In the magical “Reverse” London, England, dragons need to be controlled to keep the population safe. Noel and Ninny work as “pipers” by spotting dragons that need to be contained and keeping casualties to a minimum. Their job becomes harder when a special boy with an ability to attract dragons gets assigned to their unit and someone from Ninny’s life in “Front” London suddenly shows up. Burn the Witch is a three episode short that takes place in the same world as the popular anime Bleach.
Noel Niihashi apparently co-wrote the song “Bitch Better Have My Money.” She is standoffish, powerful, and easily my favorite character in the show. She is a witch who works as a very successful piper. Despite her “not my job” attitude sometimes, Noel is absolutely a “show, not tell” character, as her actions transcend what she says. The one complaint that I have about how Noel was written is the last scene of the show. It makes no sense for her character and felt very unneeded. I won’t say what happens because it is a minor spoiler, but I was less than happy.
Ninny Spangcole is Noel’s piper partner and the Hannah Montana of “Reverse” London. She hustles as a piper by day and casually spends her off time as a pop star. You know, like you do. While Noel is a piper for the money, Ninny works for the prestige. There is some sort of point system awarded to pipers based on how they do taking down low-level dragons and alerting the heavy duty soldiers (Sabres) to higher level ones. Ninny, loaded off her work as a pop star, really doesn’t care about the money, but dreams of being a Sabre.
Balgo Parks is an idiot. He is pretty much useless across the scope of the show outside of one scene where he is crazy powerful for no reason whatsoever. I really don’t care for the trope of “idiot guy is perverted but no one cares” and Balgo falls heavily into that category. He was a normal person until it was discovered he was a “Dragonclad,” which basically means he attracts dragons and makes life worse for other people in exchange for no apparent gain.
Noel, Ninny, and Balgo got almost all the attention in the show. There were some obvious cameos that people who liked Bleach would understand but I lacked any connection to them. Balgo tanked the score a bit but development lacked overall.
I imagine how I feel about Burn the Witch is much like how my parents feel about me — disappointed about squandered potential. It’s not like my parents don’t enjoy my company or want the best for me, but there is that unspoken agreement that more could have been done to improve what is going on. Sorry, mom. Carrying on, I really enjoyed watching Burn the Witch, but it felt rushed and I was left cheated out of what could have been a solid six-to-ten-episode show. All the tingly goodness that I got while being engrossed in the show was washed away by the bitter taste of the ending credits. Yeah, yeah, good problems right? No. There are two ways to want more of something. You want more of your favorite food because it tastes good and you like it. You want more of Burn the Witch because you didn’t get enough and you are still hungry. This is a mortal sin to commit against viewers and shall not be done to them.
Maybe this came from the fact that I watched the show later at night and forgot to pull out my review glasses, but I didn’t think there were too many interesting ideas. The ideas that I did find myself twisting my imaginary mustache over all had to do with the magic of the world.
I really liked “Reverse” London and how people go there through portals. It reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, actually. Ninny going into the alleyway and opening the portal was like watching Harry and Hagrid walk into Diagon Alley or onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Almost nothing else resembles the Harry Potter world, but how people got there felt like I was back on my childhood bed having Harry Potter read to me by my dad.
Magic is fired out of guns in Burn the Witch. This is almost interesting because normally magic comes out of someone’s hand or a wand. You know, typical magic shit. But if you’re trying to be creative, why can’t magic come out of special toads or something? Imagine having a battle toad you cast magic through. What if people could only learn ten spells, one for each finger? It’s cool to see something diverge from the norm, but a gun is something that isn’t exactly as original as I would hope.
The last idea — which I don’t have many points to make on — was the idea that if a dragon touches you, you die from sickness. This was super bizarre to me because when you think of death by dragon, you generally think of getting eaten, fried like a chicken wing, or diced like an onion. It never occurred to me that dragons would be like poison dart frogs and kill just via touch.
Overall, some really small-scale interesting ideas, but largely, the show was too short to deliver on anything thought provoking.
Burn the Witch spends no time waiting for the viewer to catch up. You scheduled a four o’clock meeting and there was no way the studio was going to miss happy hour at five. The gas pedal is pushed from the moment that Ninny has to escape paparazzi to get to Reverse London to Ninny and Noel fighting a hired assassin. That said, we ran a couple yellow lights and accidentally ended up in a drag race instead of the fully fleshed-out marathon it should be. Before, I have been a huge fan of short-form anime and I still stick by what I said. I like that Burn the Witch *tried* to do so much. It tried to tell an interesting story. But the sad reality is that it felt rushed. The story had so much more potential even if they coupled the amount of episodes.
I was completely blown away by the art in Burn the Witch. There was such a drastic switch between the dark and gloomy Front London and the bright and colorful Reverse London. The action scenes were impressive. The character designs were memorable and aesthetically pleasing. Certain characters had themes that really accented who they were as a person and reinforced who they were without shoving it down your throat. One thing that particularly stood out to me was the scenery. It seemed clear that the animators knew how to set an emotional scene with the literal scene. The use of CGI was great and never took away from the picture. I was so impressed that I looked up the studio and found that two of their other works, A Whisker Away and Penguin Highway, are already on my watchlist. I would recommend that you watch this anime solely for the animation, if no other reason.
As is the theme of the review, the world suffers from a sheer lack of time to develop it. That said, I was very interested in the world. I am sure that Burn the Witch relies on the world that Bleach created, but I felt as if I had a strong enough understanding of the world to enjoy the story without having watched Bleach. There are implications of different factions in the agency that takes care of dragons disliking others, there are rogue agents, there is political drama, and of course, our ambitious main characters are trapped in circumstances over their head. There was one character who was quite the bum that showed extraordinary power at the end of that show that made me think, “Hm… this would probably make sense if I watched Bleach.” But I didn’t, so here we are, confused but happy.
Another odd thing I noticed in the show was a natural transition from day to dusk to dawn. “Yes, Marshal. The sun rises and sets, even in anime.” Yes, I know this, but Burn The Witch does it in a way that makes so much sense and feels continuous. If even natural details like this are noticeable, it adds to the vividness of the world. It makes everything feel natural, as if the world is ready to be stepped into, so bonus points there.
Normally, I compliment music that is subtle and different. But Burn the Witch suffers from not highlighting its music and sounds enough. They have amazing sounds and music that really don’t come to the forefront unless you crank the volume with headphones on. The sound work was so specific as to even get the mental scaffolding sound correct. Beyond the sound design, the music is incredible too. They seem to draw music from all over the place. There were times that the music felt tribal. There were times where the music felt like a concert orchestra. The bells alone had such a eerie and mysterious quality that I had to listen to them a couple times before I could even understand what instrument they were using to make the sound. Yet, seconds after hearing any of these, electric basses could start strumming before the music stops all together. I got the impression that the music director, Keiji Inai, had a lot of fun on this project. It is because of this that I wonder why the music is so quiet, takes such a backseat to the mediocre dialog, and lacks the “omph” that would really elevate the animation. The third episode really feels like the Inai is showing off, but it feels like someone wasn’t comfortable letting the music drive the show where it needed to.
|Category||Pointed Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||3||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||4||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||2||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
It is not lost on me that Burn the Witch might actually be lost on me. For what feels like a Christmas special of a show that ended years ago, the story is really good. It seems clear that character cameos were fun for Bleach fans, but the show stands alone alright. Overall, too short for the story it tried to tell, but visually impressive. I saw rumors a second “season” might be made, but I am not holding my breath. Nor would I want to watch it if the pacing is similar to the first “season.”