The day has come! Let's go Plus Ultra and start discussing My Hero Academia!

April 10, 2017

Shower Thoughts with RWBY (Part 2)

So what’s your take on headcanon?

I know that there’s a certain level of futility to it.  After all, I gave Street Fighter V the headcanon treatment before its story mode made the rounds.  There were enough clues to make guesses on where the upcoming A Shadow Falls would go narratively, and so I made those guesses -- about Necalli, about the nature of the Dark Hadou, and more.  Then the actual story came out, and…uh…I don’t want to talk about how wrong I was.

Fans and fandoms are powerful, but they’re nothing in the face of the actual content creators.  That’s probably a good thing in some cases, because A) you have to respect the creative vision of the guys and ladies in charge, and B) giving power to fans who don’t always know better can lead to….well, let’s call it “misfortune” and leave it at that.  The reverse is true, of course; fans can and do create stuff that makes the pros look like amateurs.  But as long as they’re on the bottom rung, they’re doomed to have their best work and razor-sharp skills languish in obscurity.  Why bother with it, then?

Easy.  Because it’s fun.  It’s fun to come up with different takes on a story, especially when it’s something you really care about.  So let’s get ready to have a ball with an alternate, hypothetical take on RWBY and its 4th volume.  More specifically: let’s start with Yang and work backwards.

There’s been a lot of noise in-universe about how much of a hothead Yang is, and how that rashness is going to keep landing her in trouble.  That’s been proven on various occasions, though there is more that could be done (her whole “don’t mess with her hair” berserk button is brought up so infrequently that I’d forgive you for mistaking it as a dream).  Losing her arm to Adam Taurus is a good catalyst for character progression, but I think that Volume 4 went too far in one direction.  They utterly broke Yang instead of doing what they should’ve done: deconstruct her.

Yes, there had to be a scene or two where she felt down and/or broke down.  What I would like to see, however, is Yang trying to be Yang despite (or maybe because of) her losses.  Make her suddenly snap one day and decide she’s done being sad and languishing at home.  It wouldn’t be a genuine fix or progression past her sorrow, of course -- but since all Yang knows is brute force, it’s only natural to have her break through what ails her as best she can.  It’s just that in this case, “as best she can” is synonymous with “pretty damn terrible”.

With a slew of bad jokes and a cocky swagger, Yang bikes her way across Remnant in search of information about the baddies’ plans.  Since we’ve already seen her get involved with shady individuals at the local watering hole, I’d imagine that she goes even further -- because she’s Yang, and can’t help herself -- and gets in deeper with the criminal underworld.  It’s not something she’s entirely opposed to, either.  The myriad, potential vices combined with her impulsive nature make her drift astray from the original mission and her duty as a Huntress -- not completely, of course, but enough to make you think “you’re on a slippery slope, girl.”

But Yang goes on regardless, and pretends like there’s nothing wrong with her, what she’s doing, or even her situation.  Inevitably, it leads to her getting into several fights.  At first, it’s against a bunch of scumbags in a bar, which she ends up winning handily because she’s still one hell of a fighter despite only having one arm.  (It’d also be a good chance to have some striking visuals and imaginative choreography, like having her go into a drunken fist style if/when she gets hammered.)  Granted she doesn’t do as well as she could because of her handicap, but she starts confusing her ability to fight with her overreliance on her Semblance -- AKA something very similar to the K-Groove, wherein tanking hits makes her progressively stronger.

Given that Yang said a couple of volumes ago that she wasn’t really fighting for anything but fun (outside of finding her mother), it’s not hard to imagine her outright dropping her mission as a Huntress and a member of Team RWBY to delight in brawls with Remnant’s seedy underbelly.  It leads to a point where she fights her way up the criminal ladder, and then has a chance to take on a big boss…and even steal that position for herself, with all of the baggage that implies.  But Yang’s too punch-drunk to think too hard about those implications; all she cares about is having her fun and fighting her hardest to prove she’s A-OK.  Essentially, becoming a mafia boss is the greatest proof of her “I’m fine-itude” she could ever ask for.

