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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The search for General Cross takes the group across Asia and towards Japan, but not without trials and tribulations along the way.

What They Say
As the world loses grasp of its Innocence, a shadow of a man emerges as a pivotal figure in the war between exorcists and soul-devouring demons. General Cross, the brute who turned a gifted boy into a hero, may well be the deciding factor in the quest to end the Millennium Earl’s reign of terror. Charged with his most urgent mission yet, Allen Walker must match wits with Lulu Bell of the bloodthirsty Noah Clan while scouring the globe for his former master. His success ensures a future for this rapidly-darkening world, but failure will spawn a rogue wave of death and destruction, beginning with Walker himself.

The Review!
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.

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.

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 Lavi with a bit of a smile to his face as he poses with the staff part of his hammer as his scarf whips in the wind behind him. With a white 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 the previous releases as they're clear ones and not black ones, so we now see the blank white on the reverse side. . The first volume makes out well with the black background which blends well General Cross dominating it as his uniform allows him to disappear into it.  The second volume is very different as it has a full length shot of Allen whipping around to see the head of the Millennium Earl in the foreground. The colors here are really nicely done with the white background providing for a striking difference with the first volume but also the colors of the Earl himself. 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.

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.

The extras are pretty mild overall, though we do get the return of the commentary track with one recorded for episode fifty on the second disc.. 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)
With the second part of this season, D.Gray-man moves right along in taking the core group of characters on their journey to find the very difficult to locate General Cross. While the first season did a nice job of building up the basic mythos and introducing us to several characters and bringing new Exorcists into the ranks, this season has been all about the journey. What made me appreciate the previous set a lot was that they did take the time to give other characters a chance to shine by actually shoving Allen off screen for episodes at a time, rather than turning him to a supporting character to help prop up the real secondary characters. This time around the focus is more towards Allen himself as well as the group dynamic itself.

The journey itself is one that is finally taking the gang out of Europe and into Asia itself, once they get past the port city they've found themselves in. The Millennium Earl has decided to be a little more hands off himself with Allen and everyone else as he's brought in the Clan of Noah to deal with those that are causing problems. Since he seems to like being personally involved in each turning of sorrow into an Akuma, and there are oh so many Akuma out there, it's a busy job and somebody has to do it. And so Lulu Bell and her assistant Mimi are tasked with stopping or at least slowing down the search for General Cross. Lulu is an interesting character but one like so many others where they never seem to achieve their potential. As a member of Noah, she has the ability to take on the form of others, but she never manages to set up a situation right enough to take down Allen.

On the plus side, Lulu at least does have a good idea or two about what to do in general. Namely, she knows she and Mimi cannot handle four Exorcists that are traveling together, so she tries to come up with various ways of splitting them up. Her initial encounter with them at the port city establishes a decent working relationship in how she's going to deal with them, showcasing her cat transformation ability and her fairly calm and collected manner, and she manages to keep that aura about her throughout even when events turn tough and hard against her. The downside is that she's not a character you can really empathize with much because she doesn't reveal much of herself. So we get to slowly learn more about Mimi, who herself is an interesting creation of the Earl. Her history goes back a bit with a relationship between a maid and a princess that goes disastrously wrong. Mimi's still a hard character to connect with as she plays up the maid role, very subservient to Lulu but in a way that does not reflect well on anyone.

Much of the stories deal with the back and forth attempts that Lulu Bell attempts in trying to slow the group down. Sometimes she does split them apart, which gives them a chance to tell separate stories, other times they all know better and stay together. The series does take on an interesting arc at one point that lasts several episodes as it introduces a fortune teller named Mei-Long while they're in China. The good sized village she lives in is dealing with a problem as the water has stopped flowing and the nearby lake has a really unusual problem in that the water is slowly disappearing without any visible place to go. The gang splits up to check things out and Allen and Lenalee discover the fortune teller and try to see if she can help them. As it turns out, she's potentially an Exorcist herself as her fortune telling is based on a crystal ball she has that's actually fused with Innocence.

And this is an area that I really like about this series. The first season did it nicely as it introduced us to characters like Krory where a target becomes a member. The way they bring in potential new candidates is something that feels natural and it gives the cast a really good dynamic as they build friendships through the discovery and then either getting them to the Order for training or the actual field work that comes later. Mei-Ling has potential for this, especially with the visions she has, but it's also watching Krory becoming more and more of a solid and capable member of the Order that's so rewarding to watch. Allen doesn't quite fit the bill in the same way, but he's had to change from working just with Cross to working with more members of the Order so he's had to grow as well. There's a lot to like about this show with this particular dynamic and Mei-Ling brings us to another big piece of potential.

In Summary:
D.Gray-man is something of an odd duck of a series when it comes to the Shonen Jump shows. It follows some traditional elements (less so if you're only thinking of things like Dragon Ball Z as representative of the SJ brand) but it also really gives the cast a chance to breath on their own. Kanda makes out horribly here with a single filler story but the fact that Allen gets a lot of time is very welcome after being on the outside for much of the previous set. I like where the story is slowly going as the cast journeys and grows with each other but the weak part here are the villains. Lulu Bell is not compelling and is essentially without personality while Mimi is too much personality. But in the end, this set left me smiling for the most part and liking the cast of good guys overall and wanting to see more. You know what you're getting with this show by now and it's not going to change its stripes at this late date, not that I'd want it to.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, English Commentary

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