D. Gray-Man 17

Katsura Hoshino – Viz – 2010 – 20+ volumes

I have a serious love-hate relationship with this series, having jumped in somewhere in the middle. Some volumes make me desperately want to go back and start at the beginning, and others make me want to dismiss it as just lots and lots of fighting and Shounen Jump plainness. This was more of the former than the latter, and aside from far too many characters, there was a lot of awesome stuff going on story-wise here.

I skipped volume 16. On one hand, I clearly missed something major. On the other hand, there’s something awesome about going from a super-serious, dramatic shounen fight mired in too many characters and backstory to a fight against all the good guys turning into zombies. I’m starting to think that zombies are a little overplayed, but it was an amazing story line here. And I didn’t miss much, since all I needed to know was explained on the first couple pages of the first chapter. I still think there are way, way WAY too many characters here, but knowing who they were wasn’t important, and seeing Allen resisting zombification because he thought it would be humiliating was really great. Plus, there’s a bonus haunting story going on elsewhere (?) in the building.

I was a little afraid of things returning to the regular plot after that, which has so far not been to my liking, but I have to admit I liked what I saw here. Allen was once again reunited with his teacher, General Marian, and under the heaviest security the Black Order has to offer, Marian drops a huge bombshell. Or I assume it’s a huge bombshell, but maybe others saw it coming. Later, Marian disappears. Again. This part is unexpectedly gruesome, and is shown again and again.

The revelation goes back into Allen’s past with Mana Walker, and it makes me want to go back and read the first few volumes more than anything else has. I do like Allen, as much as I think there’s just too much going on character-wise elsewhere (it may be about as bad as Hoshin Engi), and I think the English setting and whatever strange circus themes run through things are really interesting. I’m still not convinced I can go all the way through the volumes I haven’t read, but every once in awhile, I read a volume like this that makes me want to try. There’s a lot of good stuff here.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


D. Gray-Man 15

Katsura Hoshino – Viz – 2009 – 18+ volumes

Speaking of series where oblique references to religion lost me… To be fair, only the Noah’s Ark stuff has much to do with this series, as far as I can see, and it seems to be used well.  And none of that comes up in this volume.

What does happen here is a massive, massive fight for possession of the egg that the Exorcists claimed at the end of last volume.  A whole slew of characters are introduced (or re-introduced), and I was a bit lost as far as that goes, but it doesn’t really matter, because the fighting is non-stop, and as much as I like the art… I could not tell what was going on.  At all.  This wasn’t even an issue of it not being clear what was going on, or not knowing the characters.  There were just swords and guns and beams and elongated bodies and akuma parts flying all over the place, and I couldn’t tell who was winning or losing or what was even going on.

The commentary helps.  Allen alternately seems to be the core of the battle, doing extremely well and extremely poorly.  Allies are lost to akuma powers, I think, and something rather terrible happens to the egg at the end, and there’s something loose in the facility that is causing an evacuation and several last-ditch efforts.  That was pretty interesting.  That may mean it will settle down into the one-on-one fighting next volume, which is easier to take.  The art is quite good, and I like the character designs and use of positive and negative space a lot, but a big, busy battle is not what it was meant for.

I’m still struggling along with the plot and characters, and this volume was mostly a halt because of the fight.  I’ll keep reading though, because I do like Allen Walker, and I am interested to see what Lenalee is going to get up to next volume.  It promises to be something plot-breaking, I think.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


D. Gray-Man 14

I actually liked this volume quite a bit.  I think I’m starting to get the hang of this series.  There’s a lot of characters that are running around basically unknown to me, but their identities aren’t all that important, and the story is interesting enough to keep me reading.

At the beginning of this volume, I got to see the Millennium Earl for the first time.  I was immensely pleased by him.  He seems like a jolly sort of fellow set on overrunning the world in akuma and basically destroying humanity.  I think the series would have been better from that perspective, especially given the biblical themes.  Can you imagine the family of Noah striving to wipe out humanity by flooding the world again?  I’d like to get behind that.  Actually, I’m not sure if he’s trying for the flood, but it would be nice if he was.  Anyway, not only can I see where he’s going with his villainy, he’s also got a great character design and personality.  He’s a gigantic smiling man in a tall hat, and all his speech is super-happy and punctuated with hearts and the like.  He’s also, of course, an excellent fighter, and is good at needling Allen into a rage.

