D.Gray-man is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Katsura Hoshino. Set in an alternate 19th century, it tells the story of a young Allen Walker, who joins an organization of exorcists named the Black Order. They use an ancient substance, Innocence, to combat a man known as the Millennium Earl and his demonic army of Akuma who intend to destroy humanity. Many characters are adapted from Hoshino’s previous works and drafts, such as Zone. The series is noted for its dark narrative; Hoshino once rewrote a scene she thought too violent for her young readers.
The manga began serialization in 2004 in the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine, published by Shueisha. Production of the series was suspended several times because of Hoshino’s health problems. D.Gray-man made the transition from a weekly to a monthly series in November 2009, when it began serialization in Jump Square. In December 2012, the series went on indefinite hiatus. It resumed serialization in July 2015 after the release of Jump SQ.Crown, a spin-off from the magazine Jump SQ. After Jump SQ.Crown ceased its publication, the series was switched to Jump SQ.Rise, starting in April 2018. The manga’s chapters have been collected in twenty-seven tankōbon volumes as of August 2020. By March 2020, Viz Media had released 26 volumes in North America.
A spin-off novel series, D.Gray-man: Reverse by Kaya Kizaki, explores the history of a number of characters. The manga has been adapted into a 103-episode anime series by TMS Entertainment which aired from October 2006 to September 2008 in Japan and is licensed by Funimation in North America. A 13-episode anime series, D.Gray-Man Hallow, was produced by TMS Entertainment. It aired in Japan from July to September 2016 as a sequel to the first D.Gray-man anime series. Several items of merchandise have been produced, including two video games about the series.
The manga has become one of Shueisha’s bestsellers, with over 24 million copies sold. In Japan and North America, several individual volumes have appeared in weekly top-ten lists of bestselling manga. Although most reviewers found it similar to other shōnen manga, they compared its moments of originality and well-developed characters favorably to other series of the same demographic. Hoshino’s artwork has received mostly positive reviews; most critics have commented that her characters are visually appealing and that the Gothic elements in her art are pleasant to look at. However one critic of her artwork has said that Hoshino’s fight sequences can be difficult to follow.
Written and drawn by Hoshino, the D.Gray-man manga began its serialization in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump on May 31, 2004. The series went on hiatus several times due to issues with Hoshino’s health. Publication resumed on March 9, 2009. The series reappeared in the seasonal magazine Akamaru Jump on August 17. After its run in Akamaru Jump, D.Gray-Man resumed publication on November 4, 2009 in the monthly magazine Jump SQ. The manga began another hiatus on December 29, 2012, beginning serialization again on July 17, 2015 in the quarterly Jump SQ.Crown, until the magazine ceased its publication on January 19, 2018. The manga moved to the Jump SQ.Rise on April 16, 2018.
Individual chapters have been published in tankōbon format by Shueisha. The first complete volume was published on October 9, 2004, and the 27th volume was published on August 4, 2020. In the making of each volume, Hoshino originally wanted each cover to be focused on a single character. However, following the 9th compilation of the series, Hoshino changed her mind and instead decided to try different types of covers that feature multiple characters.
At the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con International, D.Gray-man was licensed for English-language publication in North America by Viz Media. The company published the first collected volume of the series on May 2, 2006 and the 24th volume on August 5, 2014. The 25th volume was released on May 2, 2017. Viz Media reissued the series in a 3-in-1 format, publishing eight 3-volumes-in-1 editions from July 2, 2013 to November 3, 2015. Madman Entertainment published Viz’s 24-volume English edition in Australia and New Zealand, from August 10, 2008 to September 10, 2014.
A three-volume light novel based on the manga series, D.Gray-man: Reverse by Kaya Kizaki, was published by Shueisha. The first volume, published on May 30, 2005, focuses on Allen’s journey to the Black Order after he finishes his exorcism training, Yu Kanda’s mission to find a witch, and Asian branch head Bak Chan, who tries to learn how Komui Lee was elected European branch head (instead of himself). The second volume, published on July 4, 2006, is set in the Black Order. Allen and other characters attend a party, Lavi trains to be the next Bookman before he meets Allen, and the Millennium Earl searches for people to create Akuma. The third volume was published on December 3, 2010. Its first chapter follows Black Order scientist Rohfa’s search for Allen, with whom she is infatuated. In the second chapter, Allen lives with a circus as a child after he is abandoned by his parents.
