Warning: RWBY 101 will freely discuss spoilers for RWBY, up to and including the currently airing 7th volume. Be advised.

Rooster Teeth’s RWBY is a juggernaut these days. It all began in 2012 with a short 3 and a half minute trailer made by the late Monty Oum (1981-2015) simply called the “RWBY ‘Red’ Trailer.” That initial trailer has since garnered over 14 million views on YouTube alone. The animation was basic, and if you’ve watched RWBY since then, you know the quality of the animation has gone up exponentially. The team on that first trailer was tiny — now, the series boasts a massive crew — and cast. RWBY officially premiered as a series in 2013.

In an interview in 2013, Oum discussed that the concept for the series came about during his work on Rooster Teeth’s other big animated series Red vs. Blue. Oum said he felt the resources for a story he had been plotting for a while were finally available to him, as was the anime-like style he wanted to use. The “Red” trailer was followed by a “White” trailer in early 2013, and the “Black” and “Yellow” trailers were released later as the build-up for the first episode release at Rooster Teeth’s (now) annual RTX convention in the summer of 2013.

RWBY‘s first season officially launched on Rooster Teeth’s site and YouTube after that marquee debut, and a second season followed a year later. Anime streaming site Crunchyroll began simulcasting the show during its first season, which only spread its reach from the loyal Rooster Teeth community to the much larger anime community. RWBY also gained controversy, which only spread its tale, for its unique combination of Japanese anime style and an American animation team. (Since then, series like Netflix’s Castlevania have also combined the anime style with a predominantly-Western team.)

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The series now has a huge following and a huge transmedia empire the series has amassed; from manga originally released in Japan, to a large merchandise selection (not just produced by Rooster Teeth), to a musical soundtrack that is truly rockin’ (and almost entirely voiced by the talented young Casey Lee Williams), there’s no reason to think RWBY will slow down any time soon. In fact, at New York Comic Con it was announced that for the first time prior to the release of a new volume, the webseries had been renewed for its next two volumes (8 and 9).

When you look at the evolution of RWBY from 2012 to now, a lot of changes have to be noted. First, the storytelling has gotten a lot faster, and just keeps gaining momentum. Second, the characters have undergone a lot of development; they’re not just warrior kids with certain personality traits, but distinct characters with journeys all their own. Third, the animation has grown in leaps and bounds — thanks to an expanded budget and animation team. Oum died February 1, 2015 after slipping into a coma on January 22, 2015 due to an allergic reaction springing from a routine medical procedure. His death was widely mourned, and he even received a lengthy obituary in The New York Times. CRWBY (as the crew is known) has continued to press forward — to “keep moving forward,” a quote of Oum’s that is frequently referenced by the team.

RWBY continues to be popular well into its seventh season because of its dedication to telling a good, elaborate story, as well as its commitment to its characters. The kickass action scenes don’t hurt, as they’re what the series was known for, initially. Its beautiful and unique animation is eye-catching and stunning, whether you’re watching on a laptop, TV or even a phone.

RWBY is an action-adventure fantasy story about the World of Remnant, a sort-of parallel to our own world. Except in this world, the people are under constant attack from creatures called the Grimm, who are driven by the fear and discord they sow amongst the people. The main characters of RWBY are fighting against the source of these Grimm — an extremely powerful, ancient sorceress named Salem. Along the way, they have to fight the internal politics of each “kingdom” in Remnant, which often hinders relief efforts. The overall objective of the series is to bring down Salem using four relics given by the former Gods (the Gods rather unceremoniously left) to the people of Remnant. The four relics are the Relics of Choice, Knowledge, Creation and Destruction.

The kingdoms are Vale, Vacuo, Atlas and Mistral, which all have unique properties. Vale was an educational and communications hub until the Fall of Beacon; Beacon Academy was where it trained future warriors called Huntsmen and Huntresses. Each kingdom has an Academy, but Beacon was certainly the most notable. Vacuo is arguably the most unknown of the kingdoms; the characters haven’t actually visited it yet. Atlas is a militaristic kingdom, only concerned with defending itself. Mistral is the largest kingdom in Remnant, and thus has trouble keeping up with a large amount of the Grimm who congregate in its outskirts.

The Characters and the World of RWBY

The world of Remnant from RWBY

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

RWBY is full of characters—Remnant feels like a fleshed-out world because of that. But the characters that are most important are that of the Huntsmen and Huntresses…and the students who aspire to be in the ranks of those legendary warriors. Huntsmen and Huntresses fight the Grimm. The Grimm resemble animals but in a truly horrifying sense and usually predatory animals, for the most part.

