
Frequently Asked Questions below!
A longer version of the subreddit rules is here.
For questions specifically concerning bootlegs or vendor legitimacy, please ask in the Bootleg Megathread.
- For Self Posts: include a bolded NSFW note next to links in that post.
- For Links to sites/images: If the figure is NSFW, or the website has any NSFW content (including ads) be sure to tag your post NSFW and use the appropriate link flair.
Any collection posts containing bootlegs, comments advocating buying bootlegs, or links to sites selling bootlegs, recasts, or unlicensed merchandise will be removed.
People often ask about the legitimacy and/or safety of a number of websites which sell large resin statues. The more commonly-asked of those deal primarily in resins from studios which do not have a license from the Japanese IP holders to produce merchandise. Therefore links to those sites are not permitted here. Another sign is if MyFigureCollection doesn't list the either the statue, its manufacturer, or the shop it's being sold on.
My Figure Collection is like MyAnimeList... but for figures! Their database includes thousands of items which been produced during the last couple of decades, along with reviews of shops and other helpful articles. One can also list their own collection and post gallery photos.
AmiAmi HobbySearch Mandarake (sells rare figures) Good Smile Company Online Shop (often has exclusives) Good Smile Company US shop Crunchyroll Shop Hobby Link Japan (aka HLJ) Solaris Japan (MFC partner) Big in Japan (also has proxy service) Tokyo Otaku Mode FigureHaven Archonia (EU retailer) Jungle
List of retailers on MFC
/AnimeFigures' List of Retailers
Community Guide to Shopping in Japan
Nekomagic (News/Previews) NyaaFigurines (Reviews/Releases) Kahotan's Blog (News/Reviews) Figma Blog (JP)
Buying & Shipping1. What’s the best place to buy my anime figures from?
That’s going to depend a lot on what works for you, but most people around here buy them from Amiami, Big in Japan, Hobby Search, HobbyLink Japan, or Tokyo Otaku Mode. If none of those work for you for whatever reason, there’s a list of reputable retailers in the sidebar that you can check out at any time. Be extra careful when ordering figures from websites like Amazon or ebay, as there are a lot of bootlegs on those sites. Don’t be afraid to ask in our Bootleg Megathread if you’re unsure.
2. What differences are there between the shipping options I get from most Japanese shops?
Below is a rundown of the main shipping choices you’ll get at most retailers. Keep in mind that if an order is large enough you will be forced to use one of the more expensive options, as SAL shipments have lower size and weight restrictions.
- Unregistered SAL: Sometimes referred to as uSAL, is usually the cheapest method. It does not come with any tracking or insurance. Usually takes up 2-4 weeks for delivery.
- Registered SAL: Sometimes referred to as rSAL, is insured for the declared value up to 6,000 yen. It comes with a tracking number and usually takes 2-4 weeks for delivery.
- EMS: This method of shipping is much faster than either SAL options, usually arriving within a week of shipment. EMS shipments are insured for the declared value up to 2,000,000 yen.
- Surface: Shops don't offer this very often. It's an actual cargo ship and slow as a result.
- DHL: Becoming more available as an alternative to EMS on AmiAmi and other sites. Can be less expensive than EMS and of comparable speed, but may be more reliant on the specific geographical area being shipped to. Offers their own tracking.
Most shops will ask you to pay shipping on a per-order basis, but here are some that will allow combined shipping:
- Amiami: You can combine orders here, as long as the orders ship in the same month. It doesn’t matter if the item is new or preowned. Any preorders that are set for that month can also be combined with other orders for that month. However, be aware that if the preorder gets delayed, Amiami will remove that item from that month’s shipment and place it on a new order. To combine orders on Amiami, use the “Combine Orders” feature under “My Account”.
- Hobby Search: Hobby Search will let you combine orders that release in the same month, but you cannot combine in stock items with preorders. If you want to combine multiple preorders, or multiple in stock items, you can do so using the “Order Recombination” feature on your account page.
- HobbyLink Japan: At HLJ, you have the option to send paid orders to their “Private Warehouse”, where you can store them for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to ship the items, you simply select which items to ship and HLJ will combine them into one shipment for you. To use this, just select the “Private Warehouse” option as shipping when you order.
- GSC Web Shop: Here you’ll pay a flat 2,000 yen fee per order. It doesn’t matter how many items you put in your order, or how many different months the items release in. They will charge you 2,000 yen and ship all items as they release. The exception to this rule is their Wonder Festival exclusive items. Those can only be placed in the same order as other Wonder Festival items.
4. When will I get charged for my preorder?
Most Japanese shops charge you once the item is in stock and ready for shipment. When that happens, they will send you an email asking for payment. Some shops (mostly overseas ones), will allow you to pay for the item up front though, if you’d like. A few with that option are:
- Big in Japan (Japanese store)
- Tokyo Otaku Mode
- Anime Island
5. Should I expect to pay customs fees when importing figures?
That depends on where you live. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Australia: 10% GST is now assessed up front.
- Canada: Minimum declared value for charges is around CAD$20 for regular shipments, and CAD$60 for gifts (gifting something only seems to lower the declared value by about CAD$40, not deplete it completely). When using Amiami, try their Small Air Packet option. It comes with tracking, gets there in about the same time as EMS, and is better at avoiding customs.
