RWBY characters are the show’s breakout stars. From alchemical origins to Japanese anime spinoffs to crossing over with DC superheroes, they’ve captured fans’ hearts and minds.
Volume 9 premieres on February 18, 2023. After an unprecedented two year hiatus, fans are excited to see where beloved characters go next. Showrunners confirmed Volume 10 has been outlined, although production hasn’t yet been greenlit. How many volumes would be needed after Volume 10 remains to be seen.
The reality is, there’s probably not a whole lot of story left. RWBY seems to be following the classic three-act structure. The first act ends in a disaster that forces heroes to reevaluate their commitment to the mission. Volume 3’s massacre at Beacon and the death of heroine Pyrrha Nikos fit this quite well.
In turn, Volume 8’s climax read as a classic second act disaster, complete with our heroes hitting their lowest point yet that makes the first act disaster look cute by comparison. For an example of what the second act disaster tends to look like, think The Empire Strikes Back. The heroes hit their lowest point.
Hence, Volume 9 seems to be shepherding in the final act. Which characters need to finish their arcs? Which plot points need addressing?
Let’s speculate: what’s next for RWBY?
RWBY Characters In Volume 9, First Objective: Leave the Ever AfterWhen Volume 8 ended, Team RWBY and Jaune Arc plunged into a void between worlds. Volume 9, therefore, begins in an entirely new locale, with a new objective for our heroes. Rather than stopping the evil Salem, they just want to go home.
The story seems primed to focus on RWBY characters’ internal worlds. As the teaser promised:
Before she could go back home, the girl had a great many questions to ponder. After all the lessons she’d learned, and the friends she’d made and lost, who had she become? … The leaves of the tree rustled, and on the wind, she heard one more question:
What… are you?
Considering RWBY’s extensive use of allusions, psychological imagery, and symbolism, we’re betting the animators jam-packed each frame to reinforce the identity theme.
RWBY Character Mysteries: Jaune ArcOne of the major characters who should get focus this season is Jaune Arc. Despite not appearing in the trailer (besides arguably his boot), his arc seems poised to be one of the most powerful. Not only did he see so many die, but also saw Jaune killed.
Well, sort of. After Cinder fatally stabbed Penny Polendina, Penny begged Jaune to end her life quickly. If Penny maintained some control over her death, she could choose whom her powers went to upon her death. She did not want it to be Cinder, whom it would go to otherwise.
Killing a friend would have massive consequences for anyone. For a character whose main ability is healing, who dreamed of being a noble knight? Well, it won’t be pretty. Jaune’s ancestral sword, which represents his soul, shattered after the act.
Considering all of this plus Jaune’s devastating and destructive grief after Pyrrha Nikos died at the close of the first act (Volume 3) and the ominous knight imagery in the trailer… well. Could Jaune be a form of an antagonist of RWBY Volume 9?
Not to mention, Team RWBY has no idea Jaune even fell into the “Ever After” with them. Yang fell first, followed by Blake and Ruby together, Neo, and lastly Weiss. Jaune just barely missed escaping. Only Weiss, Jaune’s one-time crush, even knows Penny is even dead.
After all, the theme of the volume is “what are you?” and Vacuo itself has a relic of “destruction.” Jaune cheated on an entrance exam to become a Hunter precisely to honor his family legacy. Now the family heirloom (his grandfather’s sword) is destroyed.
Who does Jaune want to be? Why is destruction considered a gift from the gods? Both are questions with a ton of thematic potential.
Meanwhile, In Vacuo…While our main five RWBY characters are trapped in the Ever After, a sizable group of secondary protagonists made their way to Vacuo. The only one of the world’s four kingdoms the show hasn’t visited so far, Vacuo promises to be an interesting setting.
While the show hasn’t stopped there, two spin-off novels have been set in Vacuo. RWBY characters from the books, like Team CVFY, are likely to pop up,. That said, it’s unlikely they’ll have any deep focus given the already sprawling cast.
At the same time, Sun Wukong and Neptune Vasilias live in Vacuo. Both played somewhat important roles in the show’s earlier seasons. Sun helped Blake face her fears while learning to accept his own place in the friendzone. Neptune has an interesting conflict in that his powers concern water, which he’s deathly afraid of. Whether or not Sun and Neptune get focus while the gangs in Vacuo seems up in the air.
However, it’s not confirmed yet whether Volume 9 will focus solely on the Ever After, or split the focus between the Ever After and Vacuo (and Atlas, considering resident alcoholic “gruncle” Qrow got stranded there and thinks his nieces are dead).
RWBY Characters And Plot Mysteries: Relics and the Summer MaidenSpeaking of relics, we’ve got to address RWBY’s McGuffins.
First, the relics. RWBY’s world has two gods: the God of Light and the God of Darkness. Both need each other, and each bestowed two “relics” possessing powers related to “gifts” the gods gave mankind. Each kingdom contains one relic. Resident Baddie Salem wants all of them, Thanos style.
Mistral’s lamp represents the gift of knowledge. Atla’s staff represents creation. Salem now possesses both.
Vacuo, where our heroes currently are, possesses the sword of destruction, and Vale has the crown of choice. How exactly destruction might be a gift seems certain to tie into themes of grief and loss. However, the sword’s powers remain unknown.
The second McGuffins are the Maidens. Cinder Fall possesses the power of the Fall Maiden. Penny Polendina ensured the Winter Maiden’s powers went to Winter Schnee. Yang’s deadbeat mother, Raven, possesses the Spring Maiden. This leaves one Maiden unaccounted for: the Summer Maiden.
