By Shirow Miwa, based on the series created by Monty Oum. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Ultra Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley.

I have never actually seen the RWBY series, though I know of it via Tumblr osmosis. What I know can be summed up as a) there’s a team of fighting girls; b) two of them are super gay; c) OK probably not canonically but fandom thinks they’re super gay. That’s about it. So I was looking forward to seeing this series. It’s always interesting when Japan does a manga of a Western property, though in this case obviously RWBY has a certain anime style to begin with. The manga serves as a prequel to the series, showing off the four main characters, as well as another team that also works with them, as they protect the world from enemies while also attending what seems to be superhero school. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I suspect that this may be more a book for newbies than the hardcore RWBY fan.

The girl on the cover is Ruby Rose, the R of the group, and she gets the first of what turns out to be an introductory story for each of the team. She’s essentially the standard Shonen Jump hero, only female. I like her, she’s very straightforward. Less straightforward are Weiss, who is fighting with the team despite the objections of her rich, upper-class family, who have other plans for her; Blake, who is a faunus, aka a catgirl, and who has a dark past and seems to have once been a terrorist; and Yang, Ruby’s sister, who likes to be a big sister type, punching things, and Blake, not necessarily in that order. The stories are not particularly deep – Weiss and Blake’s, being more serious, had greater impact for me – but they sketch out the personalities of the team pretty well.

The ending story tries to focus on one of the other teams in the series, Team JNPR, whose leader seems to have a crush on Weiss, and also an extreme case of self-doubt. Unfortunately, this is a one-volume title, so we don’t really get to know the rest of his team that well, but that’s what the series is for. Again, there’s nothing particularly surprising here – Jaune’s team leaves early to battle a monster so that he can prove how awesome he is, only to run into trouble and need to get bailed out by our heroines. We get a few cameos from people who are clearly also regular cast members (I liked the flying robot girl), as well as a hint of GREAT EVIL afoot that no doubt also will appear in the show rather than this manga.

As I said, this seems to serve more as an introduction to RWBY for those who haven’t seen it – fans may want to wait for the anthology series that Viz just licensed. It’s not great, but I felt it had a lot of style, just like the team it’s trying to show us. It made me curious about the series, which is probably all it was designed to do. Definitely worth a shot.

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