Huntsmen and Huntresses rely upon Dust to power their impressive weapons; Dust is an energy source primarily traded through the Schnee Dust Company in the Kingdom of Atlas. In addition to their dust-powered weapons, Huntsmen and Huntresses typically have unlocked their Semblances. Semblances are abilities which reflect the personalities and souls of their holders. These abilities can be both good and bad: one character has the ability to summon Glyphs, which have a variety of uses when paired with her weapon; another character’s semblance is bad luck, with usually negative consequences.

The series was initially led by eight students from Beacon Academy, in the Kingdom of Vale.

Ruby Rose

Ruby prepares to fight the baddies

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Ruby Rose (Lindsay Jones) is the protagonist of RWBY, as well as the leader of her own training team: Team RWBY. She entered Beacon Academy as one of its youngest students ever. Her weapon is Crescent Rose, a scythe that’s doubles as a gun. Ruby’s semblance is in a way super speed, but as revealed recently in volume 7, it works differently than most speed semblances. Ruby also has a power that few others have: silver eyes, which, when activated, turn their target into stone. Ruby has used her powers only a few times so far in the series — they were originally activated under great personal duress for Ruby, which we’ll get to in a bit.

Ruby is cheeky and personable. She’s friendly to all, and she’s a friend to most (which can get her into trouble). She loves her sister Yang Xiao Long, who serves as the “Y” in Team RWBY. Her parents are TaiYang Xiao Long and the late Summer Rose; her Uncle Qrow Branwen serves as one of her mentors, but she rarely talks to her step-mother Raven Branwen. (TaiYang is both Yang and Ruby’s father — it’s a complicated family dynamic!) Summer, TaiYang, Raven and Qrow all attended Beacon when they were young, and they were known as Team STRQ. Ruby has a caring relationship as the leader of Team RWBY, but a particularly special rivalry with Schnee Dust Company heiress Weiss Schnee; the two start out as a definite Odd Couple but are now the best of friend. Speaking of Weiss…

Weiss Schnee

Weiss is powerful alone or a part of a team on RWBY

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Weiss Schnee (Kara Eberle) is a defiant heiress; at first, she is defiant towards everything Beacon stands for, despite the fact that she chose to go there. She loves it by the end of the first volume, however. No, she’s mainly defiant towards her abusive father, Jacques Schnee, who belittles her at every turn. But arguably, due to the pain of her upbringing, she has become the strongest Schnee — although her big sister Winter Schnee, might contest that. Due to her defiance, Weiss was disinherited at the end of volume 4, which left her bratty brother Whitley Schnee as the heir.

Weiss fights with a Myrtenaster, which looks like a sword — but with the ability to shoot all sorts of things out its tip, including enhancing Weiss’s semblance, the aforementioned Glyphs. Weiss’s semblance is actually an inherited semblance, passed down through her family line. Winter has the same semblance. Weiss can be regal, but she can also have a good time — at first resentful of the one Faunus on Team RWBY, Blake Belladonna, the two frequently team up in fights and stick up for one another when necessary.

Blake Belladonna

Blake in her new digs for RWBY season 7

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Blake Belladonna (Arryn Zech) is Faunus. Faunus are half-human, half-animal hybrids who are typically oppressed by the humans who mostly make up Remnant. Blake was a part of a terrorist organization, the White Fang, who fought for Faunus rights. Arguably, she was born into it — her father, Ghira Belladonna, was the leader of the White Fang for many years. However, after her father left, she stayed on — for love. Well, maybe not quite love. She was in an abusive relationship with Adam Taurus, one of the more violent members of the White Fang, for several years. This colors her interactions with everyone at Beacon, and the only member of her team that she really connects with at first is Yang Xiao Long.

Blake fights with a Gambol Shroud, a katana/cleaver/gun combo weapon. Her semblance is Shadow, which allows her to create “shadows” of herself in order to distract her enemies. Blake’s tense relationship with her parents is mended by the end of her trip to Menagerie, the Faunus nation, where Ghira serves as leader. Her relationship with Adam is resolved in his death after he attacked her and Yang. His demise was a long time coming — he cut off Yang’s arm during the battle known as the Fall of Beacon and continued to gaslight and antagonize both Blake and Yang. Speaking of Blake and Yang, the two share a subtly close relationship, perhaps closer than any other pair on RWBY.

Yang Xiao Long

Yang watches Blake fight on RWBY

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkleman) is the big sister of Ruby Rose, and possibly one of the toughest warriors Remnant has ever seen. She fights with a rage and passion which is typically more controlled in more experienced Huntsmen and Huntresses. Admittedly, a lot of the rage comes from her traumatic past. Before the series starts, her mother, Raven Branwen, left the family abruptly — Yang therefore never really knew her mother, and only really gets to know her in volume 5. She doesn’t like what she learns. Then Yang’s step-mother Summer Rose died on a mission. Once the series starts, things get worse for Yang — one of her arms is severed by Adam Taurus, which causes PTSD for Yang, which she is still dealing with as of volume 7.