Naturally, she’s NOT A-OK.  She’s not just masking the pain (which is only getting worse because she’s in denial and refuses to address it).  She’s in greater pain because abusing her Semblance puts constant strain on her body, to say nothing of the wounds she’s barely opting to treat.  But this is where a holdover from the real Volume 4 would kick in: have Yang’s father show up and explain that her brashness is self-destructive, and that it’s not the strength she’s desperate to prove she has.  Yang blows him off (because of course she does), only to have the criminal underworld conspire to take her out for real.  And guess who they can target now, if not the girl with the iron fist?

The plan backfires -- and thoroughly -- because Yang redoubles her efforts in wrecking the underworld.  And while dear old dad gets caught in the crossfire (and takes some nasty hits), he manages to fight alongside his daughter in a battle that brings them mere inches from the throne of the underworld.  It’s here that he gives her an ultimatum, albeit one with no shortage of love and concern: if she really does take the throne, there’ll be no turning back.  She’ll have become the berserker and psychopath that everyone expects her to be -- someone who relies on rage and brute force instead of true strength (within and without).  Even so, he’s quick to declare -- with a smile, albeit a sorrowful one -- that he’ll love and accept her, no matter what she chooses.  And then he limps out of the scene.

At long last, Yang takes a minute to reflect on her actions and choices (something she should’ve done long before that point, but whatever).  Knowing what she’s done -- that she’s done harm to the people around her, to her dad, and to herself -- she finally realizes that she’s not as okay as she’s pretended to be.  It’s enough to nearly force her to tears, though not quite enough to make her break down.  Instead, she heads further in to the criminal lair, to the place where the metaphorical throne -- now vacated from the prior battle -- awaits. 

What does she choose?  The audience wouldn’t know; it’d just be Yang standing in place, staring at the potential home she could claim as her own.  And we never get to see that decision, because she’s interrupted by a new challenger: a Faunus by the name of Blake Belladonna.  Naturally, she would drop down with sword drawn and aimed at Yang’s heart -- all to the sound of the perfect theme.

It’s at this point where the story backs right the hell up.  This hypothetical Volume 4 starts with Yang (albeit with minor sense from other 2nd and 3rd tier characters) interspersed, but the core four heroines are 100% absent until it’s their time to shine.  Why?  Of those four, Yang fell the hardest; it’s only natural for her arc to take priority, even if it’s at the expense of some of the other stuff.  Granted there could still be world-building by having the scumbags of Remnant gab and strike out, but yes.  It starts with Yang, and then it snaps over to the best girl Blake, flashing back to what she was up to prior to her dynamic entry.

So the (theoretical) episode winds things back to the epilogue of Volume 3, where Blake is still on the run.  Where to?  Nowhere in particular.  She just knows that she doesn’t want to be near anyone, and she feels like she has to punish herself for her failures.  Frustrated over her complete inability to stop Adam and crew from running wild -- and the grievous harm done to Yang -- Blake goes into full-on hermit mode in some jungle depths, to the point where she actively tries to scare people off when they approach.  As a cat girl, one good hiss is all it takes.

For a while, Blake is content with being alone and hidden away.  She loses track of time, though, among other things; imagine a downplayed version of the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons, and you’re halfway there (probably because Blake’s not going to throw around her quasi-brethren).  Despite her newfound happiness, she can’t help but feel like something is missing -- like there’s an emptiness inside her that can’t be hidden by a bunch of leaves and tree bark.

