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Review: D. Gray-Man

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People really like the supernatural, well that and mildly convoluted story lines, and man, I guess D. Gray-Man has both? Written and illustrated by Katsura Hoshino, it is her first manga and has been running since 2004 and is currently still ongoing. It began serialization by Shonen Jump, then to Jump Square, and finally to Jump SQ. Crown as of 2015. It doesn’t update very often though, having gone on hiatus twice due to illness, but the story is slowly being told. It also has been given a series of light novels that ran from 2005 to 2010. It is published in America by Viz Media and the anime, which ran from 2006-2008 was licensed by Funimation Entertainment for the States.

The series follows 15-year-old orphan Allen Walker who becomes a member of an organization of exorcists, the Black Order, who use this thing called Innocence to fight Akuma, demons, and the Millennium Earl who makes them. Innocence is a substance that gives Exorcist powers like a sword arm or dark boots that give superhuman abilities. As he joins the order, the Earl starts killing important figures within it starting off a battle that’s been building for generations. With the help of other exorcists Allen has to try and stop the Earl and his family from destroying humanity completely. And in the beginning it’s a monster of the week story line, giving exposition into characters through short arcs, up until the Noah family is introduced, adding a darker layer to the story. One that has the whole world at risk as well as what Allen’s role in all of it means. As well as who Allen really is.

The lead character is Allen Walker, a 15-year-old Innocence user, who was raised by Mana Walker, his adoptive father, who saved him from working in the circus. After Mana died, Allen attempted something awful and was given a Pentacle (An Akuma mark) over his left eye. Because of this he is able to see souls that are trapped within Akuma, often rendering him a bit more sympathetic towards saving people. Because of a traumatic experience Allen’s hair became white, making him our traditional tragic white haired anime boy. He was then trained by a man to become an exorcist before heading off to join the Black Order officially. Allen has a parasitic type of innocence that caused his entire left arm to look sorta… Like a bad burn, red and veiny. But his arm can become a sword and more, called a Cross and later Crown Clowd.

Yu Kanda is Allen’s “rival?” And that’s a question because really Kanda was just super hostile towards the other. He is also just cold and quick to anger. There’s a whole arc covering his backstory, which I won’t spoil. Kanda has a sword for his anti-Akuma weapon, named Mugen, and has several techniques. Overtime he and Allen become friends in their own way. There’s not a lot I can say that won’t ruin the story arc surrounding him.

Lenalee Lee is an exorcist from China who becomes one of Allen’s first friends. She is kind but to a fault, where it seems to cloud her views on certain subjects and people. Often making her unable to see past things at times. Which is important to have in mind when you’re reading, especially the more we learn about her. Her anti-Akuma weapon is her Dark Boots, which gives her super powered legs that help her kill akuma. Her brother is also part of the Black Order, but not as an exorcist. She is sort of the stereotypical girl character at first, but slowly becomes more involved with the world and story unfolding. She still is very… The damsel in distress but not as much as she was before. Lenalee does get stronger, but not without having to do so in a stereotypical female story line.

Lavi is Exorcist but also a Bookman (a person who records hidden histories and has to be trained from a young age to achieve that goal.) Lavi isn’t even his real name, rather an alias that he has to maintain to become a Bookman. He has to throw away who he was to fully dedicate himself to his job. His anti-akuma weapon is a hammer, titled Tettsui, which can grow and extend. He is also one of Allen’s first friends at the Order. He’s pretty chill, though even that could be a facade alongside his name. Not much is known about Lavi and his Bookman senior, but they do help the story with information.

As usual, there’s a whole lot of other characters, who both add new dimensions to Allen’s journey. Though, at this point it seems a bit long winded.

The art for this series is another example of if you draw it long enough soon it will be gorgeous and boy did it get beautiful. It was already pretty good art to begin with, not overtly awkward, but as time went on Hoshino’s ability as an artist grew. The lines got thicker, to accentuate certain aspects, such as the lips being darker in their shading. The eyes she drew also became increasingly beautiful, irises having more detail the closer into the shot we’re given. However, in the anime, which ran during a very specific time in animation, had sort of pretty animation. It wasn’t overly impressive though, instead it was sort of expected for the most part, there were better series but this one did have a style all its own. The anime was directed by Osamu Nabeshima and produced by such groups as Aniplex and TV Tokyo. The second season was not licensed by Funimation, but it is available for streaming. Though art wise, I think the manga is far stronger as it has become increasingly beautiful to look at.

The sound for the anime was composed by Kaoru Wada, known for his work with Inuyasha and Samurai 7. Abingdon Boys School did the first opening theme Innocent Sorrow, which was then replaced by Nami Tamaki’s Brightdown. Honestly the opening and ending themes were not overly impressive, instead they just were a good look into what the series was setting up to be. There’s nothing from the series that really stands out in terms of music. I have not heard the Japanese version of the series, at least not all of it, but Sanae Kobayashi played the lead character, and she is better known for her role as Lucy from Elfen Lied. The dub, which I watched, was at least a step in the right direction in terms of sound. Todd Haberkorn played Allen and he’s known for his work in xxxHolic as Watanuki or Hetalia’s Italy. He gave a great performance and really grew as a voice actor. There’s also Travis Willingham as Kanda, known most for his role in Fullmetal Alchemist as Roy Mustang, who always shines in many of the roles he is given. The dub overall was just generally impressive, but it’s also not the best. There are points where it could be better, but this anime was a step in increasingly amazing dubs done by Funimation. This anime definitely is an example of where the company was beginning to go.

The series is ultimately enjoyable and still has an appeal to see where it may be headed. As it is ongoing, we’re left watch the climbing action wondering a lot. Still, there are things about the series that needs a lot. The manga is definitely the way to go, as you’ll get the full story that way, but the anime is also a good way to go. Ultimately, there’s just a lot that needs explaining that can still be told as the story goes along. And as far as those things go, Hoshino is very good at explaining why certain things are as important as they are, as well as developing unique characters. As far as the series go, it’s definitely worth a try.

Overall Rating: 7

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