While these days the Shonen formula has evolved considerably and many popular titles no longer embrace the Shonen Jump formulas and styles popularized by the ever-popular Dragon Ball, D.Gray-Man pulled off the alternative Shonen tale 15 years before it was fashionable to do so.
More of a Bloodborne type goth work than a Hot Topic / Shadow The Hedgehog slice of edge, this shonen seriously offered up a unique vision in a 19th-century setting that made for a pretty one of a kind experience.
To summarize, the series follows exorcist Allen Walker, and his comrades in the exorcist organization, who hunt down demonic entities known as Akuma who’ve been unleashed on the world by the nefarious and ghoulish Millenium Earl.
Sounds like a dime a dozen plot on the surface, but with a realistic cast of characters and some very interesting narrative turns, D.Gray-Man makes a pretty convincing case for itself. It’s the type of manga that doesn’t only ramp up as it goes along, but genuinely matures and constantly improves upon itself with each chapter.
The D.Gray-Man Manga Added A Gothic Twist To The Shonen Jump Formula
Who knows exactly where series creator Katsura Hoshino was influenced from when she came up with D.Gray-Man, which pulls a lot more from 19th-century gothic imagery than any of Jump comics that we’ve seen.
Sure shonen manga gets dark and edgy, but this series was always more dark in the Tim Burton way, having more visually in common with shojo manga like X/1999 or Angel Sanctuary than it did with any of the other series running in Jump at the time. It’s gothic art style is rarely seen in the panels of shonen manga, and Katsura Hoshino’s artistic sensibilities only get more refined as the series goes on.
Of course, being set in an alternative version of the 19th century in England, all the goth infused art makes sense but it’s just such a striking contrast; Lots of dudes in black trench coats and undead creepy-crawlies doing Bleach style shonen fighting.
D.Gray-Man Hallow Was An Unexpected Continuation
Eight years after the original D.Gray-Man anime tv series ended without covering the entire story even with its 103 episodes, fans of the show finally got to experience the continuation of the story. No one was expecting more D.Gray-Man to come out, especially with the manga being one that frequently went on and off hiatus whose popularity was a bit past its prime.
- Gray-Man Hallow was a 13 episode follow up to the original series that covered more of the manga, though with its short episode count there’s still more of the story to be told. With the manga series having eventually shifted to the monthly Jump Square from its original spot in Weekly Jump, and it often going in and out of hiatus, who knows when we’ll get to see more of the anime.
One Loveable and Edgily Dressed Cast Of Characters
Like any Shonen franchise, a series will only endure as long as it has a captivating cast. To its credit for being a more mature iteration of the genre, lots of these characters don’t fit the mold that Dragon Ball Z set.
We don’t have fiery caricatures like Naruto and Sasuke this time around, but in their place, you’ve got some more down to earth folk. Granted they’re all decked out in black making for a particularly eccentric bunch, but there’s some realistic personality to them all.
Instead of yet another Monkey D.Luffy type, Allen Walker is very much in a class of his own when it comes to being a Weekly Shonen Jump protagonist. He’s soft-spoken, possesses a feminine charm, and comes with an unsightly Akuma cursed arm that can mess up a whole lot of demon on the quick. He means well but due to plot reasons x, y, and z, others in the exorcist organization are extremely critical of Allen Walker to the point of paranoia.
Making for one hell of an anti-Akuma weapon himself, Allen Walker goes through quite some character development throughout the series. Despite being the lead character of a Shonen Jump manga, he’s not a Luffy / Goku style endless battle machine. Fight after fight begins to subtly weigh on him among some other plot-heavy specifics, and to put it simply without spoilers, he makes some pretty drastic changes.
Long black hair, wielding a katana, and always disagreeable, Kanda was always the ‘cool one’ in the D.Gray-Man lineup. He butts heads with Allen Walker a lot, but when it comes to his job as an exorcist he takes it very seriously and can always be counted on in a fight. He’s got a serious case of Backstory going on, that gets increasingly complex as the manga goes on.
Out of the secondary cast, Lavi was always a fan favorite especially for the cosplayers of yesteryear. Armed with a giant black mallet and sporting some spiky red hair, Lavi does come off as a little more openly anime than the other members of this goth-twinged set of characters. He’s friendly and fights the Akuma alongside Allen and Kanda, but keeps up ties with the mysterious Black Order sub-organization.
With parents killed by Akuma at a young age, Lenalee Lee carries a deep hatred inside her for these creatures you rarely see pop to the surface. On the contrary, she’s a deeply empathetic character and when someone close to her gets either injured or passes on, she can’t help but take these events with an extra personality.
Being two of the nicer cast members among the fellow exorcists, Allen and Lenalee get along particularly well and have definitely formed a unique bond.
Cross is a character who, compared to everyone else we’re listing, doesn’t actually show up in the comic that much. That doesn’t mean he’s unimportant though, as it’s because of him Allen Walker is an exorcist in the first place. He had trained Allen from when he was a young age, and then set off to do god knows what, creating a lot of trouble along the way.
The Millenium Earl
At first glance, The Millenium Earl might seem comical for a shonen big bad, with his puffy-body and his big top hat. However, don’t let looks deceive you; He’s an extremely menacing and creepy individual who thinks nothing of setting loose bloodthirsty Akuma on innocent populations. He comes across as a much more cut-throat and realistic kind of sinister than say Frieza.
The Noah Family
Introduced as the right-hand men of the dastardly Millenium Earl, The Noah Family make up the brunt of the antagonists throughout the series. They appear to be on the side of the Akuma yet look completely human, granted a very tired and undead type of human by nonetheless humanoid. There’s some real mystery behind the clan of Noah that story arc after story arc starts to become clearer.