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Wow. So, uh...wow. It's really been over 4 whole years since my last chapter blog. So much has changed since that fateful day in 2016 - the wiki saw a drastic decrease in activity and users that's only recently started to shift back, America had its highest political office occupied by the Rengi version of the Antichrist, then 2020 came along to show us what would really happen if someone killed the Soul King IRL...but you know what didn't change? Kubo's magnificent art style, sense of humor, and adeptness for fight scenes! And god bless him for that.
Now, you may realize that I didn't write up a blog review for the BURN THE WITCH one-shot a couple years back, and that was for a few reasons: barely anyone would've read it, I didn't know it would grow to become a serialization and movie later, and the job I held at the time sucked all the joy and personality out of me and my life, so anything non-professional and summary-based that I wrote would've been pretty bland and boring. But to summarize my thoughts on it, the one-shot was a refreshing change of pace from what Bleach had become by the end of the series, where we got to explore a whole new setting that still tied into that of the main series and new characters not trying to stop the end of the world or survive a fight with some nigh-omnipotent demigod man, but instead do their jobs and tend to Dragons, which ended up proving just how creative Kubo's designs could be with only one of them resembling a traditional Western dragon in the slightest. However, this NEW chapter, the first of four, took all that and ran with it to excite me even more, so let's get into it.
So we pick up with what amounts to the Ninny version of Noel's opening monologue/walking scene from the one-shot - rather than lasting for 2 panels like Noel's bit about uniforms, Ninny's relatable mental rant about how much fairy tales suck runs for the entirety of this first section, acting as a contrast against her being confronted in the streets by fans/paparazzi asking about, of course, her music career and the drama within. Personally I've always hated these kinds of people, so Ninny blinding them with magic and exiting stage left was surprisingly cathartic for such a short setup. And man, what a way to end her monologue. You go, girl.
Up next, we cut down to Reverse London, where Noel is chasing a whole new breed of Dragon - Bud Buck, probably one of the most straightforwardly-named of the lot because it looks like a male deer and FLOWERS grow on its antlers when it uses magic. Of course, this ends up attracting a much bigger, wombat-shaped Dragon, so Noel pulls the first legit surprise of the serialization and reveals Kidō: Electric Boogaloo in the form of Spells (and of course she starts with #31. after the anime let everyone and their mother use Shakkahō). This succeeds in scaring off the bigger Dragon, but the gale generated by its wings blows Noel and the Bud Buck away, so Ninny swooces in and saves them with a higher-ranked spell that saves instead of harming. Curious to see these not be separated into offensive and defense categories like Kidō, but it's fine, it works and I'm just happy to see more techniques.
From there, the two girls go back to headquarters, now with the West Branch sign out front PROPERLY restored, and bicker about Noel trying this oh-so-dangerous assignment alone - Ninny points out that it was a job for two
players people, but Noel just says that this means more money for her if she did it alone. Turns out, the Witches get graded on their assignments with money and "achievement points"; Noel's in it for the former, and Ninny the latter, which honestly makes more sense for these two than a love of the job. Of course, before they can do anything with their rewards, an EXPLOSION goes off in the distance, and its source is none other than our favorite Pomeranian, Osushi, flying through the air as Balgo hangs on for dear life.
Hilariously, Noel and Ninny could not give less of a crap about helping Balgo, so with some rationalization they move to just get drinks instead - then our boy Billy pops up and insists that they go after him. Even MORE hilariously, it seems that his promotion at the end of the one-shot didn't stick BECAUSE...he's lazy. I swear he's the Urahara of this story without the 300 IQ aspect. But it also turns out that he made sure Noel and Ninny would get that sweet, sweet overtime pay if they looked after Balgo on top of their normal jobs, and in the single most relatable manga moment of 2020, that's enough to motivate them to get up and go. Of course, because they're veterans at this and it's basically an out-of-control poodle, the two girls settle the incident quickly and non-violently enough (including a nice part where Noel gives Osushi scritches to calm him down).
Here, we also get some elaboration on that bit about ordinary people who come into contact with Dragons facing possible prison time: when Noel sees that some poor sap who had his building trashed by Osushi was nearby during the rampage, she makes him...lick her phone (definitely not what I was expecting) to essentially perform a breathalyzer for "dragotoxins" - his levels are normal, so he's fine. However, when Balgo claims that Osushi went nuts without him doing anything this time, Noel's immediately alerted and brings up all the things that set Osushi off...ending with danger coming. Cue a big ol' Dragon rearing up behind Balgo, and when Noel seemingly stuns it, its face slides off to reveal another Dark Dragon that wastes no time in leveling some buildings, which forces the Witches to cordon off the area and prepare for a fight.
But then, in something I really wasn't expecting, we end the chapter on a meeting of the "high council" of Wing Bind and, by extension, Reverse London, essentially the same as the captains of the Gotei 13 - and boy howdy, these are some designs and names we've got here. To run down the list:
- Bruno Bangnyfe is a truly badass name, and he reminds me a bit of my boy Bazz-B.
- Roy B. Dipper looks like a cross between the Demoman and the Spy from TF2. Big chinned lad.
- Cquntnire Milieve...boy do I hope that first name isn't pronounced the way I think it is, because otherwise you're on real thin ice there, Kubo.
- Tronbone Takkinen is a precious cinnamon roll, just look at him.
- Sullivan Squire is making me feel some kind of way, and she hasn't even said anything yet! Kubo's waifu design strikes again.
- Saka Rynn...well, I'll have something to say when she's actually in a chapter.
- Harry Shayk has got LOADSAMONEY
and a borderline Urahara hairstyle.
- Wolfgang Slashhaut probably doesn't have a real last name, but that first name is both real and AMAZING. For our Yamamoto parallel, he's already working wonders.
And of course, the big reveal here is that they're gonna go kill Balgo - not for being a perv or anything, but because he's attracting Dark Dragons to Reverse London without even knowing it. Poor guy. I'm sure nothing will go awry here.
Alright, so that's it for the first of the four Return of the Kubo chapters, I can't wait to see what the rest do with this story.