Several other series-related books also exist published by Shueisha. The D.Gray-man Official Fanbook: Gray Ark was published on June 4, 2008, and TV Animation D.Gray-man Official Visual Collection: Clown Art on September 4. Three omnibus editions were published on November 13 and December 11, 2009 and January 15, 2010. They were followed by an illustrated book, D.Gray-man Illustrations Noche, on February 4, 2010. Noche was published by Viz Media on December 6, 2011. The artist’s book also contains two interviews with Hoshino and manga artists Osamu Akimoto and Takeshi Obata. D.Gray-man Character Ranking Book, a compilation of character popularity polls with character profiles by Hoshino and the one-shot “Exorcist no Natsu Yasumi”, was published on July 4, 2011. A new book, D.Gray-man Official Fan Book – Gray Log (Gray’s Memory), was released in Japan on August 4, 2017.
The manga has been popular in Japan. One of Weekly Shōnen Jump‘s bestselling series, individual volumes have appeared on annual Japanese top-50 manga sales lists; in 2008, volumes 14, 15, and 16 were on the list. Later volumes were also Japanese bestsellers. In March 2019, the series had a Japanese circulation of over 24 million copies. Manga author Katsura Hoshino is grateful to the editors assisting her to the point of saying that she owes the series’ success to them.
Volumes of Viz’s English version of the series have appeared on bestselling manga lists in the New York Times and Nielsen BookScan. In its summer 2008 and Q3 2008 lists, ICv2 ranked D.Gray-man the 15th-bestselling manga property in North America. In 2009 and 2010, the series was North America’s bestselling shōnen property and the bestselling manga overall. It was ranked as the 24th and 23rd North American manga property on ICv2‘s Top 25 Manga list in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Zassosha’s manga magazine, Puff, ranked the series the seventh-best long-story manga of 2006. In France, it received the Best Manga Series of 2006 award at the Anime and Manga 2007 French Grand Prix (organized by Animeland) and the 2006 Manga of the Year award from Webotaku. The anime DVDs have also been popular, ranking high on several Japanese animation DVD lists from 2007 to 2009, and the series was listed as a most-watched anime of the week. Its novelizations were also well-received; the second volume was the third-bestselling novel in Japan in 2006. D.Gray-man‘s characters have also inspired cosplay.
Reception of the series has been generally positive. In his review of volume one, Carlo Santos of Anime News Network said that certain plot points “come out of nowhere” and the story was kept from its full potential due to finding some points like the designs generic. However, he enjoyed the series’ quick-moving plot, exposition, and backstory. Sheena McNeil from Sequentialtart called it the best manga from 2006 based on its story and cast. A.E. Sparrow of IGN also reviewed the first volume, comparing the series’ antagonist to three of Batman‘s villains due to his likeability despite his role. Sparrow also enjoyed Allen’s characterization based on his tragic backstory. Calling the early volumes an “amateur comic”, reviewer Leroy Douresseaux of Coolstreak Cartoons noted that the plot and art improved significantly with each volume, whereas Otaku USA was amazed by the amount of different element such as horror, scifi, fantasy, among others to the point of making it an atypical manga from its genre. Ross Liversidge of the UK Anime Network enjoyed the first three volumes; Hoshino had “an excellent quality of storytelling” in juggling dark plot, light comedy and appealing characters. According to Brian Henson of Mania Beyond Entertainment, the series became better over time; although some elements seemed derivative, it developed a unique identity. Yussif Osman of Japanator said that the characters were some of the deepest seen in shōnen manga, citing Lavi’s backstory and the Noah Family.