- Europe: Using EMS raises your chance of getting charged for customs. SAL can still avoid customs in some countries, but generally gets checked in the UK now if the items are above the threshold. Amiami offers a shipping service called “Small Air Packet” that is really good for avoiding customs when you are only shipping one or two figures. Small Air Packet usually takes about the same amount of time as EMS, and still comes with tracking.The minimum declared value for customs charges in the Europe is pretty low- around £15 (£36 for gifts) / €20.
- Mexico: Minimum declared value for customs fees is USD$300 for shipments by post, and USD$50 for shipments by courier.
- United States: A shipment has to have a declared value of USD$2,000 before customs starts hitting you with fees, so you most likely won’t have to worry about them at all.
You have three options for this:
A. Big in Japan is known to stock exclusive figures and ship to other countries. Usually the price is higher because they build in their proxy fees, but it’s easier than worrying about using a forwarder or proxy service. If you live in the US, Crunchyroll, Right Stuf, and Tokyo Otaku Mode also get exclusives sometimes, but out of the states the shipping can get expensive.
B. Forwarding Services: A forwarder is someone who you ship an exclusive item to so that they can forward the package on to you, usually for a flat fee + shipping. When using a forwarder you still make the purchase yourself, and enter their address into the shipping field. When the box arrives at the forwarder they will then stick your address onto the package and send it on its way.
Some popular forwarders are:
C. Proxy Services: With a proxy, you tell them what the item you’re looking for is and they will purchase it in your stead. This is handy for when a company doesn’t accept foreign credit cards, or you’re having trouble navigating a Japanese website.
Some popular proxies are:
7. I see a bunch of really cheap figures that ship from China on ebay. Are those okay to buy?
Generally, no. They’re most likely bootlegs. If you want a second opinion on that, feel free to ask in the Bootleg Megathread that’s always stickied at the top of the sub.
8. What’s a bootleg, and how can I avoid buying them?
A bootleg is a counterfeit figure often made using rejected molds of the official product. They are usually priced significantly lower than the genuine article, and in order to make their profit, bootleggers use lower quality materials and have less attention to detail- resulting in a substandard figure.
The Bootleg Megathread that I mentioned in question 7 is a great tool to avoid buying any bootlegs. It has a few tips and tricks to avoiding them to begin with, and a few more on how to spot them if you’re worried you might already own one.
9. Does anyone know when figure X is going to be released? How do I know if it was delayed?
My Figure Collection (sometimes referred to as MFC) does an excellent job of staying on top of information like release dates and delays. If you’re curious about an upcoming figures release date, check there first. This information can be found directly under the “Releases” section on a figure’s entry. If you only see a month and a year in that section, it means the release date has not yet been announced by the manufacturer, and there is still a chance the figure could be delayed.
If you make an account on MFC you can also subscribe to comments, changes, and pictures via a checkbox on the right hand side of a figure’s listing. Subscribing to any of these things will allow MFC to send you an email anytime the subscription in question updates. Subscribing to “changes” is a great way to keep up with release dates and delays, among other things.
10. The figure I want is long sold out at normal retailers! What’s the best place to pick it up in the aftermarket?
A list of reputable retailers can be found under the “Shops” section of the /AnimeFigures sidebar. They all sell legitimate products, and many of them also sell figures second hand. However, the most frequently suggested second hand sites are Mandarake and Amiami- who has a preowned section that they update every night save Sundays and Japanese holidays around 1PM JST and again around 6PM JST.
AmiAmi grades their pre-owned items on a letter scale. The general consensus from buyers is that their ratings are conservative, so unless the item and/or packaging is specifically indicated as having significant flaws, pre-owned items from them are usually in at least as good a condition as their rating suggests.
Note: When you search Mandarake, you’ll get the best results by using the Japanese characters for whatever you are searching. If you don’t know them, you can find them on MFC by clicking on any of the “details” in that figure’s listing.
11. Amiami has a figure I’m interested in labeled as “For sale in Japan only”. Does this mean I can’t order it without a proxy or forwarder?
No, you can still order it. Amiami’s English site has that warning on many items, and it’s mostly meant to inform you that this product was made for a Japanese market, and as such, will have Japanese speaking/writing in it- so don’t expect any instructions to be in English. If Amiami doesn’t want foreigners buying a certain product, they won’t even list it on their English site.
Displaying Your Figures12. What display cases do you recommend?
If you live near an Ikea try out one of these:
Amazon has a few display options, though they are more expensive. Also keep an eye on your local Craigslist (or your country’s equivalent) and stores near you that are closing up.
13. What lighting do you guys recommend?
Ikea’s Dioder LED strips are often suggested. They come in white or muti-colored.
Most hardware stores carry something similar though, if you don’t live by an Ikea. Just make sure that the lights don’t get too hot!
14. What are those clear plastic boxes that I see under everyone’s figures in their collection posts, and where can I get them?
Those are called risers. Most of us use standard acrylic risers like these. Some other, easy to find things that have been suggested are:
Another common suggestion is to visit The Container Store if you have one near you. They have a lot of things to choose from that can suit a variety of needs. Be sure to check out their standard acrylic risers, their Amac boxes, and the various display cases they sell (baseball cases, mini car cases. hockey puck cases, etc).
