Greetings, manga readers! I wanted to take some time to make a dent (however small) in my personal manga pile, so today please welcome back Infinite Speech, who graciously offered to take on some books I wasn’t interested in myself. He shares some of my opinions, particularly on D.Gray-Man, but he’s more tolerant of Naruto than I am (since I’m not at all). Thanks IS! Also, don’t forget about the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast going on now at Experiments in Manga! Also also, we have a forum now! It’s still a baby, but you can check it out and sign up here!
Author: Katsura Hoshino
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Volume: Volume 21 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2010 by Shueisha, November 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, fantasy, supernatural
Being that this was my first experience with D. Gray-Man, I went into it with a very open mind and no expectations. There’s also the fact that I’m coming into this thing at volume 21, admittedly putting me a bit behind. So knowing this I took a look at the previous review of D. Gray-Man and did a bit of research on the title after reading it the first time. So, after the second read through I can’t say that I was too impressed with everything going on in the story.
We open up in the middle of a battle that lasts over 160 pages and is just so hyper kinetic that it seems to overlook the fact that there needs to be a story in there somewhere. Or at least one that reads better than this one. Alma Karma transforms into an Akuma, and Allen discovers where the dark matter in him came from. All the while to save his friends, all he has to do is agree to the evil Millennium Earl’s request. Even more truths are revealed amid flashbacks and fights, though by the time all of this takes place you may not even care.
What I did appreciate was the attempt to acclimate anyone who may not be a consistent reader with the brief synopsis and character descriptions at the beginning. However, with the choppy storytelling and the fact that many of the characters start to look alike, it makes that section a bit of a waste. Now, this may just be my personal issue, but I really get annoyed when the dialog in the panel isn’t being spoken by the people IN the panel. This happened way too much for my tastes and robbed the story of what could have been some great visual storytelling moments. Things did improve during Yu and Alma’s fight as the story began to move a bit more smoothly, but we’re thrown right back into chaos when everyone starts being consumed by the dark matter. Here is where all of the things I took issue with come into play a lot more, making this one story that I just did not enjoy. Also, it’s a waste if there are references to color in a black and white book, but it’s worse when it would have helped identifying a tense moment in the story that was brought up. The artwork, however, was very good and kept the book at a fast and frantic pace from beginning to end. It was even better when the action was able to concentrate on only two or three characters instead of trying to fit an ensemble cast into a couple of tiny panels on every page.
Now, I’m sure had I been reading the series from the beginning the reveals would have had more of an impact on me. Though the fact that this was just one very long and drawn out fight scene just annoyed me to the point that nothing seemed to hold my interest. There was just too much emphasis on the action than on moving the actual plot which suffered here. There are several things here that have the makings of an exciting story, but they need to be put together a little better. I’ve picked up various other manga well after their beginnings and have enjoyed them enough to go back and find out more. D. Gray-Man just isn’t one of those for me.
Aside from the few episodes I’ve seen and the time spent playing the video game, my exposure to the world of Naruto has been very brief. So when asked to help out by reviewing the 53rd volume in the series, I thought I’d be thrown into the midst of some frantic situation like when I read D. Gray-Man. Well, lucky me got to read an origin of sorts, as Naruto is greeted by the spirit of his mother in his quest to conquer Nine Tails. But before Nine Tails can be dealt with, Naruto must overcome the darkness within himself, and he won’t go out without a fight.
What was refreshing was that there were only a handful of characters present in this story from the huge cast. What wasn’t all that exciting were the characters themselves, or the fact that Naruto was in conflict with a “dark” version of himself. We have seen this act played out in various stories before, and it’s been done better as there just didn’t seem to be any weight to this part of the story. It was by the numbers and there wasn’t any question as to the outcome because of what needed to take place later in the story. Another annoying aspect was the character and dialog of Killer Bee. Upon seeing the character’s name I immediately thought of the Hip-Hop group Wu-Tang, and was hoping the character didn’t turn out the way I assumed. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Not only did he end up exactly how I thought, but it was even worse: a caricature that only speaks in rhyme. A very broken and aggravating rhyme scheme at that, which does nothing but disrupt the pacing of the story. Add to that the repeated use of the word “fool,” and you’ve got one very annoying character. I could probably spend most of this review ripping Killer Bee, but thankfully there is a shift in the story that doesn’t involve him for quite some time, and this is when things drastically improve. When Kishimoto has Naruto meet his mother, thus begins a history lesson for the young ninja. While he attempts to subjugate Nine Tails in one realm, his past and that of his parents is revealed to him in another. This is where the book actually shines in terms of the characters and the pacing of the story. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that Nine Tails has been a part of Naruto’s life since he was born. The story also brings quite a few things full circle about Naruto and how the events from sixteen years ago bring some closure to his life now.
The artwork was decent enough, though it seemed as if more detail was put into making Nine Tails look cool while at times the other characters suffered. The amount of detail fluctuated quite often, which was a bit distracting in some of the panels. The action scenes were another area where this was prevalent, but they were still easy to follow and pretty cool. Other than that, it’s a nice and simple style that seems to work for this particular story.
So, if you’re already a fan of the series then I’m sure this story here won’t do anything to dampen your opinion. However, if you’re fairly new then I’d suggest trying to start from the beginning, then maybe characters like Killer Bee won’t be so annoying and the story would carry a bit more weight for you.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.