by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 5 of
D.Gray-man Hallow ?
Love and tragedy... You should've known better than anyone what would come out of it, when you touch what you're not supposed to. What the Black Order despises the most... You will be eliminated by the demon that you yourselves created.
Welcome to the basement of a black pyramid, where the secret organization claiming to be on a mission to save the world from annihilation creates tragic human-monster hybrids from comatose creatures in crucified positions so that they can get torn to shreds fighting the real bad guys. No, this isn't NERV, just the American branch of the Black Order, but morally, there's not much daylight between them and that beacon of moral leadership, #1 Dad Gendo Ikari. At least Lvellie doesn't have any illusions about what it is he's doing, human dignity be damned. Of course, we already had a pretty good idea about Lvellie's disposition, but when pain-in-the-neck Johnny turns out to be the only one to express basic human compassion and question what their noble fight has turned into, it's rather depressing. Everyone around him seems to shrug off the inconvenient "why?" question with a determined "because it's necessary" or a less apologetic (and possibly more honest) "because we can." Instead of being repulsed by the atrocities committed by the Order (in the name of God no less), Johnny's colleagues are mostly ticked off that they weren't informed of these enlightening experiments going on behind closed doors.
It seems compassion can only be found among those emotionally connected to the still mysterious, but not quite as unexplainable tragedy from 9 years ago – people like old Master Zu and Bak Chang, who apparently has quite the legacy to bear. Considering his outburst from last week, he internalized the lesson, which Lvellie and Renny Epstain clearly did not. Before there were half-human, half-Akuma Third Exorcists, there were Second Exorcists, artificial apostles created by the Order as an answer to the declining number of natural chosen disciples. Unsurprisingly, the project was a failure, with only two test subjects surviving, one of whom ended up killing 46 people in the research lab before being presumably killed by the only other surviving artificial apostle: Yu Kanda. Back then, the Black Order tried to play God, and 48 people paid the price. Why 48? Because Alma and Kanda are also victims: Alma for obvious reasons and Kanda because the Order let him live his life in guilt, believing he killed the only friend he ever had.
How much this has come to define Kanda can be seen from his refusal to recognize a comatose, but still very much alive Alma, sewn back together by the Order Frankenstein-style because they weren't quite done using him yet. But as far as Kanda knows, he killed Alma 9 years ago, and he's lived with that memory ever since, never allowing himself to make another friend again. Kanda has always sneered at Allen's sentimentalism, denying himself any involvement in such silly, invariably painful concepts like friendship. He cannot allow this denial to be broken by an immediately triggered flashback or provocative words from Road.
When Lvellie has the audacity to claim that not telling Kanda the truth only spared him pain – pretty hilarious considering the source – he is being sarcastic, of course. Not only does he have no illusions about what the Order is doing, silly notions of the good guys having some sort of responsibility towards maintaining the moral high ground don't play a part in the equation. So when Johnny fears a repeat of the Black Order's invasion (which resulted in a lot of casualties, among them Johnny's best friend), I wonder if the real tragedy lies in the fact that the Order doesn't need any self-proclaimed outside sadist to threaten torture and mayhem for its Exorcists to suffer. Compared to the infighting and exploitation going on at the Order, the Noah seem like a rather well-functioning dysfunctional family.
Speaking of self-proclaimed sadists, Sheryl's declaration wasn't exactly award-winning prose and fairly unnecessary to boot. We already saw him crush Tokusa. There was no need for show and certainly no need for tell to reinforce the matter, but with the whole setup acting as an apparent stage for Allen to celebrate his end as an Exorcist and rebirth as a Noah, awkward proclamations such as these don't feel quite as redundant as usual. Having not just the required handful of friends, but a significant part of the cast present to witness and comment upon what is likely going to be a spectacle feels more fitting than it might in a different scenario.
This forcefully assembled audience gets a haunting preview when The Fourteenth awakens once more inside Allen. Ayumu Murase does a very convincing job at making him sound as terrifying and far removed from Allen as possible. With The Fourteenth slowly establishing a recurring presence in Allen, having both a Noah and Innocence inside him doesn't seem to be the healthiest combination. For now, Allen manages to gain back control over his body, but Road's remark of Alma having become a "living doll" rings forbiddingly in more than one way.
According to Cross's prophecy, Allen's fate has already been decided. His own self will be eroded, and after being completely taken over by The Fourteenth, he will have to kill someone he loves. When Allen contemplates these words once again, we see brief flashes of his comrades, but the montage doesn't end with Lenalee or Lavi, but with an image of Mana and The Fourteenth. Mana, brother of The Fourteenth and Allen's foster father, who is already quite dead at this point, as Allen had to kill him again when he misguidedly brought him back from the dead as an Akuma. Mana, the only person that presumably both Allen and The Fourteenth loved. I can't help but wonder if the prophecy hasn't already been fulfilled, and if not, if the one to be killed will be someone loved by Allen or The Fourteenth. The parallels to Kanda, who also had to presumably kill someone he loved, become more prevalent. Maybe Marie was right to suspect similarity as the reason why these two can never get along.
With a significantly slower pace compared to previous episodes, there's a lot of time to digest all of Johnny's consternation, Kanda's denial, and Allen's unwillingness to render himself to fate. Now that we've reached the point they were building to, it's time to take the finger off the fast forward button. The stage is set for Alma Karma to enter, as the titular character everyone had something to say about, but whom we only meet briefly at the very end.
He is so adorable that his smile is painful, given that we already know what's in store for him.
Rating: B- (because whoever was in charge of that spoilerific preview deserves a minus)
D.Gray-man Hallow is currently streaming on Funimation.
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