Well now…let's just say Volume 3 is NOT what I was expecting. If you're sensitive to spoilers, maybe don't read this review, as there may be LIGHT spoilers ahead. This will also be a shorter review than usual, without pros and cons, because a lot of those have to do with SPOILERS. So sadly, not as detailed as usual.
Story: 4/5: This time around, we had a much stronger story than the last two volumes. The primary storyline is the Vytal Festival, where the four kingdoms of Remnant come together for fighting competitions (to show off their skills and abilities) to celebrate the peace between all four kingdoms. However, there is a dark undercurrent, thanks to the main antagonist, Cinder Fall, her henchmen, Emerald and Mercury, and appearances from Roman Torchwick and Neo.
However, after episode 6, we have a turn in the plot line that I really can't discuss. But let's say both halves have strong storylines this time around, focusing on the characters plenty, but letting it be just as plot driven as it is character driven. The mythology and lore of the world of Remnant are explored in depth as well.
Characters: 4.5/5: The characters and their relationships with each other are also given opportunity to shine (as usual)
Ruby is still a fun protagonist, but in the past I've had concerns over her lack of development. In some ways, she's the least developed of Team RWBY, and that is not something you want for the main character. However, Volume 3 lends countless opportunities for possible character development, which I am really happy about. Now, let's just hope Rooster Teeth actually takes advantage of that…
On the opposite end, Weiss probably has some of the best development. In this volume, we're given more insight into what her family life looks like with the introduction of her older sister, Winter. It's implied she comes from a controlling, cold home, as illustrated when her father cancels her credit cards to make her call him. She also has problems with her semblance, mainly with summoning things.
More of Blake's past with the White Fang is revealed, and it proves to be darker than we expected. She kind of reminds me of Raptor from I Don't Want This Kind of Hero in some ways; both are cat hybrids, and have crazy stalkers they share a past with after them. Anyway, after episode 6, she is shown to have some bad trust issues, but is trying to put that behind her and extend more trust to her team.
And Yang…okay, talk about character development with major spoilers attached. A lot of the spoilers this volume revolve around her, so this will be short. Let's just say she has development, some good, and some not so good…
Team JNPR is given development too, of course, mainly with Jaune and Pyrrha. (Again, spoilers…sigh) I still wish Ren and Nora would be given some development though; as much as I like them, they just seem like filler characters, which bugs me a lot. I like them, but they need to get more screen time.
I mentioned my problem with the villains last Volume, right? Well, Volume 3 seems to be trying to solve that problem by finally showcasing a goal. Now, this goal is not the main goal, but at least the villains now seem to have a point in the show, rather than merely being there to create as much chaos as possible. They now have a role, and it's a good role with foreshadowing and mystery.
There are also some new side characters, as well as development of older side characters, like Ozpin and Penny. Some new characters would be Winter, Weiss's older sister, and a fan favorite, Qrow Branwen, who is the uncle of Yang and Ruby. Basically, he's that one awesome uncle everybody wants. In some ways, his dynamic (especially with Ruby) reminded me of the quote from Supernatural, "Family don't end in blood". Despite only being biologically related to Yang, Ruby is treated just as much of a niece. As someone who has family friends who are like non-biological family, I liked that.
Animation: 3.5/5: Dang, did the animation get better. It's much more fluid and less stiff than it used to be, and now it looks really professional and well budgeted. While the fight scenes may have dropped in quality after Monty Oum's passing, that's all right; not everybody can be a prodigy when it comes to fight scenes, and he was one of a kind. It's only natural, so while it may be saddening (as the best parts of the first two volume's animation were the fight scenes) it's understandable, so keep an open mind and appreciate how the animation has gotten better in literally every other way, thanks. The character design is still awesome, everybody looks unique (and often times, has a ton of detail and even foreshadowing and symbolism.)
Sound: 3.5/5: I didn't like the opening theme song. I'm sorry, I just really didn't! It was kind of chaotic for me; it starts off nice, with a small piano rift, and then goes heavy metal. Sometimes this works, but this time, it didn't. However, the rest of the songs on the album are pretty good, vocal wise and instrumental wise.
The voice acting stands out as the best of the series so far. Everyone has grown so much, they sound great. There are still moments of stiffness and overly saying lines, but unlike the first two volumes, it happens less and is less noticeable. Plus, I think it tells you something when a pretty big name voice actor appears (Vic Mignogna, the voice actor to Tamaki from Ouran Highschool Host Club and Edward Elric from both Fullmetal Alchemist franchises).
World Building: 4.5/5: This was the standout. The lore and mythology from Remnant is truly explored, proving to be a staple of how RWBY will progress from now on. Not to mention, the dynamic between the four kingdoms is explored. Remnant always had great world building, but this volume showed just how much depth there is to it, as well as symbolism.
Grade: 4.5/5: This was the best volume of RWBY so far. It proved to be vastly different than the other two, and yet can handle plenty of dark as much as the light, making it very well rounded, as well as having variety.