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103 of 103 episodes seen
I'll start with the plot, which is far darker than your average shounen. From the very first episode, we are shown a merciless enemy that will exploit any weakness, who's main weapon, the Akuma (demons) uses the souls of the dead. These are not zombies, just mindless corpses. These are weapons which pull a soul back from heaven and torture it as their power source. A lot of shounens gloss over the concept of death, bad guys are captured alive or shown the error of their ways, people fall unconscious but can be healed, etc. In D. Gray-man, death is very real, and resting in peace is only for the fortunate ones who's loved ones are strong enough not to be tempted to call them back.
Against the Akuma and their creator, the Millennium Earl, are the Exorcists of the Dark Order. Exorcists are those chosen by God to use 'innocence', a mysterious substance which can be used to form weapons capable of destroying the Akuma. The series follows Allen Walker, a new recruit with the ability to see the souls trapped within the Akuma. The plot itself begins slowly, with short arcs in which Allen and his comrades are dispatched to investigate mysterious phenomena which are thought to be caused by innocence fragments. After a few of these arcs, the Noah Clan, allies of the Millennium Earl, begin to be introduced and the focus turns to the war between him and the Dark Order.
The plot is, for the most part, very well paced. Early arcs are kept short, about 4 episodes or so long, with a single 'filler' episode in between. Don't be put off when I say filler. While the plot could easily go without these episodes, I found them all to be entertaining (if somewhat silly at times) and they served well as comic relief within an otherwise serious plot. And if you don't enjoy them, they do become fewer and further between as the war intensifies and plot arcs become longer. With one exception, none of these longer plot arcs drag on to the point that the viewer just wants them to get on with it. In the one arc in which this does occur, it is saved in part by having another plot running at the same time. Battles often do last across multiple episodes, but in most of these, the battle changes and develops over those episodes, unlike drawn out battles in other shounen which just get repetitive, where the middle episodes can often just be skipped entirely.
The show also boasts one of the best sets of characters of any anime I have seen. Each hero is flawed, and the Earl and Noah are far more fleshed out (in more ways than one in the Earl's case) than most villains. It says a lot about the quality of a series' characters when the villains mourning a dead friend can evoke sympathy. They also managed to inspire doubt as to whether the exorcists are in fact the good guys, thanks to the show's religious imagery.
As for the heroes, each has their own motive, each of which is more complex than the standard shounen motives of just saving the world or becoming the strongest and the like. Allen wants to save the souls of the Akuma, to the point where he can even show disregard for his own or others' lives at times. Lenalee, the series' main female character, fights for the sake of her friends and brother, and her past reveals that she may not support the Dark Order's cause even as she fights for them.
My personal favourite characters were Lavi and Bookman. These two are a master (Bookman) and apprentice (Lavi) of a clan of historians who became exorcists to be close to history as it occurred so that it could be recorded, and while they do fight, they try to minimise how much they interfere. Lavi's conflict between his duty as a Bookman and as an Exorcist, the loyalty he developed for his friends despite Bookman's orders to become close to no one, and his doubts as to whether the cheerful, friendly, fun guy is the real him or a mask that he should remove was probably my favourite aspect of the series.
So, here I am singing the series' praises, yet it got a 9, not a 10. Why? Well, in complete contrast to what I said at the beginning, because it ended. A lot wasn't able to be explained before the series was cancelled. The last ten episodes or so suffered from trying to rush one of the story arcs after having taken their time over previous ones. The battle in the last three episodes was amazing, but it also wasn't the final battle that I wanted to see. There is a lot of potential for a sequel, including a development at the end that virtually screamed "to be continued". I do sincerely hope that there will be a sequel. But if there isn't, the show ended in the best possible place it could. A clear cut ending is often unrealistic, and endings in which the heroes won but the villain is there in the shadows, not as dead as they thought, muttering "This isn't over" gets old quickly. Maybe the abiguity was for the best.
All in all, the show is well worth watching, even if you don't usually commit to long running shounen. Just don't go in expecting to not have any questions at the end. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Each of the major charachters were written and portrayed perfectly. Gene, seemingly a selfish and arrogant ass, surprises you again and again with displays of his softer side, especially when it comes to Melfina. Jim, while only 11 often seems more mature than Gene, and tends to be the voice of reason trying to keep Gene's impulsive nature under control, yet despite that still has a lot of growing up to do, and was my favourite charachter in the show. The charachter of Melfina mostly remains undeveloped until the final few episodes, as her lack of knowledge of who she is is essential to the plot, yet it is not a bad thing that for most of the series she remains the nervous and innocent girl who only wants to find out who or what she is, as this brings out a lot of the hidden qualities of Gene and Jim. Finally, Gilliam, the Outlaw Star's computer, who one would expect to just be a functional machine, stands out as a charachter in his own right, showing bonds with Gene, Jim and Melfina that one wouldn't expect from a machine, and sometimes a hint of sarcasm in his voice as he complies with Gene's "brilliant" orders.
