I had no idea what to call this as it was an OVA film that was split into three episodes for the region I’m in, so do I call it “OVA 1”? “Series 1”? “The Complete First Season”? *shrugs* I’ll just call it “Burn The Witch” and worry about it whenever the next one comes out… So, Burn The Witch is a spin-off from Bleach (which coincidentally I’ll be covering a bit more in the coming weeks) focusing on what is eventually revealed as the “Western Branch” of Soul Society who deal with Dragons rather than Hollows. What’s it like? Let’s find out!
Noel Niihashi and Ninny Spangcole are two Witches who work for “Wing Bind”, an organisation that hunts and destroys Dragons in a parallel version of London called “Reverse London”…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Our lead trio, a dog dragon and a random civilian in the doorway.
The story is very “Tite Kubo” in its structure. We have supernatural characters interacting with the regular world while doing their job involving terminating deadly creatures, all while being surrounded by an organisation filled with interesting characters in a tiered hierarchy. Admittedly in this case all the lead characters are from the other dimension, so rather than us seeing the new world through the eyes of someone who wasn’t aware of it, we’re instead introduced to the world purely by watching Noel Niihashi and Ninny Spangcole tackle a Dragon as it arrives in Reverse London while they’re babysitting pervert Balgo Parks.
They defeat the Dragon, showing off their equipment that includes a horn that doubles as a gun, some magic “do not cross, Dragon attack” tape and some magic spells that are used via similar incantations as the Kido spells from Bleach, our first little glimpse as to how the two share the same universe. Noel is the quiet, all-business one and Ninny is the bratty, shouty one, so they play off of each other well, and Balgo (who we find out they’re tasked with protecting) is your naïve goof. He’s also a “Dragonclad”, which is a person who naturally attracts Dragons and so is normally exiled from Reverse London, or straight up executed. Why he’s allowed to roam the city isn’t made clear, but after the Dragon attack at the start of the series/film the higher ups of “Wing Bind” decide to not only reverse their decision to let him live in Reverse London, but put a bounty on his head…
Not your regular Dragon this one! Although if dinosaurs are now said to have had feathers, then….?
Also introduced during this time is Macy Baljure, who not only appears in a real world band with Ninny, but is also in love with her. She comes across a tiny Dragon that only she can see and bonds with it at a time she feels most betrayed by the media for framing her “love” as not caring for her. This is where everything comes together as high-ranking member of Wing Bind (and leader of the “Inks Division”) Bruno Bangnyfe manipulates Macy into luring Noel, Ninny and Balgo out so he can collect the reward for Balgo’s head. The quartet face off with Bruno, who reveals a large Dragon he can apparently control but before the battle begins Macy’s Dragon transforms in the moonlight and reveals itself as Cinderella, one of the “seven Märchens”, legendarily powerful Dragons named after fairy tales.
Everyone unites to try and take it down before it levels Reverse London, but all the spells and stereotypically “cool” face masks don’t get the job done (plus Balgo reveals a sword from what was supposed to be a fake horn/gun… but doesn’t use it). Instead Noel and Ninny’s comedy lazy boss Billy Banx Jr. takes it down with a single finger blast from afar without anyone noticing, well until a cliffhanger at the end (where a high-ranking member of Wing Bind recognises his handy work and makes a remark about him being the “son of a hero”) Balgo is allowed to stay under the protection of Noel and Ninny again (for some reason), and Macy becomes a member of their little group. Right before the end credits we see the reveal that Reverse London is actually the “Soul Society West Branch”, which is fun, but unless the series REALLY picks up momentum I doubt much of a cross-over will come from it…
Which is worse, “Grimmjow” or “Bangknyfe”? I think Grimmjow because it’s followed by the second name of “Jaegerjaquez”….
I think the only real bad is how it feels like a pilot for a series rather than a standalone thing. Too many things are teased for it to feel like a standalone OVA/film/series, but it’s unlikely to be a big long-running thing if Kubo just creates “seasons” of a couple of chapters a year…
The only other thing is something I also poke fun at Akira Toriyama for doing, so it’s only fair I do the same for Mr. Kubo, and that’s repeated designs. Noel has a touch of Rukia about her, while Ninny has a lot of Hiyori about her (particularly personality) but the only serious offender is Bruno Bangknyfe, who looks, acts and sounds a lot like Grimmjow (who himself was based on a character from Zombie Powder, Kubo’s earliest work). It’s not the end of the world by any means, in fact it’s quite comforting after this long Tite Kubo animation dry spell, but I still feel the need to say it…
The two expressions of how to deal with a crisis: mild amusement and sheer panic.
Burn The Witch is a fun enough film/OVA/Series. At just over an hour it doesn’t have time to slow down or get boring, and while the information dumps and future teasing does drag it down a bit, it’s still overall worth your time to watch.