Manga Review: RWBY – From Shadows – Official Manga Anthology (Vol. 3)

Her silhouette, half bathed in moonlight and shadows, crouches on a rooftop ledge high above the bright city lights, unbeknownst to the world below. Swift and silent, she strikes without mercy. 

One after another, her opponents helplessly tumble to the ground, unconscious. Despite their attempts to wound the heroine with a bullet straight to the head, the only thing they see is her figure melting into darkness.  

Ritsu Hayami’s comic, “Intruder: Black Cat” starts RWBY – From Shadows – Official Manga Anthology Volume 3 and uses Ruby’s imagination to describe Blake Belladonna’s cool mysterious character in the most dramatic way possible. It matches my first impression of Blake after watching RWBY’s Black trailer where she is hands-down a ninja. 

(Coloured Illustration 4 by Sai Izumi)

Blake Belladonna carries a “ninja-esque style” and finesse in her disposition and fits the lone wolf stereotype as a brooding, introverted teenager with a complex, troubled past. This delicate image shatters once the series reaches its fifth season (a.k.a the point where I stopped watching RWBY from) but the one characteristic that differentiates Blake from the other ladies of Team RWBY is her identity as a Faunus, a discriminated race of individuals who possess physical and non-physical animal traits. 

Living in a world that judges you for what you look like and hiding your uniqueness to fit in so that you can be considered “normal” by others is difficult. Reading this manga anthology within the context of the pandemic with the racism and hate crimes against BIPOC groups makes her worries and frustrations relatable and that much more palpable.  

If I can talk to them with our weapons put away… I’ll tell them proudly… that we are not monsters. That I have a place in the world.

The Monster by monorobu, Page 12

The third installment of the official manga anthology explores Blake’s journey of accepting her Faunus identity and how her team members (notably Yang) and friends support her. Thankfully there isn’t a comic depicting Faunus harassment in the collection, but it is mentioned.

The most notable comic (in my opinion) showcasing Blake’s relationships and presenting Faunus discrimination through dialogue is Tsutanoha’s “Iridescent Dialogue” (which might I add is a great title).  

(“Iridescent Dialogue” by Tsutanoha, Page 09)

I liked how Tsutanoha uses Neon to present another perspective on being a Faunus and juxtaposing their personalities and beliefs on the question of how they should react to non-Faunus about their physical appearance, should they hold their heads up high and embrace everything about themselves or stand quietly and only when they are alone, complain about all forms of aggression aimed at them? Of course, this conversation heats up their temperaments which could have evolved into a brawl but it doesn’t.

(“Black Beauty and the Cat-Eared Girl” by Kaogemoai, Page 94)

The conclusion Tsutanoha’s work and Kaogemoai’s “Black Beauty and the Cat-Eared Girl” offer readers and Blake is to trust in the friends and allies we have around us, who support and love us for who we are, rather than the relationship between Faunus and Humans that has been full of tension and hatred for a presumably long time.

Agreeing to disagree on an issue and respecting drawn boundaries because we are taught to do so work to maintain a sense of order and a false peace. It’s not a satisfactory answer or solution, which is why education and having critical discussions about discrimination is so important since learning supplements understanding. Because it’s not a major theme in RWBY’s plot, I suspect that is the reason why the collection doesn’t dive into the topic. 

When reading Kaogemoai’s work, I thought it was a missed opportunity to build on secondary characters’ development (like big bully Cardin) by having him have a conversation to learn more about Faunus rather than just having a panel of him getting his ass whooped by Team CFVY (pronounced “coffee”). It would have given Velvet the chance to stand up and explain herself than always see her placed in the position of a victim. However, the comic does introduce the idea of Team RWBY dressing up like cats and then apologizing for making it seem like they were making fun of Blake’s identity as a cat Faunus.

To spice up the anthology, adding fan theories on Blake’s decision to join the White Fang (as the timeline of the anthology ranges from seasons one through four) or throwing Blake’s character in an alternate universe situation would have been interesting. For example, a villain AU with Blake traversing the traitor route, lying about leaving the White Fang, participating in Beacon’s downfall and leaving with Adam who’d hand back control over the group to its “rightful” leader. (I wouldn’t be opposed to a cute Bumblebee Café AU either.) 

(“Blake, Blake, Blake” by Natsutaro, Page 53)

On the lighthearted side, the humorous fan comics poke fun at recurring themes, namely, Blake’s cat-ness and her fear of Zwei. My favourite from the bunch is Natsutaro’s “Blake, Blake, Blake” where Yang challenges Blake to a competition to see who’s funnier. Blake is considered funny since she always gets into adorable shenanigans reminiscent of the content from cat home videos and Korean pet Youtube channels. For example, picture Blake crawling and relaxing inside of a large cardboard box until Yang pulls out a red laser, teasing Blake to run after a little red dot of light around their dorm room. To be honest, I liked the comic because it includes Yang’s terrible puns. 

Fans contributing to RWBY – From Shadows – Official Manga Anthology Vol 3 did a great job of showcasing Blake’s flaws and strengths, creating a balanced interpretation of her character as a whole. I liked how Blake’s stories involved different characters, especially giving a little spotlight for the secondary Faunus characters such as Neon, Velvet and golden boy, Sun as well as acknowledging Blake’s past with the White Fang in short flashback conversations with Adam. 

If you’re interested in reading my other manga reviews of the RWBY anthology collection, you can check out the first volume here and the second here.


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