WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR RWBY Volume 5

RWBY Volume 5 seamlessly transitions from the events of Volume 4, showing the various members of Team RWBY making their way to Mistral. The characters continue to recover from the events of the previous volumes.

Overall, Volume 4 focused primarily on developing the presence of the new villains and certain characters. Particularly Ruby, Nora, Ren, Weiss, and Yang. On the other hand, RWBY Volume 5 focuses more on Ozpin, the Branwen side of Yang’s family, Blake, and the White Fang.

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Some of the major themes throughout RWBY, but particularly in RWBY Volume 5 are friendship, family, trauma, and morality. A few key relationships highlight the connection between these themes. Since the Fall of Beacon, a lot of the characters found themselves questioning not only their abilities but also their core beliefs and values.

For the most part, our protagonists always try to do “the right thing.” Unfortunately, that’s not always clear. Here are three relationships that showcase the different ways the characters try to find their answer.

Ozpin and Qrow

RWBY Volume 3 Qrow, Ozpin, and Glynda
From left to right: Qrow, Ozpin, and Glynda

The first two characters up for discussion are Ozpin and Qrow Branwen. Previously, both Ozpin and Qrow had airs of mystery around them. The two are similar that way. However, neither of them could maintain those facades for long. Out of necessity, they finally revealed a lot of what they had been hiding from their students. The two of them are strongly on the side of “good.” No matter their actions, they are always seeking to do what they believe is for the greater good of the world.

Secrets

Both Ozpin and Qrow operate on a need-to-know basis. They keep a lot of secrets and only reveal them when they think it’s actually necessary. However, this caused a bit of distrust between them and their students. While they do eventually reveal many truths, the repeated shocks of information often frustrate the students.

One of the most crucial plot advancements of the show was Ozpin’s “resurrection.” Unsurprisingly, Ozpin’s return was much anticipated by fans, as his “death” was not on-screen like Pyrrha’s. Still, the way in which he returned was somewhat of a surprise. In short, he shares his soul with Oscar Pine, a young farm boy who first appeared in episode 1 of Volume 4. Ozpin is cursed to reincarnate indefinitely because he failed to stop Salem, the main antagonist, throughout history.

RWBY Volume 5 Qrow and Ozpin speaking through Oscar
Qrow and Ozpin (speaking through Oscar)

At the beginning of RWBY Volume 5, he reveals this to Team RNJR (Ruby, Nora, Jaune, and Ren). However, that was only half the truth. Once Yang and Weiss reunite with Team RNJR after meeting with Raven Branwen, Yang’s mother and Qrow’s sister, Ozpin and Qrow come out with the full story.

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In reality, Ozpin is the original “wizard” in the world of Remnant’s lore of the Four Maidens. In short, a wizard gives four worthy women incredible powers so they can use it for the good of the world. However, an antagonist, Cinder, stole the power of the Fall maiden, and Vernal, the Spring maiden aligns herself with the self-interested Branwen tribe.

Also, while the characters in this world perform many seemingly impossible tasks, they still consider “magic” to be impossible. So, to corroborate Ozpin’s story, Qrow confirms that Ozpin gave him the ability to transform into an actual crow and also gave that power to his sister, Raven.

Motivations

After hearing all of this, Yang and the other students demand that there be no more secrets moving forward with this mission, and Ozpin agrees. Initially, Ozpin and Qrow withheld the truth because they likely believed the students were not ready to hear them. However, both men are ready to take the risk of laying everything on the table because the stakes are high; they need warriors who are ready to put their faith in them as leaders.

Ozpin and Qrow explaining the situation to the students

Essentially, admitting the truth is a gamble for Ozpin. He entrusted his power to four maidens whose powers eventually got passed into the wrong hands. Then, when he trusted Raven and Qrow Brandwen with similar powers, Raven abandoned him, feeling used. Most recently, he confided in Pyrrah and prepared her to receive power, only to watch her die in a battle she was unprepared for. For Ozpin, the truth does not guarantee success, and in fact, can lead to worse circumstances, which makes being honest extremely difficult.

