Gilbert Nightray, much like my previous Hump Day Husbandos pick of Hibari Kyoya from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, is something of a long forgotten husbando, buried in the depths of our memories and hearts.
Pandora Hearts did, after all, conclude with its last ever chapter back in March of 2015 after a decade of publication. But despite its end, the manga retains a special place in its fans’ hearts for many reasons: the plentiful references to Alice in Wonderland make for an enthralling and creative world; its comedic premise and character dynamics hide an impressive amount of depth and anguish beneath the surface — rather like Karneval — and, of course, it has the memorable Gilbert Nightray, a character who kickstarted plenty of 2D crushes in his prime.
Who is Gilbert Nightray?
First and foremost, Gilbert Nightray is a cinnamon bun. He is completely, wholeheartedly, and overwhelmingly a sweetheart, no matter how much he would deny it. This is made evident by his very first appearance. We first see Gilbert as a mere child — shy, uncertain, and meek — alongside his most important companion, Oz; Gilbert is completely and utterly devoted to serving Oz, both as a friend and as a subordinate to Oz.
After failing to protect Oz during his Coming of Age Ceremony — an incident which sees Oz falling into the Abyss — Gilbert was adopted into the Nightray Dukedom. He would later join the Pandora Organisation and obtain the Black Winged Chain, Raven, in order to save Oz. The two eventually meet once again after Oz finds a way out, thanks to the Illegal Contract binding Alice to Oz — a fact which kicks off a longstanding comedic rivalry for Oz’s attention between Alice and Gilbert. Because after all, Oz cannot be shared.
Why we love him
Kohsuke Toriumi provides the voice for Gilbert Nightray in the anime. Many readers will likely recognise Toriumi for his work portraying both Hajime Saitou from Hakuoki and Shuu Sakamaki from Diabolik Lovers — and what other proof do you need that he is husbando material?
Well, when it comes to his character, Gilbert still has a substantial amount of growing to do despite how we see him at the time of the story. We see him develop from an unimpressive and forgettable (albeit adorable) child to a protective and capable individual who looks out for his friends without a second thought — and for this he has our full support. While this might sound like just another shounen trope, in Gilbert’s case, there’s plenty of added interest due to his obsession with Oz. It’s detrimental to both his own wellbeing and his relationships; he has to learn to rein in his feelings sometimes.
The older Gilbert Nightray appears as a stoic and confident young man, a silent and brooding type equipped with capable fighting skills using his pistol and Raven — and one who kicks back with a cigarette at the end of a successful fight.
It is in stark contrast to who we first see him as, yet the façade is quick to crumble during certain events. Whether it’s his tendency to revert back to child-like speech patterns when drinking alcohol or simply being confronted by a stronger enemy (or even a cat), his emotions tend to get the better of him. But the everlasting aspect of his character that never changes despite such instances is his loyalty, even if he is screaming throughout the fight in order to protect his master.
Gilbert Nightray’s inherent nobility takes a backseat in order to be Oz’s servant. While this factors into him being more of a supporting character to Oz despite being central to the plot, his relationship with Oz only spurs on his own development. His unexpected yet impressive skills at cooking, sewing and handicrafts also reinforces how different he is to your average spoiled noble — and this probably fueled a fair number of fujoshi shipping Oz and Gilbert due to how “housewife-y” the latter is.
But when Oz’s praise results in an embarrassed and flushed Gilbert denying the compliments, it proves hard to not adore this walking uncertainty. He’s doing what he believes is good and right for the one he pledged his life to — be it platonic or otherwise.
Why you’ll love him
Gilbert Nightray’s popularity in Pandora Hearts and the manga community never dwindled during its runtime; his placement in the top 30 husbandos on MyAnimeList in 2016 emphasises how large his fanbase used to be — though as of the time of writing he ranks at place 537, sadly.
He is regarded as a fan favourite due to that one particular character trait we’ve already touched on: his unwavering loyalty. This trait makes for some great opportunities for character development; it quickly becomes evident that his obsessive loyalty can be twisted.
While holding only Oz’s best interests at heart — and there being a very understandable reason to his fixation — when his genuine feelings and the long-term intentions of his loyalty come into question, he does not back down from showing what he will sacrifice to prove his worth.
Through this, he learns that he can be protective of his friends while keeping Oz safe too — and eventually understands that he doesn’t need to “villainise” other people around Oz just because they are also close to him. His origins, which I’ll keep vague for spoiler reasons, go to show how much anguish and trauma Gilbert suffers with — even if he is currently ignorant to it due to amnesia. And the revelations of these origins only spurs fans’ needs to see Gilbert develop even further for his own benefit and happiness. He is a cinnamon bun worth protecting, after all.
So while we have such a massive difference in how he is before and after the surprise time-skip right at the beginning of the manga, Gilbert Nightray’s true growth comes over time. What he becomes by the end of of the story is a far cry from when we first meet him, both as a child, and as the façade he is attempting to keep up as an older man.
One of Pandora Hearts’ most prominent themes is the importance of friendship, and while this is monumentally important and significant in Gilbert’s case and development, he also represents how self-reflecting can be a powerful tool we use as we grow up and learn to better ourselves — both for our own benefit and for those around us.
Speaking of Pandora Hearts, I do hope everyone will be checking out Vanitas no Carte in the upcoming summer anime season. It’s the new work by Pandora Hearts’ creator Jun Mochizuki’s and is set in a similar time period to Pandora Hearts — but it has vampires! Needless to say, it is a hotly anticipated show on our end!
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