Ok, so I’m a linguistics major. And of course that means I’ve spent a lot of time over my first couple of years of study looking at how people communicate and performing conversational analysis of various types. I’m definitely not an expert as I’ve still not graduated and there will always be more to learn, but here are some of my thoughts on how certain parts of Blake and Yang’s dialogue were written and what it says about the way the audience is meant to perceive their relationship.
This goes pretty deep with the analysis, so bear in mind that I’m not suggesting everything I talk about here is 100% fact or completely intentional on the writers’ part. I’m just offering some thoughts as someone who has had to learn how to look for every ounce of meaning in conversations, so you can take whatever you want from this. It also got pretty hefty, so it’s divided into four sections for easier reading. With all that said… enjoy!
PART THE FIRST
Here we have their very first exchange of dialogue on their first night at Beacon. Now, Yang’s response to the conversation stalling is what I find most interesting about this. This is someone who has been established as an outgoing, confident, sociable person. Yet she goes with a line as awkward as “I like your bow… it goes great with your pyjamas” to try and push the conversation forward? It doesn’t quite seem to fit with the idea of Yang as someone who is self-assured and capable of socialising with ease that the viewer has been given up to this point for her to be so unsure when handling a simple introduction to a stranger.
Obviously her awkwardness is partly because Blake isn’t exactly the most co-operative conversationalist here, but it’s only a few lines into the interaction and Yang’s already slightly tripping over her words. Now also take into account that one character behaving unusually awkwardly around another character and complimenting them soon after meeting them is often used as a way for writers to quickly establish attraction and are you beginning to see what I’m getting at?
(No, I’m not saying the audience is meant to think that Yang has romantic interest in Blake at this point, I’m simply saying that their first interaction bears some resemblance to a typical meet cute scenario in a romance story.)
It’s also noteworthy that Yang tries to keep the conversation going for a good while even while Blake is only offering near monosyllabic replies (”Nice night, don’t you think?”). She clearly wants to have a meaningful interaction with Blake despite there being numerous other students better-suited as potential friends for Ruby, and that suggests that something about Blake interested her enough to try and continue the conversation despite the fact that she had to pull all of the weight.
That initial exchange creates a dissonance with Yang’s character in terms of how she interacts with Blake compared to everyone else who she is perfectly comfortable around from the start. And it becomes even more apparent when–after calling Blake a “lost cause” at the end of their first meeting–Yang’s first words to Blake after they become partners are a cocky “I could have taken them.”
So far with the dialogue between them the show has told us that: one, Yang feels awkward around Blake when they first meet for some reason despite being socially competent, and two, Yang wants some sort of interaction or approval from Blake (hence the slight boasting about her combat abilities). Expanding on that idea, it seems strange that Yang goes from referring to Blake as a “lost cause” to being perfectly happy to have her as her partner so fast, until you consider that Yang likely only made the “lost cause” comment to try and draw some kind of further response from Blake.
The last thing I want to address for now is: that initial awkwardness of Yang’s that I spent half this first post talking about? Yeah, as you might be thinking, it doesn’t last long. As soon as they make eye contact and become partners in the Emerald Forest, Yang acts far more casual around Blake and treats her more like she does the others.
Which makes it even more fascinating to me that they had Yang stumble through that clumsy comment about Blake’s bow matching her pyjamas at all. Sure, it could definitely be a simple oddity because it was early in the show, but someone still had to write that line, and regardless of why it was written it still creates a launching point from which Blake and Yang’s dynamic can (and indeed did) develop.
I know I spent a lot of time on this section considering how short these initial interactions are, but a first conversation is crucial to establishing a dynamic between a pair of characters so I needed to give it its due.
The summary of this first part can be mostly boiled down to: Yang wants to form some sort of bond with Blake.
PART THE SECOND
Here we have the other significant lines/conversations in the first three Volumes. I’m going to go through these in order to make things as simple as possible for myself.
