D.Gray-man 3-in-1 Edition: Volume 1 cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.
Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
D.Gray-man is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Katsura Hoshino. The series stars a boy named Allen Walker, who becomes a member of the Black Order, an organization of Exorcists. These Exorcists make use of an ancient substance called “Innocence,” which they use as weapons to combat the Millennium Earl and his army of demons, the akuma.
Allen lives in a fictional version of 19th century Earth, where he searches for Innocence. Some Innocence has bonded with his left arm to form an anti-akuma, bladed weapon. Allen is also a very special Exorcist, and the Earl knows that.
VIZ Media is currently republishing D.Gray-man in its 3-in-1 editions. This is a kind of mini-omnibus paperback that collects three volumes of a manga series as a single graphic novel. D.Gray-man: 3-in-1 Edition Volume 1 reprints D.Gray-man, Volumes 1 to 3
D.Gray-man, Vol. 1 (entitled Opening; Chapters 1 to 7) introduces Allen Walker, a boy who hunts akuma. They prey on the weak and grieving, so Allan finds the akuma in the middle of a tragic tale of a priest and his wife. Then, there is the story of John, who wants to be an exorcist, and his friend, Leo, who is seduced by the Earl. Later, Allen is recruited by the Black Order, which allows him to learn about Innocence and its history.
D.Gray-man, Vol. 2 (entitled Old Man of the Land and Aria of the Night Sky; Chapters 8 to 16) finds Allen and fellow Exorcist, Yu Kanda, on a mission. They travel to the city of Mater, in southern Italy, to retrieve Innocence, but what they find is a Level 2 akuma that can copy other beings’ powers. The mission is complicated by the fact that Kanda does not like Allen, especially after the new exorcist befriends a man named Guzol and the singing doll, Lala.
D.Gray-man, Vol. 3 (entitled The Rewinding City; Chapters 17 to 26) opens with the attack of Komlin, a labor-saving robot that takes its programming too seriously and incorrectly. Then, Allen and fellow Exorcist, Lenalee, find themselves trapped in “The Rewinding City. The encounter Miranda Lotto, a woman connected to the mystery of the city, and also Master Record, a surprising adversary.
THE LOWDOWN: One of the good things about VIZ Media’s 3-in-1 editions is that they allow readers to get a look at the early chapters of manga series in what amounts to 500-page chunks. Early in the series, D.Gray-man resembles an amateur comic (doujinshi). At that point, series creator Katsura Hoshino is still obviously discovering her creation and getting a feel for it (or “feeling it out”). With each chapter, the narrative gradually becomes more polished. By the end of Vol. 3, the story is not only stronger, but it is also more self-assured, as Hoshino reveals more back story and mythology. Even the art is stronger compositionally, and the graphic design more practical, even if it remains flashy and stylish.
The D.Gray-man manga has some similarities to various Batman and X-Men comic books. Its fight scenes remind me of superhero fight comic books, resembling in spirit and tone what readers will find in The Avengers or a Justice League comic book. I highly recommend D.Gray-man, and I think D.Gray-man: 3-in-1 Edition Volume 1 is the best place to start.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers looking for superhero action/fantasy as a manga will enjoy the Shonen Jump Advance title, D.Gray-man.