But he wasn’t even the best part about this volume.  The Ark that the characters have been fighting in during the past several volumes (more like a city in a dimension than a boat) is collapsing, and the Millennium Earl is content to leave the exorcists to disappear in the collapsing dimension.  But Allen, being a former Noah under the guidance of the Millennium Earl, is apparently one of two people who can drive these Arks, and he does so by playing the piano.  It’s a pretty awesome power to have, and I liked the scene and the repurcussions for it later.

Some of the later parts of the volume lost me a bit (there were a lot of reunions among the characters I wasn’t all that interested in), but I got to see the organization that all the exorcists work for, and they begin to suspect Allen’s Noah-like qualities, so that may go interesting places.

And yeah, the art’s still good.  This volume improved my opinion of the series quite a bit, actually.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


D. Gray-Man 13

I kinda liked the last volume of this series, but unfortunately, having read none of the others, this volume sort of left me in the lurch.  There are two extended fight scenes that take up the entire book.

The first deals with Lavi.  Apparently Lavi is waging a psychological battle in his dreams with Road, and his body is being commanded to hurt/kill Allen and the other characters.  So Allen takes a beating while trying to find some non-lethal way of stopping Lavi, and Lavi goes through some flashbacks and stuff in his head while he battles himself/Road.  Now, I suspect these internal scenes are supposed to tell you a lot about Lavi becoming a Bookman, but without context and explanation, they unfortunately made no sense to me.

After this is dealt with, the characters try to flee the Ark before it disappears (?), but then are attacked by the enemy they defeated last volume.  They all struggle against him until the very end of the volume, and then are saved by the random appearance of a fairly powerful character.  I… think I liked what was going on in these fight scenes, but again, I know nothing about this series, so a lot of it is both visually confusing and just… there are a lot of fighting techniques that look cool, but… I just have no idea what was going on.

I think my time was more than made up for in the bonus pages.  It was a fairly typical “what goes on in the studio”-type deal… except the segment was drawn in a non-cartoony style, and featured the author fully naked with a cowboy hat and stars for nipples.  This was not commented on by anyone in the studio.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this, other than that’s the most genius author portrait ever.  EDIT: Even better, Katsura Hoshino is a woman.  The bonus comic portrays her as a man.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


D. Gray-Man 12

I get this series and Claymore easily confused.  Both are darker Shounen Jump series, so I think it’s just a matter of me sitting down and sampling both in order to keep them straight in my head.

I don’t think I will ever confuse anything for D. Gray-Man again, though.  It uses a lot of biblical symbols, as far as a great flood and Noah’s ark and all that, and the Exorcists who are slaying the demons are all apparently agents of God.  Parallels to the bible are nonexistent story-wise as far as I can tell, but the thought is there all the same.

The idea that the series is set in 19th century England during a flood, with the character’s trying to escape a sinking ark crawling with Noah clan members, is pretty fascinating.  I’m not sure if the entire series take place aboard the ark, but it would be pretty cool if that were the case.  Something tells me it isn’t though.

Past the basic premise, everything else seems pretty well in tune with a shounen action manga.  The characters leave a fight that carried over from last volume to go to the next.  Their opponent seems to be an old friend.  Two fights go on at once, and the main character reveals that his “innocence,” the weapon everyone is using, is special.  It looks like the opponent is going to win, and he gets Allen Walker down twice, but thankfully Allen powers up in the middle of battle and is saved.  He might actually be some sort of messiah, which is just shocking.

The fighting and stereotypical shounen plot points put me off a bit, but I was interested enough to read a little bit about the beginning of the series to find out what was going on.  I also like the art a lot for it’s strong use of blacks and the character designs and style in general.  I’d probably love it if I started at the beginning of the series, especially since I’m a sucker for demon transformations.  I might keep reading a couple volumes from here just to see how things go and if I can get to like the characters, because this wasn’t a good place to jump in, I think.  I definitely like what I see though, moreso than a couple of the other random series I’ve been sampling lately.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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