Guest Post by Louis Toms (the owner of Carolina Comic Geek, a Pinterest board which catalogs birthdays of anime, cartoon, comic, and manga characters).
Burn the Witch marks the long-awaited return of famed Japanese manga writer and illustrator, Tite Kubo.
Published by Weekly Shōnen Jump in July 2018, this one-shot manga transports the fandom to the fantasy realm of Bleach. The success of Burn the Witch necessitated Shōnen Jump to publish a follow-up manga with an additional four-chapters in August and September 2020. Prior to the release of the mini-manga series, Studio Colorido announced that they would produce a film under the direction of Tatsuro Kawano.
On October 2, 2020, the anime film Burn the Witch entered theaters and world release shortly thereafter. Having read the manga, Studio Colorido’s revelation had me stoked for the fall 2020 anime season.
Was it worth the wait? Well, let us dive in and see!
Dragons are mythological creatures or are they?
Burn the Witch provides a fantasy world where dragons exist in the modern world but go largely unseen by the public. Unlike Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi’s Haku, most of our story’s dragons pose a threat to modern humanity. More poignantly, the lives of Londoners. Encounters with these magical beasts account for 72% of all London fatalities. It is up to the Reverse London Natural Dragon Management Agency to commission witches to manage and dispatch dragons before the English townsfolk become part of the grisly statistic.
Burn the Witch follows the interactions of its two female protagonists.
Ninny Spangcole, voiced by Asami Tano, is the lead singer of the all-female band Cecile Die Twice. Her coworker is Noel Niihashi, voiced by Yuina Yamada, who is a second-year student from South Braxton High. They lead a double life as witches in the Piper’s division of the Natural Dragon Management Agency, also known as Wing Bind.
The Piper’s division serves as kind of a wildlife enforcement agency responsible for conserving dragons and apprehending those illegally acquired. The two are highly qualified Pipers but Ninny desires a promotion to the Sabers – the division responsible for protecting London citizens. Her ambition to be a Saber sometimes forces Ninny to actively put herself in risky situations as a means of providing she is worthy of a promotion. One would expect that the character’s personalities and motivational drives would create conflict between the pair. Instead, we get kuudere and hinedere leads who are able to complement the others capabilities in order to protect the world from the dragon menace.
This is one of those stories driven solely by the actions of the secondary characters. In total, there were probably six or seven side characters but I only want to focus on three of them.
Our first character and the one featured prominently throughout the series is dragonclad by the name of Blago Parks, voiced by Shinba Tsuchiya. Dragonclads are regular humans infected with a disease caused from prolonged exposure to dragons. Blago serves as the series comic relief and narrative catalyst.
Which brings us to Bruno Bangnyfe. Director of the Inks, the Wing Bind sanctions Bruno to eliminate Blago for actions involving a dragon. Chikahiro Kobayashi provides the voice for Bruno’s character.
Our trio concludes with a friend and former member of the all-female band Cecile Die Twice, Macy Baljure. Voiced by Saori Hayami, Macy searches for her sense of self and finds it in the form of a baby dragon. Being a human, there could be dire consequences in her actions for both Londoners and the magical community.
I think there are two distinct standouts in this anime series.
First, Burn the Witch is faithful to the four-chapter manga. Because they pair up so nicely, I feel that the anime drove the manga. This is something Marvel has done with their comic Prelude series. Marvel releases a comic exploring the series just prior to their movie hitting the big screen. Regardless of how the manga came to be, the anime is a loyal representation of its source material.
The second pro to this anime is its characters. Given that Burn the Witch is a fantasy shōnen, Tite Kubo or Tatsuro Kawano could have created characters over the top personalities we recognize in fighting anime. This was not the case with Burn the Witch but instead, we get individuals one might encounter in the real world… if our world was an anime series.
Burn the Witch is by no means a perfect anime but I can easily overlook those shortcomings, as the story is short and entertaining. However, the consistent application of its world physics definitely was a glaring issue. Burn the Witch clearly defines that London exists on two plains – Front and Reverse.
With Front London, we have normal humans who are unaware of dragons and the magical community. On the flip side, Reverse London is the fantastical realm where people know about dragons and witches. The movie blurred the lines between the worlds so frequently it was difficult to track where events were taking place and who was able to see dragons. Burn the Witch tries to imitate Bleach’s two-world concept and fails miserably.
Burn the Witch is a nice, compact anime for fans of fantasy shōnen.
The characters were well developed and generally relatable. As this anime was a movie, the serialized show does not suffer from pains of filler episodes or slow pacing. Instead, viewers get a focused narrative leading to a climactic ending. Anime fans of series like Gate and to a lesser extent Bleach may also appreciate the blending of a fantasy world set among the modern era.
At its core, this is a wildlife enforcement anime whereby witches protect and control the population of dragons. The only thing I think keeps Burn the Witch from being a necessary must watch anime is that the movie defies its own world-building logic.