King of Thorn Review

This is review number one hundred and forty. Look at that, I didn’t even noticed I was this far already. As promised, I’ll review a movie. The movie I’ll be reviewing is something that was on my laptop for almost a year now. I’ve been putting it off after I read a bad review of it. It was actually better than what I was expecting.

The anime movie I’ll be reviewing is King of Thorn. It’s a 2009 movie by Sunrise about a bunch of people trying to survive in a place full of thorns. Nothing complicated, right? I thought so too until the anime presented something deep and amazing. Let’s read on.

Story

The anime is about the world facing a crisis after a new disease that turns people into stone, called Medusa, starts emerging. There is no cure and the entire world is in panic. Some attempted to flee their country and head for a safer place, the disease has caused economic turmoil in other countries and the disease seems unstoppable. A company called Venus Gate has found a temporary solution and soon hopes to discover a cure. They learn that putting people in cold sleep inside a capsule can slow down the disease. Their facilities can only hold 160 people and they selected the lucky individuals. They were to sleep for 100 years and by the time they wake up, a cure would’ve been made. Venus Gate is hiding a secret though and the sleeping patients were soon awoken from their sleep. Instead of a thriving society with advanced medical services, they awaked to a place covered with thorns and infested with monsters out to eat them. The survivors soon must find a way out of their hellish trap avoiding monsters while knowing that their Medusa disease is slowly invading their body.

Taking the Pants Off

I’m reviewing the anime and not manga. I’ve heard countless praises for the manga and a lot of complaints from the anime. It’s a typical flaw when doing an anime adaptation and a movie one at that. Some things will be left out and some things will be watered down. I’ve heard that the anime adaptation is weak. It doesn’t hold a candle to the manga. I have never read the manga so my views are those of someone who watched the anime. I’ll also admit that I truly enjoyed the anime. People can’t admit that doing an anime adaptation has its pitfalls and some of them are unavoidable. I do understand that there are expectations from fans of the original that the adaptation can’t fulfill. It’s a lose-lose situation all around for faithful fans of the original. For some like me though, who hasn’t seen the manga and judges the merits of the anime on what it attempted to accomplish, I had a pretty good experience. It was a great movie and the manga must be ten times better. Can you imagine judging Howl’s Moving Castle based on how it stack up to the original British novel? Dismissing Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial magic in favor of how well the movie did against Diana Wynne Jone’s vision. It’s not fair for the anime, isn’t? So I want to give King of Thorns the movie a chance and see how Sunrise fares in giving us a movie experience.

This movie is pretty good. The idea of an unstoppable disease has a lot of potential but the thought of people hoping to discover a cure soon finds themselves trapped in the facility with dangerous monsters is pretty amazing. I love the premise of the anime about a survival SciFi movie about people on borrowed time. The first half of the movie is pretty solid. It introduced the deadly disease and the conspiracy theories behind Venus Gate, the company finding a cure for the deadly disease. After the situation was established, the anime then followed the selected people with the disease about to enter the facility. It’s a high tech facility but it’s inside a medieval castle. Some of the characters are introduced on their way to the facility. Things are pretty standard at first. They went to sleep then they woke up with the facility covered in thorns. As they panicked about unable to figure out the situation, they were attacked by a bunch of monsters.

The gore is pretty amazing and the manner of how some people die is pretty graphic. The addition of chaos and the survival instincts of the people trapped inside the place added a bit of tension. Soon, a lot of people died and then the anime introduced the seven main characters. These characters are different people from different walks of life with just one thing in common. They all have the disease and they soon need to work together to escape the facility that is now a breeding ground for monsters.

The first half of the anime is pretty good because the focus is on the characters. They try to escape the place while trying to survive. They work together and help each other. As you progress to the anime, the characters soon started to trust each other and their backstories are slowly revealed. I heard that this is where the anime slipped up. Some characters aren’t given a proper backstory while the manga fleshed them impressively. The anime had to balance a lot of elements though within the given time frame. The characters aren’t given a heavy introduction. Instead, just bits and pieces of their personality and background are revealed. There is enough so you can determine their role in the movie. I wasn’t particularly hung up on the backstory though because I just wanted to them die, to be honest.

Some twists and surprises soon emerge though going into the second half of the anime. The anime soon goes out of its survival SciFi theme and into something deeper. Some characters hide some secret that changes the complexion of the anime and some surprises ultimately changed the direction of the anime. Admittedly, this is also where it starts to get confusing. Going into the second half, the story evolved from a simple survival movie with the characters adapting to the situation into something bigger.

The anime revealed some new plot points in the second half. The first plot point is the intentions of Venus Gate (VG). In the beginning of the anime, some head honchos speculated that VG is responsible for the spread of the Medusa disease and claim that the company is preparing for biochemical warfare with the rest of the world. The second half soon revealed exactly what VG was up to. The reason behind the monsters, the spread of thorns and an event that happened years ago that led to the birth of the Medusa disease.

