D. Gray-man Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Justin Rich
Review Date: Friday, May 26, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Katsura Hoshino
Translated by:N/A
Adapted by:

What They Say
Set in a fictional end of the 19th century England, the story revolves around a teenage boy named Allen Walker who is cursed with a cross mark on his hand that turns his arm into an enormous weapon, which he uses to hunt down and kill akumas. An akuma, generated by a 1,000-year-old phantom, is implanted into a human's soul during a moment of devastation and despair. The phantom uses the demons to then carry out his goal: destroy all humankind.

The Review
Shone Jump Advance launches a new series with a manga with backdrop that could be straight out of Charles Dickens novel, except for the fact that the dead strike back.

A white cover with orblike snow flakes falling down around Allen and the Millennium Earl who stand back-to-back with their palms up. In the lower center there is blue and gold gothic lettering spelling out D. Gray-Man, with the Shonen Jump Advance ruby logo directly below and adjacent to that is the volume number. The back is a black and white picture of Komui sitting cross legged as if had been lifted straight from the pages of the manga.

Hoshino, once again uses his very distinct use of black to accent his world like he did in his previous work Continue. Deaths are done without blood splatter, but originally and creatively. The characters experience tremendous pain; and this is expressed masterfully through the eyes of his sympathetic characters which any reader can identify with these character's clear grief.
The SFX are like the usual Shonen Jump manga and the previous volume stay to the borders of the panels and are translated and retouched. As with all previous volumes the giant SFX were there, but were handled very well again in this volume with out impeding the panels. Even on page 21 Viz left the original SFX of the word goosebumps written upon on the detective's hand. I was ecstatic to see that all names were the originals, as name changes tends to be a huge pet peeve for me.

Content (Watch out Spoilers ahead):
The story takes place at the end of the 1800s and Hoshino picks up the tale in a small church where a couple of cops stumble upon a crimson hand kid. Then a man explodes into poison gas, and the mysterious kid saves the remaining people. That kid is Allen Walker exorcist in training who is on his way to join the Black Order. Allen explains that he did not commit the murder but rather an Akuma did, which is a soul called back to Earth by a close loved one to only then be trapped in a mechanical body like a puppet who then kills the caller and wears his/her body like a costume. Moa, the saved female officer, is assigned to watch Allen but when her brother-in-law turns into his Akuma weapon form only he can stop the demonic bullet. Allen uses his red hand as an Anti-Akuma weapon to destroy the Akuma and send both souls to the afterlife.

Allen arrives in town but to his surprise a child named John is screaming about an Akuma in the back alley behind them. Allen is cursed by his own damnation which gives him the ability to see the soul chained to the Akuma, and he easily slays the new Akuma for the kid. Allen warns him to be careful since the Millennium Earl will now make him a target; and sure enough John's best friend Leo is an Akuman assassin. Leo runs out of the house and John chases him into the graveyard until he literally runs in the Earl, and Leo turns into his weapon form but Allen takes the hit along with the poison that goes with it. He can heal himself from it though, and this leads to a flashback of how Allen and the Earl know each other and their first meeting. To rid himself of Allen the Earl calls out a small army of Akuma but Allen uses his Cross Grave attack slaying them all and leading the Earl to make a quick exit.

Allen finally makes it to the Head Quarters only to be almost killed by the katana wielding Black Order member Kanda. Head Officer Komui is able to call him off with only damage to his arm, which like a mad doctor, he fixes. Komui is a fantastic character with his intriguing cross between genius and highly disorganized madman. He takes Allen to have his "innocence" or Anti-Akuma power tested and gives him the okay to join the team. He also enlightens Allen to the long standing battle of innocence that goes back to the time of Noah's Arc and why it extremely important for the Black Order to get to it before the Millennium Earl can destroy it.

The first volume is highly information oriented which may cause the reader to have to go back and buzz through these first 192 pages twice. Hoshino lays a lot of foundation for the world that he is creating and the long standing nuances in the ongoing battle between good (Black Order) and evil (Earl). There is a solid story and action mixed well together with the sudden onset of slapstick made by the slightly imbalance Komui. This will lead us to see what Kanda can really do against Akuma and how Allen will grow as an exorcist himself in the upcoming volumes of this fun series.

Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-4215-0623-8
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left