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Raven Branwen is a character who first appeared in "No Brakes". She is the mother of Yang Xiao Long, the twin sister of Qrow Branwen and the ex-wife of Taiyang Xiao Long. Her weapon of choice is her sword with a rotary chamber filled with six types of Dust blades.
In her first appearances in Volume 2, Raven's outfit consisted of a shallow cut black and red dress with black shorts underneath, with series of beaded necklaces and a belt that wraps around her waist and carries her weapon's sheath. Attached also is a long black object that is either fur or feathers, with a red and white bandana material like hanging from behind her. Her forearms bear red armored gauntlets that protrude outwards and solid black gloves. She wore black mid-thigh high leggings with red splatter patterns and black heels. Lastly, she had long black hair and bright red eyes, in the exact shade of Yang's when she becomes angry or activates her Semblance.
In Volumes 4 and 5, her appearance changes slightly, with her heels given a red sole, her leggings becoming solid black and her eyes now a darker crimson color. Her most distinctive feature is a fearsome, full-face mask that resembles the face of a Creature of Grimm. The mask has four eye slits, further enhancing the character's inhuman appearance. In Volume 2, Raven's eyes are visible through the lower slits, but in Volume 5, the slits are black and red inside.
Under the mask, she looks very similar to Yang; they share the same facial shape. However, Raven's hair is jet black, her eyebrows are a little bit higher, her complexion is significantly lighter and slight age lines are under her eyes. Her hair is tied by a red bandanna and loosely done up in a ponytail with the ends resembling curved black feathers. A cowlick can be seen protruding from the top of her head, similar to that of her daughter's.
As a corvid, Raven is identical to her brother's corvid form, only lacking his head feathers.
Raven is cynical, patronizing, very selfish and stubborn. She believed her act of "kindness" of saving Yang's life from Neo Politan was sufficient despite having left Yang at a very young age and refused to protect her daughter when in need after that.
Raven has a "survival of the fittest" mentality and has little issues with taking the lives of the innocent or even that of other Huntsmen, indirectly or otherwise. Despite murdering the former Spring Maiden, Raven presented her actions as merciful and necessary saying that the maiden never learned anything despite the training Raven put her through and that she wasn't cut out for this world.
However, beneath her "survival of the fittest" philosophy and despite her great powers as a Huntress and a Maiden, Raven is a cowardly person, having chosen to run away from Salem after deeming the fight unwinnable despite being aware of Salem's evil goals. She is even willing to risk her brother and daughter's lives in order to get access to the Relic in hopes of defending her tribe against Salem. As Yang pointed out Raven's definition of strength is very shallow as despite her great power she chooses to run away from her problems instead of facing them. In the end Raven's survival of the fittest philosophy is just a facade to hide her fear of Salem and her other insecurities.
Raven is not above manipulating others, having tried to emotionally manipulate Yang during their reunion in "Lighting the Fire" so she would choose to stay with her instead of reuniting with Qrow and Ruby Rose, first by taking a faux warm and theatrical attitude before revealing secret informations and threatening Yang in the hope that it would scare her from joining Qrow and Ozpin, and having successfully manipulated Salem's subordinates into thinking that Vernal was the Spring Maiden and into setting an ambush for Qrow and the students in order to get access to the Relic of Knowledge in "A Perfect Storm".
Raven is also very prideful and hypocritical, refusing to acknowledge her faults and always trying to justify her actions both to others and to herself, often putting the blame on others for them even if she feels real guilt about them, like saying that she did not know that Grimm would come quickly to destroy Shion despite the fact that it was the tribe's attack that led it vulnerable to Grimm, refusing to admit that it is out of fear of Salem that she worked with her subordinates unlike Lionheart who admitted his fear of her, telling Yang that she knew that she would be able of handling the trap on her and her friends despite it not being the case and presenting her murder of the Spring Maiden as an act of mercy due to the girl's perceived weakness to Yang despite showing signs of remorse over her action. Also despite criticizing Ozpin over keeping informations from others, using others to reach his goals and being manipulative Raven has no issues doing the same. It is only after Yang exposed her mother's cowardice and hypocrisy and decided to take the relic that Raven did let go of her pride and apologized to Yang.
