Like most of its Shonen Jump brethren, D.Gray-man is weakly balanced on a thin line between generic and fun. Just this evening I’ve caught up to episode 12 and feel torn by the somewhat superficial character development. Moody bishonen Kanda is a good example of how utterly archetypal some of these characters are – to put it bluntly, Kanda is a carbon copy of Sasuke from Naruto, right down to refusing to give up a fight until he has killed "that man"; no doubt an older brother much like Sasuke’s psychotic nii-san Itachi is to blame.
It’s lucky then that Allen Walker is an interesting, conflicted and likable main character. Much like Himura Kenshin, Allen is an idealistic pacifist in the wrong line of work. Having been cursed since a childhood, he slays akuma to free the human souls they enslave, but now that his enemies are human too, his job is about to get a whole lot more interesting. That Allen has a heart of gold makes D.Gray-man that little bit more unpredictable and involving, his decisions and sacrifices take on an added weight, knowing that he is suffering through conscience as well as body. All the other characters are basically window dressing, but D.Gray-man is worth watching if just for Allen’s struggle against himself. His face off against sadistic little girl Road Kamelot in episode 12 has been the best so far because this is the first time we really see his philosophy stretched to breaking point, there is even a quite surprising moment when he nearly smacks Lenalee out of frustration (with himself).
Another aspect I loved about episode 12 was Lenalee and Allen happily accepting their (potentially fatal) wounds to protect Miranda’s health; that they did this without a shred of doubt was reassuringly heart warming, and now that she has become an exorcist and all, I hope to see more of Miranda; her power must be both amazing and utterly frustrating — to have a gift to temporarily heal a mortally wounded person only to see them regress back into the throes of death moments later will inevitably lead to some massively dramatic decisons later on.
Episode two is our first proper introduction to the spiritual world of D.Gray-man and clear references are drawn from Christian religion (“Noah’s ark”) to better illustrate the show’s strong supernatural themes with an interesting theological substance. To believe in exorcists, ghosts and demons, the obvious truth is that one must then also believe in god. D.Gray-man appears to be about fighting against a prophesized apocalypse, an immediately familiar tale of good versus evil, and Allen’s mysterious powers (described within this episode as “Innocence”) will potentially be a deciding factor when the time comes; his epic destiny well emphasized by the end with a stirring classical tune and his tired gazing into a timeless painting.
I’m impressed and excited to see more of D.Gray-man, but much of it is still by the numbers shounen anime. In becoming an exorcist, Allen must first register with the “Dark Religious Organisation” – their Transylvanian-like headquarters filled with “moody bishounen rival”, “perky yet cute assistant” and “daft but deeply intelligent leader”. Naturally it will take time for these characters to build themselves compelling personalities and I’m more than willing to wait; D.Gray-man’s dark and dangerous world is already deeply involving my curiosity. The action is sharp, creative and hard hitting while Allen himself is an immediately likable and strong central character. I need more!
Anyone remember Pierrot Le Fou from Cowboy Bebop? How can we forget that floating fat man, screaming with insane laughter as he tears his way through the landscape. I know D.Gray-man may not have the kung-fu style of Spike Spiegel, but “The Earl of Millennium” looks just like Pierrot Le Fou, and also happens to be a sick bastard too.
Regardless that my brain is still hurting from the craptastic shounen epic Kiba, this first episode of D.Gray-man was surprisingly impressive; showcasing suitable levels of gore and supernatural brutality, my ultimate interest in these Shounen Jump adaptations often rests on their mutli-talented casts. Ichigo of Bleach is a dull jock, so I can’t be bothered, but D.Gray-man’s Allen Walker offers a mysterious balance of “dark history” (represented by a striking red tattoo dripping down the left side of his face and an apparently demonic left arm ) with a shockingly pleasant personality. Just from his voice, its obvious Allen has a good heart, and no doubt, he should become a hero worth supporting.
D.Gray-man’s universe is based on an involving snap shot of late-Victorian England, an era full of little details and fascinating quirks- the fashions, the hair styles and the architecture of the time have been captured well, setting an intoxicating and foggy tone from which the supernatural adventure can begin. This undeniably human mythology, covering the classic themes of ghosts and exorcism, builds an important sense of belonging and familiarity for the viewer, lulling us into Allen’s weird and wonderful life, a world still capable of springing a few real shocks and grotesque surprises.
Based on this one episode, D.Gray-man has shown real potential. Completely coherent (compared with Kiba) and mysteriously atmospheric, it immediately reminded me of Fullmetal Alchemist, right down to the tragic truth of Allen’s dangerous profession. I plan to watch more, filled with the hope that this can become an involving and fascinating adventure.