Chapter 2 of the “Bleach” spin-off series “Burn the Witch” dropped this week, picking up where the story left off in its four week mini-run.
Interestingly, rather than dive directly into the plot that was set up last week, it instead allowed the story focusing on Ninny and Noel to grow organically by tying in aspects of their own lives.
Rather than make the world they exist in feel secluded—a plot only involving the established characters—Kubo made sure to imply to the reader that others in this world live and breathe and have their own agency.
As a reader who appreciates world building, I was drawn into the plot presented in this chapter for that very reason. Not only did we get more information on how dragons affect their society, but we saw more of how Front London and Reverse London interact with one another on a day-to-day basis.
However, putting aside my personal preference, I imagine this chapter could initially be off-putting for many readers who prefer tight writing.
Because the antagonists’ plot to kill Balgo was so heavily pushed at the end of last chapter, to divert from that straight narrative is an odd choice on the surface. This is series only has two more chapters before it’s over with; we don’t have time for unnecessary side stories.
That being said, Tite Kubo isn’t a rookie by any means. He is the world-famous author of “Bleach.” As readers, we should have faith in him that this plot divergence isn’t a mistake but actually all part of his plan to subvert our expectations.
As you begin to read chapter 2, you should take note how heavily the headlines of the media are pressed. Multiple characters are seen talking about the news as it relates to Ninny, and we even see some cryptic glances at how those very headlines are affecting the people involved.
What’s most important is that Ninny offhandedly mentions that what the news is relating to the public isn’t actually the truth; it’s a smear campaign.
With that in mind, considering how this chapter ends and Balgo’s positioning within it, I’m led to the conclusion that everything about this chapter’s conflict is an elaborate setup orchestrated by our antagonists.
By structuring his story in this way, Kubo effectively riddles the second chapter with world building, characterization, and everything in between, while subverting our expectations for how the story is supposed to be developing.
The doubled page count of each “Burn the Witch” chapter, in comparison to a standard weekly manga, allows for Kubo to pull off this complex, layered story structure. However, I could also be wrong, and Kubo could be making a mistake. We’ll just have to wait and see.
That being said, I didn’t enjoy Ninny’s overbearing, obnoxious characterization this week. And Noel’s muted, reserved personality, while foiling well with the loud and abrasive Ninny, makes her a difficult character to dig into. In reality, Ninny is too much, while Noel is nothing.
Balgo isn’t a character that anyone can latch onto either. He’s more furniture than anything else, and as of yet has added nothing of substance to the dialogue.
All the characters I want to learn more about have been segregated off-screen to act in the shadows, or appear only on the final page as a dramatic cliff-hanger.
Either way, I’m looking forward to next week where we might get some cool action sequences, major plot develops as we surge closer to the climax and hopefully some shocking twists to keep me on my toes.