Manga Review: Burn The Witch Volume One

Burn The Witch Volume One is set in the Bleach universe, although this series is set in England instead of Japan.

Burn The Witch Volume One
Written by: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: October 5, 2021

The series focuses on two witches named Noel Niihashi and Ninny Spangcole, who work for the western branch of Soul Society. This branch is located in Reverse London. Noel and Ninny have lives in regular London (aka Front London): Noel is a high school student and Ninny is in a band. As characters, they are as different as night and day. Noel tends to act calmly while Ninny is the loud one. As witches, it’s their job to conserve and control the “dragon” population. In this series, “dragon” is a term used for any aberration the citizens of Front London can’t control.

Noel has an admirer, a classmate named Balgo. In the first chapter of the volume, Noel and Ninny have to save Balgo after his dog turns into a “dragon.” It also turns out his best friend turns into a “dragon” as well. These dragons are “disguisers,” which are dragons that inhabit corpses. In this world, if someone from Front London interacts with a dragon, the penalty is either a hundred year prison term or execution. However, what saves Balgo is the fact that since he was bitten by one of the disguisers, he is now dragonclad. But it’s now up to Noel and Ninny to take care of and keep an eye on Balgo. What a scenario for Noel, though… having to be in charge of the guy who’s been crushing on you. As this volume progresses, it becomes clear that Balgo is one of the major characters in the series.

The next story in the volume sees Noel and Nina trying to protect Balgo from a dragon that was attracted to the dragonclad youth through his innate character. But as Balgo is being saved by our two protagonists, a group of magic users from Reverse London gathers and decides to eliminate Balgo because he’s been causing a bit of an uproar since becoming dragonclad. This is the point in this volume where it truly feels like the stakes have been raised.

The third story focuses on Macy Baljure, a former member of Ninny’s band. Ninny finds herself coming face to face with her former bandmate and discovering that she has been in contact with a dragon. This comes to light when Noel, Ninny, and Balgo are sent to investigate a report of an illegally reared dragon. Ninny’s not too happy to be joined by Balgo, but his disposition for drawing out dragons makes him useful for the mission. Ninny is surprised to find Macy in Reverse London, and it turns out her former bandmate there to carry out a plan of revenge against a tabloid that’s been publishing negative stories about Ninny. This chapter really gives Ninny a chance to shine.

In addition to Ninny’s story, this chapter also introduces another character: Bruno Bangnyfe. He’s the one who has been tasked with eliminating Balgo. It turns out that Balgo is being framed for the attack on the newspaper office, and Bruno is using this as the justification for taking Balgo into custody. Fortunately for Balgo, Noel rescues him in the nick of time. Ninny also gets Macy out of the area as well. This section allows us to learn a little more about Macy, her relationship with her dragon, and the type of person she is.

Near the end of the volume, Balgo officially becomes a punitive dragon, which means that every witch and wizard in Reverse London will have their sights set on him. But it comes out that the dragon Macy has been taking care of isn’t just a regular dragon… it’s a marchen, one of the seven dragons named for fairy tales that existed before the formation of Reverse London. But with the revelation of what Macy’s dragon really is (the marchen named Cinderella), Bruno stops going after Balgo and goes after the dragon instead. There’s a climactic battle between Cinderella and several of the main characters.

Well, it turns out that Macy also has a slight case of dragonclad, so at the end of this volume she is now also under the watch and care of Noel and Ninny. If this story continues, I hope Noel and Ninny don’t end up being in charge of a collection of people who are dragonclad. I don’t want to give out any potential spoilers, so all I will say that in addition to this, the manga ends with a surprising outcome for Balgo.

I was familiar with Tite Kubo’s work from reading the Bleach manga. I was curious to see what else Kubo had to offer. Admittedly, this series is set in the same universe as Bleach, but the concepts between the two series are quite distinct due to the cultural differences of a story set in Japan and a story set in England. It would be nice at some point, though, if Kubo could come up with a story set in its own universe and not have any connection with Bleach whatsoever. If you’re familiar with Kubo’s work, then you will instantly recognize his art style.

After reading this volume, I can say that Burn the Witch isn’t bad for what it is. However, it felt like it took longer for this series to interest the reader than Bleach did. While this volume does establish our two main characters, I’m just not as riveted by them at this point in the series as I was with Ichigo in Bleach.

This volume is labeled as “Volume One,” and at this point, this is all that’s available for the manga. By the end of the volume, enough has been established, set up, and put into motion that it seems like there should be more to the story. I’ve read that Kubo is planning to work on and release a “second season” for the Burn the Witch manga. I hope that at some point, Kubo will continue the story, because there’s still too many loose ends hanging at the end of this volume. I’d like to read more and find out what happens to these characters… but as of this writing, Kubo has not published any new chapters for Burn the Witch.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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