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As a franchise, Burn The Witch exists in a strange sort of limbo. It began as a standalone one-shot by Tite Kubo back in 2018, at the time his first major work since the conclusion of Bleach. Then, in 2020, it was announced that the one-shot would be expanded into a limited series and said series was being simultaneously adapted into a film by Studio Colorido. Both versions of that story ended with the promise of more, but since then, there have been no new additions, presumably because Kubo is occupied with advising the currently ongoing Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War anime. So, in lieu of anything new to adapt, we’ve stepped back in time to cover the original one-shot, and the result is about what you would expect from that somewhat backward trajectory.

In Western TV, it’s not uncommon to have a pilot episode to pitch to potential producers, which eventually gets heavily reworked and changed before going to a whole series. Watching #0.8 is a lot like watching one of those in that it feels like it’s treading much of the same ground as the film it’s acting as a prequel to. There’s minimal story to speak of, because this was intended to introduce us to the world and characters more than anything. The only real “new” information for viewers who have watched the movie is finding out how Balgo and Osushi wound up as Noel and Ninny’s wards. Otherwise, if you’ve seen the movie, you already know how Reverse London and all its supernatural elements work and are familiar with the cast’s personalities and dynamics. So this second (technically, first) introduction winds up awkwardly redundant.

That said, some changes do benefit this adaptation over its source. Since we already know the mythology behind dragons and witches, all that exposition has been excised and replaced with some delightful, quieter moments. There’s a decently long new sequence of the girls just traveling through Reverse London, allowing the audience to take in the warm and whimsical visuals of the city and all the weird little creatures inhabiting its nooks and crannies. Similarly, the reveal that Wing Bind is the “western branch” of Soul Society, tying this series into the larger Bleach universe, was already transplanted into the film. That winds up being addition by subtraction, allowing these characters and their daily lives to feel more robust, liberated from emulating its elder-sibling franchise or introducing the extended cast.

That said, while this is a better introduction to the cast, it’s not entirely a good introduction. Ninny and Noel work well enough, bantering with one another as Ninny’s aggression slides off Noel’s stoic demeanor like water off a duck’s back. At their best, the pair carry a casual humor and charm reminiscent of the pre-Soul Society era of Bleach, and that’s absolutely a compliment. The actual weak link is Balgo, who spends the first half of the special shouting about wanting to see Noel’s panties and is generally just loud and annoying by default. There’s an attempt to give him more depth during the pivotal reveal of this special, but it goes by too quickly to land and is too little to counteract his obnoxious personality. It’d be a fine introduction if this were just the Noel and Ninny show, following their adventures as they work their way up the ladder at Wing Bind. With this loud-mouthed hanger-on literally leashed to their side, it becomes a question of how much annoyance you’re willing to tolerate to get to the good stuff.

The good stuff is pretty good. This special preserves the lively direction and vibrant animation of the film. If anything, the artists at Studio Colorido have only become more adept at translating Tite Kubo‘s style and energy into color and motion. Of course, the big action sequences are delivered with dynamism, impact, and impressive effects work. The flying sequences do a fantastic job integrating 2D and 3D animation to emphasize their scope and speed. Even smaller and sillier character moments are animated with the exact kind of cartoony fluidity you’d want. Burn The Witch has a ton of casual charm in its world, what with all those odd and varied dragons running around, and each of them is rendered perfectly here. Even if you don’t end up clicking with the story or characters, the atmosphere and spectacle – combined with the special’s half-hour length – make it worth watching anyway.

However, if you do end up clicking with everything, there’s nothing beyond it on the horizon. Nearly every page and image of Burn The Witch has been adapted to animation now, and it will likely be years before anything new comes of it. So even if you wanted to keep going despite (or, god forbid, because of) Balgo, you’re stuck waiting. As-is, I suggest anyone new start with #0.8. It’s a more compelling introduction to the central cast and conceit, which the film expands upon. Combined, the two projects work out to about a feature-length movie anyway. Just be prepared for a very long wait for more once those 90 minutes are up.

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Burn the Witch #0.8 Anime OAV Review – Review