No doubt Cinder and Salem will try to possess that power, too. Whether or not this will be a plot point in Volume 9 or fans have to wait until Volume 10 remains to be seen. As does whether the Maiden, given her name and the names of two of the other maidens matching their respective seasons, has anything to do with Ruby’s mother: Summer Rose.
In addition, Winter being in Vacuo also leaves the possibility Cinder will target her again very much open.
RWBY Character Mystery: Who Is Nora Valkyrie?Unlike all of the other main characters, fans have almost no information on Nora Valkyrie’s background. All fans know is that she showed up in Lie Ren’s hometown as a street kid, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
In fact, it’d be pretty easy to write Nora off as a less complex side character. Nora herself calls this perception out in Volume 8:
All I do is make dumb jokes and smash things with a hammer.
She then follows that up by promising an arc to Lie Ren:
When my mom ran from the Grimm and left me behind, you found me. We became Ren and Nora. But I realized on this mission apart, I don’t know who “Just Nora” is. And if I’m ever going to find out, then I have to do it alone.
Whoever “Nora” is, fans can’t wait to find out.
Mercury Black’s Redemption ArcNow that Volume 8 finally cemented Emerald Sustrai’s long-hinted redemption, fans are waiting to see when Mercury Black will begin his own arc.
In Volume 3’s commentary, Kerry Shawcross called Mercury’s backstory the darkest of all RWBY characters. He also stated Mercury’s past needed more exploration. While, like Emerald, he’s been part of Salem’s numerous attacks on the world, Mercury’s also told Emerald precisely why he’s involved.
We can’t stop Salem. You told me yourself, Hazel tried. He failed and he got in line. Big guy’s not going to pick fights he can’t win, and neither should we.
Unlike Cinder Fall or Salem or Salem’s other cronie Tyrian, Mercury has a positive bond with someone else: Emerald. Her switching sides might well force him to question things.
Whether this begins in Volume 9 or not until Volume 10, it seems pretty likely that the socially-awkward terrified kid will find his way to redemption eventually. The only question is how far he’ll spiral in the meantime, and how long it will take.
After all, it took Emerald multiple seasons of questioning and her mentor Hazel’s death to push her out of Salem’s horde. Mercury’s mentor, Tyrian, is far from the kindly sort Hazel was. However, it seems likely Tyrian’s actions will somehow push Mercury out of Salem’s control, even if it looks quite different than what happened with Emerald.
RWBY Characters: Summer And Ruby RoseOf course, we can’t forget the main character. While most of Team RWBY has more or less completed their arcs, Ruby hasn’t. Instead, she’s received a lot of setup: training for her silver eyes, warnings of what kind of monster Salem could turn her into, and grief over realizing Salem turned Ruby’s mom into a Grimm.
The death of Penny, one of Ruby’s close friends, is sure to get to her. If the story does indeed connect Summer Rose to the Summer Maiden, then Ruby has the potential to uncover more about her origins as well.
One thing’s for sure: while Volume 9’s promised journey towards a sense of self may mark the finale of their arcs for Yang, Blake, Weiss, and Jaune, it will only be the beginning for Ruby Rose.
RWBY Characters, Villain Version: Cinder And SalemVolume 8 gave fans one of the best-written backstories thus far: Cinder Fall’s. Despite Cinder’s set up as the big bad through the first three volumes, that changed when the narrator revealed herself as Cinder’s manipulator and true big boss: Salem.
If the reveal of Cinder’s past humanized her, her actions in Volume 8’s finale reinforced that she’s nowhere near seeing any sort of light. She burned one ally alive, kicked another ally into the Ever After, blew up innocent refugees, and gave Penny Polendina a fatal wound that left Penny the option of deciding to die now or in five minutes.
At the same time, Cinder’s lack of agency in comparison to Salem still marks her as a sympathetic villain. Her Grimm arm threatens to consume her in the same way Ruby’s mother was turned into a Grimm. Cinder’s internal conflict continues to be one of the driving forces of the series, and even though her spiral seems certain to get worse, her complexity is unlikely to change.
Salem, meanwhile, isn’t nearly so complex. Nor does she need to be. Salem works best as the embodiment of an idea, the idea that humanity isn’t something to be celebrated, but is instead a weakness to overcome. She’s been cursed never to die until she understands that she shouldn’t have control over life and death.
Hence, while it’s likely Salem will in fact learn this in the end and depart from the world, RWBY characters don’t know that. In fact, they must wrestle with the reality that as hard as they fight, they’re simply not capable of defeating her. Salem works as a fantasy representation of the reality of death lurking in everyday human life.
None of us are getting out of life alive, after all. How, then, should we live?
Oscar PineOf course, Salem’s not the only immortal among RWBY characters. There’s also Salem’s former husband, Ozma. Talk about a bitter divorce.
Ozma isn’t immortal in the same way, though. He does die. A lot, in fact. He then just returns, reincarnating by latching onto the soul of another hapless soul and possessing them. He doesn’t do this willingly, either; it’s a curse that won’t be lifted so long as Salem exists.
Ozma’s latest incarnation is Oscar Pine, a kid who insists he does not want to lose himself to Ozma. Ozma himself seems to be trying to not take over Oscar, but again, resistance can only delay for so long.
Oscar: I’m just going to be another one of his lives, aren’t I?
Ruby: … You’re your own person.
Still, considering that Salem will presumably be defeated in the end, it’s likely Ozma will be able to find rest as well. The cycle needs to end at some point.