‘RWBY’ Volume 4 Cast And Crew Talk Time Skip, Tone And The Characters’ Journey This Season

rwby volume 4 ruby fight

The fourth season of the RWBY anime is about to premiere and after the events of Volume 3, fans of the anime have a lot of questions about the fate of their favorite ladies and the World of Remnant itself.

While many will have to wait until Volume 4 begins Oct. 22 to find out what their favorite characters are up to, the cast and crew held a panel for RWBY Volume 4 at New York Comic Con to give a peek at the upcoming season.

I sat down with RWBY writers Kerri Shawcross and Miles Luna (who also voices Jean), Barbara Dunkelman (voice of Yang), Lindsay Jones (voice of Ruby) and Gray Haddock, the head of animation at Rooster Teeth, to talk all things RWBY including the tone and theme of the upcoming season.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

iDigitalTimes: Can we talk about the tone of this season? I don’t want to call it dark but how would you describe it?

Kerri Shawcross: “I think I would describe it as more serious.”

Miles Luna: “We’re not going Game of Thrones.

KS: “We definitely shifted things and the biggest thing we wanted to show was that things could happen and that there are consequences to what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that every episode is going to be like that.”

ML: “I would think the end of Volume 3 as an example of how dark things can get, to brace yourself because we’re about to go out into the most dangerous parts of the world. Things can get rough out there, we’ve seen how bad it can be, so just be aware. There’s a spectrum we have. We’ve seen happy-go-lucky, chocolate chip cookies and we’ve seen dismemberment.”

Lindsay Jones: “We’re doing adult scenarios, going from one end where kids are trying to adapt to a school environment with friends and now experiencing a world outside that the school was trying to prepare them for.”

Gray Haddock: “Finding jobs, filing taxes. Adulting is hard.”

So what’s the World of Remnant like at the end of Volume 3?

ML: “Some of the effects of the Fall of Beacon will be a big part of this ongoing story, how it affects interactions between kingdoms, travel, we won’t get into too many details. But this has definitely caused a ripple effect in the World of Remnant. Some people are having to deal with it, some are taking advantage of it to do certain things.”

There seems like there’s a time skip when we start Volume 4.

KS: “Just a little bit. It’s somewhere between 6-8 months. We mainly wanted to get people into their stories and start taking the next phase.”

ML: “[Kerri] put it very well at RTX. You said that if we were to pick up the story immediately after Volume 3, realistically there will be a period of mourning that we didn’t want to have to watch our characters go through. We didn’t want to watch Yang cry every day [laughs].”

Barbara Dunkelman: “You didn’t, some people might. Some people are into that.”

ML: “We wanted to go ahead and springboard where we felt was an appropriate amount of time, where our characters are moving forward and trying to progress. But it’s also not years later where they are totally over it and [thinking] ‘remember that crazy time where this person died?’ No, there’s enough time where there’s healing but it’s still fresh.”

What about the changes in art style for Volume 4?

KS: “We took this opportunity to redesign a lot of characters, like what we did after Volume 2 when we changed the outfits. We figured it was a good time to change the clothes of the show, fashion is a big part of the series.”

GH: “Some of the characters have been on the road for a while now, depending on the mode of travel. Some have been literally on the road and dealing with what they are finding in the world as they find their way to their destination. They are a little more worn, weary, battle damaged, slightly ragged. And yea, some of those changes reflect kind of what situations they are in or who they have to deal with.”

We had a big death at the end Volume 3, will we see the effects of her death?

ML: “There’s definitely repercussions to what happened. Some characters will take it one way others will take it another.”

Will we learn more about Ruby and Yang’s family?

KS: “We learn a bit more about Taiyang. But that goes under ‘you’ll have to wait and see.’”

rwby volume 4 character
'RWBY' Volume 4 will have a new look. Photo: Rooster Teeth

Ruby has joined Team JNPR in Volume 4. How is that team looking going into the season?

ML: “I think that’s one thing we are very excited to show off, this new character lineup or team. We’ve seen Team JNPR fight, we’ve seen Ruby, and now we get to see them work together and there are some cool skills to show off.”

KS: “It’s a good way to represent a phase of their life, or a time of their life.”

LJ: “I think there’s a nice symmetry there. Jean was the first friend Ruby made at school and vice versa, and they’re also friends who go out together and are trying to conquer a new battle together. It’s cool.”  

ML: “It’s fun having a team with two leaders.” [Laughs.]

What about the rest of Team RWBY?

KS: “That’s the big thing this year. We’ve had these characters together for almost the entire show now, and seeing them separated is a new dynamic we’ve been wanting to explore for a while. See how they all interact, mourn, get over things.”

ML: “All of our main heroines will be going through a journey this season. Some are more focused on inner-growth and self reflection, while others are going through literal change, going out to different parts of the world. It’s going to be interesting and it’s definitely a bit challenging, but it will be rewarding and people will enjoy it.”

What’s Yang’s mindset going into Volume 4?

BD: “She was really defeated at the end of Vol 3. But there’s a bit of a time jump where she has time to kind of come to terms with it. I think something like that you don’t get over very quickly, and it’s frustrating and depressing, and she is still dealing with that when we start the Volume. But I’m hoping she is going to pull through at some point.”

GH: “Particularly for somebody whose fighting style is a brawler. She’s more or less the tank of the team and she is going from swinging to now it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for her.”

LJ: “It’s kind of appropriate because Yang has always been an asymmetrical character. And that plays into that even more.”

What about Blake?

