Character Analysis: Qrow Branwen, RWBY

I like the idea of doing a character analysis on here every now and then.  In a way, it makes me work a little harder at studying story crafting while I’m enjoying shows and books I like.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last month since the finale mulling over volume 4 of RWBY.  It’s a web anime series produced by RoosterTeeth and you can catch Volumes 1 – 4 for free on both their website and YouTube.  If you haven’t seen it, please do – it’s fantastic, but be warned there will be spoilers in this post.

RWBY takes place in the world of Remnant where a society with modern technology coexists with typical fantasy tropes, like big bad monsters (grimm) in the wilds that threaten to destroy humanity without the protection of cities guarded by hunters and huntresses.  There are four universities that specialize in training these individuals which is where we first meet our main characters: Ruby, Blake, Yang, and Weiss.  Each is associated with a color: red, black, yellow, and white respectively.

A note on the color schematics, I think it is fascinating that color is so integral to the characters and their names.  The idea in the story is that during the great war art was disregarded, so a tradition of naming children in a way associated with colors was an homage to art.  Also, many of the characters are nods to real life legends and fairy tales such as : Joan of Arc, The Wizard of Oz, Thor, Odin, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, among others.

The first two volumes can be a bit rough to watch as the episodes were short and the animation was not yet polished, but the story is good.  There is a significant turn in volume 3 as the animation gets better and the story really starts to deepen.

Now, I love the characters but I didn’t have a true favorite until recently.

  • Ruby is great, she’s got a big heart and dreams to be a huntress.  But she’s still so inexperienced and naive.
  • Blake is angsty.  A little over the top for me.  Though I do like her.
  • Jaune is well, Jaune.  Sorry, you’re going to have to watch the show to see what I mean.
  • I was not initially interested in the Ren and Nora story, but I can safely say after Volume 4 I definitely appreciate the characters a lot more.  This is true of most of the cast in general.
  • I get why Weiss is the way she is, but she is so.  Snobby? Uptight? Annoying? Ridiculous?  I’m sure I’m being too hard on her, especially since I like her character more in Volumes 3 and 4, but pretty rich girls for me are very hard to relate to.

Qrow on the other hand intrigues me a lot.  He is only referenced in Volumes 1-2 and immediately the viewer gets the impression he’s an important character.  This is especially true when a short message from him is seen at the end of Volume 1.

The viewer does not actually meet Qrow until Volume 3 when we see him in a bar, right before he picks a fight with Weiss’ sister, Winter.

He’s introduced in a bar.  Glynda later states he’s always drunk, though that’s debatable.  He’s extremely coherent in the majority of scenes he’s in, the only one he’s swaying in is his introduction.  So, I’m not entirely sure how useful this is as a plot device except for comedic relief when necessary.

In the world of RWBY there are unique weapons everywhere and Qrow’s is no exception (really, the only exception in this world to unique weapons is android James Ironwood who favors hand to hand combat and a pistol).  Qrow is a sword-scythe-gun user.  It’s a huge sword that transforms to a scythe that is also a gun.

Regarding his personality, he’s on the blunt and gruff side.  He trained his niece Ruby and was around to keep an eye on both her and her half sister Yang.  He’s very much like a second father to Ruby.

In terms of his other relationships, he’s in Ozpin’s inner circle and seems to know a good deal more about the bad guys than he’s revealing.  Being Raven’s twin brother, he also knows where to find Yang’s mother (who had previously abandoned her husband and daughter).

In volume 3 we see him as Ozpin’s loyal agent and one of his best fighters.  In volume 4, we get to see him as far more vulnerable with a broader range of reactions.  The turning point for me was when he rushed in to Ruby’s aid in team RNJR’s fight with Tyrian, one of Salem’s minions.  The way he flew in (it’s heavily implied, if not outright confirmed he can shapeshift into a crow) and ran to her aid, blocking Tyrian’s stinger and giving Ruby a self confident smug grin.

That was a fantastic piece of characterization, in some ways, the fight with Tyrian summed up the character of Qrow beautifully:confidant, vulnerable, loyal, family oriented, and a skilled fighter.  Ultimately he got hit with Tyrian’s poison and slipped in and out of consciousness for the rest of the volume (leaving the fans with bated breath each week until the finale).  But we did get some interesting tidbits of potential backstory from what one could assume were his hallucinations.

To date, I think he is by far the most complex of the characters represented.  Don’t get me wrong, the main characters are all great if a bit angsty –  but they’re allowed to be, they’re still teenagers.  Qrow on the other hand is old enough to have experienced a great deal.

I suspect he doesn’t drink just because he likes to. I think it’s deeper and that there’s a pain there we haven’t seen yet.

So, here’s my own personal takeaway: Qrow is a representative of the complex characters I love to write.  Those who are driven by many and sometimes competing motivations.  He’s a reminder that I need to craft a believable and thorough backstory for each of my own characters.

I’m looking forward to seeing where RoosterTeeth goes with his story and can’t wait for volume 5.

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