I've followed Roosterteeth for a sizable portion of my life now, and while I want to talk about RWBY and what I view are its own merits and faults, this is still inevitability a factor and context in how I feel towards the show and the company. This may also alienate me from any (relatively) newer and younger fans, for which I can only ask for some understanding. I feel that since around 2011 - 2012 (Roosterteeth Generation II) that Roosterteeth is no longer the indie darling they were, and so I can't readily fall into the reasoning that they're some underdog and that their show has room for improvement. They have over twenty-times the employees they started with, with new employees and outside hires coming in every year and every season, and the only things that can attest to this is the drastic reiterations in RWBY's visual quality and new voice-actors per new season. But there's a certain tragic quality in that the story, which in my view should be the most important part, is the major problem, and that it should have been given a higher quality and care from the start. RWBY should have come out of the gates with a more competent sense of itself.
The story itself occasionally feels like it takes backseat to the action sequences, and that makes it seem like this show is merely a product to feed to their fans. Listening to the commentaries, the writers (Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross) admit they write the show piecemeal at a time and thus trip over their own consistency (annual festival, the number of kingdoms). That attests more than anything else that what I am most disappointed in is the lack of care and attention given to the story, the characters, and their dialogue. The writing scheme feels reversed, so that the story/dominant plot points dictate the characters, which then dictates their individual dialogue. I find this to ironically be the very antithesis of the "individuality" speech given in Volume 2. Speaking about individuality does not necessarily make it individual nor unique, despite the variety of Gaia Online-looking characters throughout the show.
I can't help but feel that the writers are very fan-conscious who, even before writing the first draft perhaps, think of moments that would be "cool" to see rather than actually being unique or containing depth, or even being conjunct with the story, and this swiftly lends itself to the whimsy of cliché. Cliché harking back to previous anime and to general plot devices (blatant tripartite arcs, for example). All-in-all, they have a very poor and sloppy sense of scale which makes most new additions feel like a sore thumb.
This can be a fun show, but I cannot find much by way of depth. RWBY does not necessarily offer anything new, but it is giving anime clichés its own phrasing. I've heard the Harry Potter comparison before in that it's mostly akin to an internal drama or plot with fairy-tale influences being mostly peripheral. However, perhaps unlike Harry Potter, there is little to no feeling of progression in the seasons. Both not in the characters learning anything in particular, nor in them actually becoming stronger or smarter. At times the characters even seem weaker than they did since the forest scenes in Volume 1. I personally am not caught up in the excessively shallow fight scenes (referring especially to Volume 3), for there is little to no believable emotion behind them that the writers do not force in your face with a shameless banality fit for pre-teens. I am not taken in by the 3D animation, which to my mind should have given a wider range of imagination and practicality that 2D animation would find much harder to pull off (again a writer's mistake). Occasionally, the detail in the background environments can clash with the squishy-looking characters in the foreground, but that doesn't detract much. The composer is also very good in his orchestral work, though I far prefer his atmospheric work over his character-theme reprises during certain climaxes. The insert songs, however, are very artificial.
(**Slight spoiler territory) The largest and most illustrative issue I took to with the show recently is the warning they added into the description of the show during the last few episodes. The warning essentially states that the content rating has slightly changed and that anyone who shows it to their kids may want to watch it first and think it over for themselves. Now I have no problem with this so far, but they also justified it as a way of saying that as the characters in RWBY grow up, they acquire new and more mature perspectives over the years. This, in my opinion, shows how misguided the people who run show truly are. The content of a show is not at a complete unity with how we see and experience the show via its characters. That characters are rarely hurt or die until a certain point is not because of their perspective, it is the writer's content that existed underneath from before the very start. This post not only felt like it displayed more of an awareness in marketing than care, but it also gave an indirect spoiling of any spontaneity in the show. I have to ask the writers, is this show something so artificial like that, with the awkwardness of trying to guide the viewer and suggest how to feel and what to be excited about while also having only a vague notion of what you want to show them? It all rests upon the whimsy of their own emotion and cliché they derive from pop culture in themes and plot points that are hijacked and hardly given a new, individual life. improvements. No wonder they rely on their swansong of senseless fight scenes (V01E08) more than the system and logic of their own continuity. Fans deserve more.