Neo is a fan-favorite villain and one of the strongest characters in RWBY. Fans love her competence, semblance, and how cute she looks while doing a crime. But why doesn't Neo speak in RWBY? We explain the reasons below!
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The In-Universe Reason Neo Doesn't Talk in RWBY
The main web-animated series doesn't provide an explicit reason Neo doesn't talk. It is implied that she was born this way, though her exact condition is not specified.
She is able to produce rasping and non-verbal sounds, and she can communicate through text and body language. As far as we know, she is not deaf.
Because Neo never speaks, and her collaborator, Roman Torchwick, who likely knew the most about her, died early on, little is known about Neo's backstory.
Judging from the companion novel, RWBY: Roman Holiday, little is known about the medical reason Neo doesn't talk, even in-universe.
Neo's Backstory in a RWBY Companion Novel
The RWBY novel RWBY: Roman Holiday explains a little more about Neo's backstory.
Originally, everyone's favorite cute villain was a girl named Trivia Vanille. Her parents were disappointed by the fact that she did not speak, although her doctor had advised them to give her space.
This suggests that Trivia was not unable to speak because of a lack of vocal cords or a similar anatomical issue.
There seems to be some other unnamed and likely psychological condition affecting her, though we cannot be entirely sure.
As a child, Trivia had an imaginary friend named Neo or Neopolitan after the Neapolitan ice cream that reflects Neo's color scheme.
At first, she believed that Neo -- who would often make mischief, frustrating Trivia's parents -- was another girl.
Later, she realized that the girl was imagined as a scapegoat for her own disruptive actions and desires.
Later, at some point after her first encounter with Roman Torchwick, she adopted the identity of her imaginary friend and became Neo as we know her.
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The Original Reason Neo Doesn't Speak
In-universe, Neo's inability to speak might be attributed to psychological or genetic factors. However, the Rooster Teeth team working on RWBY might have not always planned the character this way.
In one of the after-show discussions about RWBY, it was mentioned that Neo had originally been created for a casting opportunity.
The World of RWBY: The Official Companion confirms that this casting opportunity was going to be for actor and comedian Sarah Silverman.
Since Neo has never talked throughout RWBY, it seems that this opportunity fell through for reasons that aren't entirely clear.
According to the Companion, the late Monty Oum -- creator, director, co-writer, and animator of RWBY -- decided to push Neo's first fight earlier in the first volume, before a voice actor had been found.
As it turns out, the audience warmed up to Neo's character immediately and liked her as she was.
Eventually, Rooster Teeth decided not to voice Neo, and, frankly, that's a great choice.
RWBY has such a fun and diverse cast of characters, and it's great to see such a cool non-verbal character included.
Hopefully, RWBY Volume 9 will be the one where we get to know Neo better.
At this point, the series' most cosplayable character is the only villain in team RWBY's proximity, so we'll likely see her a lot more.
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