15. Should I keep my figures sealed?
That is, of course, up to you really, but here are a few things to keep in mind when debating this question:
- Keeping it sealed can actually damage your figure. PVC figures usually have something called plasticizer in them, and that plasticizer needs to be able to breath. If a PVC figure isn’t exposed to oxygen, after a period of time the plasticizer starts to break down and form a sticky substance on the surface of the figure. Simply opening your figures and taking them out of the box prevents this from happening. If you happen to find plasticizer goo on one of your figures, Kahotan has a handy guide for dealing with it.
- Unlike some other figure markets, keeping an anime figure sealed won’t raise its value by a whole lot. In fact, because of the plasticizer problem mentioned above, your figure could actually be in better condition if you open it versus keeping it sealed.
Finding the Right Figure(s) for You16. There are so many figure companies! Who makes good figures?!
Obviously this is a very subjective question, but as a general starting point, here are a few well renowned figure companies:
- Max Factory
- Good Smile Company
- Kotobukiya (usually hit or miss for people. Use your best judgement based off of the prototype)
My Figure Collection can be your best friend here. Simply do a search on the name of the series or character using the search bar located at the top right of the screen, and all associated figures pop up!
Alternatively, if you’re looking at a figure’s MFC entry, most of the text under the “Details” section can be clicked on and used to run a search.
18. How can I commission a custom figure?
None of the major figure companies (Alter, Kotobukiya, Good Smile Company, etc.) will take a commission for a single figure. This thread has a few websites in it that you can check out, or you can look into garage kits. Some kit painters would be willing to resculpt, frankenstein together, or otherwise modify kits for the right price.
If you're looking for help completing a garage kit, /brushforhire may be useful.
Keeping Up with New Announcements19. How can I keep up with figure news (announcements, updates, etc.)?
Most people use a MFC combined with any or all of the following news sites:
- Neko Magic
- Alter’s Blog (In Japanese)
- Kahotan’s Blog (Only GSC and their sister companies)
- PlastiKitty (Hasn't updated in a year, still has useful information in its archives)
If you make an account on MFC you can also subscribe to comments, changes, and pictures via a checkbox on the right hand side of a figure’s listing. Subscribing to any of these things will allow MFC to send you an email anytime the subscription in question updates. Subscribing to “changes” is a great way to keep up with release dates and delays, among other things.Most companies have one or more Twitter accounts. Some examples: Good Smile Company sales, Good Smile's USA branch, Max Factory, AmiAmi Hobby News.
20. Everyone’s excited about something called Wonfes….. what the heck is that?!
WonFes (short for Wonder Festival) is a biannual figure expo where many figure producers (both large and small) show off new sculpts and updates to figures already under way. Most companies save their most exciting announcements for WonFes, so we all look forward to the expo whenever it rolls around! Winter Wonder Festival is usually held in February, while Summer Wonder Festival is usually in July. The event has also spread to Shanghai, in the late spring.
21. One or two (or 15) figures were announced at WonFes that I’m really excited about! How can I keep track of their progress once the event is over?
MFC is always really quick about getting new WonFes announcements (or any others throughout the year, for that matter) listed in their database, so we suggest using that. To find a figure from the event you can search any number of things, including the name of the character or the name of the show. You can also use the tag search to search “WonderFestival 20xx_[season]” to see all items announced at that event.
[V8E1 Spoilers] Volume 8 Episode 1 Review
With the housekeeping out of the way, let’s dive right in!
Episode 1: DivideWe open on soft music and the slow sound of a brush against a floor. We see a frail girl brushing a wooden floor in a dark void, lit by a spotlight above. The girl has ragged and barely-restrained hair, is covered in dirt smudges, and has several bandages and discolorations across her skin. A few seconds in and we can place her color scheme. Her hair, and the red sash at her belt, remind us of Cinder’s wardrobe. This is confirmed a moment later when we transition to Cinder present-day, flying up to Salem’s whale-in-the-sky. The scrape of her grimm hand against the airship’s seat beats to the same rhythm as the floor brush, and her determined look is a sharp contrast to the absolute dejection on the simple servant’s face.
Neo and Cinder land their airship on a hanger-like protrusion and enter the grimm whale proper, giving us our first look at Salem’s mobile HQ. The walls are fleshy and sinuous; more reminiscent of the gory hellscapes of the Doom franchise than any of Salem’s usual abodes. Calcified bone forms the hard surfaces, blood stains the floor like an open wound, and nearly every structure has the nonlinear curves of organic design. I can’t wait to spend more time here. No, seriously! Neo looks well out of her depth as the pair enter the throne room, and is taken aback when the powerful maiden who browbeat her into service takes a knee to this imposing pale figure.
Salem’s relationship with Cinder is immediately reestablished in the grimm queen’s first lines. Salem doesn’t ask if Cinder has a gift for her, she knows Cinder has a gift for her, because she has made her wrath and displeasure known to the fall maiden in the past. There are no hellos, no welcome backs, just a simple “show me that you are still useful.” Cinder similarly establishes her defining character traits early in the exchange. She presents Salem with the Lamp of Knowledge, claiming she took it from Ironwood while omitting any mention of Neo’s involvement. Neo, obviously, takes non-verbal but quite-visible issue with her account of events.
Tyrian interjects to throw some demeaning insults at Cinder, and the two banter back and forth with the same barely-restrained contempt we saw back in Volume 4 during Cinder’s recovery. Tyrian also is the first to acknowledge Neo when he implies that she may end up as another expendable underling.
