D.Gray-man Hallow First Impressions
“Bring salvation to this poor Akuma’s soul.”
I have a rather confused and frustrating history with the D.Gray-man franchise. I first started reading the manga after coming across a preview for it in Shonen Jump. I even still have a few volumes of the manga lying around. That being said, while I did greatly enjoy the early arcs of the manga, as it progressed the narrative became far less consistent, and I stopped reading it after it switched to being a monthly comic, since I found that the narrative went from being inconsistent to being incomprehensible. As for the original anime adaptation… I didn’t like it. I found it to be oddly bloodless, the tone didn’t seem to click with dark atmosphere of the manga, and I didn’t care for the Japanese voice cast. It didn’t help that it was also riddled with filler and strange liberties were taken with the manner in which the plot progressed. So, I can’t say that I was particularly eager to watch Hallow. Fortunately, I found that many of my issues with the original anime were absent from this sequel. The downside to this is that Hallow is still a straightforward sequel. There is a limited bit of recap throughout the episode, but anyone who thinks they can easily start watching from this point with no prior familiarity with the franchise will be sorely mistaken.
I should add that I never actually finished watching the original anime, and it’s been nearly a decade since I last read the manga, so, while I do remember a lot of the characters and details of the series, it was still moderately disorienting to be thrust back into the fold so abruptly. This first episode goes straight back into the main plot of D.Gray-man as the exorcists, upon collecting a new piece of Innocence, prepare to visit their new headquarters. Upon arrival, Allen is quickly restrained and his connection to the 14th Noah is investigated, with his master Cross Marian providing some background information on the connection between Mana Walker, the 14th Noah, and Allen. If none of this makes any sense to you… then you should probably set this franchise aside or go read the manga (I think this anime picks up around chapter 160 or so). While I don’t really have much nostalgia for this series, I did find myself entertained by this episode even if the narrative stumbles slightly towards the center. It is certainly bloodier than I remember its predecessor being. Between the fight in the opening and one of the final images, this episode probably had more blood than the first thirty episodes of the original anime combined. It may not be significantly violent, but, given that the use of cutaways and ‘black’ blood in its predecessor, it’s nice to see that one of my major pet peeves with the series has been addressed.
The voice cast has also changed, and the most notable shift there is the seiyu of Allen Walker himself, Ayumu Arase. He was previously voiced by Sanae Kobayashi who I’ve enjoyed in other works, but, in my opinion, never fit the role of Allen. His character in the first adaptation always seemed naive and childish to me, and while those are aspects of the character, I felt that the underlying bitter horror of his existence got lost in that portrayal. To be fair, it may have been the writing or the direction that led to those issues, but fortunately I was far more satisfied with this incarnation. I also liked the artistic direction more here as it does a good job capturing the Gothic aesthetic that defined the franchise. Overall, on the production side of things, everything looks and sounds good. TMS Entertainment was behind the production of both Hallow and its predecessor, but, aside from the fact that both feature music by Kaoru Wada, they seem to have entirely different staff working on them. I think, based on this first episode, that we may be looking at a decent adaptation, but whether or not viewers will be able to enjoy it depends heavily on their familiarity with the series. For now, I’ll at least sample a few more episodes to see how this installment progresses.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I actually hadn’t realized how much of the manga the original anime had adapted. I was thrown off when it occurred to me that they were dealing with the 14th Noah story.
- Remember how the Akuma from the filler arcs looked? I swear they looked like reject Pokemon. There was some filler arc that took place in a snowy region and I think Steelix was amongst the Akuma attacking them.
- I think my love affair with the manga started coming to an end when it killed off a minor background character whose name I didn’t even know, and then treated it as if it had all the significance of Maes Hughes’ death. That was not a good move on its part.
Despite being a sequel to an anime that ended almost eight years ago, Hallow proves to be a moderately enjoyable showing from TMS Entertainment. It fixes a number of issues that I had with its previous adaptation of the source material, but I remain skeptical as to whether or not this will be a decent show in its own right. Furthermore, it is definitely not accessible to newcomers.