D.Gray-man volume 24
Author: Katsura Hoshino
Author: Katsura Hoshino
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the D.Gray-man series so far. Read on with caution!
Allen, now joined by two companions, is still on the run and trying to deal with his demonic alter ego, the Fourteenth. This means avoiding erstwhile allies as well as overt enemies. He also has to prevent one of his companions, fellow Exorcist Kanda, from trying to destroy the Fourteenth while keeping the Fourteenth from destroying his other companion, Johnny, whose zealous devotion to Allen is gratifying but not much help in a fight!
In a way, it's almost a blessing that D.Gray-man was on hiatus and came back from break with a fresh face. In its renewed vigor, it's really been steamrolling through the plot, as thrilling and haunting as ever. In its latest volume, Allen Walker struggles with his runaway status, now accompanied by the scowling Kanda and the enthusiastic Johnny, all while figuring out how to contain the slowly awakening Fourteenth. But the Fourteenth won't be content on staying inactive for long...
As the 24th volume opens, we see what really happened to Howard Link, thought dead but who showed up in the last pages of the previous volume, very much alive at that. Link, now on his latest assignment, is quickly taken to task by Kanda. It's rather interesting to see that their objectives aren't that different. They both want to protect Allen and see him survive. For Link, it's for proof that people can overcome the shackles of 'destiny' and become their own person. Considering he now carries the burden of Zu Mei's gift, it's no wonder he needs to see such a miracle in Allen Walker's own life.
Meanwhile, Allen is caught between himself and the Fourteenth/Nea, and is starting to see the memories of Nea and Mana as children. In this respect, Katsura Hoshino does a good job blending Allen's reality and Nea's past so that the reader is like Allen, stuck perceiving past and present at the same time, the distinction between them blurred. But when both Noah and Order forces enter the scene, Allen, Johnny and Kanda are forced to make hard choices to survive the encounter.
It's worth pointing out before anything else how gorgeous and startling the artwork in this volume is. I know Hoshino gets flak for changing up her art style during the hiatus, but it really works to the story's advantage in these chapters. I especially love how the various characters' abilities are drawn out, from Kanda's Nigento to Allen's Innocence and more Noah aspects. The cover itself is a bit of a spoiler for the previous volume, but I'd hope you've read book 23 before starting this one!
There is no safe place for Allen and his friends. Being the Fourteenth's new form doesn't help that; running away from the Order really compounds things. It's a hard life to live and this series isn't giving him anywhere to lie low for long. I'm glad for it; it keeps the story moving at a steady pace. Allen's already spent a good amount of time lying low in a small town, playing the role of friendly neighborhood clown. But now Allen has to learn the hard way that the past always finds a way to catch up.
(Like Apocryphos. Dude, you're a superpowered sociopath.)
I'm enjoying, in an odd way, how Hoshino is slowly exposing how dangerous and corrupt the Order is. At the start of the series, they were seen as the light and the way for a good world. But after the Kanda/Alma plotline and seeing how they only want to use Allen/the Fourteenth as a living weapon without any regard for their shared humanity? Man, eff 'em. I hope Kanda burns the institution down and salts the earth where it stands.
This latest edition of D.Gray-man is a stellar volume, filled with lots of nooks and crannies worth a second read-through—panels covered in various speech bubbles, intricate artwork, fast paced action scenes. This book is where people's paths are forged, for better or for worse, and we see exactly the kind of troubles Allen Walker has to look forward to as he grapples with the Fourteenth's spirit. The only bad thing about this book? It's the latest book published in both English and Japanese. I don't want to be a jerk but, um, Hoshino-senpai? Keep your health up!