D.Gray-Man follows 15 year old Allen Walker's journey to defeat the entity known as the Millenium Earl with the help of his comrades from the Black Order. Those working for this Order are referred to as Exorcists and their main objective is to find and protect the shards of Innocence which are scattered around the globe. The Earl is hell bent on destroying all Innocence and the story essentially centres around the struggle between the Noah Clan (under the Earl's control) and the Black Order.
The underlying concept for D.Gray-Man isn't all that original - in fact, a lot of the time it feels like you're watching a dramatised Bible story; everything in this anime is related to Christianity in some way... Noah Clan; Exorcists; the Fallen; Arks; an Order committed to performing God's work and seeking His forgiveness... it's quite a preachy anime in a lot of ways. However, it's fairly easy to get past this since the character development eventually gains enough substance to override the zealous feel D.Gray-Man starts off with.
There are a few reasons for the score being quite so low on the story section; the main gripe I had was that the first 16 episodes actually bored me, and that there's a huge filler arc in the middle of the anime when the Exorcists head out in search of Marshall Cross. Whilst he is a very important element of the story as a whole, there just wasn't a need for literally half of the anime to be taken up by the search for him. As well as this, D.Gray-Man follows the terrible habit seen in many animes when it comes to character deaths. They just don't seem to follow through. One minute a character appears to be dead, the next they're strolling in because some farfetched miracle has brought them back to life.
Bad points aside, I would still recommend D.Gray-Man to those with an interest in shounen/adventure anime with a decent amount of character development and a progressive story-line. Despite the story being quite shallow, there's still a certain element of suspense when it comes to the evolution of Innocence and the identities of certain people. Having said that, be prepared for an awful lot of loose ends; despite being 103 episodes long, D.Gray-Man failed to give answers to some of the more important questions it raised; who exactly is the Earl? What's this Heart and who has it? Where did the Black Order and the Noah Clan actually come from?
After episode 16 I was thoroughly gripped by this anime and I really enjoyed watching it. Unfortunately, I was left with a sense of disappointment and confusion due to the multitude of unanswered problems and questions and the abrupt - and in my opinion lame - finale. It would have been nice to at least have a final showdown between Allen and the Millenium Earl.
I found that the animation and art style seemed to change as the anime progressed. When I started watching D.Gray-Man I found myself cringing at the plain, boring backgrounds and the sketchy animation. However, later on in the series the art style seemed to become more polished and adapt to the almost Victorian English feel of it. The character designs were fairly dull - especially Lenalee and Lavi - but at the same time they did suit their personalities in a strange kind of way. None of the weapons were particularly striking and the Millenium Earl particularly stood out as having an awful design. With his appearance and voice combined he strongly reminded me of Peter Griffin from Family Guy in a villain outfit.
Another flaw in the design of D.Gray-Man's cast of characters is the lv1 demons. They're just big metal balloon-things with sad faces. The lv2 ones were much more interesting and some were even cool to look at, and the lv3 ones reminded me of evil power rangers.
((Spoiler)) As for the lv4 demon... I actually feel that they nailed it with this guy. He was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in an anime and represented the evil of the Millenium Earl perfectly. ((Spoiler))
Mediocre. Voice-overs were more or less the same as any other mainstream anime, apart from Allen's and the Earl's. Allen had quite a decent voice - although he sometimes reminded me of Ash Ketchum - and whenever he was distressed or fighting he actually did sound like he was in pain etc rather than just letting out grunts and weird battle cries like most shounen protagonists.
The Earl's voice was different from the usual major villain but not in a good way. As I have mentioned before, he reminded me of Peter Griffin in more ways than one - his laugh didn't help with this at all.
Musically, there was a lot of room for improvement. Opening themes 1-3 were fantastic and bumped the overall score up by 3 or so points, but the in-battle music and so on were just... bland. It was generic 'hero' music which played whenever somebody was in trouble or in the midst of a battle. Forgettable and not particularly good.
This was the aspect of D.Gray-Man that made me want to keep watching. There's a decent amount of comedy provided by the characters and although they can be a little bit cliche, they bring some colour into this otherwise mediocre anime.
Allen isn't the same as your typical shounen star. He isn't arrogant, nor is he a complete loser. He's somewhere in between and more like a real 15 year old than usual, which is refreshing. Lenalee started off as one of my favourites but becomes incredibly pointless later on in the anime and spends half of her time crying about how helpless she is. Crowley was possibly my favourite; he provides a lot of laughs and treads all over the usual suave vampire stereotype. It's a shame he doesn't really feature in the last few episodes at all. Lavi is amusing as well and he actually matures slightly over the course of the anime - another rare occurence.
The Noah Clan are fairly typical - Skinn Bolic is the usual muscly idiot; Tyki is the suave guy; Road is the obligatory cute member of the enemy 'team' for want of a better word. Jasdebi annoyed the heck out of me and I actually skipped the episodes which were centred on them because they bored me. Tyki was easily my favourite Noah.
Lero needs to be burned and thrown back into whatever dimension he/she/it came from, along with the Earl.
A fairly cliche anime with old-school art style and a mediocre kind of soundtrack. Would definitely recommend for those with a taste for long adventure/shounen anime but you might need to persevere a bit for the first 16 or so episodes. After that it becomes gripping but you'll need to be a bit dedicated to really get into this one.
*Soul Eater (similar kind of emphasis on protecting the world from evil)
*Bleach (lots of fight scenes and similar kind of morals)
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