Cinder introduces Neo as an “asset” with “very useful abilities,” again to Neo’s irritation. Salem remarks that Cinder enjoys collecting “assets” and the throne room’s door suddenly opens to reveal Emerald, Mercury, and Hazel, all with Volume 8 redesigns.
Emerald can barely contain her excitement as she rushes to Cinder’s side, but the Fall Maiden’s first word to her is a barking order to be quiet. Emerald falters, and Tyrian derides Cinder some more, leading her to outline her current goal; return to Atlas, kill Penny, and secure the Winter Maiden’s powers. However, their simmering argument is abruptly ended when Salem lifts her finger. “This game is mine to play, not yours. Just because you are more valuable than a pawn does not make you a player. All you need concern yourself with is your ability to act when I tell you to.” Cinder is quick to capitulate, and utters the most out-of-character words we’ve ever heard her say; “without you, I am nothing.”
The scene transitions to the Atlas crater, where several refugees are already building fires to stay warm. As we zoom in, we see that almost all the occupants are faunus. All but a small, green-clad farmboy. The arrival of an airship causes the faunus to scatter, but Ruby quickly reveals herself and offers Oscar a lift. The airship heads into Mantle, where heavy snowfall and leisurely grimm remind us of the two immediate problems; heat and monsters. Oscar brings Ruby and Weiss up to speed off-screen and laments that he seems to have made all the wrong choices. Ruby consoles him by saying that “we all did what we thought was best.”
Joanna of Robyn’s Happy Huntresses flags the airship down and ushers our heroes into a safehouse, destroying a security drone along the way. As the Beacon students make their way deeper into the safehouse, an abandoned bar, we see May coordinating Mantle’s unofficial evacuation. The rest of the heroes look pretty somber, and Nora even opts to gently hug Oscar rather than tackle him to the ground like normal. Oscar, who hasn’t finished his V7 discussion with Ozpin, declines to tell the gang about his newly awakened abilities. Oscar asks after Qrow, and the Beacon students all look dejected as Ruby explains that they don’t know where he or Robyn are.
Joanna re-enters and asks if the gang is ready to work. When all she gets in response are defeated looks, she starts to explain the situation in careful but direct terms; the citizens of Mantle are cold, threatened by the grimm, and no longer have Ironwood’s protection. The Huntresses are happy to give our heroes a place to crash, but they also have a job to do. She tells them that the Huntresses are evacuating the people to the crater, where they’ll be warm and consolidated for protection. As she speaks, we get a look at all our heroes. Nora, Weiss, Oscar, Ren, and Jaune all look attentive and resolute, if not exactly confident. There’s a mission in front of them and people to help. Blake, Yang, and Ruby, however, look more troubled. Weiss tries to lighten the mood with some humor, commenting that “they’re never going to sleep again,” but Joanna bluntly smacks her down. “You’re either helping or your baggage.”
Joanna leaves the group to talk and Yang finally resolves herself to help Mantle. Ruby asserts that they need to help everyone and reminds the teams about Amity. Blake agrees, citing the big picture. Yang points out that Amity isn’t completed yet, and Ruby asks Pietro what it would take to launch the communications platform now. Pietro comments that construction and launch fuel problems are manageable, but that they would need authorization from Ironwood’s Terminal to launch the satellite. Yang starkly tells Ruby that getting Ironwood’s cooperation isn’t possible, but Ruby posits that they may not need it, suggesting a break-in instead.
Yang incredulously asks if Ruby wants to go back to the academy, and Pietro offers a secondary target; a terminal inside the main Atlesean military compound at the base of Atlas. Of course, even the “easy option” comes with a bevy of security defenses and obstacles, all of which add to Yang’s argument. She tells her sister that it’s hopeless, and that there’s no guarantee help would even come. Ruby starts to get frustrated at Yang’s comments and lays out the big picture threat of Salem. They need to warn the world that the literal apocalypse has started.
Then the music drops out and Yang hits us with a gut punch. “Ruby, when we came here we said we’d follow your lead. But things haven’t exactly worked out.”
Everyone reacts. Ruby looks heartbroken, Weiss looks shocked, Oscar tries to look elsewhere, and Nora only looks determined. Even Penny, who hasn’t spoken or faced us yet, bows her head.
Yang starts to elaborate, but Ren cuts her off, citing the immediate (and attainable) evacuation mission in front of them. Nora steps in on Ruby’s behalf, stating that the entire world needs to know what’s coming. Sensing a brewing argument, Jaune steps between them all. With a cool head, he suggests pursuing both plans; launching Amity and evacuating Mantle. Ruby is hesitant to separate, but Oscar reminds her that the real danger is clashing with each other. It is still possible to work together on separate objectives.
Penny, unable to meet the group’s eyes, offers another alternative; let her give herself and the Staff of Creation up to Salem in hopes that she would spare Atlas. Everyone agrees that giving up either Penny or the Staff is a non-starter, but the comment speaks volumes about our favorite robot’s state-of-mind. Agreed on their current objectives, Ruby takes Nora, a fiercely determined Penny, Blake and Weiss on the Amity mission while Jaune, Ren, Yang and Oscar head to Pietro’s workshop to collect some extra gear.
