D.Gray-Man 3-in-1 Edition (Vol. 1) (Viz)


Rating: 3.5/5 – Of Exorcists and Earls

D.Gray-Man has always been a hard sell for me, personally. I’ve begun the series many times, but have repeatedly wound up losing interest. While it has elements of tropes I enjoy in manga – good fighting scenes, a complex but engaging backstory, a scene-stealing villain – the series never quite clicked with me.

I’m saying all this up front so you can feel free to say “Well, he’s an idiot,” and skip to the next review. Fair enough. Sometimes a manga or anime simply won’t reach every single person out there. Believe it or not, there are people who don’t like Excel Saga, a concept completely foreign to me. If you are a fan of D.Gray-Man, then please, don’t take my words as any personal attack on the series. It simply wasn’t for me.

Looking at it objectively, though, there’s a lot for a manga fan to like in this series. Allen Walker is a demon-fighter (in this book they’re called Akuma, and function more as weapons than as independent beings) in constant search of a special substance that can help combat them. As with any good series, this brings him into contact with a number of fellow exorcists, each with their own tales to tell, and all with a single aim: Defeat the Millennium Earl, the creator of the akuma. If you’ve read any number of shonen books, this pattern is easily recognizable. Lone protagonist teams up with group of like-minded individuals to take down the Big Bad Guy at the End.  There are any number of series out there that can relate this story. What separates them is how they go about telling that story. D.Gray-Man does a great job of taking the standard story elements and weaving an interesting, if not particularly innovative, way of telling them.

It helps that the Millennium Earl is a great bad guy. Kind of like the Joker from Batman, you know you’re supposed to be afraid of him, but there’s a comical side to him that may draw you in and keep you off guard. Make no mistake, he’s the bad guy, but don’t be surprised if you’re not showing a sick sort of admiration for his villainy.

Another point I put in the series’ favor is that the creator, Katura Hoshino, is a woman. This is not a huge deal to the manga faithful out there, who are used to female creators consistently knocking it out of the park, but a common discussion in the comics world at-large these days is the sparseness of female creators in mainstream comics. And when there are female creators, there’s almost a certain level of femininity expected from their work. Creators like Hoshino and Q Hayashida (Dorohedoro) are taking that whole idea and throwing on its ear. You’ll be hard pressed to read this series, with its gothic twists and turns and at times downright brutality, and make the claim that female creators are incapable of creating anything outside the shoujo or lighter fare.

With so much praise, it may seem strange for me to say the series still didn’t appeal to me. Even still, I’m just one lone reviewer, so you’re allowed to disagree with me. In fact, I hope you will, because at $15 for three volumes in this edition, it’s a steal. I can see this series appealing to the ever-growing cosplay set, as Hoshino brings a great style to the clothes and mannerisms of the characters she creates. In addition, if you’re a fan of dark gothic shonen action, this is your series, so ignore the previous five paragraphs and the guy who typed them, and by all means, pick it up!

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – al@comicspectrum.com
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