One, “I love it when you’re feisty.” Well, this is just self-explanatory. Yang delivers what can only be interpreted as a flirtatious line while pointing directly at Blake. It’s… not subtle, and moreover there’s no reason for it to be included except to let the audience know that Yang is attracted to Blake.
Two, the talk in Burning the Candle. This is often pointed to as one of the moments that really made Bumbleby take off, and it’s easy to see why. The entire scene is extremely intimate, with Yang opening up to Blake about her abandonment issues which she has never been shown to tell anyone else about, but there are a few details of the dialogue that I want to focus on.
- “Just please, get some rest. If not for you, then for the people you care about.” This line reads a little oddly at first, and I sort of felt like it should be “[…] for the people who care about you” instead. But eventually I realised that it does make sense in the context of what happens after, which is…
- “And if you do feel like coming out tomorrow, I’ll save you a dance” followed by a wink. Once more, this entire line could so easily have been removed or never added at all without changing the outcome of the scene if we were just meant to read Yang’s intentions as purely platonic, but that’s not the most intriguing thing about it. To me, this line reinforces the one I just mentioned above, in that both of them show Yang gently testing the waters—carefully hinting at the idea of something between them without forcing them to address it directly. She seems to think Blake might return her attraction, but wants to make her own feelings clear to see how Blake reacts. Lastly, the “coming out” pun draws the audience’s attention to it more and makes it harder to miss or gloss over.
- With that in mind, it seems more logical that she would say “[…] the people you care about” and not “[…] the people who care about you” in the previously mentioned line if she is trying to discover the nature of Blake’s feelings for her rather than only disclose the nature of her own feelings for Blake. By subtly implying that Blake cares about her she is opening the door for Blake to choose what happens next, and we all know what that choice was given Blake decides to give Yang her first dance later in the episode.
Three, the talk at Mountain Glenn. Blake explains how she feels like the only thing her Semblance is good for is running away, and Yang counters that Blake is “not one to back down from a challenge.” Her voice when she says this is… peculiarly soft, which only adds to the weight of the line, but mostly this is showing the viewer that Yang sees Blake’s strengths where Blake only sees weaknesses. Yang expresses great belief in Blake here, which links nicely to…
Four, the talk after Yang’s fight against Mercury. This addresses Blake’s belief in Yang in the spiritual follow-up to the Mountain Glenn scene, and oh boy, is it rife with obvious romantic coding. Just for starters, it’s the first direct parallel between Yang and Adam—i.e. Blake’s canonical ex and her canonical future… well, I think you see where that’s going—with Blake herself openly comparing them.
She says that she had “someone very dear” to her change—a curiously ambiguous term when she could have used “someone I worked with” or even just “partner” to contrast Yang and Adam’s roles as her combat partners instead of their roles as people she’s very close to on a personal level—but that Yang isn’t him and so she chooses to trust her.
This clues the audience in that what connects Yang and Adam is their differences—i.e. the way they reacted when Blake confronted them about their violent act, one with gaslighting and the other with understanding and reassurance—not their similarities. They are opposite forces in Blake’s life, and the show is informing the viewer of that now because not long after we arrive at…
Five, Volume 3 Chapter 11. This isn’t just not subtle, it’s setting subtlety on fire and then throwing it out of the window never to be seen again.
- Adam declares that he will “destroy everything [Blake] loves”, basically the narrative equivalent of summoning whoever is most important to Blake, and of course the person who appears is Yang.
- As if that didn’t already go far enough, Adam then looks from Blake’s horrified face to Yang and adds “starting with her”, beating the audience over the head with the fact that Yang is someone Blake loves.
I don’t think I need to say any more about this. It’s the point where the writing tied Blake and Yang together irrevocably, and there was no going back from it.
The summary of this second part can be mostly boiled down to: Blake reciprocates Yang’s attempt to form a bond, but that bond is then tested to the full (in a common technique to show the audience how powerful a relationship is by almost breaking it).
PART THE THIRD
Here we have Volumes 4 and 5, a.k.a. the conversations that Blake and Yang have with other people about each other.
