by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 9 of
D.Gray-man Hallow ?
It finally happened. After 122 episodes, Kanda eventually found it in him and a reason to call Allen by his name, and with a “thank you” cherry on top. The fact that what could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship turns into what looks like a goodbye is proof of D.Gray-man's true nature as a tragedy. Everything else is still too messy to make sense of without giving in to speculations and/or manga spoilers, but the Alma Karma arc found its tragic conclusion with Alma sinking into the mud of Kanda's lotus pond. So much for promises of eternal love. At least we know now why Alma got blessed with a particularly self-explanatory anime name.
We need to go back to the very first mission Allen and Kanda were sent on together to fully appreciate the significance of Mater as the setting for Alma's death. There, back in 2006, Allen helped a living doll named Lala and a dying man named Guzol to keep their promise of being together in death. When Lala's Innocence was stolen by an Akuma, she lost her memories of her time with Guzol, but his love for her never wavered even after she was nothing but a doll. And when Guzol died proclaiming his love for her, Lala sang her lullaby for him. Back then, Kanda mocked Allen for his compassion for a doll and a dead man, but it was Allen's inability to see his promise through to the end which really ticked Kanda off and caused him to come to his never-going-to-be-friend's aid. It is also Allen's compassion which enables Kanda to finally escape from the Order with Alma 9 years after he originally wanted to, even if it's only to die. And to the sorrowful instrumental version of Lala's Dies Irae, Kanda sees the lotus blossom one last time, before Alma sinks forever into the mud as a broken flower that could never bloom.
Reflections like these have always had a powerful presence in D.Gray-man, and thanks to Kaoru Wada returning for Hallow, we get to hear both the echoes of Lala's and the Musician's song in this episode, with Lala easily taking the heartbreak cake. Sadly, it's not quite as heartbreaking as it could have been, as this episode once again suffers from too much background noise drawing the focus away from what should be a tearjerking finale to the long and well prepared tragic backstory and arc of one of the series' main characters. While the side events portrayed here are no doubt crucial for the continuation of the story and were all present in the manga, the latter had the bonus of reader-directed pacing, which the animated version does not. And right now, I want to be with Kanda and Alma a whole lot more than seeing what everyone else has been up to.
Still, just like last week, there are good things to be found here: Alma, fuelled by nothing but hate and sorrow, stretching out his hand towards the sky just like Kanda does in the memory of his death, but where there was just death for Kanda, he now embraces and forgives Alma, proving his love for her/him to be truly unconditional and able to temporarily delay Alma's demise. The image of both of them finally united and in each others' arms is very moving, and Kanda's acceptance of Alma is a powerful testament to his undying loyalty.
On the other hand, we see Alma's sorrow surviving his own death in the doomed Third Exorcists just like Kanda's love for her did in his new incarnation, which is probably saying something about Katsura Hoshino's worldview. Especially since it was Alma, the sweet, purehearted one, who drowned in sorrow and was unable to forgive, where Kanda was able to come back from having been broken (quite literally) and still found it in him to accept a very humanly flawed real Alma over his idealized memory of her, giving the whole destructive “love beyond death” idea a very touching and possibly even educational turn.
Kanda's truly unconditional acceptance wasn't something Alma ever expected after what happened 9 years ago, so he continued to pursue the idea of being united in death over the possibility of hope and forgiveness, never wishing for Kanda to find out his loved one was just another flawed human being, choosing to live on as the perfect, untainted image in Kanda's mind instead of exploring the real, existing relationship they could have shared in their current lives. But it was exactly this realization of Alma as a human being in need of connection which enabled Kanda to come back from being a broken puppet and embrace his own humanity despite the pain attached to such a commitment to himself and others. There is a very adult love story hidden inside all the overly romantic doom and gloom here.
Kanda might embrace, forgive and comfort Alma, but the latter's death isn't about redemption and closure, which I find quite remarkable in a shonen context. When Alma chooses to die as a human instead of being “saved” by Kanda's Innocence, he does not only want to keep the Order and hateful Innocence out of his last moments with Kanda. His self-destruction (according to previously established laws) also means his soul will not be saved. The question is if one would want one's soul to be saved by the God of this world, who, in all fairness, doesn't seem to be a very benevolent one. And once again, Kanda understands and accepts Alma's choice, earning him more tragic awesomeness points. Sadly, before finding his way back, Kanda in denial mode was still the one to facilitate at least 50% of Allen's demise (with Allen's kindness responsible for the other half). But we will surely see this explored in more detail next week.
I wanted there to be a happy ending for Kanda and Alma. They deserved to find more than a fleeting moment of reunion before death. But then again, both of them were supposed to have died years ago, so maybe this moment was all they could have hoped for. So what is Kanda supposed to do now, after he has found and lost the one thing that kept him tied to this world and kept him from seeking peace in death years ago? Maybe he doesn't actually have to give this a lot of thought, though. Even if he makes it out of Mater alive, it seems doubtful he will have a lot of time left after trading so much of his life force to fight Alma. But Kanda has found a lot more than Alma, and I really wish we get to see and explore at least some of that.
D.Gray-man Hallow is currently streaming on Funimation.
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