It was a bit hard to follow through the explanation of the anime but the pacing was never compromised. It was as detailed of an explanation and a very satisfying one that truly shed a light on the situation. The flood of information revealed was a bit daunting though and connecting the dots seemed vexing. I was able to connect the piece but I must admit that it will be confusing so be prepared. I love the big reveal though because there was a twist the anime revealed that I didn’t saw coming. At first, I thought that VG was indeed prepping for war but their intentions were far scarier than that? They don’t want war, they want to be God.

The second plot point is the events that transpired on the day the thorns were born. It was later revealed in the anime that the patients didn’t sleep for a hundred year. Their slumber was disturbed and they awoke much earlier. The theory of the monsters mutating for hundreds of years actually took less time. Something else happened on the day the characters were about to go to sleep. This was the Mystery aspects of the anime. What exactly happened that turned the facility into a monster breeding ground? Who did this and how did they do it?

As you progress into the anime, there are certainly some questions that arise from the events that happened in the anime. I love how the anime just presented bits and pieces at first that I dismissed because I was busy watching the characters survived. The Mystery aspect of the anime is very strong though and the revelation of the Mystery is probably one of the shocking twists in the anime.

The third plot point is the focus on some of the characters. I’ll try not to spoil it but some main characters do emerge from the pack and their significance to the coming events in the anime was pretty shocking. I won’t go further but some characters and their circumstance added a lot of intrigue and excitement to the second half of the anime after the focus shifted away from the survival SciFi theme the anime started out with.

The three plot pints were very close to each other and it just keeps building and building until the initial climax of the anime. The three plot points soon merge into one story and it was pretty well done. I can tell you right now that the pacing was never compromised despite the large amount of information and flashbacks the anime incorporated into the story. I particularly love that aspect of the anime. All the pieces started to fit and the individual events soon made sense. It was a very thrilling experience and one that I really appreciated.

If there is one thing I didn’t like about the anime, it would have to be the ending. The Mystery aspect kept you in the loop but as soon as it was all revealed, I felt that the anime just fizzled out. It also left some things open to speculation instead of giving a proper conclusion so that was a definite bummer. I can already see people complaining about the second though so maybe the flaw of the ending wasn’t that big of a deal. The anime was pretty amazing though and it was able to present a very amazing story the way a good movie should.

Sight and Sound

The character design is pretty great. The cast involves a lot of nationalities and races so there was a range in character design. There was different body frames, height, weight, age and no one looked alike. Well, except for the twins, everyone else had a different look to them. Even the minor characters sacrificed to the monsters had a unique look to them. The looks of the characters also complimented their personalities. For example, one of the characters is a helpless fumbling weak Japanese girl and she has a frail look with an innocent touch.

Sunrise made this anime and there were some pretty impressive CG work in the anime. There aren’t any robots but the design on the monsters was pretty impressive. They all looked menacing and rabid. They all have a nice CG body with very detailed body parts. I especially love the mouth part of one of the monsters that opened up side ways to reveal an even frightening food hole underneath. The best CG work though is in the final moments of the movie with the thorns resembling a dragon with CG body parts and very detailed CG wings.

Kingofthorn10

The animation is pretty amazing. It’s very fluid and smooth. The way the characters run while monsters chase them was pretty impressive. I was rooting for both and I was so caught up in it at times. The use of guns and the movements of the monsters being shot was also something to be noted. It was like watching Jurassic Park all over again with the way the survival aspect of the anime was presented. The movements of the vines were also pretty great and it shows during the later parts of the anime where the vines were gaining a mind of its own. By far though, the best part in terms of animation is the gore. Nothing beats helpless people being devoured by monsters. Granted, there aren’t a lot of them. Some death scenes were still pretty graphic though. I still remember this poor woman getting his face eaten by a monster and the dude that was folded like a napkin by one of the monsters. The beheading was also great even though it wasn’t shown. The sheer terror behind the idea and the way the body slowly stops moving add depth to the scenes. The animation truly brought out the anime’s potential tenfold.

For the soundtrack, there wasn’t a lot that stood out to me except for this piano arrangement during the flashbacks of the twins. It was a sweet moment to compliment the mood of the flashback and it also appeared during some of the emotionally charged moments of the anime. It was great. It was designed to bring me to tears though and I didn’t. I was too caught up watching the mystery unfold.

The anime has no OP. The ED song played during the credits is “Edge of this World” by MISIA. It’s a really lovely song. Misia’s voice was really amazing and her high makes the song pretty outstanding. The song really captured the spirit of the movie. It was about the hope and dreams of the people as they try to survive. It’s a slow song that picks up pace towards the chorus. It’s a rather melancholic song but like I said, Misia’s voice adds a lot to the song.

Overall Score

8/10 “A strong movie about people trying to survive with a lot of twists and turn to give you a solid anime experience.”

This was a great movie. The story was really gripping and I love how the pacing was never compromised despite the daunting progression of the anime. It has gore, mystery and some bad ass characters. If you like the survival setup with monsters but also has a deep story then this anime is for you. I highly recommend it.

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