What They Say:
Exorcist prodigy Allen Walker is back! Together with his Black Order comrades, they set sail towards Japan in hopes of finally finding General Cross. But before their journey begins, the open waters greet them with a hoard of deadly Akuma! Swept away by the masses, Allen confronts a creature, the likes of which he’s never seen before—a fallen one. A dark truth reveals itself, and Allen must make a choice. Pushing his Innocence to the limit, will he save the one who has fallen in the eyes of God, or will he lose everything trying?
And when his arm—his most important weapon—is destroyed, will he climb from utter despair to rediscover the power of his Innocence? With the help of the Black Order’s Asian Branch and new friends, he’ll find out what it truly means to be an Exorcist.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. This is a good mix overall as it handles the action just right and there’s a fair bit of directionality and placement both in those scenes and with the dialogue. It’s not exactly a standout piece but it fits the material well. The English language mix gets the bump up to a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps and that has an obviously stronger feel to it when it comes to placement and clarity, particularly during the action sequences. The music is still generally the biggest benefactor when it comes to the 5.1 mixes for shows done in stereo and this is no exception as both the opening and closing songs sound much better overall. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set contains thirteen episodes across three volumes with six each on the first two discs while the third has one episode along with the extras A large percentage of the series takes place either indoors or at night so there’s a lot of darkness to the show overall, though not an overpowering amount. The transfer for the show is pretty good overall as there isn’t a ton of noise and the backgrounds remain mostly solid throughout. There is noise to be found and the show does have some gradients that are pretty visible from the source material, but they don’t get bad or distracting. Colors are generally solid looking and quite pleasing, especially with the Exorcists uniforms, and when there are brighter exterior scenes it shines even more.
The packaging for this release mirrors the overall look and design of what we had before bit skips out on the thinpaks for the discs inside and instead goes for a clear DVD keepcase to hold the three discs. The slipcover is nicely done with a good framing border with elements from the show while the interior has Allen looking all intent and serious with the shadows wrapping around him in a good way. With a black background, it highlights her character design more and the starkness of it since it’s a black and silver outfit. There’s some real vibrancy here though and plenty to draw the eye to with the colors that are there. The back of the slipcover is very dark with just an interior shot that you can barely make out which adds to some of the eerie factor of it all. The summary is painfully short though and the shots from the show are even smaller and harder to discern. The discs extras are clearly listed though but even with all this blank space they still push the technical grid to the bottom. I do wish they had laid out more clearly which episodes are included with this set since calling it season three doesn’t quite line up with how the seasons are marketed in Japan and that can get a bit confusing.
The menu design for D.Gray-Man is rather simply but it has that kind of classic elegance to it. Using the same structure as the front cover artwork with the framing as part of the background, it’s mostly just a black filled background with character artwork that’s different for each volume. With the static image and framing/background to it, these are good looking menus overall though a bit minimal in the end. Submenus load nice and fast and navigation is standard material from FUNimation. As is usual, the discs didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English language.
The extras are pretty mild overall, especially since there aren’t any audio commentaries this time either. The extras section is located on the third disc where it contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. We also get a video commentary for the 52nd episode that brings three of the actors in to comment on it, which has its moments of amusement to be sure.
With it having been about eight years since I last saw the D.Gray-man anime series that Funimation had released, this… this is a challenge. The show wasn’t going as strongly as it could have at the time and Funimation didn’t pursue licensing of the second half of the 103 episode run, which made sense because the costs outweighed what it was bringing in during a time when the market was tightening. But with the somewhat recent release of a sequel season (which had its own Japanese releases canceled indefinitely), Funimation saw that it made sense to try and get these out in order to work some magic on the new series. Unfortunately, these ended up as DVD-only release (for now?) but it at least kind of aligns with all that we had before from when I was reviewing these back in 2008 and 2009 originally. Which just makes me feel hella old, not the best way to deal with things.
What hurts this release in a way is that it really is just part of the larger ongoing story and there isn’t exactly a jumping on point here. We’re just thrown right into the storyline that focuses on Allen and the others dealing with an Akuma that’s a former exorcist that has been turn named Sauman. He’s kind of an uncommon type because even the Akuma want little to do with him as he causes a lot of damage, instead just waiting for that to end and for him to be taken care of before going through the remains to deal with what’s left alive after that. Not surprisingly, it’s a situation that Allen is able to survive but it’s one that costs him his Innocence arm. There’s a lot of emotion in the fight as he and the others try to save their comrade that has been twisted in this way and the discovery of how it could happen basically paints a picture that leads to distrust of the organization to some degree. There’s always been a certain unease when it comes to this organization but this just adds another layer to it.
Unfortunately, this ends up largely taking Allen out of picture for a while and pushes him back to a recovery phase. This does work some interesting exploration of his connection to his Innocence and the rarity of what he’s able to achieve in trying to recover, but it’s just a slow moving subplot that brings him back to the same place in the end, albeit somewhat more powered up. It’s a familiar story arc that has our hero learning to deal with his loss and then figuring out the way forward because he’s a gifted chosen one type but the pacing of it just doesn’t work and the use of the cast back at the headquarters is just weak, though some of that may simply come from the amount of time between releases that has reduced me connection to it.
So, where does that leave the rest of the cast? Lenalee and the others are on the ship making their way back to Japan and they spend practically the entire block of episodes here going through all sorts of little adventures there. This unfortunately brought back a lot of bad memories from the Naruto: Shippuden era where it comes across as a kind of drawn out phase where there are some minorly interesting moments along the way with the action as they deal with the akuma and other sorts of problems but it mostly just ends up being a lot of fluff. They do try to wrap it all up together at the end of the set with some emotion after bonding with the crew for a few episodes but even this just feels very hollow because of how drawn out it all is. So much of the cast that’s used here is of little note – even more so after being away from the show for so long – that it really didn’t do a thing for me as it didn’t explain enough of what it was building on from before and it only felt like it was attempting to pass the time so other things could unfold.
While I had enjoyed what I had seen of D.Gray-man almost a decade ago at this point, my memory of that enjoyment is fuzzy and ill-defined as little of it in terms of details comes to mind. I just know that I did enjoy what it did. Coming back to it all these years later the show certainly looks dated, which I expected, and it fits more of the padded feeling that you got from a lot of long running shows. I’m definitely glad to have this back but it just felt like the release needed to do more to reconnect viewers to it on Funimation’s side since it’s not exactly something you can do from the Japanese side. Fans will want to re-watch the previous sets to get back into the right frame of mind ahead of this as if you go into it cold like I did after so long I think a whole lot of it is just going to fall pretty flat.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Video Commentary
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 10th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.