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RWBY: Menagerie (Review)

Menagerie, huh. It’s a word I really like, it conjures up images of a huge mishmash of interesting things collected together in one place, all with their stories to keep you entertained for long periods of time. And that’s what Menagerie gives us, focused on this one place and for only one part of the story and main cast of RWBY it could feel enclosed but actually reveals a lot more interesting things about the Faunas and their political structure.

Let me lay it down to you, up to now, while we knew of individual faunas like Velvet and Sun who obviously had nothing to do with the White Fang, the vast majority of the members of that species who had appeared on the show are or were members of that controversial movement, particularly as mooks and generic bad guys to be mown down. When the show tries so hard on Blake’s part to sell us the ‘we should be equal but we’re oppressed’ motto, it is more effective when we see faunas who are totally normal. It should of course be noted that that isn’t how real life works as we know that a person’s quality has nothing to do with their ethnicity. In fiction however, sometimes it can – orcs are so often evil and vile, elves generally good and noble (unless ‘elf’ is prefaced with ‘dark’ so you know – that’s why they’re such a good example of an obviously good race if you need the qualifier). With faunas obviously meant to be analogues for an oppressed human race, the likelihood of them all being evil was low, but, if you’ll bear with me an analogy from another piece of fiction, it would be like if all the Bajorans we met on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were violent members of Resistance terrorist cells. A good number of them were (including main character Kira, who has some very close parallels with Blake), but enough weren’t and were vedeks, farmers, shopkeepers, dabo girls, whatever, that they felt like a well-rounded alien race. Menagerie properly did that for the faunas as we see an entire community of faunas living their everyday lives and finally, Blake’s message about how they’re being treated as second-class citizens hits home with the full power that it was meant to, not just for Blake, Sun and Velvet to be treated equally, but with the impression that there’s a whole race of good guys that are being oppressed.

Other than that, meeting Blake’s family was lovely to see. I mean, the dinner conversation and Sun messing around was very typical ‘meet the parents’ shtick but it’s interesting how Blake’s parents, like Weiss’ hold a clear position of authority in their community and her father even seems to be the leader of the peaceful faunas, despite previously being in charge of the White Fang. I can’t recall if that was mentioned before. But anyway, it seems she and Weiss have more in common than she was letting on – they really are the yin and the yang of RWBY, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The introduction of the White Fang’s representatives in Menagerie, and I think thereby the last of the characters to appear from this season’s opening, was probably my favourite part of the episode. They are so slimy and infuriatingly diplomatic (a quality I often wish to strive for), that I couldn’t help but enjoy their presence. They seem to also be wearing clothes reminiscent of Egyptian styles, their dress looked very historical at least, particularly I was reminded of Anubis and Horus what with the ears for the one on the right and the shape of their hoods – those melded with some Arabian Nights’ vizier’s servant or something. That sort of vibe stood out to me, I’d be happy to see more of them.

Not much to say about the last scene although I guess we’ll be seeing Tyrion in action next week. Bring it, madman-who-definitely-isn’t-a-dwarf.

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