Shonen Jump is undoubtedly one of the most popular brands in the anime industry. Let's be honest here, just how many of their shows have made the big time? Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece are enormous successes here in the States. Other shows such as Gintama and To Lover-Ru are on fire in Japan as well. With that in mind it should be no surprise that D.Gray-Man is a popular title, both in Japan and here in the States.
The manga for D.Gray-Man was released in 2004, but in 2006 the anime got underway and garnered over 100 episodes before coming off the air. A little while ago FUNimation announced that they had picked up the license and released the first season of the show on DVD. Comprised of 13 episodes the first part of the season offered a great introduction to the D.Gray-Man universe and left us wanting more. With that in mind, how does the second half of the first season stack up?
In case you're unfamiliar with the series, it all takes place towards the end of the nineteenth century in Europe and skews history a bit as you'd expect. The show centers around the life of a young boy named Allen Walker, who has something of a tragic history. Born with a deformity of sorts on his left arm, his parents abandoned him when he was younger. He was taken in as an orphan and raised by someone else, but that too turned out poorly when they turned up dead as well. This time around the person came back to life in the form of a beast known as Akuma and thus Allen was thrust into a dark and disturbing world.
D.Gray-Man's take on the world is that it's a fun place to live, really. I mean, where else will you find a fiendish person named Millennium Earl bringing people's bodies back from the dead and harvesting their souls for demons? In the events that introduced Allen to the world of Akuma he was also cursed with an eye that allows him to see the souls in the bodies which they possess. This, combined with his arm, prove to be valuable tools to combat the demons with. Naturally when he comes across a group known as the Black Order, who are exorcists out to save the world, his talents make him an obvious inductee into their ranks.
In the first installment of the series we received all of this introduction as well as a nice glimpse at Allen's first missions as a member of the Black Order. A few little storylines surfaced and the show quickly slipped into a pattern of episodes that inevitably wrapped up quite nicely. That trend continues this time around and at the start we receive a two episode tale about a leaf that's causing all kinds of problems for a town. Basically Allen and Kanda have to work with Lavi and Bookman to get to the root of some weird weather that is definitely not normal. It's an interesting tale, but it's little more than a diversion for the next arc.
The big draw of this installment is a lengthy story about a "vampire" in Romania. This arc was pretty cool since there was a lot of meat to it. Allen and Lavi make their way to Romania and get involved in some interesting happenings involving a guy named Krory. There are plenty of things that happen here that are quite surprising, but to make a long story short Krory basically has an Innocence ability that battles Akuma naturally. The effect of this power is quite easily mistakable as vampiric, since it all has to do with blood, but there are obvious misunderstandings when Allen and Lavi first meet him. Other episodes here are fairly standalone and are entertaining for what they are, even if they don't present an engrossing story.
I'm quite pleased that D.Gray-Man's second installment is every bit as entertaining as the first. The darker tone really stands out and Allen is a very deep character to root for. The first collection of episodes gave us a nice introduction and got us started down the right path, and this second one picks up where it left off. The action is revved up a bit and we learn a little more about the world and the relationship between humanity, the Akuma, and Innocence. If you have enjoyed other Shonen Jump series before then you'll want to check this one out. Even if you haven't watched a Shonen Jump show and are just looking for a dark, interesting anime, D.Gray-Man is definitely one to consider.
D.Gray-Man season 1 part 2 is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer for these discs has been enhanced for an anamorphic widescreen display as well. For what its worth the series looks pretty good and FUNimation did an overall solid job with the transfer. Colors appear natural and vibrant, and all around the picture is quite solid. I will say that due to the presentation of 13 episodes on two DVDs there are some compression artifacts that have snuck into the image. Light grain is also visible at times, though it's harder to tell if that's attributed to the transfer or the source material. Either way you slice it though, D.Gray-Man is a nice looking show that probably could have been refined just a little more.
The sound for the series is presented just about like you'd expect it would be. The English language comes with a 5.1 Dolby Digital output while the Japanese selection is presented with 2.0 Stereo. Dub wise both tracks performed well enough and there's plenty to appreciate with regards to the voiceover teams for each language. On the technical side of things the English track offers up a slightly better sense of immersion, but it doesn't quite surround you as much as it could have. Some moments feel a little too flat and there are many points where the channels simply weren't used enough.
Clean animations and trailers are presented here for bonus features. An audio commentary with the English cast is available as well for the eighteenth episode. The commentary is on par with other English anime commentaries, and I must say that Christopher and Rowly did a fine enough job. They do joke around a bit, but there's some nice information here and it's entertaining enough to sit through.
D.Gray-Man has definitely made a name for itself. The show is decidedly different and yet familiar at the same time. At its core the premise isn't anything too special (young boy with powers fights evil with a group of other powered beings), but it's handled quite nicely all around. The world is decidedly darker, the characters are rich in development, and the stories are very engaging. The episodes offered this time around are perfect examples of the show's strengths, with very few weaknesses. If you haven't seen D.Gray-Man put it on your list and check it out! Strongly Recommended