Chapter four of “Burn the Witch,” a spin-off of the ever popular “Bleach,” has released within this week’s issue of “Weekly Shonen Jump.” This chapter is the final installment of the four part mini-series.
As a whole “Burn the Witch” fails as a short story entirely due to chapter four’s failure to fulfill a single promise that was made in the first chapter.
Chapter four leaves the entire series crying for a sequel it so desperately needs to conclude itself. As it stands, its worthless to read as a standalone story.
Rather than have story threads lead toward a single point of impact, Kubo instead introduces new concepts at the climax that had no build up or foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing isn’t always necessary, but the craft of short stories necessitates tight writing that creates a single metaphor, presents a single meaning or teaches a single lesson.
By ignoring the craft of the short story, Kubo inadvertently comes off as a novice writer.
It has become clear that Kubo’s goal was not to tell a short story within the four part series, but instead to tell a larger narrative that would be continued in later installments.
Though this is a fine goal to have, the issue remains that this four part series - supposedly a complete serialized run - isn’t written in a way that can hold up to strong criticisms.
First and foremost, the character of Balgo is nearly a McGuffin in the form of a human. His entire purpose is nothing but a plot trigger and, by the end of chapter four, he continues to do nothing but take up page space and waste the reader’s time. He’s about as interesting as watching paint dry.
The conclusion of chapter four doesn’t do much to rectify that either. Technically, his character gets rewarded at the end for every annoying personality trait he has, and the final scene between he and Noel feels undeserved.
In fact, even though Macy comes out of nowhere earlier in the series, she as a character and a plot angle works far better than Balgo, and she’s far more involved, too.
The only reason Balgo can’t be removed is because he triggers the antagonists’ actions, but for reasons we don’t even learn. So the conflict of the story is never resolved.
Even the story’s climax doesn’t resolve itself in a logical way. Sure, there were some hints in the previous chapter that the old guy had some sort of secret, but using him to resolve the conflict not only comes out of left field, but makes the entire climactic struggle a waste of time. He could have intervened at the beginning and the outcome would have been the same thematically.
Admittedly, the new concepts injected into the world of “Burn the Witch” this chapter are cool. They help with world building and set up a long term storyline, but that again feeds into the problem.
Too much time was spent on exploring the world, testing whether people actually enjoyed the concepts put forth by it, that a cohesive story isn’t present.
When continuations of “Burn the Witch” eventually come, things may be different. This mini-run was cool conceptually, putting forth an interesting world to explore. It’s a solid urban fantasy that a continuation can improve drastically. As it stands, however, the story concluded by chapter four is a waste of the reader’s time.