Throughout this entire discussion, we’ve been seeing small cutaways to scenes of each character out in Mantle. As each character defines their position on the Ruby/Yang argument, they appear beside either sister in their respective scenes. These segues finally resolve themselves into our final scene transition, putting Ruby’s team on a rooftop somewhere below Atlas’ floating mass. Maria comments over the radio that she can get Pietro up to Amity to start repairs, which cleanly sidelines the two of them but leaves Ruby’s team without transport to Atlas.
Weiss starts to suggest an idea for that, but the group is interrupted by a ringtone. It’s Penny’s scroll. The general is calling. Penny answers, and the man who starts speaking is as cool and calm as a veiled dagger. Ironwood starts to appeal to Penny, first telling her he’s concerned for her safety, then asking for her location, before finally invoking her sense of duty to Atlas.
Ruby steps in to comfort Penny and address Ironwood, but the general starts to unravel at the mention of Mantle. Clearly still ruled by fear, Ironwood tells Ruby that Remnant is doomed and that Atlas’ destruction would mean the loss of humanity’s last hope. Ironwood tells Ruby that if Atlas’ defenses are breached, she’ll be responsible for what follows. This final comment is too much for Penny, and Ruby moves to hug her friend.
We transition from Ruby’s worried face to Marrow’s mournful mug. We’re in an Atlas hospital now, beside the AceOps. Vine and Elm look stoic, but Harriet can’t conceal her anger. Before them lies Clover, dead. Across the hall, Ironwood watches his AceOps mourn. Winter is behind him, being swarmed by nurses and swaddled in bandages and braces. As Ironwood looks down at his right hand, now a starkly robotic prosthetic, a brassy leitmotif of Hero plays in the background, reminding us that the general will do whatever it takes to win. A soldier arrives to inform the general that “the prisoners” have arrived and are being placed in stockade B. Winter speaks up, confirming that the prisoners are Qrow and Robyn.
Winter still looks pretty beat up from her fight with Cinder, as well she should. A nurse painfully tests the range of motion in her right hand while her left, the one that Cinder directly slashed, appears to be cocooned in a metal arm guard mounted to a chest brace.
Ironwood asks to speak to Winter privately, and the specialist is quick to assure the general that she’s fine. However, when Winter tries to close her sabre-holding hand, her arm trembles and she can’t make a fist. The general thanks Winter and begins to confide in her. Salem’s hoard is the largest collection of grimm ever seen, and Atlas’ hardlight shields won’t last forever. Winter asks what the general will do, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Sleet and Camilla, the remaining Atlas councilmembers. As the two argue with hospital staff, Ironwood tells Winter that he will do “everything he can to defend this kingdom, no matter the cost.”
And then he steps out and shoots Councilman Sleet. In front of Camilla, the AceOps, Winter and everyone else. And then he just walks away. Harriet makes brief eye contact with Winter, but neither of them say anything.
Our final scene of the premiere is plucked straight from the trailer. Our POV emerges from a gooey, amniotic sac aboard Salem’s whale. Salem holds the Lamp of Knowledge aloft and tells “us” that she has questions. A bony snout sniffs the lamp, and Salem tells the grimm to bring “the one who can show me how” to her. Unlike the trailers, we get one more piece of footage to go with her command.
We see Salem standing, looking down on the grimm and us. Our view of Salem is blocked somewhat by the grimm’s two crooked ears, which look canine in nature. More on this in the Loose Threads section.
ThoughtsAt roughly 16 minutes excluding OP and credits, this is the shortest volume premiere since Volume 3. Add in the lack of a fight scene or action piece, and volume 8’s first impression is a little on the lighter side. On the one hand, I understand the need to budget resources, and perhaps that it’s not as important to hook new viewers with the premiere of a show's eight season. On the other hand, I am left wanting a bit more. Just like how Volume 7’s finale initially felt like a mid-season cliffhanger, this feels like we’re picking up where we left off. I suppose that’s pretty fitting given that the larger conflict has already arrived; we don’t need a new inciting incident. Still, the absence is noticeable.
Like any good premiere, this episode establishes the current goals of our heroes and antagonists, as well as the current dilemma facing each side.
- Salem needs the Staff of Creation (and thus the Winter Maiden powers) as well as the information on how to summon Jinn.
- Ironwood is dead set on protecting Atlas, and will do anything necessary to accomplish that end. He needs the Winter Maiden powers to access the Staff of Creation and raise Atlas into the sky.
- The heroes have two goals; launch Amity by infiltrating Atlas, and rescue civilians down in Mantle.
Speaking of characters, we see the return of several in this episode. Not only are the three major factions from the last volume established, but we see the return of Hazel, Mercury, and Emerald. Given how many opponents each faction has, it makes sense to bring them back now. Not only does a full roster call reinforce the idea that this volume is a full-out war, it also gives the animators and choreographers more freedom to split the groups up and fight in smaller teams. I doubt the CRWBY is eager to repeat the Battle of Haven, and suspect that they will instead break Salem’s team up in order to oppose Ironwood and the Beacon gang at the same time. Who knows, we may even get some cool rematches out of it.
While this episode might not have an action sequence, we still saw a pretty important fight. The argument in the barroom marks the start of a growing rift between the usually inseparable members of Team RWBY. Yang is Ruby’s sister; her first friend and closest ally. In volume 5, Yang did everything she could to meet up with Ruby. Ruby was so ashamed of leaving Yang behind that she babbled nervous apologies when Yang finally did show up. And even then, all Yang cared about was that Ruby was safe. Yang has been Ruby’s strongest advocate since the very beginning and she just told Ruby that she’s having doubts about her leadership.