The story itself moves at a decent pace, never too fast to keep up, yet in places does have the occaisional filler episode, which either serves to entertain in breaks in the serious plot, or to highlight a certain plot point. While the series would be no worse without them, they were entertaining and enjoyable, and the two that spring to mind both provide background information to the universe that wasn't necessary, but still interesting to know. The universe is a wildly varied setting perfect for such an adventure, with a combination of science fiction technology and ancient eastern mysticism. The technology never gets in the way of the plot, and the mystic powers driving some events keep the show from becoming hardcore science fiction. Combined with Gene's very down to earth way of dealing with the unknown, this mix keeps the plot moving rather than letting it get bogged down in pointless explanation. That's not to say that nothing is explained, everything relevant to the plot is, but in an interesting way that doesn't just becoming a drone of dull facts, technobabble and nonsense that can often be the downfall of science fiction.
Overall, this show is incredibly enjoyable and has something for everyone. It's an adventure of the kind you used to dream of as a kid, yet it also asks what makes us human. It has it's funny moments, and also it's touching moments. It combines human (/alien/bio-mechanoid/machine/etc) drama with awesome space battles and gunfights, and even leaves this fan of explosions and lasers unsure which he enjoyed more. Watch it, you will not be disappointed. read more
6 of 6 episodes seen
Since then I read the reviews mentioned earlier, seen forum posts praising it, and heard the demand for more episodes. A friend of mine told me not to judge it on one episode. So I gave it another chance, expecting it to improve after the first episode. It didn't. The next two episodes were just wondering what would come out of Noata's head, with no charachter development, no plot advancement, and plenty more meaningless talk from Haruko (whose voice I found quite annoying). From the fourth episode onwards, it promised plot, but very little was properly explained. The dialogue of the new charachters introduced in episode four at least had more to it than anything Haruko said, and at least explained they were trying to stop the 'Medical Mechanica" (a very misleading name, it never did anything medical), even if who they were, what the Medical Mechanica was, how they knew what it was, was never explained, or not explained in any way that was understandable. The final episode brought very little sense of a conclusion, with the only thing you get from the explanation of the Medical Mechanica is that it's purpose is to destroy things, and Haruko saying, in a lot more words, that she is only there for a man. The only actual change at the end of the episode from the way things were at the beginning of the series is that Canti is living with Noata, and Noata now has a bass guitar.
Other problems with the plot include: Noata's insistence at the beginning that everything is ordinary and there is nothing wierd about the town, with the giant iron that is the Medical Mechanica in the background. That's not ordinary, the attempt at a plot later in the series is based on the fact that is is far from ordinary. Secondly, no one ever seriously questioned the existence of Canti. No one else in the series has a robot, yet the only response to Canti is "cool, a robot". Thirdly, why Canti obeys Noata yet everything else that comes out of his head or is related to the Medical Mechanica is trying to destroy things is never explained. We just have to accept that Canti is a good guy and every other robot is a bad guy. Finally, Haruko's bass. It's a bass, but it's a club, but it makes a noise like a chainsaw, but it's a gun, what the hell is it? For the first four episodes it's use is to hit things, then on episode five it suddenly becomes a gun, with no explanation offered.
On a more positive note, the final fight scene was quite enjoyable, and a nice change from the practically identical fight scenes from previous episodes, which consisted of Canti absorbing Noata, and him and Haruko hitting the other robot, before Canti turned into a giant red cannon and shot it.
The only redeeming quality of the series was the soundtrack. Each episode had some decent rock music in the background in what I have to assume were considered to be important scenes, and I intend to find a copy of the soundtrack. The artwork was good for the most part too, the robots looked great, however that was let down by the times it became a manga strip, and the occaisional stupid cliched unrealistic facial expressions/body language (such as people's faces changing shape or colour to show shock, anger etc) found in anime aimed at younger audiences that I must assume were meant to be funny. I must however praise the use of south park style animation in episode 5. While, like much of the rest of the series, it was completely pointless, it was a rare moment where the series parodied of something other than itself.
So, to conclude, get the soundtrack if you enjoy some decent j-rock tunes, but don't waste your time watching the series, it's two hours of my life that I'd rather have back. read more