RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster Jun28

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster

“Death feels like a roller coaster,” I remember thinking during a heart-stopped moment. I had rushed out the door, ten minutes late to a Master’s class, brushed off my mom’s hug—too busy to waste three more seconds—and sped out of the driveway with speakers blazing. A few minutes later, the car in front of me stopped—a bit too quickly. I ground to a halt behind it. An instinctive glance in my rearview mirror revealed an F250 twice as tall as my little Buick Century barreling toward me. I tore my gaze away from the mirror, determined to ignore the impending disaster. I thought, “It’ll be fine. Bad things only happen to other people—!” A sonic boom exploded inside my car. Howard Shore cut off mid-crescendo. My seat hit the floorboard, then threw me against the steering wheel, along with a rain of glass. The moment the world stood still again, I forced my jammed door open with a kick fueled by adrenaline. Taking stock of myself for injuries, I realized I was fine. Everyone else involved in the accident was fine too. The next day, I drove to college, just a little more cautiously than usual. Whimsically reflecting on the harrowing incident as I headed for class, I made myself laugh at the way I had been worried about the wreck ruining my “cosplay face” and how my old “Tank” had remained true to its namesake to the very end. It’s easy to get comfortable wearing the blinders of guilt and fear. Then someone nearby slammed a bathroom door. Hard. In the space of a blink, I saw that F250 racing up behind me at 45mph, felt the blood rush to my gut in panic while euphoric vertigo flipped me heels-over-head, and heard a crash like a mountain collapsing in my ears. At the time, I had no idea it would be my only flashback of the incident, just that it was my first. And that worried me. In RWBY Season 4, Yang has a similar experience when she accidentally shatters a glass, triggering a traumatic flashback from the Season 3 finale. Unlike the other three members of her war-torn team, Yang’s developmental arc features no physical fights with fanged monstrosities or deadly assassins. Hers is a battle of the mind, where suddenly her reliable fists hold no sway—largely, because she’s lost one of them to a villain’s blade. I’ve always related to Yang’s tomboyish mannerisms and physical strength, but especially to her golden optimism. She powers through every setback on a smirk and a glimpse of a better tomorrow. In Season 4, though, as Yang idles away in front of the TV and numbly occupy herself with chores, it’s clear that she can’t see a moment beyond her next footstep. “Sometimes bad things just happen,” Yang tells her sister, in an excuse to keep unbearable blame from crushing her broken spirit further. No doubt Yang replays the fatal fight in her mind, wondering if a moment’s thoughtful preparation (or even running away like her best friend Blake) could have helped her survive the battle unscathed. It’s a trap I found myself looped into for days after the wreck—wondering if I could have avoided it if I hadn’t looked down from my mirror like a coward. Yang’s understated anger is all that keeps her moving during her steep depression, and her excuses are the fuel it thrives on. Even when gifted a priceless prosthetic arm of cutting edge technology, Yang refuses to accept it and move forward. “I lost a part of me. A part of me is gone, and it’s never coming back,” she finally tells her father. While Yang’s arm had been replaced, her security was gone. Similarly, I didn’t feel safe behind the wheel of a car anymore; I lost the confidence I had that the next truck to pull up behind me would stop short,...