Yang fights with Ember Celica, gauntlets which double as guns. After she loses her arm, she gains a prosthetic arm, which she mainly uses defensively. Her semblance probably ties the most into her personality compared to everyone else—Burn, which allows her to take the power of hits and redirect them even harder at her opponent. When it’s active, her eyes go from lilac to red. Sometimes she relies on her semblance too much, but she’s working on that. Yang very much loves her baby sister, Ruby and has a sisterly relationship with Weiss as well. Her relationship with Blake, however, is the deepest of them all, with Yang frequently grounding Blake in the here and now.

Jaune Arc

Concept art for Jaune on RWBY

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Jaune Arc (Miles Luna) is the team leader of Team JNPR/JNR, which basically serves as a support team to Team RWBY in the series currently. Jaune starts out the show as mild and meek, but he gradually finds his voice as the series goes on. He comes from a family where he is the only boy; he has seven sisters. He was (and possibly still is) in love with Pyrrha Nikos, who perished in the Fall of Beacon. Jaune is a good friend to Ruby Rose, and a brother in arms with his two surviving teammates, Nora Valkyrie and Lie Ren.

Jaune fights with Crocea Mors, a shield/sword combo; he wears armor vaguely like a knight. His semblance was not discovered until volume 5, which caused Jaune to feel like he was far behind the others. However, it proved to be one of the most useful: Aura Amp. Aura is the final key to Huntsmen and Huntresses’ personal power — Aura is basically their lifeforce, as well as what energizes their semblances, since it activates Dust. Jaune ends up saving Weiss Schnee’s life with his newly discovered semblance, and it has been used since to amplify other characters’ semblances and auras in times of distress.

Nora Valkyrie

Nora, who packs quite a punch on RWBY

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Nora Valkyrie (Samantha Ireland) is perhaps second in power to Yang Xiao Long. She is perky and a little obnoxious at times, especially around food. She is best friends with Lie Ren, one of her teammates. She, too, has a tragic backstory, most of which she shares with Ren; they were children in a small country town called Kuroyuri when the Grimm attacked, killing almost the entire town.

Nora’s weapon is Magnhild, which serves as both a grenade launcher and a war hammer. Nora’s semblance is similar to Thor from Norse mythology — she can channel electricity to enhance her already considerable power.

Pyrrha Nikos

Pyrrha, RWBY's tragic heroine

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Pyrrha Nikos (Jen Brown) was a member of Team JNPR until her tragic death at the Fall of Beacon at the hands of Cinder Fall, a significant antagonist in the story of RWBY. Pyrrha was the best aspiring warrior at Beacon — she was even considered to take on the position of Fall Maiden by the headmaster of Beacon Academy, Ozpin. The Maidens, each representing a season, are powerful young women selected to take on god-like powers in order to defend the powerless. Cinder stole the Fall Maiden’s powers at the last moment, and Pyrrha was killed by those powers.

Pyrrha’s love for Jaune Arc was reciprocated by him, but they only shared one real moment together, right before she lost her life. She had and has a deep significance for all of the main characters in RWBY. Her death is what unlocked Ruby Rose’s “silver eyes” power; when Ruby witnessed Pyrrha’s death, those powers activated and she turned Cinder to stone — temporarily. Pyrrha fought with Miló and Akoúo̱. The first was a javelin, a Xiphos (Greek shortsword) and a rifle. The second was a shield. Pyrrha’s semblance was a powerful magnetism.

Lie Ren

Lie Ren, the zen of RWBY

(Source: RWBY/Rooster Teeth)

Lie Ren (Neath Oum; formerly Monty Oum) is the zen of Team JNPR, and really, the whole show. Typically calm and controlled, it’s very rare to see Ren lose his temper — although sometimes he does. He is especially close to Nora Valkyrie due to their shared tragic past. Jaune Arc and he are also close friends, and he mourns Pyrrha with the rest of his teammates.

Ren fights with StormFlower, two automatic pistols with blades attached. He also carries and occasionally fights with his father’s dagger. His semblance is Tranquility, which masks negative emotions, allowing himself (and others, when amplified) to avoid Grimm. Ren frequently wants peace and quiet — but as is so often true with the life of a warrior, he usually doesn’t get it.

But What About All of the Others?

As you might have surmised, RWBY has a truly massive cast of characters, both good and evil. So many, in fact, that we can’t touch on all of them in this article. If you’re interested in exploring more of the world of RWBY, go ahead and watch the first five seasons on YouTube. The rest of the series can be found on Rooster Teeth’s website — you just need a free account to watch the show. You can also watch the first six seasons on Amazon Prime. New episodes premiere every Saturday morning at 10 AM CST on Rooster Teeth’s website for First members, their sponsorship program, but are available for all members the next week.

“This will be the day we’ve waited for” for you to start watching RWBY!