What’s in a Fairy Tale?
- Episodes : 3 (movie)
- Genre : Action, Magic, Fantasy, Shounen
- Airing Date : Studio Colorido
- Producers : 2 October 2020
About Burn the Witch
The title, “Burn the Witch” is a reference to the Radiohead song by the same name, as Tite Kubo is a known fan of Alt Rock. Following the one-shot manga released in July 2018, Burn the Witch has enjoyed a four-chapter serialization often referred to as “Season 1”, with “Season 2” announced to be on the way! After the rollercoaster of a journey we had with BLEACH, Kubo follows up his supernatural shounen classic with a story about fairy tales, dragons in particular! So, what goes into a Tite Kubo fairy tale?
The story follows Ninny Spangcole and Noel Niihashi, two witches working for Wing Bind, an organization affiliated with BLEACH’s Soul Society, tasked with the protection and conservation of dragons in Reverse London—a realm mirroring the City of London, located in its “hidden side”. Citizens of Reverse London are well aware of the existence of dragons.
Set 2 years after the last chapter of BLEACH, the Burn the Witch one-shot has been adapted and released in the form of a three-part movie which sets into motion the BLEACH 20th Anniversary Project, commemorating the manga’s 20th year in 2021 with this film as well as the anime adaptation of the Thousand-Year Blood War arc in BLEACH! As a spin-off in an era where several classics are making a new-age come-back, Burn the Witch is BLEACH’s highly anticipated successor, so we figured we pick it apart and give our verdict afterward!
“Fairy tales are such bull****. It’s always some girl getting a spell cast on her that turns her into a princess, getting to wear a pretty dress, pretending to choose some hot guy and being chosen herself. Not to mention the spell randomly breaks in the middle of it all. Lame, right? Like, are you serious? The spell just breaks randomly…
You’re all fools. None of you know the real reason why the spell breaks. If magic only works on fools, I’d rather be the one casting the spell.”
Opening with an interesting quote is something we also saw in the pilot episode of BLEACH and serves as a nostalgic glimpse into Kubo’s narrative style. These words are the very first thing you hear being said in Burn the Witch. Ninny, the celebrity, is pursued by overly enthusiastic reporters during her cynical monologue, before using her phone’s incredibly bright flash to blind her pursuers and run into an empty alleyway. There, Ninny pulls out a coin fashioned with an insignia marked with the letters “S.S W.B”.
A blinding blue light appears on the ground below her like a portal to another realm. The scene changes to show the other protagonist, Noel Niihashi, engaged in pursuit of a strange deer-like winged beast. Noel incants various spells, using her pipe (which is also fashioned to be a type of gun) to fire projectiles of magical energy among other nifty, magical things. At this moment, Ninny appears in a similar uniform to Noel, her interruption being what helps Noel subdue the creature.
The fairy tale theme is very interesting and sets up Burn the Witch for a lot of worldbuilding in the future, which is awesome. Ninny’s cynicism regarding the concept is great narrative work because of the subversion it does to the contemporary understanding of “fairy tale”, which has often referred to watered-down stories that often have a happy ending.
The names of the seven most destructive dragons in Burn the Witch history are based on the folk tales of Cinderella, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and others, with the dragon Cinderella making an appearance in the second episode. The fairy tale theme also correlates with the magical realm of Reverse London, where witches and wizards are commonplace, so the theme is central to the film and it makes good on it by introducing us to basic lore and setting things up for the future.
Burn the Witch features witches and wizards. In the first episode, we see both Ninny and Noel use “Magic Number” incantations, which are like the Kidou in the parent universe, BLEACH. On top of magical spells, the world of Burn the Witch has various dragon species all with unique appearances, abilities, and quirks.
The magic in Burn the Witch is yet to be sufficiently explored, which is part of a small yet important overarching issue with the film – it does not tell us enough about the Burn the Witch side of the BLEACHverse. Magic has not been explained as a system in Burn the Witch, leaving much to be desired especially in comparison to BLEACH; however, we also understand that the Burn the Witch film is an adaptation of the one-shot, in which you cannot expect to get conclusive worldbuilding. Like BLEACH, Burn the Witch features a branch of Soul Society that is run similarly to the Gotei 13, with various squads tasked with different aspects of Wing Bind’s dragon-handling.
