The anime series D.Gray-man, which was based on the manga of the same name, debuted in 2006 to great acclaim. The program has longevity on its side, reaching over 100 episodes, just like Naruto, One Piece, and other shonen series. But despite all of this, the anime ended abruptly while the manga carried on.
Although it is now warmly recalled, at the time, this led to a decline in the high level of interest in D. Gray-man, which was exacerbated by the various problems that plagued the distribution of the manga. Here is the history of the formerly well-liked series and how it gradually disappeared from view.
What's the Deal With D.Gray-Man?
Like many popular anime and JRPGs from the era, D. Gray-man has a decidedly religious undertone to its premise, though its use of Judeo-Christian theology is loose, at best. The series is about a group of exorcists called the Black Order, who use an array of mystical weapons powered by "Innocence" to defend the world against the Noah family. This family is made up of corrupted reincarnations of the Biblical Noah and his followers, who, led by the Millennium Earl, wage war against God and His creations. The Noah family uses Dark Matter to combat the Black Order's Innocence, as well as a means to summon and control demons.
The central protagonist in the 19th-Century-set series is Allen Walker, a new teen recruit of the Black Order who has trouble controlling his own mysterious and dark power. The original series adapts approximately 210 or so chapters of the manga, beginning initially in an episodic, monster-of-the-week format.
Her visually striking, Gothic art style, interesting characters and elaborately detailed action sequences earned creator Katsura Hoshino high critical praise. This is reflected in the sales figures for the manga, which has made the New York Times Bestsellers list in the past and, as of 2019, still had 24 million copies in circulation in Japan. With stylized action and an ever-popular manga to adapt, why did the anime series suddenly end, then?
Is D. Gray-man finished?
The D.Gray-man anime series lasted for 103 episodes, spread across three "stages," or four seasons. After the conclusion of the fourth season, however, the series simply stopped. It did have an ending of sorts, with the Black Order's future left uncertain; however, this wasn't meant to be the end of the series in general. In fact, the final season's conclusion reignited Allen's determination to defeat the still-alive Millennium Earl. With the manga continuing to this day, why didn't the anime continue to adapt it for a fifth season?
The biggest reason was probably pacing. The anime already had to create excessive amounts of filler storylines to give the manga time to proceed much further, giving the anime something to actually adapt. Unfortunately, some of this filler actually contradicted certain events and elements of the manga. While the normal season breaks and a steady amount of filler might have allowed it to be evenly paced with the manga, as is the case with other popular anime, that wasn't possible with the D.Gray-man manga.
Katsura Hoshino was also sadly forced to put her manga on hiatus numerous times for health reasons: once for a case of norovirus, and another time due to a neck injury. This kept new chapters from being published regularly, and when it did return to normal publication, it shifted serialization from Weekly Shonen Jump to the quarterly Jump Square Crown.
Temporarily Returned for D. Gray-man: The Anime Hallow
The anime eventually returned in the 2016 sequel series, D.Gray-man: Hallow. This TV series, initially suspected to be a reboot, instead adapted the manga from around where the original anime had ended. Unfortunately, Hallow had the opposite problem that the first anime ran into. Whereas that series ran out of material adapt, Hallow instead rushed and paraphrased much of the new chapters' material. Hoshino, who was initially hesitant in creating Hallow, was also critical of it. It was perhaps this lack of support for the adaptation that eventually saw the DVD releases for it canceled for "various reasons."
In spite of this, the D.Gray-man manga series is still going strong, even reaching a milestone of its own recently. According to a source on Twitter, the series came to a "main story point" in the Summer 2021 edition of Jump SQ Rise. Many were and still are unsure of what this meant for the series, which had a sporadic release due to the aforementioned issues with its mangaka's health. Some suspect that it meant the series is ending, while others believed that it could simply lead to a new beginning.
If either situation is true, perhaps now would be a better time than ever to simply reboot the anime entirely from scratch. This way, a more manga-accurate show could be produced that doesn't have to rely on filler, similar to what the recent Shaman King reboot has done. Whether or not this will happen for D.Gray-man remains to be seen, as the franchise has, in many ways, simply fallen out of mainstream anime fandom consciousness.