D.Gray-man Season 2 Part 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Allen takes a bit of a back seat at the start of this season as the world is expanded and the other Exorcists get their time in the spotlight.

What They Say
The battle between good and evil has a new cast of villains - the horrifying Clan of Noah. Summoned to Earth by the Millennium Earl, they are determined to recover the all-powerful Heart of Innocence and destroy all that is good. But young exorcist Allen Walker and his Black Order brethren will stop at nothing to halt the rising tide of darkness and preserve what little light remains in their world. Should his mission end in failure, humanity will lose more than just a hero - its soul will be devoured by demons of old.

Contains episodes 27-39.

The Review!
Audio:
FUNimation has given a bit more effort to the release of D.Gray-Man when it comes to the audio mix. The series is presented in its original Japanese stereo mix which is encoded at 192kbps. This is a good mix overall as it handles the action just right and there’s a fair bit of directionality and placement both in those scenes and with the dialogue. It’s not exactly a standout piece but it fits the material well. The English language mix gets the bump up to a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps and that has an obviously stronger feel to it when it comes to placement and clarity, particularly during the action sequences. The music is still generally the biggest benefactor when it comes to the 5.1 mixes for shows done in stereo and this is no exception as both the opening and closing songs sound much better overall. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set contains thirteen episodes across two volumes and is split in the standard seven/six format. A large percentage of the series takes place either indoors or at night so there’s a lot of darkness to the show overall, though not an overpowering amount. The transfer for the show is pretty good overall as there isn’t a ton of noise and the backgrounds remain mostly solid throughout. There is noise to be found and the show does have some gradients that are pretty visible from the source material, but they don’t get bad or distracting. Colors are generally solid looking and quite pleasing, especially with the Exorcists uniforms, and when there are brighter exterior scenes it shines even more.

Packaging:
D.Gray-Man is released in the standard two thinpak in a slipcover style that has populated much of what FUNimation is doing with their new collections these days. The slipcover is nicely done with a good framing border with elements from the show while the interior has Lenalee in mid kick as she's spinning around with a serious look to her face. With a black background, it highlights her character design more and the starkness of it since it’s a black and silver outfit. There’s some real vibrancy here though and plenty to draw the eye to with the colors that are there. The back of the slipcover is very dark with just an interior shot that you can barely make out which adds to some of the eerie factor of it all. The summary is painfully short though and the shots from the show are even smaller and harder to discern. The discs extras are clearly listed though but even with all this blank space they still push the technical grid to the bottom. There isn’t that strong of a push to talk about the episode count here either which is a surprise.

The thinpaks inside are done a bit different than most of what we’ve seen from FUNimation as they aren’t clear thinpaks but rather black ones, so there’s not reverse side artwork for either of them. The first volume makes out well with the black case as it has the chief in his full uniform with one of his assistants behind him in his lab coat. The second volume is very different as it has a full length shot of Krory in a full on kind of vampire mode with a woman in his arms, but he’s set against a white background which adds to the striking nature of itt. The back covers are identical in layout and design, though one is black and one is white, where they have the Exorcist symbol along the top with the logo and a breakdown of the episode names and numbers – in roman – and that’s it. It’s sparse but it works in giving it a good minimalist feel. No show related inserts were included in the release.

Menus:
The menu design for D.Gray-Man is rather simply but it has that kind of classic elegance to it. Using the same structure as the front cover artwork with the framing as part of the background, it’s mostly just a black filled background with character artwork that’s different for each volume. With the static image and framing/background to it, these are good looking menus overall though a bit minimal in the end. Submenus load nice and fast and navigation is standard material from FUNimation. As is usual, the discs didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English language.

Extras:
The extras are pretty mild overall, especially since there aren't any audio commentaries this time either. The extras section is located on the second disc where it contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the first “season” of D.Gray-man, I felt somewhat let down by the second collection as it seemed like it lost its way some and didn't have any really appealing stories. With so many more episode left to go, that was certainly something to be concerned about if it's like this at such an early stage. With the start of this “season”, the show manages to pick up a fair bit in the interest level, partially because it does push Allen to the side for awhile and lets the other characters explore the overall plot. They have side story adventures, but they're connected to the larger storyline as well which gives it more impact. These aren't fully filler kind of episodes.

The two main arcs of this set, which likely goes well into the next set and beyond, involves dealing with the Millennium Earl and his plans to create more Akuma. For the Order, it has the various exorcists heading off into the world to find the remaining Generals and to bring them back so that a proper plan can be formed. For the Millennium Earl, it's all about eliminating these most powerful of Exorcists and the Accomodators that they find so he can move forward with his plans. Unlike past plans though, there's intent to do this on a large scale with as many Akuma as there can possibly be ready so they have numbers on their side. While these arcs play out, there is a good focus on the Exorcists out there, old and new, which helps to really flesh out the Order and those that must eventually come together for when things get worse. Or, at least, those that survive as there isn't any real hesitation in killing someone off here.

Allen and Lenalee do a fair bit of traveling in these episodes as they look for his mentor, General Cross, and there are some fun little adventures along the way. There's even a segment where Lenalee gets called back to the Order to deal with an issue there from her brother and that lets Allen play by himself for a bit as he deals with an Akuma based ship while helping out some kids. It's good to see the two working together more and getting to know each other more, but it's also really good to see them split apart and both of them be competent without the other. They're not interdependent on each other to survive in this particular world. We also get to see the slowly growing bond between them which isn't forced. She doesn't out and out hate him or push him away, but she doesn't draw him close either. They're becoming friends, which could lead to something more as time goes on, but it's not completely set in stone with how it plays out here.

While I enjoyed what Allen got involved with in this round of episodes, I really liked the other characters more when they got their stories. Miranda makes an appearance after the time storyline in the previous set as she's now heading to the Order headquarters in order to become and Exorcists. Except that she can't find it. She ends up in a somewhat silly situation overall, but she's such a quirky and odd character to ascend to this position that you can't help but root for her since she has the potential to be a key player in the future. Krory gets a good storyline that has him dealing with events that are out of his control and in a position of being the newer Exorcist in a group of much more experienced one. it. Krory comes across the most human in all of this and it's fun to see him interacting with other Exorcists as they unravel he mystery here.

If there's a character I really don't care for, it's Kanda. He ends up meeting up with a Finder who isn't particularly good at his job. The Finder is in a bad spot as he lost his companions as well and has to deal with a creepy situation that gets worse and worse. Kanda shows up on his own mission and ends up assisting him, very reluctantly, and the two end up together for awhile. Kanda's in search of his old mentor, General Tiedoll, While Kanda does display emotions at times and forms a minor connection to others, he's played too cold and impersonal to really be all that interesting. What is interesting to see is the kind of person that was his teacher and how different he is from him, and how similar he is to others that Tiedoll has brought into the fold as well. But in general, Kanda based stories leave me a little less than interested in what's going on.

In Summary:
The start of the second season has me feeling better about the show than I did at the end of the first season. Allen continues to be the main catalyst of the show, but they're spending good quality time with other characters and not shoe-horning them into a single episode to tell a particular story. When needed, they're given more time to stand alone. In some ways, it's surprising that Allen is as removed as he is from many events here and kept off screen for almost entire episodes at a time. It's not that Allen is a bad character, but it works in the shows favor to expand the cast without him being directly involved and for their stories to be connected overall. I'm looking forward to the next set to see where else this season will go and what the Millennium Earl has in store.

Features
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 14 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 286
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: D.Gray-Man