ML: “Blake’s another character that has some more emotional baggage from the fall of Beacon, I would say, and how she comes to terms with that is different than how Yang comes to terms with her own issues, and Weiss with hers. Everyone has their own way of grieving and overcoming that grief. I’m actually really, really excited for Blake’s journey this season.”

Is that the overall theme of this season? Coping with grief?

ML: “I think so, at least part of it.”

KS: “The word I’ve been using is ‘journey.’ People are going through a lot physically and emotionally. There is a journey that is happening that’s forming.”

This is the second season since Monty’s untimely death, has there been a transition in how the show is made?

KS: “I wouldn't call it a transition; it’s more of a continuation. Just move forward and keep working.”

GH: “It develops a place like what we are forming in Season 4. Time has gone by and these people are still dealing with the events of the past. There’s going to be things that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You’re not going to forget, you can’t.”

KS: “We’re not all of a sudden going to wake up and be perfectly fine one day.”

GH: “It’s about coping and developing your mechanisms to live a well-lived life and stay true to the people who inspired you along the way.”

KS: “A lot of it is sticking my head down and working, which is what he would do anyways. A lot of it is just ‘keep doing the show.’”

GH: “That being said, it’s not all early termination. It’s not constant sorrow, he’s in the room when we are trying to make certain decisions and now we don’t know how he would have contributed to group discussions on things. We got all of our memories from everything we talked about, we have notes, but there are things that not even Monty could have possibly predicted that could have happened, in terms of new tech that’s available or new ideas to be inspired by or just production life. Making these things is not a linear equation that you follow step by step by step. It’s a living, fluid process and you have to be in the moment and deal with it. And a lot of the time, we limit the fact that we are circling around a monitor trying to resolve something, and you just wonder what idea he might also have had. Other times we all start cracking up laughing when we start talking story ideas, some ridiculous character issue and we know exactly what he would have said, or the kind of joke he would have made here, and you can’t help but crack up and smile. That's how you keep his spirit around.”

Do you see this show going on and on?

KS: “There’s a lot planned, this show will definitely have an end. We didn’t design for this show to go on forever. But with that said, this world is very big too, so there’s nothing stopping us. We are very interested in exploring other stories in this world as well.”

ML: “ The Last Airbender had a definite ending, but they created such a fascinating world that it was able to give life to Legend of Korra and a series of comic books. The World of Remnant can go down a similar path.”

rwby volume 4 teaser
A shot of the 'RWBY' Volume 4 trailer Photo: Rooster Teeth

How impactful was it for RWBY to take off in Japan and around the world?

LJ: “When we started RWBY we were a little concerned that our audience alone will not like our show. We are a Western company producing anime and we’ve never had anything like this at Rooster Teeth, so to be accepted by American audiences, and then Japanese audiences, is phenomenal.”

RWBY has a video game, manga and merchandise. Is there anything else you guys want to do with the property?

BD: “I feel like we’ve covered almost every single base.”

ML: “I think it would be fun to do a RWBY fighting game.”

LJ: “People have talked about that. Doing it Mortal Kombat style?”

ML: “No, probably like Blazblue or something.”

BD: “A RWBY movie?”

LJ: “I’ve said a movie, I stand by that.”

BD: “Even though every season is like a movie in itself.”

ML: “MVIE, that’s what it’ll be called. Or MWVE.”

GH: “It’s been crazy. We had no idea any of this would evolve into what it has. Even this convention, it’s punctuated again the very first morning we walked into Javits with these 40-foot tall color panels on the show floor. It blew our minds, seeing it up there with other brands such as Star Wars , Rick and Morty . Specifically for me, seeing Team RWBY up there with Rick Sanchez.”

ML: “Free Rick Sanchez!”

KS: “Four years ago at this convention, we were handing out flyers for a show that nobody ever heard about or had seen.”

LJ: “Everyone was like ‘what’s re wuby?’”

KS: “Yea, and now it’s this crazy thing.”

I loved seeing the evolution of the show over the years. How was it to create an anime in the West and get the reception from anime fans?

LJ: “I think one of the cool things is how many people who say ‘I hate anime’ or have never been into it but love RWBY .”

KS: “And there was a lot of people who say ‘I’ve never watched anime before and now I watch this and now I watch a ton of anime.’”

LJ: “Oh yea, we’re their gateway drug.” [Laughs.]

BD: “I know I did that. I never watched anime before this and then obviously started watching RWBY and heard all about anime and started watching Attack on Titan like right after, and it’s one of my favorites.”

LJ: “Very similar tone. People that eat other people.” [Laughs.]

Anime is becoming a huge business now, there was a huge boon when I was growing up with Dragon Ball Z and other anime and now again with streaming services and same-day simulcasts.

GH: “It’s a good time to be an animation geek. All of the deals between Crunchyroll and Funimation and all of the different platforms everyone is showing up on. Gone are the days of the school clubs getting together to do their fan dubs and handing around fourth-generation VHS tapes. It’s crazy to see how this has evolved with all of the shows coming out in a week from when they first broadcast.”

What do you want to tell the fans of the show?

BD: “We love you.”

KS: “Thank you.”

ML: “Thank you for watching, cosplaying, drawing, writing music, whatever you do.”

BD: “A lot of people thank us for creating the show, but we wouldn’t have a show without them watching the show.”

LJ: “It definitely wouldn’t be as big as it is.”

BD: “And being so passionate and dedicated and enthusiastic about it. That really keeps us all going especially the team that works tirelessly on making it happen.”

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