Beliefs

Still, Ozpin believes in humanity. Sometimes Qrow is more cynical, but he places his trust in Ozpin. Ozpin has been alive for thousands of years, has made thousands of mistakes, seen generations of humanity running around in circles, and still believes that humanity is capable of progress. Although he has been betrayed twice before after revealing his secret, he is ready to trust this next group of students with it. For the sake of a better future, Ozpin must hope which makes others trust in him.

Raven and Yang

Yang (Left) and her mother, Raven (Right)

As tense as their relationship is, Yang and Raven are very similar people. As the saying goes, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. When they meet later in RWBY Volume 5, Neither of them fights for any lofty, righteous purpose; all they care about is protecting the people close to them. Wherever that take them, or whatever that entails, they’re willing to do.

Relationships

When Yang first left home, her father, Taiyang asked her who she was going after: her sister or her mother? Raven left Yang early on, which clearly left a lasting mark on their relationship. When Yang finds Raven’s bandit camp, Raven congratulates her on finding her and opens her arms. However, Yang makes it clear that she only sought Raven out to get to Ruby quicker. It’s possible that Yang emphasizes this, at least partially, out of spite to show Raven how little she cares about her.

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What’s clear is that neither of them cares about each other just because they’re related. Yang cares about her family members Ruby and Taiyang because they are the family who stuck around and built relationships with her. Raven only opens her arms to Yang because of the effort Yang put into searching her camp out. Their relationship is the embodiment of the often misunderstood quote, “blood is thicker than water.” In reality, the quote is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” meaning relationships we choose are stronger than a genetic connection.

“If Ruby sticks around, then I will, too.”

Despite the tension between them, they seem to recognize how similar they are. At least, Raven seems to recognize this and clues in Yang (and Weiss) to the truth of her past with Qrow and Ozpin. She explains that Ozpin shared his curse with her and Qrow and demonstrates her ability to shapeshift into a literal raven. On the one hand, she does this to try and persuade Yang to separate herself from the impending war and live “neutrally” with the tribe. She knows Yang at least somewhat resonates with the idea that you take care of own before you sacrifice yourself for strangers.

Selfishness

Part of what fuels this ideology are feelings of selfishness. Ultimately, both Raven and Yang are selfish people. When confronted by Cinder and the main antagonists, Raven is willing to sacrifice her brother’s life, and anyone’s life for that matter, to protect her tribe. As long as she can preserve her interests no one else matters.

Yang with red eyes
“Don’t tell me to calm down!”

Similarly, because Yang is selfish, she can act very shallowly when she feels betrayed. This is partly why she is still so angry with Blake to the point where her eyes turn red just talking about her. In her eyes, Blake abandoned the group for no reason. Even when Weiss explains that Blake felt guilty, Yang is offended. She thinks the only reason Blake would feel guilty would be if thought Yang and the others would blame her, which they wouldn’t. This self-centered thinking is a big part of who Yang is and why she makes such strong bonds with others and why its harder on her when those bonds are tested, or broken.

Raven is the same. She warns Yang that if she doesn’t side with her tribe, they’ll be enemies when they see each other next. Plus, she’s still not over the split with Qrow and how he sided with Ozpin rather than her. Both Raven and Yang still feel a connection to their lost bonds, but they force themselves to be angry because of their self-centered feelings. They blame their lost connections for leaving, so they don’t feel bad. They don’t want to wonder what about themselves would make someone choose to betray them.

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Morality

The one point where Yang and Raven differ particularly is on why they protect who and what they do. Raven protects her own interests primarily to live free and neutral. However, Yang follows Ruby because she wants to do the right thing. During the discussion where Ozpin and Qrow reveal the truth, Yang says that she will stay only if Ruby does. She believes Ruby “somehow always knows the right thing to do.” Personality-wise, Yang isn’t built to know “the right thing to do” because of her self-centered nature. However, unlike Raven, she wants to do the right thing, at least because her loved ones want to.

