A continuation/reboot of the D Gray Man series; we follow as the Order take on the Noah in a fight to determine the fate of the world. However, inside the Order there are secrets and plans that the exorcists know nothing about and Allen Walker is going to get caught up in the middle.
I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my thoughts on individual episodes click here.
By the way, it should go without saying, but this post will have spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the original D Gray Man so if you intend to watch and want to be surprised, skip now.
There are two ways this review could go. I can be totally detached and just objectively list the merits and problems with this show or I can go into complete fan-girl mode and just gush about how great it is to see all of these characters again after an 8 year gap. Yep, 8 years left on a cliff hanger as the headquarters of the Order were destroyed and Lenalee’s weapon transformed into the blood crystal thing and that’s where we left it.
Normally shows that don’t end and those that don’t end and leave us on a cliff hanger, go into my list of been there, done that, don’t watch again. D Gray Man was different. I loved it more than Bleach and Soul Eater. It even blew away any nostalgia for Sailor Moon while I was watching the original. It was my absolute favourite anime ever (and that was saying something). There was just something about the cast of characters and the weird mix of really over the top emotional drama followed by incredibly clunky comedy that appealed in a way that other shows couldn’t. Individual events in the show were incredibly moving and some of the things the characters went through were heart-breaking and yet the show itself (while intensely dark at times) always held that small little glimmer of hope.
But this is not a review of the original series. I’m saving that for a long way down the track when I kind of feel I’ve figured out exactly what I want to write in a review.
From a fan-girl point of view, this story continuing was the most amazing thing ever. I tried really hard to downplay how excited I was because after 8 years I knew things were going to be different and there was a good chance it wouldn’t be any good. There was also the issue that only 13 episodes had been announced and 13 episodes just didn’t seem long enough to do anything given how long it took us to get to where we were last time.
So let’s take the fan-girl and nostalgia lens off and let’s just look at the 13 episodes we were given by Hallow.
Right, first point: If you haven’t watched the original series, this continuation/reboot gives you about five minutes of character introductions during a fight sequence that makes little sense from a narrative point of view and that is supposed to be your catch up on who the main cast are and how they fight. Bad Hallow. This fight didn’t please fans of the series much because the attacks being used are excessive for the forces they are facing and we don’t have any real idea why they are facing these guys or why all of the main cast are together given how rarely that happens in the show because they keep sending little sub-groups off in all directions. For people who weren’t familiar with the show, this was a confused mess of an introduction and didn’t really endear anyone new to the series.
Second point: Allen and Kanda are the standout characters in Hallow. Krory and Lavi are at best bystanders. Thinking about it from the point of view of someone who has no knowledge of the show, it’s possible you entirely missed that these two were actually main characters. Seems like most of the rest of the cast have forgotten that Lavi is a main character too given no one seems to be caring that he’s been kidnapped by the Noah. Seriously? Sorry, Lavi is one of my favourite characters and his treatment in Hallow is a little criminal (not that I don’t want him to be kidnapped, but it would be nice if this had some narrative impact or affected his so-called friends a little bit).
That said, Kanda is finally given a backstory and it is completely heart-wrenching. You kind of knew that his past would be horrible (given all of the other character story’s) but the way his particular tragedy is played out and the implications for the moral compass of the entire Order is truly the take-a-way moment from Hallow. Even if everything else had sucked, Kanda and Alma’s story would have been worth watching.
Allen’s story is equally emotional but a lot of it requires prior knowledge of Allen and you need to actually care about the overall conflict. That, and Allen’s story is not touchingly brought to a close during Hallow, in fact we are left right in the middle of it with all of the characters focussed on Allen and wondering what will happen next, which doesn’t really help the audience get any closure.
Lenalee fares better than Lavi and Krory but she doesn’t get much chance to show off the fact that she actually can be a pretty good fighter. Then again, that was always a persistent problem with Lenalee. Long gaps in-between action where she would serve the other characters cups of tea. In that respect, Hallow kind of just keeps her being Lenalee.
The Noah are fairly present during the 13 episodes but it doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten any closer to any of them. Road is still awesome but she barely appears. While as individual characters the Noah aren’t really developing, as an overall threat they do make their presence felt. However, they are more of a natural disaster kind of threat than individuals and it kind of feels like the show would like us to notice they have individual emotions and motives but it doesn’t give us enough time to really care about them.
So the characters are a bit of a mixed bag in Hallow. Then again, if I were to take 13 episodes out of the original we’d probably have the same problem. Characters do disappear for extended lengths of time while we focus on other stories and then we come back to them eventually. Again, newcomers to the show will be lost by a lot of what goes on and won’t really know why some other character points are significant. The only two characters you will really gain any kind of connection with are Kanda and Allen.
Third point: What are they doing with the pace? Let’s fight, let’s go investigate, let’s make a new friend, wait we’re fighting again, sad moment flash back, fight… Okay, we get that there’s a lot you want to do and a lot you want to tell us, and that the original series is also plagued by pacing issues, but if I entirely take the fan-girl in me away, the pacing is rubbish. It is genuinely bad and distracting to the plot and character development.
Fourth point: Visuals? Alright, this is where fans are split. Visually, D Gray Man Hallow is fine when looked at in terms of just being a show. It isn’t particularly beautiful or well done, but neither is it ugly. The problem is it isn’t D Gray Man. The colour palette is too bright and most of the scenes are too bright. D Gray Man was almost always dark and dripped atmosphere whereas Hallow really doesn’t feel like it has a distinct visual identity. That said, I didn’t find the visuals a put off, but they certainly don’t draw me in the way the original did.
Fifth point: The story continues but where are we really going? The fight between the Order and the Noah is always in the background of this show and individual conflicts (that somehow tie into that) are almost always in the foreground. The 13 episodes we had here almost entirely revolved around the conflict with the Noah, which is a massive deviation from how the war has been conducted prior. That’s part of the reason why so many characters have been sidelined. They aren’t strong enough to survive a fight with the Noah and we already know that given how effective the Noah have been previously at killing exorcists. The problem with this entire focus on the Noah is that we still don’t actually know what they want (other than to destroy Innocence) and now the Order’s motives (which were always questionable) are entirely suspect. So we are following a conflict between two groups and we don’t really know what either is ultimately striving for. Meanwhile we are mostly following the story of the lower grunts who really don’t know what is going on but are having to make some really significant moral choices.
Here’s the thing with the plot. I love it and I love that we aren’t being spoon-fed everything in an instant. However, if the story doesn’t continue then we’ll be left in limbo, again.
Final point given this has gone on long enough: Is Hallow entertaining? For me, I loved it. I loved being back in this world with these characters and seeing the story move on. The visual changes aside (and voice actors), it just felt right. It was like reuniting with an old friend. You’ve both changed but somehow none of that matters because you are just happy to see them again.
Recommendation: If you haven’t watched the original series and you don’t mind dark anime, check it out right now and then watch Hallow. If you’ve seen the original and you haven’t watched Hallow, watch Hallow. Also, keep hoping and hoping that they don’t end it here. If you don’t like your anime dark and you don’t like seeing main characters going through hell, this anime is not for you.