Later volumes were also praised; Otaku USA‘s Joseph Luster appreciated the series’ battles and Allen’s development. The revelation that Allen would be an enemy of the Order and the 14th Noah was well received by Grant Goodman of Pop Culture Shock and Chris Beveridge of the Fandom Post. However, Goodman criticized early-volume reliance on comedy rather than plot. Beveridge and Erkael of Manga News were impressed with Kanda’s dark past Douresseaux liked Allen’s situation in volume 21 (due to the character’s connections with the Noah), and wanted to see more of that and less of Kanda’s fight with Alma Karma. Chris Kirby of the Fandom Post felt the constant mysteries across the series were entertaining, but lamented the continuous hiatus Hoshino had to take, leaving multiple fans disappointed in regards to future story events.
Hoshino’s art received mixed reviews. According to Casey Brienza of ANN, as of volume twelve, the battles were “practically unintelligible” yet liked the rest of the artwork. She described Hoshino’s drawing style as the “aesthetic yet dynamic, superbly beautiful yet super-violent” style made famous by female manga artists arising from the late-1980s and early-1990s dōjinshi subculture, citing Clamp and Yun Kōga as examples. Brienza also talked about Hoshino’s character designs, believing fans of both sexes would find them appealing. Douresseaux called Hoshino’s art “highly stylish” and reminiscent of work by Joe Madureira, Kelley Jones, and Chris Bachalo. Describing her backgrounds as eerie and Lovecraftian, Douresseaux wrote that Hoshino made appealing scenes that combined both gothic and violent elements. Brian Henson criticized changes made to the Viz Media version, such as the replacement of Japanese sound effects with less-appealing ones and awkward translations of character names.
According to Funimation Entertainment president and CEO Gen Fukunaga, the anime series was popular in Japan and the United States. Carl Kimlinger of Anime News Network reviewed the first episode, calling it derivative with “absolutely nothing original” but not boring. Noting that Allen’s use of the anti-Akuma weapon might seem clichéd, Todd Douglass Jr. of DVD Talk found its use in the anime entertaining. Active Anime’s Sandra Scholes and UK Anime Network’s Kevin Leathers enjoyed the anime series and, similarly to Douglass, found its small borrowings from other series appealing. Both reviewers praised Allen Walker’s characterization. Anime Insider‘s Kimberly Morales said that the series’ animation quality varied and although the story was appealing, voice actor Travis Willingham was miscast as Kanda. However, Morales liked the series and its cast overall. Tom Tonhat of Escapist praised the cast due to how it inspired multiple cosplaying and noted the impact of the Earl’s characterization as it involved about how the dead cannot be brought back to life.
UK Anime’s Kevin Leathers criticized its lack of entertaining story arcs, and Anime News Network’s Casey Brienza called the anime a poor adaptation of the manga. On the other hand, Neo enjoyed the direction of the episodes even though some are called “filler” based on how they allow to focus on the large cast. Allen’s English-language voice actor, Todd Haberkorn, said that anime sales were poor despite generally-positive reviews; he suggested that fans buy DVDs on sale to keep the series from being cancelled.
The anime’s sequel, D.Gray-man Hallow, was one of the most-anticipated anime series of summer 2016 by followers of Anime News Network and the Japanese web portal goo. Since he had not watched the original anime for some time, Alex Osborn of IGN appreciated the brief exposition in the sequel’s first episode to remind the audience of the plot. Although he enjoyed the interaction among the main cast, Osborn was confused by the revelation that Allen would become the 14th Noah and had to watch the scene again in order to understand it. In a later review, Osborn said he was amazed by Allen’s first possession by the 14th Noah; although it was “disturbing”, it enhanced the character’s development. Anne Laurenroth remarked Kanda’s character development in Hallow, particularly his fight against Alma Karma and his return to the Order in the finale. Laurenroth noted Hallow‘s poor animation and pacing but, although most of its episodes were grim, its final moments were upbeat. Manga Tokyo appreciated the black and white morality of the story when Allen is imprisoned by the Order he was working for and has to rely on the Millennium Earl’s comrades in order to survive. However, the reviewer felt that viewers needed more information than what the story was able to provide.