In episode 1, we are guided by the calming voice of an unknown narrator who sets the scene for us – in this world, dragons are terrifying beings that have been the cause of at least 72% of all deaths in London since ancient times. Unauthorized contact with dragons has been outlawed via the “Dragon Contact Prohibition” of 1609. If a human is to break this law, they face a 100-year prison sentence or death. Only those with the necessary qualifications can make contact with a dragon – those who lack such qualifications face accumulating a substance in their bodies known as Dragotoxin, which turns them into “Dragonclad” if it is concentrated enough.
The dragons’ influence has even led to their featuring on the city’s coat of arms. Be that as it may, citizens of the so-called “Front” London do not know of the existence of dragons, while their existence and influence is common knowledge in the magical realm of Reverse London. We briefly see Wing Bind HQ, where other witches and wizards can be seen donning similar outfits to Ninny and Noel. Balgo Parks is the character who introduces the Dragonclad concept. He hangs comically from a string tied to his dragon doggo Osushi, which shows how varied the concept of dragons can be in Burn the Witch, with many dragon types making an appearance.
Dragons are the most fleshed-out aspect of Burn the Witch as the overarching antagonists of the story, but also the most diverse “faction” we have been introduced to thus far. While there is still much that needs to be explained further, such as the “Dragonclad”. From that perspective, the film could have had a more concrete explanation of much of the jargon, most of which has to be picked up in context.
Ninny is the abrasive; ambitious and cynical half of the protagonist duo whose attributes make her this story’s “red ogre”. She has ambitions of joining the Inks, the division led by Bruno Bangnyfe. Her disdain for fairy tales is yet to be fully explained; however, Ninny’s position is rather unique granted her celebrity and witch status, areas which can be considered to be in the realm of fable for most people.
We later come to know that her band, “Cecile Die Twice”, had a falling out with the former member Macy Baljure, who is introduced as the apparent Front London-born handler of a rare dragon later revealed to be one of 7 mythical dragons called the Märchen – the hypothetical enemies of humanity the names of which are based on famous fairy tales.
The detached and aloof half of the protagonist pairing in Burn the Witch is Noel Niihashi, the “blue ogre” to Ninny’s red. She is stoic and serious, hiding a serious love for anime, manga, and cute dogs like Osushi. We only ever see her lose her composure at the end of the third episode when Osushi asks her to show him her panties, with Balgo clearly having rubbed off on him. She is more cheerful at home than she is on the job. Unlike Ninny, Noel cares more about the money she makes as a Piper than moving up the ranks, which causes her to act recklessly to complete missions.
After being in contact with dragons for too long, Balgo Parks has gained Dragonclad status, which grants him the ability to see them. Balgo is like bait for dragons; however, he also runs the risk of attracting immensely dangerous ones and for that reason, he falls under the protection of Wing Bind. His Dragonclad status is not quite well explained but a continuation of Burn the Witch will allow for such details.
Art and Animation
Studio Colorido needs to be commended on the art and animation aspects of Burn the Witch, because all three episodes look beautiful! Burn the Witch can be criticized for the flat-colour look that it has, and perhaps we might have been pining for a sense of crispness and depth that we could see in the latter stages of the BLEACH anime; however, there are moments in which Studio Colorido shows off, like the intense battle against the dragon, Cinderella. It’s appealing to the eye, but perhaps in time, we will see Burn the Witch animation that makes us gasp in total awe.
Honey’s Anime Verdict
Burn the Witch is fun, exciting, and visually appealing; however, some parts of the story felt undercooked, particularly in reference to the lore; magic, the Dragonclad, and as for the world of Reverse London, we’ve seen only but a glimpse. Despite the lack of explanation that the film would give us at times, it is worth noting that this is only the beginning. Perhaps as more Burn the Witch is produced, some of our burning questions and quiet curiosities will finally be answered.
Do we recommend Burn the Witch? Do we want to stick around to see how it unfolds? The answer is a definite yes to both! What was your favourite part of Burn the Witch? Drop a comment below and tell us your thoughts!