The past five years or so have seen the end of many beloved long-running anime. Very notably, we saw the conclusion of Naruto’s journey in 2015, followed by the ending to Tite Kubo’s BLEACH, titles that have played a major influence in anime culture. This was on the cusp of the emergence of several new major titles set to fill that void: Black Clover and My Hero Academia, long-running Shonen anime that have gained much traction and acclaim in an age where many of the shows we grew up hearing about and watching have now developed interesting spin-offs and adaptations.
Burn the Witch is one such spin-off which signifies the revival of another anime franchise: BLEACH. Following the announcement of the BLEACH 20th-anniversary project, which begins with the anime adaptation of the July 2018 one-shot, Burn the Witch is the first step in the revival, which concludes with the release of the adaptation of the BLEACH manga’s conclusive “Thousand Year Blood War” Arc. All that said, just how is Burn the Witch connected to Tite Kubo’s Shonen classic?
SNIPE: Because one-shot isn’t enough
Tite Kubo is an artist who takes inspiration from various places; however, like most artists, the mangaka is not one to let an idea die, at least not without giving it a second chance. Very few people know this, but BLEACH was originally a concept known as SNIPE, aptly named because the characters in that work were meant to be armed with guns, while Kuchiki Rukia, the main character who eventually became the Zanpakuto-toting Shinigami, was intended to be the only character armed with a bladed weapon – a Grim Reaper’s scythe.
The characters in Burn the Witch have “witch kits”, which are gun-like, pipe-like apparatuses that Noel and Ninny possess. These weapons are capable of firing beam-like projectiles, among other nifty, magical things. It’s hard to separate the BLEACH concept that never was from Burn the Witch because we have seen Kubo recycle something else: the character design of Grimmjow Jaegerjacques, which is quite possibly based on the character Akutabi Gamma from his debut serialisation, Zombiepowder.
“Soul Society West Branch”
One of the most striking clues hinting at the link between Burn the Witch and BLEACH is the fact that it reveals that the activities of Ninny and Noel as witch agents of Wing Bind are subordinate to the West Branch of Soul Society, the age-old organisation of Shinigami from the flagship series, BLEACH.
In previous years, Kubo has been quoted to have had expansive plans for the BLEACHverse, more specifically with regards to introducing more races to the mix and drawing upon French to inspire his creation of another faction in the universe. With the inclusion of a West Branch to the Soul Society, Kubo inches closer to the expansion he desired in BLEACH, while also incorporating German in his worldbuilding for Burn the Witch in a similar fashion to BLEACH with the development regarding the greatest dragons in the series – the fairy tales, otherwise known in the series as Marchen. Perhaps Burn the Witch offers Kubo a new arena in which to continue the BLEACH story and expand the lore of the overall BLEACHverse.
The most obvious link between BLEACH and Burn the Witch can be seen in the obvious title screen shown at the end of Episode 3, in which the Burn the Witch logo had been stylised in white before the letters “B”, part of the stylised “T” which produces an “L”, the “E”, part of the “W” which produces an “A” and the “CH” at the end. The red parts spell out “BLEACH”, an obvious nod to Burn the Witch’s ties to Kubo’s most famous work, but also to the one-shot released in 2018, in which Kubo had placed a similar easter egg at the very end to hint towards this project’s clear BLEACH foundations.
Naruto has seen continuation through Boruto, the Dragon Ball series saw a revival of both manga and anime, Sailor Moon saw a brief reboot with Sailor Moon: Crystal, Devilman: Crybaby happened in 2018, Ashita no Joe was celebrated with a futuristic spiritual successor in Megalo Box and more recently, Inuyasha has seen continuation through Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, and even Shaman King has been announced for a return! We’re living in a time where long-dead series are being revived in an age that they helped define, and the BLEACH spin-off, Burn the Witch, is an exciting addition to that list! What is your favourite spin-off or reboot of an older series? Drop a comment below and tell us what you think!