I may have said this before, but man does RWBY have some damn good music. I’ve already discussed what makes it so engrossing on a broader level, but the lyrics of one song in particular have been echoing in my mind of late. “The Path to Isolation,” from the recently released RWBY Volume 5 soundtrack, details all too well the gradual descent into loneliness and self-doubt.
“The Path to Isolation” is about one of RWBY’s four main protagonists, a wealthy heiress named Weiss Schnee. I won’t explain her entire character arc here, I would rather just suggest that you go watch the show, but the core of Weiss’ character is her struggle with choosing between the life she wants and the life she was told to want. The song is written from her perspective at the moment she realized the distinction between those two choices. Weiss finally notices how unhappy she has become after spending so much time chasing an artificial dream, a desire with which she has been indoctrinated since childhood. This realization sends her spiraling into depression, an uncertain haze where she can no longer remember who she is. This point is hammered home again and again with lines like “the joy that my heart used to know is eluding me,” and “looking in the mirror I see someone that I don’t recognize.” These lyrics paint a picture of confusion and desperation, of a woman who cannot answer the simplest question.
That question is the same one I’ve been asking myself recently. One word that has burned itself into the forefront of my mind. “Why?” Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why do I feel the way I feel? Why am I here, on this Earth? I feel like at this point in my life the curtain has been drawn back on the emptiness of it all. The worst part is that I feel like I knew this was coming. I could feel that something was missing. A sense of purpose that I couldn’t find as I mistook the goals of those around me for my own.
This is the feeling that “The Path to Isolation” conveys to me. Weiss is crippled by her sudden understanding of her own feelings, a pain that is worsened by the realization that she allowed it all to happen. I feel like her situation mirrors my own, which is made all the more troublesome by the song’s refusal to provide a conclusion. It ends abruptly, without any sense of closure either musically or lyrically. Weiss begs: “Mirror, help me. Who am I?” and the song immediately ends. It’s a jarring way to end a song on its own, but to me it feels like an indication that her unfortunate inner conflict (and therefore my own) will have no resolution.
Despite what I’ve written so far in this downer of an article, I find “The Path to Isolation” to be empowering. It makes my problems tangible, like they’ve been transmuted into something I can deal with on a physical level. It may not provide me with a solution, but it lets me sing along with someone who shares my doubt and concern. The song reminds me of how powerful and resonant music can be, and how important art is in discerning the point behind all of our struggles.