One, Blake and Sun’s talk in V4C11. This one’s fairly simple. Blake says that she loves her team like she never thought she could love anybody, and that she thinks about them every day. Her voice only cracks when she says Yang’s name, indicating that though she means all of them Yang is the person she misses the most.
Two, the initial RWY conversation and Yang and Weiss’ talk afterwards. Yang claims not to want Blake around, but then admits that she “needed [Blake] there for [her].” This contrast between want and need highlights that although she’s conflicted Yang would still rather Blake were there if she had the choice. Then Weiss explains why she believes Blake left, giving Yang greater perspective on why Blake did what she did. But this is all fairly straightforward, the noteworthy part is…
Three, Sun’s “[…] and I can promise Yang would say the same” and Weiss’ “[…] and I’m willing to bet Blake feels the same way.” More clear parallels; a friend of theirs reminds Blake and Yang that the other person does care about them despite the literal and metaphorical distance between the two of them. Most striking, however, is that there is no precedent for Sun bringing up Yang here. Immediately before he says that he makes the very romantically charged declaration of “I would do it all again if it meant protecting you”… and then instead of following up on it he kills his own romantic moment by referencing Yang. Combined with the fact that he is flagrantly conflating his own (widely accepted to be romantic) feelings for Blake with Yang’s feelings for Blake, this scene is meant to tell the viewer that Sun has realised that Yang has those feelings for Blake, and he wants Blake to be aware of Yang’s feelings too so that she can fix her relationship with Yang.
The summary of this third part can be mostly boiled down to: Blake and Yang both pine for each other and are angsty about the idea that the other one doesn’t return their feelings, and Sun and Weiss become best wingman and wingwoman respectively.
PART THE FOURTH
Alright, we’re near the end now, I promise. The last scenes I want to cover are from Volume 6. This section might not go quite as deep with the analysis since a lot of things became much more obvious by this point, but hopefully this part will still be fun with a few interesting observations nonetheless.
One, the conversation on the train in V6C1. Not too much to go over here. Yang is awkward. Blake is awkward. It’s a whole mess of awkwardness. But there are two things I would like to briefly touch on.
- First, the way Yang says “Blake, you don’t have to do that.” This line could have been delivered in an angry or bitter tone to show Yang’s lingering doubts about Blake rejoining the team, but it isn’t. Instead it sounds almost sad, and a little uncomfortable. What the viewer is supposed to take from this line in particular isn’t so much that Yang is still mad at Blake for leaving, but that Yang doesn’t want Blake bending over backwards and doing things for her to try and make it up to her.
- Second, “I’m fine… we’re gonna be fine.” Yang initially frames her answer only in terms of herself, but then shifts to referring to both her and Blake. It’s not just their individual wellbeing she’s talking about, it’s the state of their relationship. This is an olive branch, if you will, letting Blake know that even if she’s hurt she does still want to see if they can fix their bond.
Two, “Good to see you’re not rusty.” This comment serves two purposes: 1) it shows that Blake and Yang’s dynamic hasn’t been irrevocably damaged as they’re still able to share the playful banter they did before, and 2) it establishes that Yang’s still casually flirting a little.
Three, each of them calling out the other’s name first in V6C2. In a moment of panic and fear, Blake and Yang are each other’s first thought. Take from that what you will, but it emphasises how much they care about each other even after everything that happened during/following the Fall of Beacon. So far all of these moments are telling the audience that there is something to be repaired here; Blake and Yang’s connection is presented as weakened, but far from broken.
