3 out of 5
While the last several volumes of D.Gray-Man have benefitted from a sense of forward momentum – a plot that’s actually turning; characters (within the sort of loosey-goosey stakes of the series) experiencing changes – we’ve now arrived at a sort of put-up-or-shut-up point in that, and your feelings on the way Hoshino has decided to take that will likely be the main determining factor on how well this volume reads.
For me, I’m accepting of incidental plotting to a certain extent; if I’m defining that as a sort of write-as-you-go style, there are writers I’ve loved (Steve Gerber, for example) who’ve made good use of that, but I also think that’s because, in those cases, the plotting can be incidental because it is incidental to more important themes. And those themes don’t exist in D.Gray, which is why it became rather intolerable when Hoshino hit pause for a longass period just to have akuma and Noah and exorcists scuffle. Now that we’re moving, its been fun, but the story has been “revealed” as super duper twisty duper important with this volume, and I guess it kinda feels bullshitty to me; it kinda makes wherever we were before seem irrelevant, which is the big threat of incidental plotting, if you’re not careful.
I do think this super duper twist is well written, with some of the most affecting and well-paced dialogue Hoshino has done. Her artwork here is also stunning – notable before for her design chops and the sense of calamity, vol. 25 has panels and pages that legitimately gave me pause just to look at and appreciate. But the direction things have taken doesn’t seem “worth it,” to me, and the large cast of characters – and their visual similarities – also felt like more of an issue here, with all of the leads being rather similarly long-haired, lithe, pretty boys.