RWBY Volume 5 Chapter 5: ‘Necessary Sacrifice’
This episode starts with Blake Belladonna (voiced by Arryn Zech) and Sun (voiced by Michael Jones) walking around asking Faunus to sacrifice their lives for the humans that think of them as a sub-species. Okay, well that’s a little harsh. I’ll try again. Blake and Sun are walking around trying to recruit people to defend Haven Academy from an imminent attack from Adam Taurus’ White Fang.
It’s a several minute sequence that is highly reminiscent of The Legend of Korra’s third season; when Korra, Asami Sato, and the rest of Team Avatar are helping airbending master Tenzin recruit airbenders to join the Air Nation. For those of you who haven’t seen Legend of Korra, do it. It makes sense that RWBY takes some cues from Legend of Korra and by extension Avatar: The Last Airbender since these three shows together make up the canon of ‘American Anime’.
And like in Legend of Korra, our recruiters are less than successful…for now. If they are following the same outline as that show, RWBY’s Faunus will rally behind Blake Belladonna in a few episodes…after the Adam’s White Fang does something terrible. Like kill one of the Belladonnas, or Sun.
I’d like to address the oddity of my phrasing. I say ‘Adam’s White Fang’, because so far in this show, I get the sense of three distinct factions of the White Fang. In the beginning, there was the Original White Fang (perhaps founded by Ghira Belladonna? We don’t have official confirmation.) whose ideology of a peacefully solution to the horrors committed against the Faunus. If Ilia’s mention of being hunted holds water, and I think it does, the Faunus were in a genocide type situation at the hands of the humans. Peaceful action was getting nowhere fast, and the Faunus were still suffering. Sienna Khan at some point stepped up to lead the new White Fang. Sienna Khan’s White Fang was more effective,, more brutal than Ghira Belladonna’s diplomatic organization.
But with the advent of Sienna’s mantra “Violence when necessary,” untameable monsters like Adam Taurus are formed. While even Blake acknowledged that violence got the Faunus species as a whole more respect, it’s not a sustainable solution. Somebody who has been shown to believe that both versions of the White Fang has their merits will have to unite the organization in the end, and make it a force for good. But more than just a force for good, an effective force for good. That somebody will probably be Blake. Ideally, with Ilia (voiced by Cherami Lee Kuhn) at her side.
Ilia is by nature one of the more complicated characters on this show. I’ve discussed this before. But now, Blake actually talks about it as well. While Sun displays his lack of empathy for anybody who isn’t cannon fodder (by which I mean he doesn’t understand why people have reservations about sacrificing their lives to fight the White Fang, an organization whose spokesperson just said “We will [fight] for you”), Blake explains that not everyone is ready to go to war against their own people.
Sun’s stupidity here odd, but I liked Blake’s description of how the Faunus not born on Menagerie immigrated there to basically avoid persecution. Menagerie is basically the Faunus version of Israel. It’s at least an ideal version of Israel if you disregard the human rights violations against the Palestinians. It reminded me of a line from something I can’t for the life of me recall: “Israel is the only country on the planet where it’s okay to be Jewish.” The way that Blake lays out that Menagerie ‘is the only place where it’s okay to be a part of the Faunus species; I think this is a very clear parallel whether RWBY’s creative team meant it or not.
But the White Fang and Faunus are never one to one representations of any embattled population here in the 3-dimensional world.
Forgive me, for I digress, back to the episode…
I feel that Sun’s ignorance/willful stupidity is in line with who he is and his function in the series, however, I also think it was odd in this moment. Blake having to explain that Menagerie is the only place where Faunus aren’t shat on by society seemed like a discussion she’d have with a human. Sun Wukong is a monkey Faunus. He wouldn’t need to have that explained to him, so that was clumsy writing. Sun deserves better writing.
Blake is the type of girl who uses single words to round up the people she knows. “Ruby is purity.”
After a while I realized Weiss was defiance.”
“Yang is strength”
Blake decides that she’ll try to help Ilia like Sun helped her. I like that Blake frames her and Ilia’s dynamic as identical to her and Sun’s. It also leads into some speculation for what happens next.
Sun’s character has run its narrative course, and ‘clever writing’ (from my own extremely biased perspective) would be to subvert the expectation that Ghira and/or Kali will die, and instead the smart path would be to kill Sun. He brought Blake back from the brink of re-joining the White Fang, and now the student has become the master. His narrative purpose has been fulfilled, and it would be a great setting up piece for a potential redemption arc for Ilia. It would also be a great starting point of Blake’s journey to leading the White Fang. It would also be heartbreaking, and this creative team basks in those moments. I have my problems with Sun, but if the creative team kills him, I’ll be a little bummed too. He’d be a “necessary sacrifice”.
It’s Blake’s time to save Ilia from herself, but only if the writers don’t kill her off of course. The difference between killing Sun versus killing off Ilia is spent potential and limitless potential.
Meanwhile, Ruby tricks herself into re-living the deaths of her two friends when she says a phrase she borrowed from Penny.
Ruby (voiced by Lindsay Jones) and Oscar/Ozpin (voiced by Aaron Dismuke and Shannon McCormick respectively) have a small chat about the grim reality they face. Ruby expresses optimism that with training. Oscar will be able to fight, and that they will all be “Combat ready”. Only too late does she realize that’s one of Penny’s catchphrases.
You can see Ruby’s heart break as the slaughter of her friend is brought back to the forefront of her thoughts. She mentions Penny and Pyrrha’s deaths, that they were the most kind-hearted people that Ruby knew, and that simply being kind-hearted “wasn’t enough”.
It’s worth noting that while she was deceived, Pyrrha is the one who killed Penny. For Ruby to reconcile this must be horrifying. She then shortly after went to confront Cinder Fall, who had just killed Ozpin’s former body. Pyrrha knew she was going to die. She knew she didn’t stand a chance. Part of me wonders if her decision to die like that was a way to redeem herself from accidentally killing Penny. Were these two beloved characters merely ‘necessary sacrifices’? I’ve never seen a show drastically shift tone with the death of two of the most beloved characters in the fandom, one after the other, like this before.
Ruby decides the only way to deal with the horror in her life is to keep moving forward, which was Monty Oum’s mantra. Monty Oum created RWBY, and he also tragically died very suddenly.
Crossroads of Destiny
Her first impulse is to ask about Sienna in a worried voice.
She really didn’t look comfortable with Sienna’s death. But since she’s in the room with two dangerous superiors she concedes that it was probably a “necessary sacrifice.”
The twins then tell her that since the CCT is down, they will control the flow of information into Menagerie, whipping the Faunus there into a frenzy with the lie that a human was responsible for the assassination of their leader.
They then say that Adam’s first directive is the Belladonna family be exterminated.
They say that she must keep Blake away, since Adam wants her alive.
Adam’s message to Fennec and Corsac said he “had a promise to keep”
The twins worry that Adam is off his rocker, but come to the conclusion he’s what the Faunus need, “for now”.
After the twins dismiss Ilia, another agent of the White Fang shows up and says he killed Ghira Belladonna’s messenger to Haven Academy.
Ilia’s job is to lure Blake away while her family is slaughtered.
See y’all later. Have any questions or comments regarding this week’s episodes? Come pester me on twitter @BellicoseEmpath.