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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 former lover of Taiyang Xiao Long. Her weapon of choice is her sword with a rotary chamber filled with six types of Dust blades.
Raven wears a shallow cut black and red dress, five necklaces with an assortment of beads, a red girdle-belt, and a pair of matching gauntlets. She wears gloves in Volume 2, but in Volume 4 onward she wears fingerless gloves.
An object that looks to be made from feathers hangs from the right side of her skirt. She also wears detached black leggings with a red splatter pattern in Volume 2, but in Volume 4 onwards her leggings are solid black. Under her leggings, she wears black boots, which have red high heels and soles. 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, sharing the same facial shape, though her hair is more ravenous and black with red highlights, her eyebrows are a little bit higher, her complexion is significantly lighter and slight age lines are under her eyes. Raven's eye color is the same shade of red that Yang's shifts to when enraged. Her hair is loosely done up in a ponytail, tied by a red shawl, 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.
During a conversation with Yang, Qrow calls his sister a dangerous person whose worldview clashes with his own. Nevertheless, in "No Brakes", Raven saves Yang's life from Neo but later has Qrow warn her daughter not to expect any "further kindness."
In "Family", it is revealed that she has a "survival of the fittest" mentality and, despite having graduated from Beacon Academy as a Huntress, has little issues with taking lives of the innocent or even that of other Huntsmen, indirectly or otherwise. Raven even killed the former Spring Maiden, as revealed in "Haven's Fate" because she thought that she was weak. Raven is more serious than her brother and is somewhat demanding, focusing on her mission over family ties. She sees Qrow as a traitor for leaving their tribe. Additionally, Raven is a cynic who claims to have foreseen Ozpin's failure to protect Beacon 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.
In "Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back", Tai reveals Raven was stubborn during her academy days, had a very direct approach and saw strength as all-important in a fight, traits that her daughter inherited. He adds that Raven was ambitious and gave her all to whatever cause she saw as just. Taiyang also revealed that Raven had unspecified faults that greatly contributed to the dissolution of Team STRQ.
Raven has a penchant for patronizing others. She acts as such toward Weiss and Yang in "Known by its Song" and toward Cinder's group in "A Perfect Storm". Raven credits others' success with their relation to her, especially with Yang after she "handled" the trap set at Haven Academy.
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, 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's intellect and skill are apparently infamous. Cinder Fall states she has heard numerous stories of her strong and clever reputation before trying to rob Vernal's supposed Maiden powers, only to discover Raven had managed to fool her, for she is the true Spring Maiden.
However beneath her "survival of the fittest" philosophy and in spite of 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.
After defeating Cinder 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 love for her daughter finally showing itself. Raven tearfully apologizes to Yang before departing in her corvid form.
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 in nature, 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.
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 Neopolitan. Though after her initial attack, she challenges Neo with a more traditional stance, indicating a more intricate fighting style.
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.
Raven's Semblance allows her to create portals to instantly teleport to people she has bonded with. While she is never seen using her portals directly for combat, she has 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. Raven can also allow other people through her portals, as she did with Weiss and Yang. In each instance, she swings her sword to create the portals. 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. This ability was bestowed upon her by Ozpin through magic.
- 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.
- She wears the same necklace as Neopolitan and Coco Adel.
- 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 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 mentions actually meeting Raven during her conversation with Qrow, it can be assumed that the post credit scene in Volume 2 is some kind of dream or vision.