Wednesday, July 10, 2013

D.Gray-man Season One Anime Review

D.Gray-man Season One
Di Gureiman
Funimation
Complete Collection - 4 discs
650 mins. - 26 episodes
$29.98 (2012) S.A.V.E.
$69.98 (2010)
$59.98 (2010) Blu-Ray Parts 1-2/ea.
$59.98 (2009) Parts 1-2/ea.
ISBN 704400069284
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Osamu Nabeshima
Studio - TMS Entertainment

Synopsis: A plague is sweeping the land in the form of Akuma released by the devilish Millennium Earl.  He wishes for the downfall of mankind and uses his power to create Akuma by tricking mourners into bringing back the souls of their loved ones.  The loved one's soul is placed by the Earl into an infernal vessel and their first act is to slaughter the one who brought them back.  The Akuma then wears the person's visage for the rest of its existence and terrorizes humans in the name of the Earl.
The Millennium Earl gleefully works toward humanity's end
A special organization called the Black Order exists to stop the Millennium Earl and his Akuma.  Its ranks include powerful operatives called Exorcists who hunt and kill Akuma.  Allen Walker is a young Exorcist who was trained by General Cross of the Black Order.  Allen is cursed and has a red marking on his face.  His left arm is deformed and actually an anti-Akuma weapon which can change shape while battling Akuma. He typically turns it into a massive claw, but can also make it a rapid-fire energy weapon.  His left eye can detect Akuma and has keen analysis powers.
Allen Walker's left eye and left arm have cursed powers
Joining the Black Order after General Cross disappears, Allen meets and works with other Exorcists.  First he is attacked by an Exorcist named Yu Kanda who falsely thinks Allen is part-Akuma.  Then Allen meets the lovely Lenalee Lee and her over-protective brother Komui.  Later he is joined by Lavi, an Exorcist who is training to become a Bookman, or recorder of hidden secrets.  All of the Exorcists and members of the Black Order share a common bond to oppose the Millennium Earl at all costs.
Allen's left eye can see past Akuma illusions to see the
tormented souls they truly are
Another group joins the conflict in the form of the Noah Clan. They are a mysterious clan said to be direct descendants of Noah and possessing incredible power.  A Noah has been present at every significant event in human history.  They appear to side with the Millennium Earl, but their true purpose is unknown.  What is Allen Walker's significance to the Millennium Earl?  Can the Black Order possibly prevail against the Earl with the Noah Clan by his side?
From left - the Millennium Earl Allen Walker, and General Cross
The Black Order is sworn to protect a substance called Innocence which acts against the Millennium Earl's Akuma.  Each Exorcist possesses a piece of Innocence which gives them incredible powers, but Innocence is not consistent and behaves differently with each person.  Can Allen Walker uncover the secret of Innocence and his own cursed power in time to stop the Millennium Earl?  What new allies and enemies will he make?
Yu Kanda is relentless in battle
Pros: Compelling origin for Allen Walker (similarly tragic to that of Edward and Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist), some cool character designs (particularly the Black Order uniforms), an interesting cast of characters with a steampunk theme (emphasis on the 'punk' in the case of Count Krory), lots of action split with some humor and horror, cool opening theme song "Innocent Sorrow" by Abingdon Boys School (they did the first opening theme song "Howling" for Darker Than Black)
Lenalee's Innocence activates allowing her to soar and strike from the air
Cons: Millennium Earl looked too silly for a main villain and not scary at all, a bit too much comedy and goofiness for my taste, seemed like a knockoff of Fullmetal Alchemist, I thought the stage one Akuma using machine guns was out of place and excessive, felt like the battles dragged on for too many episodes (what is this, Bleach? - i.e. notoriously long and drawn out battles), Timcanpy - the silly little flying thing always hanging around on Allen's shoulder
The wicked Road Kamelot of the Noah Clan
Mike Tells It Straight: D.Gray-man is based on the original manga series by Katsura Hoshino and is her primary work which has gained wild popularity.  The actual anime series is 103 episodes long and this first season is 26 episodes (roughly one quarter) of the full series.  We're introduced to Allen Walker, the tragic yet courageous Exorcist, and his wide supporting cast.  I found him to be an excellent protagonist with a truly horrific origin - very similar to how Edward and Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist have a tragic origin.
Lavi mocks Yu's ponytail - it's too easy I tell ya!
In fact this show is criticized to be a clone of Fullmetal Alchemist and I definitely see the similarities.  Victorian, steampunk era with magic (in this case Innocence and the Earl's power instead of alchemy), disfigured and tragic main character, slapstick comedy to contrast the moments of horror, multiple-episode storylines, and smart uniforms.  Despite the initial similarities the series found its own voice as the story progressed and I stopped feeling like it was a clone of FA.  Hoshino did a great job adding a wide cast of well-designed characters.
Allen and Lavi investigate rumors of a vampire!
The mystery of the Millennium Earl, Noah Clan, Allen Walker, and Innocence just gets started in this first season.  Each story arc added a new character to the cast with a comedy episode in between to lighten things up a bit.  It was kinda formulaic and the story arcs/battles dragged on for too many episodes.  The viewer is strung along with little snippets of information in each episode, but nothing truly substantial.
Allen's left arm transforms into a massive claw to destroy Akuma!
I found this show to be relatively good, but not quite as good as Fullmetal Alchemist.  It was missing the level of intrigue in the plot and the villains seemed silly.  The Millennium Earl's design looked more bumbling than sinister to me.  I really liked Allen Walker, Lenalee Lee, and some of the other Exorcists as characters.  Since this first season was more of an introduction to the characters I'll check out the second season to find out how the plot progresses.  I really hope things get a little more serious and the Millennium Earl is not quite so goofy.
From top left to top right - Alrystar Krory III, Miranda Lotto, Lavi,
Allen Walker, Yu Kanda, Lenalee Lee, and Komui Lee
TO BUY and Recommendations: