This volume marks the end of Manga UK's release of D.Gray-man, but it's not the end of the series - the second half is stuck in licensing hell somewhere. So, armed with the knowledge that we're going to be stuck on an unlikely-to-ever-be-resolved cliffhanger at the end of the set, let's see what we've got...
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.
Audio for this release comes in Japanese stereo and English 5.1 surround varieties - I listened to the Japanese track for this review. It manages to give a decent amount of oomph to action sequences, while placement of sounds and dialogue is handled well. The audio is generally clean and clear, with no obvious problems.
Video is provided in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The series is heavy on blacks and dark colours for most of these episodes, which limits the opportunity for it to go to town as far as detail and visual flair is concerned. What there is, though, comes across well - there's very little in the way of visible problems, barring some banding on gradients. Not a bad-looking show, all things considered.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
As seems to be usual for Manga releases these days, the main menu on both discs is a static affair, featuring some the characters striking a pose against a patterned dark background (Generals Cross and Tiedoll on disc one, the Earl and Allen on disc two), with options provided for Play All, Episodes, Audio and Extras. There are no transition animations between the screens, making it all quick and easy to use.
Along with the traditional creditless opening and closings, there's a commentary track for episode 50, with the episode director and the VA's for the Earl and Lulubell.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
You learn something new every day - and now that Allen knows that Timcanpy can sense General Cross's location, all they have to do is follow the little critter right to the person they're looking for. In theory, anyway. By the time he's led Allen and Lenalee through Bulgaria, though, they begin to realise that they're in for a long trip - all the way to Asia, potentially, and with Akuma to deal with along the way. Rescuing a man from one while still in Bulgaria earns them a place to stay for a while, though - and an unexpected meeting with Lavi and Krory, who break the bad news about just how many lives the Earl's recent attack had cost. The pair have been sent to help with finding and protecting General Cross - but first, the Rose Festival in the town they're staying in presents a target the may be irresistible to Akuma...
The twelve episodes here cover a journey that begins in Bulgaria, and follows Allen, Lenalee and co all the way to China and ultimately onto a boat headed for Japan - at which point the credits roll and that's your lot. Fortunately, the volume is also a fairly well self-contained story arc, with the Millennium Earl having sikked another of the Clan of Noah - Lulu Bell - onto the group. Lulu Bell and her loyal sidekick Mimi are, by quite some margin, the most enjoyable villains of the series so far: Lulu spends most of her time in the form of a cat, and has all the capriciousness and inbuilt cruelty of our feline masters, while Mimi provides a dose of maidservice to proceedings that doesn't do any harm at all. While being a cutie (at least in her non-Akuma form) she's also as devious as her master and perfectly capable of holding her own in battle, thanks to her prowess with two rather nasty iron fans (hmm, imagine Kaname from Full Metal Panic getting hold of those...) and her ultimate fighting form, which makes an appearance towards the end of the set. These two follow our heroes throughout their journey, laying a number of devious little traps to waylay them and occasionally engaging in direct combat.
Very few of those confrontations are anything less than enjoyable, either - which is unusual for this series. There are one or two moments where abject stupidity raises its ugly head, usually courtesy of Allen or Krory, but they're few and far between and for the most part it's good, short-and-to-the-point action with a decent sense of humour.
There are two exceptions to this: a short segment dealing with the discovery of a new Accommodator - a young girl with the ability to see the future - and her Innocence, and the gang's eventual arrival at the last known location of General Cross. Mei Ling is the young girl, and with her abilities and possession of an Innocence she's quickly targeted for recruitment by the Order - but with the Earl also quickly becoming aware of her existence, events go out of control rather quickly and her story does not end as well as it could. As for General Cross, he's constantly one step ahead of the gang and has once again slipped beyond their reach, but their arrival in China brings new allies with which to continue the search.
All of which is kinda moot, though, given that the continuation of the story is unlikely to be released. Manga UK can't go further for lack of rights, and lack of a dub even if they had them; FUNimation, who licensed the show in the US and produced the dub, haven't ruled out the possibility of picking up the rest of the series but have indicated that there are issues around licensing it. Make of that what you will, but don't hold your breath to see what happens next.
Which is a shame. For most of its run so far, D.Gray-man has been by-the-numbers, unremarkable shounen fare, but with the appearance of Lulu Bell it's discovered a sense of fun and more of an emphasis on long-running stories, and in doing so has raised its game considerably. Typical that just as it does that, it comes to the end of the line.
D.Gray-man finally hits its stride, then - and promptly strides off into licensing hell. This set is fun & lighthearted action fare with an occasional darker streak showing through, and was the best passage of story that the series has managed so far - so it's a real shame that we're left on a cliffhanger that we'll probably never see resolved, and that in turn makes it hard to recommend, despite its good points.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Closing, Audio Commentary for Episode 50
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.