Little growth is experienced here but a number of stories help to flesh out the cast just a little bit more.
What They Say
Valiant demon-hunter Allen Walker and his comrades remain steadfast in their quest to recover the lost Innocence while slaying the undead minions of evil's most terrifying army. When the treacherous Millennium Earl senses a shift in the balance of power, the wicked leader of the Akuma summons forth a band of rogue warriors who will shake the Black Order to its very core. The battle to decide the fate of mankind has begun. Should Walker fail, Innocence will be lost forever.
Contains episodes 14-26.
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 Yu in his battle mode all dark and looking serious. With a black background, it highlights his 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 uses a great shot of Lenalee in an action pose doing a kick with a black background that has it all blending heavily. The second volume is very different as it has a full length shot of Lavi with his hammer but he’s set against a white background which adds to the yin/yang aspect that you feel the two represent. 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 and once again one of them is likely to slip by the notice of some potential fans. The extras section is located on the second disc where it contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. There is an extra on the first disc as one episode has an English language adaptation commentary, but it’s only accessible if you go into the episode selection menu. As most people, especially those whose systems remember where you stop, only use the play all feature this extra is likely to be overlooked.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the first installment of D.Gray-man, my main concern was whether the show could maintain the viewer with its stories since it could potentially drag things out. This set brings us another thirteen episodes that finishes out the first season of the series and has me feeling that it may be difficult to keep things up that it started in the first volume. Throughout this segment of the series, there’s very little of the larger story given play here as it focuses primarily on introducing one new character and a few small stories that are largely comedy oriented. The Millennium Earl is given some lip service and Allen does undergo a change towards the end, but by and large it felt like a good chunk of this set was spent spinning its wheels.
The main arc of this set involves quite a few episodes where Allen and Lavi head off to a town where they can potentially find out some information about the General. The quest to find him is still one of the motivating factors for Allen and he’s intent on doing so by following up every clue that he can. Interestingly, they discover that the general trouble in the area is something to do with a vampire, which gives the guys the idea that it may be an Akuma that’s playing around in a way. Over the course of what seems like five or six episodes, Allen and Lavi work to unravel the mystery of the vampire that isn’t an Akuma that exists in the area. The story is stretched out but there are some good moments to it that help to make it worthwhile.
The first is that it gives Allen and Lavi a chance to work together and figure out each others strengths. Allen is still operating at a bit of a los with his eye so he’s not able to figure things out quickly as to who is an Akuma. The second part that’s really good is that we do see an interesting change with how Allen’s eye operates when it seems to achieve a “level 2” status of some sort. His eye is one of the more unique things for the Exorcists and seeing it change from what it was to this new ability certainly can provide some really interesting changes in how the other Exorcists interact with him as he goes forward. With the curse that’s been placed upon him, the potential for it changing and altering over time is something I hadn’t expected and was a nice twist.
The main thing that works in this arcs favor is the characters themselves that are introduced. The supposed vampire of the town that lives in the castle, Arystar Krory, and his girlfriend named Eliade. The two have a somewhat predictable relationship with each other that’s actually more complicated than you’d expect at first glance and it’s revealed in small stages as it goes along. Krory himself isn’t what you’d expect of a vampire, but the personality changes that we see for him is certainly within reason once things get explained. But what made it fun was that he comes across in a way that was almost endearing. He’s a nice guy caught up in a really bad situation and finds himself in an even worse one as time goes on and the revelations are made. I like how things end up for him at the end of the arc though considering how badly it could have gone for him.
This arc does take up a good chunk of the set but it’s not the entirety of it. There are a few standalone episodes which are decent, though they more often than not tend to lean towards the comedy side. The opening episode is serious as it has Allen and a few others meeting up with a father and daughter who are in search of a Leaf that will revive dead people. There are Akuma working the area as well and it does a decent job of painting the story of the kind of people who would fall prey easily to Akuma because of the depth of their guilt. On the flip side, there’s a slightly out of character episode in a sense where Lenalee and Russell end up going out on the town for the day and her brother goes ballistic over it and introduces a few versions of his wacky robot to track them down and stop Russell. Stop by killing him since the Chief is very protective of his sister. It is amusing, but it’s the kind of side episode that at times changes the flow of the show. I far prefer D.Gray-man when it introduces the humor in the main episodes themselves as a little piece rather than the whole focus.
The first part of the series was one that I liked more than I expected as it wasn’t quite the usual Shonen Jump style with its visual design. This second set tends to lean a bit more in the traditional direction with its stories, mostly because there’s very little real development here and just fleshing out of the characters by their situations and the introduction of a new Exorcist. There are things to like here and I certainly enjoyed the set, but it was filled with the kind of episodes that don’t seem to have much real impact and felt like they were stretched out a bit more than they needed to be. With the Millennium Earl and his main servants generally out of the picture here, the core storyline isn’t given much attention and I think that’s what hurt it the most for me. It’s a fun show and I continue to like the world setting and design, but I was hoping for more substance with these episodes than I got.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 18 Commentary, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.