While Raven and Qrow used to see each other as family when growing up, she now sees Qrow as a traitor for leaving their tribe and Qrow outright states she's dangerous and hostile, though he continued to care for her and they continued to be in touch though Raven seemingly only contacted Qrow to get informations from him such as trying to know if Salem got the relic at Beacon. When Qrow confronted her on her setting a trap for him, Yang and Ruby and renounced her as his sister Raven went as far as implying that she may have never seen Qrow as family. Raven is a cynic who claims to have foreseen Ozpin's failure to protect Beacon Academy from its destruction. She believes that Ozpin is not the man her daughter thinks he is and condemns those who trust him, such as Qrow, Ruby and even Taiyang.
Because of her prideful and self-centered mentality Raven often fails to measure the consequences of her actions such as her attempt to manipulate Yang into staying with her and to distrust Qrow and Ozpin by calling Ruby a lost cause, revealing Salem's existence and insulting Qrow and Taiyang, which only reinforced Yang's determination to reunite with her uncle and sister. She also advised Yang to question everything which caused Yang to question her mother's own motives and actions and she devised a plan to get the Relic of Knowledge to keep Salem away from the tribe while overlooking the fact that it would only cause her to become a greater target for Salem.
Despite her ruthless and immoral behavior and her obnoxious treatment of her daughter and of the rest of her family, Raven deep down still cares for and love Yang to a certain extent as she constantly observed her in her corvid form, tried to have her join the tribe and tried to convince Yang to not fight against Salem when she made it clear that she was willing to stand up to the Grimm master but her cowardice is such that she choose to safe her own life instead of trying to protect Yang's from Salem.
According to Taiyang Raven had a straightforward approach and saw strength as all-important in a fight, traits that Yang inherited. He adds that Raven was ambitious and gave her all to whatever cause she saw as just while acknowledging she had unspecified faults that greatly contributed to the dissolution of Team STRQ. When Raven told Yang that she didn't know her, Yang replied that she only knows the Raven that her father told her about, asking her mother if she killed her previous self too. The question caused Raven to be shocked and to look away before breaking down emotionnaly in front of her daughter. This indicates that Raven was once a braver, more idealistic and less selfish woman before leaving her teamates, family and huntress life behind.
After defeating Cinder Fall in "Downfall", Raven shows a softer side, taking the time to close the deceased Vernal's eyes and thank her for her service. This side of her is further shown in "Haven's Fate", in which she and Yang share an emotional conversation. After Yang calls Raven out for killing the former Spring Maiden, her cowardice and hypocrisy in refusing to fight Salem, and for showing a callous indifference to her own daughter's well-being, Raven once more begs Yang to stay out of the war against Salem, but to no avail. Raven subsequently breaks down in tears, her remorse for her path and actions finally showing itself.
Powers and Abilities
Raven is armed with a sheath that has a rotary chamber filled with different types of Dust blades, reminiscent of the Dust vial chamber of Weiss Schnee's Myrtenaster. The blades, when connected with the accompanying handle, are reminiscent of the long-bladed, single-edged ōdachi, or "great sword". Using the handle, Raven is able to wield a variety of different blades, each one possessing a different color and property.
By reattaching the handle to the sheath, Raven is able to interchange, or if need be, replace the Dust blade. The blades are telescopic, which allows them to be approximately twice the length of the sheath. She tends to most often use the blade made of Red Dust, though she has also used others. The colors seen so far in combat include Red, Blue, Yellow, Gray/Black, and Green. The Dust blades, though powerful, can be broken if struck several times or hard enough. Since they are Dust, she can use them for elemental based attacks.
Raven possesses great speed in combat, so much so that her attacks are difficult to follow with the naked eye. She shows proficiency in "Iaido", the art of swordsmanship practiced by Adam Taurus, as seen when she first engages Neo. Though after her initial attack, she challenges Neo with a more traditional stance, indicating a more intricate fighting style. During her fight with Cinder, she was able to slice in half a massive boulder and use the elemental effect of her ice blade to smoothly slide away from an attack, all within seconds, showing a faster than average reaction time.
