RWBY: Ice Queendom (Courtesy of Rooster Teeth)
RWBY, the online hit of Austin’s Rooster Teeth, is often referred to as an American anime, and over its eight seasons, the influence of Japanese animation is undeniable. Now Japan is returning the love with a new big-budget spin-off produced in Japan, RWBY: Ice Queendom. Kerry Shawcross, showrunner for the main RWBY series, called this milestone in the series’ history “a real dream come true.”
Powered by Shaft, the studio behind 2018 Fireworks, ice queen will debut on Japanese TV on July 3 (US audiences can stream it via Crunchyroll). However, before that, hometown audiences will get a special theatrical preview as part of RTX, Rooster Teeth’s huge fan show taking over downtown Austin this weekend.
The original made in Austin RWBY achieved the impossible in 2016 when it was theatrically released in Japan – an unprecedented feat for an anime-style show produced in the United States. But getting a reboot produced in Japan is a near miraculous achievement, and it wasn’t something Rooster Teeth was offering. “It happened because they were interested,” Shawcross said. “So many people in this industry have appreciated RWBYand I wanted to work with him and with us, it’s just an honor in itself.”
It’s not the first RWBY spin off. The main show focuses on magical adventures in the kingdom of Remnant, where four young women face supernatural forces and hidden political agendas. So there is RWBY Chibiwith cute versions of the characters in comic sketches, and RWBY: Remnant Fairy Tales, an anthology of independent short stories. But this is the first show produced outside of Rooster Teeth itself. Shawcross described working with their Japanese counterparts as deeply respectful and productive. “It would have been very easy for them to try to get the name RWBY of us and the likeness of the characters and doing their own thing, but that’s not what they did, not what they wanted to do.”
“So many people in this industry have enjoyed RWBY and wanted to work with him and with us, it’s just an honor in itself.” – Kerry Shaw Cross
Eddy Rivas, who co-wrote RWBY since season 7, definitely enjoy the feedback loop that ice queen creates. “RWBY was a show that had a lot of homages to Japanese animation,” he said, “but now to have a Japanese animation company doing it in their style, also paying homage to them, it’s weird. “
RWBY: Ice Queendom is not a full reboot. Instead, the brand’s senior director, Christine Brent, called her story arc “adjacent to continuity.” The opening episodes are a redux of the original show’s first two seasons, before kicking off a new story, set between seasons 2 and 3, “but that detracts from the main timeline.” This is not new for anime fans: in the blockbuster dragonball franchise, fans often consider characters not created by manga artist Akira Toriyama to be non-canon, while the A play the anime outgrew the publication of the source manga and therefore had to functionally riff. However, while the first episodes of ice queen are not a “one-for-one adaptation” of the first two seasons of RWBYsaid Brent, “these characters are part of our universe.”
The special screening will kick off three days of RTX in person, the first time the team has been able to reconnect with its famously loyal Rooster Teeth fanbase since 2019. After two years of RTX online, there’s some concerns about crowds number in the thousands. “I still feel socially uncomfortable — that’s how I used to feel,” Shawcross said, “but I’m excited.”
For Brent, that’s what makes RTX special. “We’re nerds. We love games. We love anime, we love all that stuff, and that’s the culture. We all get together and are socially awkward at the same time.”
RTX 2022, July 1-3. Pass and info on rtxevent.com. RWBY: Ice Queendom will screen as part of the RTX First Night Preview: Thursday, June 30, 5 p.m., Paramount Theater, 713 Congress. Also, reach Shawcross and Rivas at RWBY Season 9 Preview Panel Friday, July 1, 12:30 p.m. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, Ballroom D.
A version of this article was published on July 1, 2022 with the title: Rooster Teeth’s RWBY goes to Japan