Ruby and Yang’s disagreement also rekindles the argument that’s been brewing between Ren and Nora since the middle of volume 7. Once they each take a side in the sisters’ fight, both teams are split in a way they’ve never been split before. Fundamentally, the gang is divided between those who prioritize the big-picture fight with Salem and those who are focusing on the immediate need to help civilians in Mantle.
This is important, so I want to establish it now; neither of these sides are wrong for thinking the way they do. Sure, we may find that they have their own reasons for disagreeing, but both of these groups want to do the right thing, and have chosen the task that they think is the most important right now. Just like Oscar said in the episode, they can have different goals and still be working together. Both of these objectives need to be accomplished. We might just have some character development to get through along the way.
Penny is also clearly going through a crisis of identity, being pulled in two directions by her duty to Atlas and Mantle. Her only identity before Volume 8 was as a shining warrior of Atlas, and later the Protector of Mantle. Now she’s left the general behind and embraced her role as the Winter Maiden, but her identity is still wrapped up with the safety of Mantle’s citizens. So long as they’re in danger, Penny feels like she’s letting them down. She entertains ideas like returning to the general or giving herself up to Salem because they might give Mantle a chance at survival and thus fulfill her own goal.
Ironwood has committed hard to the antagonist role. I’m not sure if he can redeem himself in a believable way, and it’s clear he doesn’t really want to. As an aside, killing Sleet, while cold-blooded, is likely a calculated move. Sleet was the most vocal of the councilmembers opposing James, and without the results of the latest election, there are now only three filled seats on the Council. Ironwood has ⅔ of those seats, granting him a veto-proof supermajority. The general likely left Camilla alive in case there are any two-person security authorizations he needs to access. Think of it in terms of real-world security. It doesn't matter how powerful or well placed any one person is, you still need two people to launch a nuclear missile. Ironwood's now got a compliant councilmember and has subverted the council's political procedures in one fell swoop.
Winter still trusts the general and looks up to him, but her doubtful expression makes it clear she is concerned about his current behavior. Harriet "It's not excessive if it's necessary" Bree, on the other hand, seems to resolve herself after Ironwood takes his shot. Winter may be looking at a conflict with the AceOps before this volume's through.
Opening AnalysisNow let's take a look at that OP sequence. The opening begins with Ruby looking out on Atlas and Mantle. As she watches, the kingdom flashes between a scenic winter day and a dark red, war-torn wasteland crawling with grimm. Ruby blinks and finds herself in an open space, separated from her friends and facing a different direction. This distance reinforces how emotionally distant Ruby is feeling from her friends right now.
Next we get a sequence of each member of team RWBY mid-action, all with their past self imposed somewhere on their bodies. Ruby’s cape is covered with a scene of her visiting Summer’s grave in her Beacon-era outfit. Weiss stands with her V5 character short imposed on her heart. Blake swings with Gambol Shroud while it’s scabbard shows her days in the White Fang. Yang looks cheerily into the distance while a pre-Beacon memory from Patch is imposed on her hair. Then Ironwood appears, the picture of Atlas on his chest transforming into a smoldering ruin. Clearly, we're seeing fragments of what drive each character and inform their motivations.
Clover’s hand drops his four-leaf pin and as it falls we see each of the remaining AceOps. Elm looks wary, Vine is meditating, Marrow looks downcast, and Harriet looks enraged. We also see Qrow looking dejected, but Robyn lifts him to his feet.
We pan over to Oscar clutching his head in pain while a menacing winged Salem looms over him. If we had any doubts that Oscar was going to be captured, they’ve been dashed.
The next shot shows us Jaune, Ren, and Nora standing apart in a triangle shape. Jaune is framed in between them, facing the camera and presumably Salem’s army. Meanwhile, Ren shies away from looking at Nora, and Nora glances over her shoulder at Ren, a worried look in her eyes. Nora turns to face him, but the scene cuts away with a flash of pink lightning.
Winter and Weiss approach each other from across a Schnee glyph, but we see that their paths don’t cross. Both look confident as they approach, but as they pass each other, Weiss has her head raised high while Winter looks down in regret, or perhaps shame. Willow and Whitley also look on, worried expressions on their faces.
The shot zooms out to show Salem commanding a black chess board, the pieces quickly turning into different kinds of grimm. Across from her stands Ironwood, but his white pieces quickly dissolve along with the chessboard, leaving him alone.
We get a quick sequence of Watts and Pietro on either side of a mirror, presumably both trying to win back control of the Atlas network. Pietro’s reflection spares a glance at the nearby Penny, who, while outwardly resolute is betrayed by her shattering reflection.
Back on the tundra, a snowflake falls into Ren’s hands and quickly turns into a lotus petal. Jaune puts a hand on Ren’s shoulder, and as Yang and Oscar pull up beside them, Ren smiles. Another lotus petal blows past Nora, who cannot grab it before she’s joined by the “Atlas” team. She grins and readies her weapon as both teams get ready to face down a tundra full of grimm.
As we get a full spread of Atlas, Salem’s whale, Mantle, and a whole mess of grimm, Penny suddenly flies away from our heroes and turns to face them, weapons drawn.
