RWBY Volume 5: Talking New Trailer, Themes And More With Miles Luna And Barbara Dunkelman

rwby volume 5 mistral

The fifth volume of Rooster Teeth’s popular RWBY returns Oct. 14 as the story of four girls trying to save the world of Remnant from mystical forces rages on.

With a mix of humor and over-the-top action, RWBY continues to resonate with audiences as Volumes 3 and 4 really put the characters (and the audience) on an emotional roller coaster. Fans and characters alike are trying to cope with moving to the new season.

After a successful trip to New York Comic-Con, where the RWBY faithful packed Madison Square Garden, Rooster Teeth released the trailer for Volume 5. We were able to speak with Miles Luna, Head Writer of Animation at Rooster Teeth and the voice of Jaune on the series, and Barbara Dunkelman, the beloved voice of Yang, to talk Volume 5 and all things RWBY.

NOTE: the following interview was lightly edited for clarity and length.

The Yang short was shown at MSG and it’s not often we get to see the girls pre-Volume 1.

Miles Luna: We kind of had a theme running with Weiss, Blake and Yang where we incorporated a flashback sequence and present day sequence. The way the show is we have to constantly be moving forward and progressing the plot.

This is our first show that we wrote originally. We didn’t always do a good job of setting things up and explaining things. These shorts we didn’t want them to just be entertaining but give more insight and depth into where these characters are coming from, some of their relationships like with Ilia that give a frame of mind as to where they are right now.

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Blake and Ilia have a heart-to-heart. Photo: Rooster Teeth

At the end of the Yang short we cut back to present day and her accelerating even faster just to show how much Ruby is on her mind these days.

Weiss with her short, shows how that she’s had to do so much on her own for so long that she constantly feels she needs to be the person to do it, never wants to rely on other people for stuff and here she is hoping to find Winter in Mistral.

If just felt like a good way to get into the heads of some of our characters and get people excited.

Speaking of getting into characters’ heads, where is Yang’s head in Vol. 5?

Barbara Dunkelman: She’s just hyper focused. Theres something she has to do and wants to accomplish and she’s just going to do whatever she can to do that task. She’s focused on her sister and her friends and is still dealing with abandonment issues from multiple people in her life, including Blake.

So I’m looking forward to seeing how Yang interacts with everything going on with her, how she moves forward and grows from that experience.

You’ve talked about abandonment and relationships because Volume 4 shows a lot of Yang’s relationship with her father. Was there anything you pulled from personally to get into that mindset?

BD: I’m very fortunate to come from a background with loving parents and Taiyang is like that. I think he’s a great dad and he just wants the best for his daughter and wants her to succeed and push through hardships and wants her to be strong. But he doesn’t force anything on her, he just kind of encourages her and I think it’s wonderful. It’s hard to put her in the mindset of wanting help and kind of being snarky about it, I don’t think I would do that especially not modern day me. Maybe in my teenage years when I was more of a brat so I guess I pulled from that.

It was announced that Volume 5 is going to be 14 episodes. What was the decision-making process for that?

ML: We obviously knew fans would enjoy it and we knew that Volume 5 was cram packed with so many things. And something that we learned from Volume 4 was how hard it was to juggle so many storylines when our characters weren’t all together. It’s hard trying to keep up with all of them and I think there were a few missteps and I feel we learned from them.

We wanted to make sure that we didn’t rush the events of this volume and the amount of things that are going to happen and really that’s what it was. We are always overwriting, we always have to cut things back and make compromises. So any opportunity to get more screen time we’re going to jump on that and when the idea came up we snatched it.

rwby volume 5 trailer
RWBY Vol. 5 will drive the story forward in 14 episodes. Photo: Rooster Teeth

What do you mean by missteps?

ML: This is something I discovered writing Red vs Blue . By the time we were writing Season 13 there were so many characters and everyone has their thing. And it’s difficult to give every character the right amount of time. It’s not impossible, it’s done well in the Marvel films like The Avengers but it’s more challenging.

I think we got a little ambitious and we were excited about it and when we got into it we were like “oh shoot we’re already at page 12 and we haven't even touched on this scene or this moment.” So then we rely on montages and quick and dirty exposition, which you don’t always want to do. But we learned real quick that this is much more difficult than we thought.

So going into Volume 5 we are trying to make sure that every single scene has a purpose, every single second is being used to either progress the understanding of someone, something, some place and that it’s entertaining. Hopefully we will do a good job and we always try to improve on what came before.

