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Monday, January 7, 2013

Manga Review: D.Gray-Man GN 23


D.Gray-man volume 23
Author: Katsura Hoshino
Viz Media
200 pages
Major spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the D.Gray-man series so far. Read on with caution!
Allen has been revealed to be the embodiment of one of a special class of demons known as the Noah, but some of his friends don’t want to believe he’d really go over to their side. Finding Allen and getting him to clear up the matter, however, proves to be a difficult and extremely dangerous proposition! (Source: Viz.com)
When people say how much they love the D.Gray-man manga, it's because of volumes like this one. Not those volumes where it's a lot of confusing interpersonal relationship drama and the plot drags across the floor like a wet sack of cement, definitely not because of those. The 23rd volume of Hoshino's series is the kind of volume DGM fans wait for eagerly: there's a great deal of plot stuff, lots of favorite characters rear their heads, and there are at least a handful of twists in the story to keep things interesting.
Where has this D.Gray-Man been hiding all this time? Oh, right, behind the most recent story line between Alma and Kanda. Which was great, don't get me wrong, but now we've returned to the main and arguably most pressing issue: the issue of Allen Walker. And with that, DGM can return to chugging along and being its quirky and sometimes confusing but always entertaining self.

In this volume of D.Gray-Man, it's all about getting the band back together. Well, sort of. We've got a dead Howard Link, an AWOL Kanda, a rogue Allen, and a whole bunch of Noah (who still have Bookman and Lavi captive) looking for said ex-Exorcist. In short, everything is in chaos and it's gonna take someone with courage and guts to get us through this holy mess and find Allen Walker before the Noah do.
Enter, our new hero: Johnny Gill of the Science Section. Wait, what? Well, look at the cover for another shocker to see his new traveling companion. Yu Kanda? I never thought I'd see the day where Johnny and Kanda team up to save the day but it is here and gosh, I'm loving this unlikely duo.
Plus, Kanda is really cool in this volume. He's clearly done a lot of maturing and mourning since last we saw him, and he has definitely grown from where he was in the beginning of D.Gray-man. His scene at Zu Mei and taking in Mugen is dramatic, beautifully drawn, and packs a hell of a punch emotion-wise. When Zu says that Kanda a mighty lotus, growing straight towards Heaven, you can see it in the way Kanda moves and wields Mugen. His physical and mental strength, unlike the lotus blossoms in his vision, are all too real.
It's no wonder that Kanda quickly absconds from the other Exorcists once he figures out Johnny's plan to rescue Allen Walker. That, and the fact that despite how irritated he gets by the beansprout, Kanda and Allen are best friends and that is a bond no Exorcist or Crow or Noah can break. This was a good volume for relationships, whether Allen & Kanda or Allen & Cross or even Reever & Komui ("an idiot who supports me completely", indeed!).
Some people might be disappointed by the amount of Allen Walker actually in this book. Fair enough! However, I think his presence - or lack of presence - dominates the narrative so greatly, he won't be terribly missed by his fans even when he's not actually on page. After all, you can't have D.Gray-Man without Allen. Well, you could, but I don't think Katsura Hoshino would do it.
I know some people have been complaining about Katsura Hoshino's changing art style. To be fair, artists' styles aren't entirely static. Such a change can be grating to see in an on-going series, but I think D.Gray-Man looks good in this new art style, now that Hoshino's actually grown comfortable with it. The characters who look best in this style turn out to be Kanda and the Noah; Allen Walker, surprisingly, comes out the worst, although he doesn't look terrible - just different than what long-term readers are used to. Having said that, it could just be the influence of the Fourteenth Noah bleeding through.
Naturally, the volume ends on a cliffhanger. Of course! It's one that has me making grabby hands at volume twenty-four, wondering how on earth certain people are around and what's going to happen to poor Allen Walker. It took a couple of volumes to get here, but D.Gray-Man is back on course and better than before, although from the looks of it, it might end after another four-five volumes since Hoshino looks to be putting this series into the final inning. Which is actually a good thing! I'd rather see DGM end on its own terms than die a painful, dragged out death 30+ volumes in.
Note: American readers have finally caught up to the Japanese releases with this volume - and volume twenty-four hasn't even been put together yet over there. So in other words, it's gonna be a while until the next new book! Plenty of time to watch the D.Gray-Man anime, right?