The gang quickly descend into a short combat sequence against the grimm which freezes mid-action. Cinder emerges to observe the frozen heroes, passing by a cross Neo and a hopeful but ultimately rejected Emerald. Before she can walk away, however, flames erupt as Cinder grabs her grimm arm in pain. The other members of Salem’s retinue flash by as we zoom in on the witch’s eyes where we see her goal; the relics.
Jinn’s lamp spins around the Staff of Creation, and they both start to emit their own shades of blue smoke before the camera cuts away to Ruby and the gang, now standing alone on the tundra.
Team RWBY then falls through the ice into darkness, each plunging into dark waters that seem to glow like the Brother of Light’s reflection pool. Ruby opens her eyes and reaches for a distant Staff of Creation, but she is enveloped by grimm arms and dragged deeper.
The OP ends with an artsy sequence of sketches alternating with the words “Happy? EveNever, AfteAgain.” We see a canine grimm’s mouth opening wide, a closeup of Penny’s eyes turning from green to red, and team RWBY’s weapons all falling to the ground.
Let's talk for a minute about the music itself. The melody is energetic and the vocals seem much clearer than in earlier volumes, which is great since the lyrics foreshadow volume 8's tone. The lyrics are about useless sacrifices and the fear that evil will triumph over good. Lyrics like “Roses will never bloom, some dreams will die on the vine” really set the mood. It reminds me a lot of “When It Falls” in tone. But while that song started out ominous and unsettling, which fit the show's drastic tone shift in volume 3, volume 8’s opening has a much more immediate sense of urgency. This also fits the current narrative. Salem’s here and we’re under attack. Our heroes sacrificed a lot to get here and we still don’t know if it will all turn out fine in the end.
But even still, some hope remains. The song ends with these lyrics: “Sometimes it’s worth it all to risk the fall and fight for every life.” In fact, there’s several lyrics in the opening that sway between hopeless and hopeful. We follow “Maybe the path home will finally be clear” with “maybe the end we tried to avoid is already here.” That’s this opening’s theme; uncertainty.
It’s a good thing none of us have a habit of trying to predict RWBY or anything...
PredictionsIn the immediate future, I expect the next episode to continue advancing every faction’s progress. We’ll probably get team JOYR (Joyride) entering Pietro’s shop and picking up the new equipment, team RNBWP (Rainbow) will start heading up to Atlas, the AceOps will probably get their new marching orders (and thus defining their immediate narrative goal). We’ll also probably see more of Cinder and Salem’s retinue. Fight-wise, I think we’re most likely to see small skirmishes with teams JOYR and RNBWP, but I suspect we’ll have to wait a little longer for the meatier fights. The narrative gears only just started turning. I will say that I expect Salem’s “seeker” grimm to pop up next episode, maybe as it hunts around for Oscar.
If we start working the OP into our predictions, we can set our gaze a little farther out. We obviously see Mantle under attack, spotlighting the main conflict of the volume. Oscar’s torment by Salem supports the “captured farmboy” theory that’s been around since the trailers dropped, and implies that the young wizard is about to have a rough time.
We also see conflicts growing between several characters, which seems to be setting up the larger emotional struggles our key characters will face in this volume. We can see Ren’s doubts physically manifesting in his isolation, as well as Nora’s concern at their straining relationship. However, Ren cheers up when Jaune and the Mantle team show up, which seems to point towards them helping him overcome his emotional roadblocks.
We also see the Schnee siblings a few times. Unlike volume 7’s opening, when they made eye contact, Weiss and Winter seem to be walking divergent paths in this OP. What’s even more telling is that the normally confident Winter looks crestfallen, while Weiss confidently holds her head high. Throw in Winter’s behavior in the hospital, and I think it’s pretty clear which schneebling is starting to question their life’s direction.
The final character conflict in the OP that I want to focus on is Cinder’s. Ever since her introduction, Cinder has used people as tools to further her goals. What’s more, we know she’s been doing this for even longer thanks to Fall (V3E6). Just like we saw this episode, she sees people as “assets” with “useful abilities.” That’s what Neo is, that’s what Mercury is, and that’s what Emerald is.
Now, we’ve seen what Mercury thinks of Cinder and Salem in Lost (V6E9); he joined both to be on “the winning side” when a new world order is created. Emerald has a deeper emotional investment in Cinder, given that she rescued Emerald from a life of poverty. No matter how abusive Cinder acts or how one-sided the relationship is, Emerald has clung pretty closely to Cinder. But Neo is different. Neo had a comfortable life before Cinder came into the picture. If anything, Cinder’s appearance forced Torchwick into the big leagues, into jobs and crimes that he had no business involving himself in. And we KNOW that Neo feels this way, because she attacked Cinder back in Miss Malachite’s bar in volume 6. The only reason she switched focus to Ruby is because Cinder convinced her to join forces (and, more importantly, because Neo couldn’t beat Cinder’s Maiden powers).
So Neo’s working relationship with Cinder is strictly business, and she’s certainly not happy about Cinder calling her an “asset” and stealing the credit for the Lamp’s capture. More and more, it looks like the only thing keeping Neo from backstabbing Cinder is the power dynamic. Unfortunately, Neo’s in deeper than ever now that the rest of Salem’s crew has arrived. She could sure use allies of her own right now…
At the same time, we have Emerald’s meeting with Cinder. Now, Emerald hasn’t seen Cinder since the Battle of Haven back in Volume 5. She’s been desperate for news about the closest thing she has to a mother figure. And what’s the first thing Cinder does when Emerald sees her and tries to run to her side? She tells Emerald to shut up and stay away, because the adults are talking. Mercury may have given Emerald the “she doesn’t care about you” talk back in Lost, but Cinder just gave her a solid reminder of that sentiment.
