Anime Review - D. Gray Man Season 1

The manga series D. Gray Man (ディー・グレイマン) by Katsura Hoshino has rated very highly among fans and critics alike  but does the animated series live up to its manga forebear which has found itself on best seller lists in both Japan and America?

"Darkness is moving in, and young exorcist Allen Walker is humanity's greatest hope against the wicked forces conspiring to bring civilization to its knees. Akuma - cruel spirits born of tragedy and lost souls - lurk in every shadow, willing and eager to do the bidding of their leader, the dread Millennium Earl. 

With an eye cursed to see evil in its truest form and blessed with an arm to slay soul-devouring demons, Allen stands ready to confront the gathering evil. Should he fail, Innocence will be lost forever. The war to decide the fate of mankind has begun - and the carnage will be endless."

There are some elements of the animated incarnation of D. Gray Man that are vastly superior to the manga. For starters, the manga series was at times lacking in visual detail, especially with regards to backgrounds. Although it seems like a trivial matter, series such as Bakuman and Blue Exorcist which are both highly regarded for how fleshed out their worlds appear to be. Thankfully the D. Gray Man animated series rectifies this flaw and offers an acceptable amount of detail although still falls short of more recent releases such as Broken Blade. Making such comparisons, although a true reflection of the series' quality, should be prefaced by the fact that this is a 103 episode TV series and TV series are rarely (if ever) given the budget of OVA's or single season series'. That said, the animation quality appears decidedly dated and soft especially considering that it is only 6 years old and when compared to Fullmetal Alchemist, a series which although older has a much higher quality of animation. This undoubtedly has much to do with the animation house in charge, TMS. A studio that is best known for its work on franchise series such as Bakugan and Cardfight Vanguard. All of this complaints aside, the animation is passable but never quite to the point of being impressive. Although the animation quality is somewhat lacking, Madman's transfer is great with very few artifacts and vibrant colour balance. 

Thankfully, the animation quality is the worst aspect of the entire series. In terms of story, the most important element of any long term series, D. Gray Man is a success. While the opening phase of the series seems to last for around 13 episodes, it glosses over a fair amount of the set up in explaining the role of Exorcists and what the hell an Akuma is. Although this may lead to a small amount of confusion, most anime fans will be able to fill in the blanks on their own. As with many successful manga series that get the anime treatment, the main storyline mirrors the original text until it catches up with current manga release before it makes a turn and becomes its own series. The bulk of D. Gray Man follows the manga series in story, aesthetic and the overall tone. The characters behave and look the same as in the books and that is one of the strongest aspects of the series, the vastly varied and well fleshed out cast of characters.

Overall, D. Gray Man is a good series, despite its sub-par animation quality and American dub (why is there not a single ENGLISH accent?) it manages to rely on a great cast of characters and fantastic story line to pull together a completely enjoyable series full of magic, demons and gothicism. For any fault that may be identified, season 1 of D. Gray Man left me wanting more, a fact that in itself should be enough to confirm that it is certainly a series worth your time and money. 

The 8-disc D. Gray Man Season 1 collection is available now from Madman and at under $70AUD for 8 disc, D. Gray Man season 1 is a downright bargain.

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