Blake and Ilia

Ilia (Left) and Blake (Right) fighting

The relationship between Blake and Ilia in RWBY Volume 5 is a mix between the two previously mentioned relationships. On the one hand, Ozpin and Qrow fight for and look at the bigger picture. On the other, Yang and Raven take everything personally. If we look at this as two sides of a spectrum, Blake and Ilia are caught somewhere in the middle.

The White Fang

Originally, both Blake and Ilia fought for the White Fang, believing it was the best thing to do for the Faunus. Like Ozpin, they were willing to use questionable methods to fight for what they believed was right. However, when those methods became less questionable and clearly violent, Blake separated herself. The White Fang’s fight is both personal and global for Blake and Ilia. It is a fight that will define them, whether they like it or not. As a result, they are obligated to work with, if not deal with each other, and figure out how to be a part of something integral, yet greater than themselves.

Methods

When talking with Sun Wukong in RWBY Volume 5 Episode 5, Blake dissects what is wrong with the White Fang’s violent methodology. She talks about Adam Taurus, her ex-boyfriend and a big-shot in the White Fang known for his brutality. His goal is to destroy Cinder previously destroyed haven Academy like Beacon Academy. He believes the only way humans will respect the Faunus is through fear, since peaceful protest had not worked. Ilia, Blake’s old friend at the White Fang, initially believes in this, too, which is why she and Blake come into conflict increasingly.

Blake talking to Sun (Left)

Blake initially believed in this, too, thinking that Adam was the personification of “justice” or “passion.” However, she realized that Adam was not doing this for the future of the Faunus. Instead, he was doing it out of spite; as revenge for all the years, humans mistreated the Faunus. The morality of brutal methods can be debated, however, it is clear that Adam’s increasing violence is wrong because of his goal. His goal is merely to cause suffering for the suffering he feels he and the Faunus suffered; nothing more, nothing less.

As a result, his violent methods will never work towards furthering equality. Not only will they paint the Faunus as a threat, but also they will destroy the Faunus from the inside. This will let opportunistic humans capitalize on the Faunus’ dissension.

Trauma

Ilia receiving orders from White Fang superiors

While Blake eventually graduated from this belief, Ilia leaned into it. Ilia as a chameleon-type Faunus was able to “pass” as human. Personally, she did not have to suffer from the same discrimination as other Faunus. However, when her parents died in a highly publicized mining accident, her human “friends” laughed. In all likelihood, the event probably overwhelmed her with guilt; she forsook her origins to be liked by cruel humans who would laugh at her own family’s death just because they were Faunus.

The weight of survivors guilt probably plunged her into despair, so she externalized her feelings as hatred. She blindly followed the White Fang’s violent methods to try and absolve herself of the guilt. In a way, she felt that if she could achieve respect and equality for the Faunus, she would be forgiven for pretending to be human. However, she could only force herself to be blind for so long. After hearing about the internal assassination of a previous White Fang leader, and agreeing with it, she was ordered to do the same to Blake’s parents.

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In a way, trauma pushed Ilia into a vicious cycle of perpetuating violence but also somehow got her out. She realized that the idea of taking away her friend’s family for the sake of the “greater good” was contradictory. During her fight with Blake in “True Colors,” she eventually admits she didn’t know what she was supposed to do, presumably meaning to do the “right thing.”

Moving Forward

Initially, Blake ran away from her friends for the same reason. Guilt and fear blinded Blake like they blinded Ilia. She ran away from the White Fang and passed as a human to live peacefully, like Ilia. Eventually, her worst fears came true: the White Fang came to destroy what she held dear.

However, by encountering Ilia, she had to face her own choices. Eventually, she realized that she needs to face her fears, because, in the end, they will come to her whether she likes it or not. Furthermore, she realizes she is not alone, thanks to Sun’s persistence.

Final Thoughts on RWBY Volume 5

RWBY deals with an incredible variety of motivations, beliefs, and moralities. All of which come into play at one point or another. This article deals with a select few that are highlighted in the most recent season of the show. Part of WBY”s appeal is that there are many characters with unique perspectives that can resonate with many of the show’s fans. In the end, it’s mainly a question of who you identify with and who you’re rooting for in the end. There are so many ways to get there.

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