Story/Art: Tite Kubo
What They Say:
Noel Niihashi and Nini Spangle work as witches for Wing Bird, a group dedicated to protecting the population of London from dragons and keeping their existence secret from the normal population. From their base in Reverse London, the two are dispatched on various missions to both take care of docile dragons and fight hostile dragons throughout the city.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Even though its popularity fell off toward the end, it’s still impossible to describe how huge Bleach was in its heyday. After all, it was regularly mentioned in the same breath as giants like Naruto and One Piece, and drew in legions of fans around the world. As Tite Kubo’s first work since Bleach ended, Burn the Witch has a lot of expectations going in. The end result, while lacking the same spark as Bleach’s beginning, is still enjoyable enough and has plenty of potential for growth now that it’s getting a full serialization.
I’ll start off with Burn the Witch’s biggest asset: the artwork. Kubo is an excellent artist with years of experience behind him, so it’s no wonder that Burn the Witch immediately stands out. Kubo’s artwork has always had a striking feel to it, whether it’s the impact panels in his action scenes or his distinctive character designs. Characters are immediately memorable even when their designs are relatively simple and you can tell that Kubo has a lot of fun designing fashionable outfits for them. The real standout, though, are the dragons’ designs. You see, the word “dragon” is actually used to refer to supernatural creatures in general, so their appearances vary wildly. Some look like mutated versions of real animals, while others are so massive and bizarre that they’re almost indescribable. Kubo was definitely having fun coming up with their designs, and it shows in the end product. The one criticism I have is that action scenes can sometimes be hard to follow because of the tight panels. Still, that doesn’t detract too much from the overall product, which is exactly what you’d expect from a veteran like Kubo.
Story-wise, Burn the Witch doesn’t give a whole lot to talk about. We’re introduced to Noel and Nini and their quirks (Noel’s a Japanophile and Nini’s cocky and ambitious), but we don’t get to learn much about who they are or what their backgrounds are. We get even less from Bargo, our male lead, whose personality is at least 50% “wants to see Noel’s underwear.” Jokes where the punchline is “this character is a pervert” aren’t that funny on their own, particularly when they’re repeated so often. Bargo somewhat redeems himself near the end, but honestly comes off as more creepy than endearing for most of the chapter. Thankfully, Burn the Witch seems more interested in setting up it’s world than anything else. The idea of a Reverse London hidden from the real one has a lot of potential later on, as do all of the tidbits he drops about dragons, like how they turn hostile if they’re around humans for too long. Aside from one surprisingly intense fight near the end, there isn’t too much payoff for these threads in the chapter alone, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Kubo does now that it’s getting serialized.
Frankly, the fact that it’s getting a serialization does a lot to redeem Burn the Witch. Without that, there isn’t really much substance to it, and it spends a little too much time on setup to really work as a standalone story. There are enough ideas here that the chapter feels a little unfocused, like we’re scratching the surface of a lot without getting much detail. Viewed as a one-shot, that’s an issue, but works well enough now since the manga’s getting a longer serialization. Hopefully, more time will give the story room to explore its world in more depth and add a bit to the bare-bones plot we’ve got here.
Though it struggles to tell a focused story, Burn the Witch has a lot going for it as an introduction to a larger story. With great art and a creative take on dragons, Burn the Witch has the potential to be a fun action manga, even if it’s no Bleach 2.0. Its lack of depth or focus stops it from holding together on its own, but the fact that it’s getting a proper serialization means it has a lot of potential to grow. The one thing that I hope changes for the full version is Bargo’s underwear obsession, which is both unfunny and creepy. But that’s the sort of issue that can be ironed out later on, and it helps that Bargo plays a decidedly supporting role to Noel and Nini. So if you’re looking for a new shonen to check out, Burn the Witch is worth a look! Just don’t expect it to be exactly like Bleach.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: A-
Translation Grade: A-