By Leroy Douresseaux
October 22, 2007 - 12:03
Shounen manga D.Gray-man is set in a fictional version of 19th century England and focuses on a 15-year-old boy, Allen Walker. Walker is an “ Exorcist,” and his enemies are demons known as “ akuma.” His weapon is a substance with which Allen can bond called “ Innocence” (in the case, the substance has bonded with his left arm to form a bladed weapon).
As D.Gray-man, Vol. 7 opens, Allen’s sacrifice and bravery in combat has left him near death, after a recent battle. Now, he is in the care of the Asian Branch of the Black Ministry, and he must deal with the sobering reality that he may not regain his Innocence. Meanwhile his compatriots Lavi and Lenalee and a band of Exorcists race to Japan aboard a sailing vessel, which comes under an intense attack from a group of akuma led by the gruesome-faced Eshi.
THE LOWDOWN: Created by Katsura Hoshino, D.Gray-man is an action/fantasy/horror series. It mixes the supernatural with elements of superhero comics the way The Matrix films mixed sci-fi/action with elements of superhero comics and martial arts movies. This is certainly manga that shares the fight comics urgency of something like Naruto, but the reader doesn’t have to look hard to see that some of the characters in D.Gray-man are like Neo from The Matrix – superheroes that don’t dress in traditional garb.
Hoshino is a wonderful visualist who populates his manga with eerie Lovecraftian backgrounds and inventively creepy villains. Here and there, his art has some similarities to Joe Madureira ( Battle Chasers, Uncanny X-Men) and Kelley Jones ( Batman, The Hammer).
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: D.Gray-man is part of VIZ Media’s “Shonen Jump Advanced” line of shounen manga for older male teen readers, but its dark visuals and violence aren’t too heavy for ‘tweens who love Harry Potter.