Now, we don’t know how or where Emerald’s faith in Cinder will break, but I do think that falling-out is coming. Cinder has always ruled by fear. When Adam, Torchwick, and Neo rejected her initial offers, she threatened them. She’s never built any relationships on trust, because she trusts no one but herself. Now, it appears, the bill is starting to come due.
Finally, let’s talk about Penny. I think we’ve gotten “Penny gets hacked” theories ever since volume 3, but this volume those ideas seem to have more merit than usual. Not only does the OP show Watts hacking, implying that Salem will rescue him from jail, but Penny is absent from the team-based fighting sequence. Instead, Penny turns to face the gang right before the fighting starts. And all of that is leaving aside the eye-color change we see in the OP’s final seconds. We clearly watch Penny’s color scheme go from her normal orange/green to full red, and we know this isn’t an art choice because her facial expression goes from animated to serious when the color switches.
My ideas about how this might happen and what the ramifications could be are still forming; I don’t want to throw out a theory with only one episode of evidence. However, given how powerful and important Penny is to the kingdom’s current conflict, much hinges on where her loyalty lies. What’s to stop Ironwood from using Watts to take Penny back by force? What’s to stop a hacked Penny from pretending to return to Ironwood, retrieving the Staff, and flying the relic back to Salem? Strap yourselves in, RWBY fans, because the twists are going to get gnarly if any of this comes to pass.
- My guess is that Salem’s “seeker” grimm is a black dog; a creature of British folklore that was said to haunt graveyards, crossroads, and places of execution. It appears to actually be quite small, which would be a nice change of pace for a threatening grimm; kind of a support creature to ferret out the quarry and report its location before the inevitable wyvern pick-up. A specialist within Salem’s larger plan, like the seer grimm.
- It wouldn’t be a RWBY episode if I didn’t have to pause and read something. The bar is full of little details, posters, and pictures that add a level of life and history, which in turn add to the level of tragedy and loss we viewers and the characters are currently feeling. They include:
- A Six Swans Vodka label, like the brand that Willow was drinking
- Several Robyn posters, either brought in by the Huntresses or the previous owners. Speaking of which...
- A big picture on the wall of two women, one with an eyepatch and one with fox ears. I'd assume these are the owners, but they could be local heroes, favorite customers, or something else. Part of me thinks they must be important if they have distinct designs, but it may just be the art team fleshing out the world. Gone are the days of shadow people. (EDIT: Eddy Rivas has confirmed on Twitter that the picture is of the bar's owners, and that they aren't terribly important. Oh well.)
- A poster for Rumple Stilltskin Whiskey. We're just filling out the whole liquor cabinet, aren't we.
- There's also another poster on the back wall, though I can't make out the figure in it.
- I am glad to see Ruby wearing her hood up. I am, really. But her sneaking is slightly undercut by her bright red cloak.
- Winter’s new armor has a very N7/Commander Shepard vibe, and I’m all about that. Throw in the ponytail and I’m just waiting for the fanart. On a more analytical note, it looks like the "armor" may be a powered brace that's hooked to a chest mounting. It's probably something to assist her while she recovers.
- Winter’s recovery may answer some questions about aura. Do you have to heal completely before you can generate an aura? Is your aura weaker when you’re also healing an injury? What does an aura-less hunter’s capabilities look like? Depending on when she gets back in the fight, we may get answers to these questions.
- I liked seeing the elderly mole faunus down in the crater. His faunus trait is easy to miss at first, but I can absolutely see something that distinct causing a lifetime of prejudice and mistreatment. Reminding us of how unique and un-human-like some faunus can be does a lot of legwork in making their oppression seem understandable within the world.
- It’s a small moment, but I really appreciated that it was Jaune who stepped in to deescalate the growing argument in the barroom. This man praised Ruby for being an anchor in volume 4 and keeping Team RNJR going after the Fall of Beacon. His own journey has always been about being there for his friends. I doubt this is the last time Jaune will have to intervene this year. It may be his turn to be the gang’s rock.
- In the opening, we see Jinn’s smoke start to emerge from the Lamp of Knowledge. However, we also see a darker blue smoke start to emerge from the Staff of Creation. I think this is hinting at a Jinn-like consciousness inside the Staff, which would imply that all the Relics have an intelligence inside them, which would honestly be very fitting. Maybe it’s the dungeon master in me talking, but nothing says high-magic like living magic items.
ConclusionThat’s going to do it for this week’s episode review. It might not have been the action-packed “kickstart” I was hoping for, but we’ve now got a lot of drama simmering on the backburner. That all but guarantees that future episodes will be a wild ride.
Sorry this review was a bit of a monster, but between the premiere and the new opening we had a lot to analyze. This was also a bit of a busy week for me, which is why this is coming out a few days later than I’d like. Hopefully as the volume progresses I’ll get back into the swing of things and can put these reviews out in a reasonable timeframe.
Thank you all again for reading. If you enjoyed my writing, you can find my masterpost [HERE]. Until next time, be safe, be creative, and be excellent to each other!