By Mikayla Mitchell
Debuting in 2004, the manga series D.Gray-man quickly garnered a large fan following, spiking when its anime adaptation began broadcasting in 2006. But just as quickly as the community spun up, the series itself ended just two years after it started.
This gap in time was felt by the fandom, with no news or any updates for the anime for almost a decade.
In 2016, there was a sudden resurgence of the manga, followed by a shorter anime reboot titled D.Gray-man Hallow, paving the way for older fans to return to a story they loved while creating an opportunity for new audiences to be introduced to the show years after its initial run.
A blurring of absolutes
D.Gray-man focuses on a young man named Allen Walker who has been cursed by the akuma of his late father. Dealing with the fallout of such a traumatic event, he vows to become an Exorcist and help to end akuma suffering once and for all. Allen, along with the rest of the Exorcists, use a power called Innocence that allows them to slay akuma as part of a group called the Black Order.
The fight isn’t one-sided, though. The Noah Family, led by the Millennium Earl, convinces grieving humans to join them and become akuma. On the surface, the conflict may seem familiar. A war between two absolutes, light and darkness, with some witty biblical allusions.
But as the series progresses, this conflict becomes much more complex. As characters and individual motivations grow, secrets are revealed about the Noah Family and Black Order and the story twists down a dark path that grabs you from the moment you catch wind of it.
Things take a turn when it’s shown that much of the Noah Family are kids that were taken from their families or were already orphaned. The audience realizes that these are troubled kids being forced to wield a dangerous power and fight akuma.
Of course, as with any bit of mystery, more secrets mean more questions. Each character has a hidden truth and some level of importance to the story. Even nameless or forgettable side characters serve a purpose. The warring absolutes begin to blur, and it’s no longer clear which side anyone is on.
But this planned confusion is what makes the series so alluring. D.Gray-man pulls in the audience by introducing what could seem like a simple story, and then quickly diverts once you’re committed to its storytelling. The audience thinks they know the characters and the parts they play, but the circumstances begin to change.
The story starts as that familiar battle between light and dark, but the audience and characters both learn that it’s not that simple. Not everyone on the “good side” necessarily has good intentions, forming a more complex fight that is not exactly good against evil. A specific example of symbolism is the Order specifically being called the “Black” Order while later in the series, the Noah are clad completely in white.
Power in characters
Each character is thoughtfully developed with love and care, making it easy for fans to see themselves in these stories, finding comfort in them. Many of them are tragic or have dark pasts, and although they are still going through hardships, can be seen recovering from their trauma and finding ways to stay strong. This can bring representation to tough moment’s in people’s lives and touch their hearts.
The protagonist, Allen, dealt with bullying and abuse as a young child. He found a bit of love, but soon had to watch the one person who loved him die. And in trying to bring him back to life, he was cursed. Allen is understandably a very distant character. Although kindhearted and friendly, he is very sad and tries not to get close to any potential friends.
But his progress is evident, and he can’t help but to make friends. One friend even points out much later that Allen’s smiles are looking more real, and this one statement does a lot to show how he has grown since childhood.
With such an intense plot, some of the characters can disappear for long amounts of time. The series plays with this waiting, much like a hiatus, and makes sure that when characters reappear, they do so with impact.
For example, Yu Kanda was a main character that disappeared at the end of his character arc. His absence left many shocked and worried about what would come next. When he finally returns, it’s an exciting reward for fans who kept waiting and reading, and they finally get to see a favorite character join the main protagonist again.
For many fans, D.Gray-man has played a huge part in their life, as they grew up with its story and characters. That’s not a light touch, and can leave a permanent mark on a fan, adding that much more power to any new content that comes out. The most active fan community today exists on Tumblr, with countless blogs dedicated to creating anything from fan content, to discussing theories with one another, or updating the community on any news.
This emotional connection keeps the audience interacting with each other even throughout weeks, months or years with no net-new content, discussing their own ideas on how things will progress and grow. They remain patient and passionate without fail.
Fans take the hiatuses well, understanding from a creator perspective why a series takes an extended break. With that in mind, they spend their time online with other fans – a community at the core of D.Gray-man, helping to spread the word of its impact and the legacy it holds in anime.
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