by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 13 of
D.Gray-man Hallow ?
No matter what happens, I'll always be an Exorcist.
When Allen said goodbye to Lenalee, his words were a promise to not surrender to fate. Refusing to resign himself to the tragic ending he was prophesied, he vowed to hold on to his identity, no matter the odds. In true shonen hero fashion, a strong enough belief in himself would surely prevail over whatever the world might throw his way. That is, if it weren't for Katsura Hoshino filing D.Gray-man under the tragedy label, which tainted Allen's vow with a note of desperation rather than heroic endurance.
When someone else now echoes these words, they take on a very different nuance, beautifully realizing what this story has always been about at its core. Freshly risen from the dead, a reborn Kanda has finally come to terms with being alive. I might be flogging the rebirth metaphor to death here, since Kanda obviously didn't just die with Alma. If anything, it took Alma's death to bring him back from being an empty puppet and accept his second chance for what it is. Despite Lenalee's concerns, Kanda's return to the Order does not mean giving up the freedom he finally gained with Allen's help or rendering the latter's sacrifice hollow, nor does it mean forgiveness for what was done to him in the name of the cause. Because Kanda is free, he can choose to accept responsibility for his actions and failures, and he can choose to deny forgiveness where it is not due.
Accepting this responsibility is not the same as becoming a victim, just like accepting part of one's fate is not the same as surrendering to destiny. Allen's unwavering belief set Kanda free, but it also gave him back his humanity, beautifully illustrated by the implied loss of regenerative powers. Kanda has finally become a mortal human being (who just happens to look really pretty with blood flowing from his veins to form a shiny new sword). Despite all the pain and suffering inevitably attached to being human, he allows himself to care again, something he desperately tried to avoid back when Alma and then Allen wanted to be his friends. He will probably never know who he truly was in his past life, but he can finally settle for living as Yu Kanda who, while still a jerk, is now able to accept the bonds connecting him with other people. I've always been a fan of Kanda's, for reasons ranging from high ponytails to Takahiro Sakurai. Seeing this character realized so fully in Hallow has been a very rewarding experience.
Kanda's return works well because of what it stands for thematically and how these themes have been established early on – in the original series, the continuation, and the final episode – to then be reflected from different angles by multiple characters in their own arcs throughout the story.
Ultimately, both D.Gray-man and Hallow have always revolved around the question of agency in the apparent absence of choice, and the series has always returned to a firm "It's still worth it, no matter the outcome". It's still worth it for Cross to care about Allen, even if he will be erased eventually and even if it would have made the imminent loss so much easier to bear had Allen been a lowlife instead of an innocent kid in need of a father figure. It's worth it for Kanda to stay alive even if he ended up losing Alma a second time. In the end, Cross's choice to let the ill-fated boy inherit Mana's memory allowed him to grow up into Allen Walker and be much more than the vessel for The Fourteenth. Mana's memory and Cross's bonds shaped Allen into a fine human being, able to reach out to other people in the same way that he was touched by others.
In the given setting, human connection makes life all the more painful – after all, what chance is there for Allen to survive his own story if D.Gray-man will shape up to be a true tragedy? But human connection, in all its messiness, is also what returns agency to these tragic characters. Enabling them to make their fates their own, even if more pain awaits them, is what gives their lives meaning, something Kanda did not have before he lived through and eventually accepted the loss of Alma again. If anything can save Allen, it will be his connection to the people touched by his kindness.
According to Cross, there is still a chance for Allen to create his own path, even if the foundation has already been laid by others. Even if there are still sins that cannot be redeemed, by embracing the pain of human connection over the much easier path of hate and denial, there is the possibility of hope for Kanda to find peace. After all, daylight returned with him to a broken world for the ED's final image, which explains why it was so important to leave things here instead of with Allen's goodbye.
For a tragedy, D.Gray-man Hallow closes on an empowering rather than a depressing note. Cutting in all the right places, the finale finds a good balance between big feelings and brief moments of uplifting comedy, managing to cash in on the emotional payoff much more than I had expected. It's a strong ending to an adaptation that was always adequate, but only occasionally able to shine.
Bugged down by pacing issues, the series made use of few chances to improve upon the source material's weaker points while rarely rising above it beyond the music. But despite inconsistent subtitles where important moments could get obscured or altogether lost in translation (Zu being a multiple offender this episode) and not much budget to speak of, Hallow was still able to remind me why I never forgot about this manga. While there isn't enough manga left for anime viewers to find the answers to all these open questions, I'm hoping Hallow will generate enough interest for a continuation before the passing of another eight years.
D.Gray-man Hallow is currently streaming on Funimation.
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