Did the decision to go to 14 episodes happen toward the end of the writing process?

ML: We have the roadmap for the overall story, but when it comes to figuring out how much of the overall story are we going to fit into a volume that’s tough, because we can’t just stop mid-arc because then it’s not going to feel satisfying.

And sometimes you find yourself in a place where there’s not a super great end point here, but if we had a little more time we can hit this marker and that would be great. And we found out early on when we were pacing out the season that Volumes 5 and 6 will be difficult to navigate from a yearly release standpoint. That’s when we brought up the idea if we can do longer episodes or more and we decided on the latter.

Also at MSG, the first Volume 5 clip was released and showed Team RNJR and Crow getting to Mistral. What makes Mistral different from everywhere else the audience has seen?

ML: When Monty, Kerry and I were sitting down and breaking down the four kingdoms obviously we wanted them to all have their own unique, flavor and style and we also wanted to come up with lore behind each place.

Remnant is this dangerous, hostile world so the places people can live, there’s needs to be a reason for that. With Vale, they had shallow seas behind them that didn’t prove to have too much danger and then they had the Vale Mountains that kept dangerous creatures out and by backing themselves in a corner, they can protect themselves.

Vacuo has these deserts with shifting sands and, in general, difficult terrain to traverse. Mantle and Atlus has natural defense.

Mistral, we wanted to have this idea of people who took to the mountains. And they made these homes that are on the cliffsides high off the ground where there are creepy crawlies and they are able to utilize the winds and the seas and bodies of water to get around.

mistral monsters rwby volume 5
There will be plenty of dangers in RWBY Vol. 5 Photo: Rooster Teeth

So this is a culture that wind and sea is important to them, so how does that affect how they look? So we got the idea of them wearing these flowy garments that blows in the wind. We took inspiration from Eastern cultures and no small inspiration from the city of Ba Sing Se from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Really we just wanted to make the world to not look the same. We wanted to make exploring them exciting.

Volume 4 had a lot to deal with loss and overcoming it, what’s the overarching theme of Volume 5?

ML: We’ve been saying if Volume 4 is dealing with loss and grief than Volume 5 is about getting stronger. By no means is everybody back to 100 percent and we’re actually going to see a lot of stuff with Yang in particular.

Everyone is still going to be feeling the effects of Volume 3 and 4. Volume 4 everybody caught there breath but now it’s time to keep it together.

Noticed a lack of Yang in Volume 4 does that change?

BD: Well, I’ll agree to this point. It’ll be a little boring if it was just Yang at home. And that’s where she was for the majority of the season. [Laughs]

ML: Yea, and we understood that some characters, for story reasons, they were going to get a little more screen time, for example RNJR in Volume 4. Given the things that are going to transpire in Volume 5 you will see more of a balancing out.

We knew we spent this amount of time with these characters in Volume 4 now let’s go spend more time with these characters in Volume 5. We hope that fans are going to enjoy what we’re going to show and who we’re going to spend time with.

Is it hard not to write Team RWBY together?

ML: It’s super hard. Besides just taking up time, it’s hard from a story and pacing perspective. When you’re jumping between different storylines in an episode you hope there’s some connecting thread or theme that ties it together so it feels like a complete package and not just “what happened this week” which happens sometimes, but we try to avoid that. It’s incredibly hard.

rwby volume 5 team rnjr
Crow and Team RNJR are heading to Mistral in RWBY Volume 5. Photo: Rooster Teeth

Were there relationships that blossomed from splitting up Team RWBY?

BD: I loved performing with Burnie [Burns], who plays Taiyang. I’ve admired Burnie since I was 14 years old and to get to play his daughter in an anime is something I never thought 14-year-old Barbara would be doing. And I love the interaction those two characters have and I think it’s so important our audience gets to see that because there’s so many bad parental relationships in so many shows and in RWBY too. And I think it’s important to show what good parenting is.

ML: It was fun to spend more time with Ren and Nora in Volume 4. It was fun mixing things up, it was just difficult to do well [Laughs].

In the Volume 5 Trailer with see Yang punching a guy what’s up with that? [Laughs]

BD: That scene is one of my favorite scenes I’ve recorded. That was really fun I just love when Yang smashes stuff, especially people.

yang rwby volume5
Yang will be hitting the road in RWBY Vol. 5 Photo: Rooster Teeth

RWBY Volume 5 premieres on Rooster Teeth First Oct. 14

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