The battle continues!
What They Say:
With Kanda left behind to battle Skinn, Allen and the crew make their way through the crumbling Ark. The path through is filled with dangerous traps left by the eccentric Jasdevi but Allen’s unique training with Master Cross gives him a bizarre advantage. Who knew gambling and identifying different types of sake would ever come in handy? But the games end when Jasdevi reveal their true form!
D. Gray-Man Season 4 Part 1 contains episodes 78-90.
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 Kanda looking all intent and serious with the shadows wrapping around him in a good way. With a white background, it highlights her character design more and the starkness of it since it’s a black and white suit look to it that works well, especially against this background. 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 section is located on the third disc where it contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. This set comes with two audio commentary – no video commentary this time – with the staff talking about the show like we’ve heard before. The main new extra here of note is a seven-minute piece with Todd Haberkorn following through on a promise he made before regarding a tattoo. It’s cute and simple but definitely more for those that follow voice actors and are excited to see the follow-through from the promise.
The fourth season of D.Gray-man finally gets underway and we’re one step closer to finishing off this series after a decade or so since it originally began release here. Getting back into the property with the third season proved by be quite difficult after a few years of a gap between releases and no real attempt at trying to bring people up to speed. The series is, quite simply, being released to get the Hallow project out and it’s being aimed at the fans who just want to complete it since it’s a DVD release that partially mirrors how the old DVD releases were done. It’s not exactly quick and dirty the episodes are being dubbed so there is new investment in all of it and I definitely appreciate that for the fans.
But oh does the show make me struggle while watching it. The main problem that I have with this set, remembering that seasons are largely meaningless with this franchise outside of a year one/year two aspect, we’re still essentially going through one long series of action sequences. While there are some small moments of understanding to be had in the mix here, they’re few and far between and generally feel inconsequential in the long run, again noting that this covers only a portion of the manga and this finished back in 2008 and we’ve got ten years of manga produced between then and now. So I’m certainly not expecting a conclusion but I’m also grappling to really find a connection with the series as it seemingly treats its characters terribly. It’s reminiscent of some of the filler anime-original neverending arcs from Naruto at this stage for me and that’s clearly not a good sign.
There are fun moments to be had but they’re more of an isolated piece than anything significant. The first couple of episodes focuses on Kanda going up against the Noah that he’s holding off so the rest can get to the next point in the mission. This is simply fun because Kanda’s the serious guy giving it his all and that’s a solid push as he grunts and gets all steely-eyed over it – and shirtless I believe. The Noah isn’t all that much in terms of character, a problem that plagues just about all of the opponents at this point because of the amount of time it’s taken to get through all of this, but he brings some good physicality to it and comes across with more than enough intent with what he’s doing. It’s not just him playing with Kanda but him trying to take him down outright.
I also kind of liked some of what Allen faces off against as it progresses since he’s going against “doctors orders” in how he uses his Innocence against those that can damage it. He’s intent on trying to find a way to break through, though you’d think he might be a bit more wary after all that he went through. Granted, he’s stronger than before and more connected to his Innocence and you don’t want him cautious in a way that makes him easy to defeat, but there’s still that kind of overconfidence that you get in people that age without thinking through the consequences. Which, to be fair, is half the point of a lot of shounen series when you get down to it, in that even without that kind of thinking things through they can still win and things will turn out all right. We do get some decent action out of it and that works nicely in conjunction with all the other smaller action character elements playing out, but it’s somewhat of a blur from the previous set with what they’re intending to do or trying to accomplish at this point.
And I don’t even want to get started on Lenalee who feels like she’s been so incredibly fridged at this point so as to be even more useless when she should have a commanding role.
With one more set to go for this run I’m hard pressed to have much of an opinion on it. There’s certainly some plot discussed here but it’s all something that feels secondary to the forward movement toward more action than anything meaningful combined with it being spread across the previous twenty-six episodes already. Funimation put together a solid release here that will please fans that have wanted this for ages, including new extras and the obvious new dubbed material, but this is proving to be more of a struggle with each volume as the weight of it feels like it’s too much.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Todd Haberkorn Follows Through, Episode 83 Commentary, Episode 87 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 13th, 2018
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.