Reviewby Casey Brienza, Mar 14th 2009
Stranded on a fast disintegrating Ark, Allen Walker and his Exorcist friends must battle various members of the Clan of Noah in order to find a way off. Kanda has already sacrificed himself, and Krory will have to find newfound strength in his blood if he is to take down Jasdevi. Meanwhile, Allen, Lavi, and Lenalee come face to face with Road and Tyki, who are determined to stop them in their tracks. Road quickly traps Lavi in a nightmare while putting Lenalee out of commission. Allen is left to face Tyki alone, and he has lost once already against this particular Noah. Will the rematch have a different outcome? Allen is going to need to power up his Innocence in a whole new way if he is to have a prayer left.
Volume twelve of Katsura Hoshino's ongoing tournament shounen manga D.Gray-man represents a major turning point in the Black Order's ongoing war to end all wars against the Millenium Earl's elite soldiers, the Clan of Noah. Previously, their God-blessed Innocence could only be used to defeat Akuma. As powerful as these weapons were, they did not have any particular effect upon humans—even extraordinary ones such as the Noah. Yet the Noah have the power to destroy Innocence. Doesn't quite seem fair, does it? Nevertheless, this, in fact, is the reason why Allen suffered a near disastrous defeat against Tyki Mikk in a previous story arc.
Now they are due for a rematch, and the stakes have never been higher. Tyki is going all out against Allen, now with the new and improved power of the “Crowned Clown,” has a proverbial ace up his sleeve of which even he himself was heretofore unaware. If the Noah have the power to destroy Innocence, it stands to reason that Innocence should have the power to destroy the Noah in turn…right? That would, needless to say, be a very smart supposition. Get ready to see the suave smirk wiped quite suddenly off of the bipolar Tyki's face when Allen whips out a larger than life sword that looks like it was imported direct from Final Fantasy VII.
Allen is not the only one who powers up in this volume. Although it looked like the end of the line for vampire and comic relief character Krory once Jasdevi had imprisoned him in an Iron Maiden, it turns out that his Innocence isn't just in his razor sharp incisors. It's in his blood too, and his blood assumes humanoid form after a hallucinatory powwow with the akuma that he still loves deeply and begins a brief round two with Jasdevi. And since you cannot cut liquid, it is safe to say that the battle is an exceedingly short, one-sided one. Krory is quite the lovable character—certainly he is the most unusual of heroes to be found thus far in D.Gray-man—and you will find yourself cheering him on, glad that his final word was not to be abject defeat in volume eleven.
The weakest of the subplots here in this volume involves Lavi's battle of wills with Road Kamelot. While Allen is duking it out with Tyki and Lenalee is watching helplessly from within a die-shaped force field, Road is playing with Lavi's head. In particular, she torments him with his future vocation taking the place of Bookman, who records the deeds of Exorcists but does not, at least ideally, intervene to tip the scales of competition. Lavi is not keen on watching all of his friends die one by one, and this is exactly what Road is making him do. In theory it should be an emotional scene, driven by character development, but it just feels tired and perfunctory. Most disappointing. In any case, whether or not Lavi will escape with his life, especially once the tide starts to turn against the Noah, remains an open question.
It goes practically without saying that Hoshino has some of the best artwork in the business. She draws in the sort of aesthetic yet dynamic, superbly beautiful yet super-violent, style that made justifiably famous by the late-80s to early-90s female mangaka who came out of the doujinshi subculture. (CLAMP and Yun Kouga are two prominent examples.) Character designs—both male and female—are especially lovely and pitched to satisfy fans of both sexes. Allen, for example, looks like a visual-kei rock star with his spiky blond hair and skintight leather costume and Tyki has surely starred in his fair share of yaoi doujinshi. Unfortunately, she is much less skilled when it comes to action sequences; the battles, even as late in the game as volume twelve, remain practically unintelligible—you will be hard pressed, during Krory's fight with Jasdevi and Allen's fight with Tyki, to figure out who is doing what to whom and when. About the most that can be deciphered from Hoshino's cryptic layouts is that, yes, they're fighting. Wowie.
All in all, this is an enjoyable Shounen Jump series for those who need their gratuitous eye candy and who do not mind the occasional slack subplot and poorly drawn action sequence. This volume is a solid, and on occasion interesting, installment of the series.
Overall : B+
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ A solid installment featuring multiple subplots and a major turning point. Gorgeous artwork as always.
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