It is stated in "Welcome to Haven" that Raven is equally matched with her brother Qrow, although this did not take her Maiden Powers into account.
Without knowing that it was his sister, Qrow Branwen deduces that much of the damage wrought in Shion village was caused by the Spring Maiden, exemplifying her destructive utilization of the Spring Maiden's powers. She is able to generate a lightning strike in "Lighting the Fire", summoning it from the sky like the previous Fall Maiden Amber could. In "A Perfect Storm", she is able to summon strong gusts of wind and turn the sky from clear to cloudy in an instant. In both cases, she was able to disguise her power and make it appear that Vernal was performing the feats.
As the Spring Maiden, her power can be used to open the chamber at Haven Academy, which contains the Relic of Knowledge. Her eyes gain a dark red aura when she demonstrates her powers, which is possibly the reason why she wears her Grimm mask often. In "Downfall", during Raven's fight with Cinder, she makes use of several different elemental powers. She can generate ice, either by condensing it into weaponry, forming ice spikes or freezing from a distance. She can also generate electricity from her hands, using them to supercharge her weaponry, release it in close ranged strikes, and generate fields of electricity around her. Lastly, she demonstrates the ability to fly, which she has been able to use additionally to propel herself at high speeds.
Raven's Semblance allows her to create portals to instantly travel to people she has bonded with, without occupying the space between and can cover vast distance through them. Raven largely uses this ability to make an exit, rather than for offensive purposes: she has notably used them to teleport to Yang in order to save her from Neo, as well as to leave the bar in Higanbana after talking with Qrow and allow Salem's associates to walk into Haven Academy from her camp. Raven can also allow other people through her portals, as she did with Weiss and Yang, without going through herself or requiring them to be bonded to her. To activate the ability, she swings her sword, causing a portal to open a few feet in whatever the direction the blade was swung at, but she is also able to open portals without her sword, such as when she opened one in her bird form. To date, she has bonded with at least four people:
- Taiyang Xiao Long
- Qrow Branwen
- Yang Xiao Long
- Vernal †
Like her brother, Raven has the ability to transform into a corvid, specifically a raven, almost instantaneously and is able to fly. This ability was bestowed upon her by Ozpin through magic. Raven largely uses the ability for stealth purposes, such as disguising her arrival at Haven and is even able to use her Semblance in this form. She can also talk while in bird form.
- Raven alludes to Huginn from Norse mythology. For more information on this allusion, as well as other choices the creators made for this character, see Raven Branwen/Behind the Scenes.
- Branwen is Welsh, meaning "blessed white raven/crow", which corresponds to her first name. Raven can refer to a number of bird species in the genus Corvus, or in reference to the color black.
- As well as the fact that their first names, Raven and Qrow (crow), are both black birds in the genus Corvus. Specifically, ravens are a type of crow.
- During the scene where Yang talks about her search for Raven and being saved by her Uncle Qrow in "Burning the Candle", the text on the chalkboard (enlarged) is an extract from a poem about Huginn and Muninn, two ravens from Norse mythology. The text supposedly reads:
- Hugin and Munin fly each day over the spacious earth.
- I fear for Hugin, that he not come back, yet more anxious am I for Munin.
- Her mask appears to be a more elaborately-styled version of the Grimm Masks worn by the White Fang.
- Notably, her mask and feathered hair give her an appearance markedly similar to a Nevermore, likely referencing her name.
- The picture of Raven that Yang shows to Junior is an artwork of Monty Oum called Transient Princess , which depicts the character Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII with "hair that transitions into the threads of a feather".
- The red and black portal Raven uses is visually similar to the one created by Cinder's glove in "Beginning of the End". A similar looking portal is seen in both the Volume 1 and Volume 3 Opening animations.
- Since Yang never mentioned meeting Raven in the post credit scene in Breach, and the visual distortion of the entire scene, it can be assumed the scene was most likely some sort of dream or vision.
- According to the July 2019 update of RWBY: Amity Arena, her card description refers to her as "a sister, a student, an agent, a friend, a wife, a chief, a mentor, and a survivor". Which implies that Raven was married to Taiyang before she left him and their daughter, Yang.