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D.Gray-Man #1
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Written by maehara   
Monday, 02 June 2008 16:00
D.Gray-manWith FUNimation having picked up the anime license for this one, I don't think it'll be too long before we see D.Gray-man on the small screen. In the meantime, though, we'll have to make do with the manga - which isn't half bad, at least in this opening volume...

1 - Opening
Exorcists - the ones chosen by God to protect the world from Akuma. Young Allen Walker travels to London to continue his studies in exorcism, but his journey comes at a time when Akuma are becoming increasingly active. On his arrival in the city, Allen is immediately caught in the middle of an Akuma appearance where a police officer is killed - and where the blame for the death is quickly placed on him. With the police unconvinced by his claim to be an Exorcist, can he prove his innocence? Menawhile, a female police officer he befriends is about to have a first-hand encounter with an Akuma...

2 - A Full Moon Night
On his way to the Exorcists' headquarters, Allen encounters a young boy, John, just in time to save him from a premature end at the hands of an Akuma. John's knows a bit about Akuma and Exorcists - his father's a scientist who's been working on ways to defeat the Akuma, and John's been reading his notes - but he only knows enough to get himself into serious trouble, not enough to be useful, so Allen tries to persuade him to stop digging into things he doesn't understand, lest he draw the attention of the Earl. But boys will be boys, and John is soon in serious trouble...

3 - The Pentacle
Allen once again has to save John - but this time, there isn't just an Akuma to deal with, but also the Earl himself, and defeating him is going to test Allen's skills to their limit. But Allen has a secret that will help him deal with the Earl - not only have they met before, Allen has also created an Akuma of his own, out of his own father. Ever since then he's been cursed with the ability to see the true soul of an Akuma - and with an anti-Akuma weapon living inside him, ready to help him fight when required...

4 - Decision and Beginning
While Allen fights against the Earl and his Akuma, John has time to think about what's happened - about his friend Leo, and how his own research into the Akuma may have started Leo down the path towards becoming an Akuma himself. When all is said and done, though, he realises what must be done: Leo must be exorcised, and Allen is just the person to do it. Before Allen can finish the job, though, the Earl realises he's going to be on the losing side if he hangs about, and withdraws...

5 - The Black Order
Allen finally reaches the Exorcists' headquarters - a rather ominous and imposing tower with a sentient gate who doesn't like the look of him. Allen's unfortunate enough to wear a pentagram on his face - the mark of an Akuma, and something certain to cause just a little suspicion. Enough so that Allen finds himself under attack by the group that he's supposed to be joining. Will be get inside the castle in one piece..?

6 - Admittance to the Castle
Thanks to the timely finding of a letter of introduction from another Exorcist - the highly-regarded General Cross, who just happened to be Allen's guardian and mentor - Allen finally gains entry to the castle, where the first order of business is to get treatment for the injuries he sustained fighting the Earl. The work done by head exorcist Komui seems to have unexpected side effects...

7 - Revelation and Destiny
Alan somehow manages to overcome the anaesthetic that Komui had given him - something Kmoui wasn't expecting that he would be able to do - and with his movement restored in able to regain control over himself and his weapon. With that done, he begins to learn the history of the Exorcists' powers, and just what sort of eternal battle he's let himself in for...

Up to chapter 4 is basically setup - Allen's introduction and a pair of short adventures that let you get a feel for who he is and what he's capable of. They also introduce the series, villain, the Millennium Earl (who really needs some help with his dress sense). In a way, they're simple "find out what's wrong and fix it" stories, which aren't overly exciting in their own right - if you've ever seen or read King of Bandit Jing, you'd be on the right path - but then I don't think they're meant to be representative stories.

The Earl may look daft, but he does represent a real threat - maybe not so much from his own physical presence, but certainly from the Akuma he's able to create, and chapter 3 set the scene for just how difficult he is to defeat. That's the end of his involvement in this volume, though, as from there we shift to the exorcists' HQ and some more scene-setting as Allen is welcomed into the organisation and meets the various wierdos who make up its members. With them being generally a bunch of misfits and malcontents, there's a lot of comedy flowing from their antics, although always with a serious undercurrent flowing underneath to reflect their saving-the-world mission. In some ways there's a bit of the Full Metal Alchemist vibe going on there, with similarities to the way that Edward's military colleagues often provided some comic relief. There are certainly worse stories to be compared with.

For the late 19th century, the Exorcists seem to have access to an awful lot of high-tech gear that's very out-of-time, which also raises the question of where they got it all from. The Akuma themselves are mechanical creatures endowed with a human soul - more high-technology that doesn't quite fit with the time-period, and just the sort of thing that piques my curiosity a little. Just what is going on here? For all that the London setting is recognisable, there's a lot that indicates that this isn't our world we're talking about, but some form of alternate world.

Given that so much of what happens here is clearly setup, I'm not sure how representative it's going to be of the rest of the series. As a starting point, though, there's a lot of promise here - I love the setting, Allen himself is an interesting character, there's some good fun to be had from the others he meets along the way, and the action-based portions of the story are well-presented and short enough that they don't become dull. The real test of the series will be where it goes from here - and with volume two already on my desk, I'm not going to have to wait long to find out.

Rating - ***

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