Part of that emptiness comes from an obvious source.  As a loner by nature, Blake was forced to bond and mingle with Ruby, Weiss, and Yang.  Though they had their differences at first (Weiss and Blake, notably), they ended up becoming pals that would chat around the campfire, play dumb card games, and pig out at on festival grounds.  I would bet that that meant more to Blake than to anyone else on the team, because she’s so used to being alone -- yet also forced to work with people who provided insurmountable differences of opinion.  So on one hand, her forlorn desire to see her friends figures into her problem.  But there’s something much more important to her than that.

Deep down, Blake doesn’t want to just chill out in the jungle.  She wants to fight for justice.

Blake has always wanted to make the world a better place.  It’s why she sided with the White Fang to begin with, and deserted when it became obvious that they didn’t have the people’s best interests at heart.  It’s why she was utterly obsessed with finding clues about Torchwick and his crew, even if it meant utter exhaustion.  It’s why she decided to be a Huntress in the first place, instead of holing up in the family mansion and playing video games all day.  Despite putting on airs of being the stoic, cynical, badass loner you’d expect from any other anime, Blake cares more about creating a virtuous life for everyone she can -- even if it’s to her detriment.

And sure enough, it’s to her detriment again.  Despite being in hiding, Blake still has her trusted Gambol Shroud by her side.  Even if it serves as a weapon she’s recently taken to use as self-defense -- or scraping up wood and food -- she still can’t help but look at it on a near-daily basis and lament what could have been.  Or what could be, arguably.  She hasn’t forgotten about the good she did back in the first two volumes, which forces her to be of two minds.  Her brain tells her that she won’t be able to fight it out unless she’s willing to screw up royally.  Meanwhile, her heart tells her to take up her sword and fight it out yet again.  To paraphrase a wise man, when she can do the things that she can, but she doesn’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of her.  Granted said “wise man” is world-famous for his underoos, but that doesn’t devalue the words.

Having chosen to avoid everything and everyone, Blake thinks that she’ll be able to fight without consequence -- that her friends and family will be safe because she’s so far-removed from society.  As fate would have it, her steps outside of her hidden abode let her catch wind of the White Fang mobilizing.  Because Blake is Blake, her sense of responsibility and drive for justice lead her toward an investigation -- which, naturally, turns into a full-on confrontation.  She manages to hold her own, but the fight turns nasty when more and more White Fang agents get involved.  And, eventually, the fight reaches an apex once Adam shows up. 

It doesn’t end well for Blake.  Adam chides her throughout their duel, and stops just short of calling her a scaredy-cat (which she kind of is, thematically speaking).  At one point he wanted her back on the team, but knowing what he knows through their fight -- having seen her waffle and tremble so plainly -- he decides she’s not worth the trouble.  He opts to spare her life once it’s blatantly obvious that she can’t win, since he believes that forcing her to live with the same will do a lot more to hurt her than a taste of his blade.  But he does make a pretty marked statement; not only does he severely injure Blake, but also decides to shatter her pride into pieces.  Literally.  One cut is all he needs to break Gambol Shroud, and leave Blake a huddled, bruised, teary-eyed mess on the ground -- one that instinctively tries to escape from this terrible situation.

Too bad she can’t run away from herself.

Thankfully, Blake ends up getting found by some fellow Faunus (who assume that she just got nailed by a roving band of racists).  They nurse her back to normal, but with a couple of caveats.  For one thing, Gambol Shroud is still broken.  For another: even if she did have it repaired -- which one would reason she could, since it’s her weapon -- the problem goes beyond physical injury.  She’s mentally shaken; despite being at full health, Blake’s so psychologically wrecked that she can’t even grab the hilt, let alone swing it.  She can’t swing any weapon, because her hands inexplicably make it shake right out of her grip. 

She finds out that the Faunus who took her in are actually part of an insurgent cell -- not too dissimilar from the White Fang (shades of gray included), but still more altruistic overall.  Blake still has her hang-ups, but as she spends time with the cell she learns firsthand that the actions of the Fang and others are destabilizing a world that’s already quaking -- and because of that quaking, the Grimm are fanning out in record numbers.  Before long, she realizes that she was an idiot for staying hidden away, and opts to redeem herself the only she knows how: by fighting the good fight.

