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D.Gray-man Hallow
Episode 8

by Anne Lauenroth,

How would you rate episode 8 of
D.Gray-man Hallow ?
Community score: 4.3

Alma needs to kill Kanda, even though he's clearly suffering from causing his old friend pain. The Earl wants to be reunited with The Fourteenth, even though he promised to kill and replace him. And Kanda wants to be with someone his current incarnation never met, even though I'm pretty sure he would have settled for finding peace in death if it wasn't for the lotus flower pulling him back.

Love is certainly painful and self-destructive in D.Gray-man, where one pure-hearted boy turns himself into an Akuma because giving in to hate is easier than suffering through the pains of human connection, while another pure-hearted boy gets doomed by his desire to save people who seem very much beyond saving. Narratively speaking, Allen has to try to save Alma, not just because Allen always cares, but because there might still be hope for him if he can bring Akuma Alma back to being sweet, kind-hearted, human Alma, the ultimate proof that fighting back against outside manipulation can turn fate around. Sadly, all of these characters seem to be running toward their own demise so stubbornly that trying to imagine what could still save them at this point becomes a task for incorrigible optimists.

So why is it that, with all these strong and intertwining themes, this is by far the weakest episode of the Alma arc?

For an episode containing a significant amount of emotionally important physical confrontations, the limits of the animation budget that have always been present in Hallow begin to show rather painfully. There is little dynamic action in these static fights. Over-explanation by inner monologue and dragged-out motivational platitudes don't help to change how sterile everything feels. It's always sad when storytellers don't trust in their ability to convey key emotional beats within the narrative. Luckily, Kanda isn't forced to explain himself beyond his actions, but sadly, Allen gets more than his fair share of commenting on the plot, taking away from letting Alma and Kanda's drama have the emotional impact it deserves. While it's easier to follow who's doing what than it was in the manga, all the surrounding noise still mutes the core confrontations of Kanda vs. Alma and Allen vs. the Earl and himself.

This episode was a step down from the flashback, but there are still some powerful moments to be found. Alma asking Kanda what it was like to survive by himself and wondering if he had made any friends is painful in the good way. Kanda has equally well-crafted moments, letting himself be turned into a tool once again because even thinking about Alma's true motivation would be too painful, he gives in to blind rage just as Alma gave in to hate to avoid facing the pain. When something as tragic as becoming an Akuma seems like the easy way out, the story is doing something very right. Where little Yu was still sobbing when he cut Alma into pieces, the only emotion Kanda has left now is rage. He has fully become the tool the Order created nine years ago, putting both his humanity and his life on hold until he could find someone who might be just as long dead as himself. In a way, even Alma-turned-Akuma is more human than Kanda in his desire to die alongside his friend, as is the Earl in his buried human desires and motivations (nicely portrayed by Yutaka Aoyama).

With Kanda stabbing Allen and awakening The Fourteenth, any hopes of Allen turning Kanda back into a human being so that he can then save Alma from self-destruction seem dim at best. In the end, maybe it really is like Tokusa says, and Exorcists are just not meant to protect anyone, leaving mutual destruction as the only path left to Alma and Kanda. The once again spoilerific preview certainly hints at that.

Rating: C+

D.Gray-man Hallow is currently streaming on Funimation.

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