Four, the barn scene in V6C5. Oh boy, oh boy. First there’s Yang answering Blake’s “Are you okay?” with “I don’t know”, which is not at all the same “I’ll be fine […]” she gave Weiss in V5C6 and “I’m totally fine, I’m great” she failed to convince Ruby or Weiss with in V5C8. Even just earlier in V6 when it’s in front of the others she tells Blake “[they’re] gonna be fine”, but when it’s just the two of them she admits that none of those answers were true where she didn’t with anyone else. Combine that with the fact that Blake starts opening up about what her relationship with Adam was like later in this scene when before she didn’t even tell Sun he was more than someone she worked with and only vaguely described what he was like to the rest of the team after Yang’s fight with Mercury, and it’s pretty obvious that both of them only really feel comfortable discussing their most intimate feelings with each other. Lastly, also compare the sharp “We’re fine” Yang gives Blake here to the reassuring “We’re gonna be fine” in C1; while this scene demonstrates the strength of Blake and Yang’s bond, it is also its lowest point. From here it can either snap completely, or be mended to become stronger than ever, which is what we get starting with…
Five, V6C10 a.k.a. the gayest scene in RWBY so far. This exchange is just as awkward as the one in the first episode, but for somewhat different reasons. It’s flirtatious and lovestruck – there isn’t really any other way to describe it. Blake is shy and almost bashful; she teases that “stealth isn’t exactly [Yang’s forté]” then panics and immediately backtracks with “I mean, you’re great, and I’ll hurry back.” It’s all totally unnecessary to reach the objective of the conversation (which is just to convey that Blake is going to disable the tower alone) and it can’t be reasonably interpreted as anything other than romantic. The most striking part for me, however, is Yang’s “Go.” It’s one tiny word, yet it serves perfectly to make it clear to the audience that by now Yang trusts Blake not to leave again, and not only that but she trusts Blake to leave and then come back. This interaction is needed in order to move their reconciliation forwards so that they are a united front when…
Six, Adam happens. If subtlety was set on fire and thrown out the window never to be seen again before, then now its remains have also been trampled on by a raging bull just for good measure.
Adam is exceedingly open about the fact that he sees Yang as a rival for Blake’s love, and hates the fact that Blake has, as he perceives it, chosen Yang over him. He tries to manipulate Yang by arguing that Blake “made a promise to [him] once that she’d always be at [his] side”, but when Yang instantly sees through him he resorts to asking Blake if he “just wasn’t good enough for [her]” to which she very rightly replies that “it was so much more than that.” Adam’s jealousy reaches its most undeniable, though, when it culminates in him screaming “What does she even see in you?!” at Yang. It’s a phrase that is never used except in the context of romantic interest, and it removes any remaining doubt that this isn’t a personal conflict for Adam. It could make sense for him to hate Yang because she’s a human, but he never brings that up and instead repeatedly highlights himself that it’s her connection with Blake that he despises.
The other part worthy of note here is Blake’s “[…] we’re protecting each other” speech, which serves as a direct counterpoint to her earlier declaration to Yang of “I’ll protect you”, and completes their V6 trajectory from the start with Blake’s guilt putting them on an uneven footing to this moment in which she recognises that they need to stand as equals instead. (And I’d like to clarify that this issue was never about Blake seeing Yang as weak–heck, her word for her is “strength”–it was about her feeling like she owed Yang something in return for the loss of her arm to Adam and needing to let go of that unhealthy mindset.)
Seven, the aftermath of the Adam confrontation. It’s only a couple of lines of dialogue, but it says an awful lot. The fact that Blake’s first instinct is to reassure Yang that she won’t leave again or go back on her word when Yang is already holding her demonstrated just how deep Adam’s manipulation ran, and Yang’s response is equally significant. She could say “It’s okay” or “I forgive you”, or something else that would validate Blake’s guilt in the process of absolving it, but she doesn’t. She says “I know you won’t”, which is infinitely more powerful because it demonstrates that she isn’t just offering Blake forgiveness, she’s also making it clear that there was nothing to forgive in the first place since Blake’s actions were well-meaning and a result of past abuse.
Eight, and last but very very far from least, “we were there for each other.” This is the conclusion of this whole arc in Yang and Blake’s relationship. This line emphasises that they are closer than ever before, and that they’re finally back in a healthy place from which they can move forward.
The summary of this fourth part can mostly be boiled down to: yeah, they’re in love.
Well, there we are. We have reached the end. Sincere congratulations to anyone who stuck around this long, because this got very very long, but I hope it was worth it.