Well, relatively speaking.  But you don’t have to actually be a fighter to do that.  Blake realizes that, and -- despite skewing towards working alone -- she opts to take a different path.  If only for a moment, she becomes someone not unlike this guy:

Whether it’s to help her saviors or to fill in the blanks left by her willing abdication of the world, Blake opts for stealth and subterfuge instead of straight-up fighting.  With her speed and agility -- and her shadow clones -- she’s a natural-born spy.  And while she slips up a bit at first, it’s not long before she’s able to slip in, harvest the information/item she needs, and slip out before the baddies can wise up.  Though it does force her to confront the details of the White Fang’s schemes (and get dangerously close to another confrontation), she manages to find solace in her new job…even if she risks a panic attack at the sight of Adam yet again.

This sequence would serve multiple purposes.  Obviously, it’s a way to keep the progression of the story going, even if it’s focused decisively on Blake (for the moment).  On top of that, it’s a way to develop the world of Remnant in a subtle yet perceptible way; just as Blake learns about what’s going on, so too do we.  But the biggest and most obvious benefit is that it helps develop Blake outside what we know of her as a member of Team RWBY and a Huntress-in-training at Beacon.  In a sense, she’s joined the work force and has to get real mature real fast.

That feeds into the next point.  Yes, Blake ends up doing a fine job as a spy, even if she can’t take up arms herself.  But it’s hard to keep yourself clean when you’re regularly exposing yourself to the greed, malice, and corruption that infect the world.  Rather than be corrupted by it (like Yang), Blake stays inherently pure and devoted to justice -- maybe a little too much.  The indignation inside her blooms and grows, after each successful mission; it only spreads when she hears that other members of the cell bit it while working out in the field.  Bit by bit, the determination builds inside of Blake; it’s kept behind a dam, but the cracks have long since started to form.  Inevitably, it reaches its breaking point.  Blake’s research and investigations let her pick up on the rumblings of the criminal underworld -- where a certain blonde pugilist is making waves.

Blake’s slow slide into Knight Templar territory resonates with Yang’s uprising in Remnant’s underbelly; the latter serves a catalyst for her to conclusively get back into the action.  Even though she recognizes her efforts as a spy have an effect, she acknowledges that she won’t be satisfied until she personally fights for justice.  She’s in no rush to admit whether or not she intends to use lethal force (on Yang or anyone), but it’s enough to help her try and get back in the groove.  In between her spy missions, she trains in private to reclaim Gambol Shroud, or at least get ready to use it again.  It doesn’t work out at first, but the more she trains (and the more she sees the evil in the world), the closer she gets to crushing her mental block.

Inevitably, she does manage to overcome it and seizes the sword’s broken hilt.  Despite the physical exhaustion and mental weariness she’s had to endure (during her “training” and beyond), she pushes further to rebuild and upgrade her trusted weapon.  When it’s done, she doesn’t even bother with sleep.  Nor does she bother saying goodbye to her newfound comrades and home.  She just rushes out to fight for justice, slashing and smashing her way through the gates of the underworld to do what she thinks is right.  There’s no introspection, and no foresight.  She just thinks that all she needs -- that all she needs to do -- is “beat the bad guys”.  Because of it, she drops right into the fray…and into a duel with her old teammate.

What happens next?  *shrug* I dunno.

Well, yeah, I do, actually.  But this post is long enough as it is.  That’s kind of what happens when I have fun with stuff like this, irrespective of my curse that turns everything into an encyclopedia.  So I’ll cut off here and come back later on -- because I still need to get to Weiss and Ruby.

Similarly, I need to finish this sequence off first.  It’ll have to have a happy ending, because I’ll allow nothing less than a 100% canonization of the Bumblebee ship.  NOTHING.  LESS.

No comments:

Post a Comment