Just to be clear with everyone, King of Thorn is not an anime about hotblooded men competing against each other to grow the finest roses. Based off the manga by Yuji Hwahara, King of Thorn is actually a survival story that borrows elements from Sleeping Beauty.
When it comes most adaptations that cram volumes worth of content into one film, the final piece can turn out to be a rushed disaster. However, King of Thorn felt like it put the right pieces together in creating a story that flows well.
Before you go into a deep slumber, be sure to walk through the thorns that block your path as we find out the true meaning behind the King of Thorn.
King of Thorn (Blu-ray/DVD Combo, DVD version reviewed)
Taking us to the busy streets of the Big Apple, King of Thorn starts off with the death of an individual that was killed by a new virus that's been affecting society for quite a while. Named after the mythical gorgon, the Medusa Virus causes people to turn into stone after being contaminated for a certain amount of time. And through a stroke of luck, a group of individuals are selected by a company known as Venus Gate to participate in a cryogenic sleep experiment at a castle in Scotland. Unbeknownst to everyone, things begin to go haywire as the facility faces a huge crisis where monsters and vines begin to fill the area.
Even though I am not too familiar with the source material, King of Thorn's story doesn't feel rushed with the way how each event unfolds. This was thanks to the movie focusing on the main character known as Kasumi, since she had to cope with the fact that her twin sister wasn't able to join her, along with having to overcome the terrors that await her in the facility. Assuming that they had to remove most of the characters' back-stories in the movie, it wasn't too hard to figure out each character's past by paying attention to what they say in certain scenes. In a way, it's almost similar to the differences between the Scott Pilgrim movie and the original graphic novels, since it's another film that did a great job in adapting a six volume story into one film.
Right when I was expecting the movie to only focus on a survival story, King of Thorn brings out a series of twists that add a new level of surrealism to the story at hand. Without getting into any spoilers, most of these are related to the Medusa Virus's true nature, the vine covered castle that resembles Princess Aurora's sleeping grounds from Sleeping Beauty, and the hidden motives within most of the survivors. And speaking of survivors, another aspect that makes King of Thorn intense is that the characters in the film are racing against the clock, since the Medusa Virus could take their lives at any moment.
King of Thorn's art direction plays a great role in setting up for the horrors that await inside the thorny ruined castle. Sunrise's choice in colors manage to make each corridor in the vicinity give off a sense of insecurity with the fact that anything could be hiding within the dark corners and cluttered vines. The designs are not limited to the castle, since the rendition of New York City manage to use the right colors for setting up the mood in the movie's introduction.
The character designs in the series are another nice aspect, since you are given a variety of different styles that depend on the age of each character. For example: Marco and the Ron's design represent their combat background with their muscular and tough build; whereas the normal characters have more of a slender or pudgy look to them. Then you have the designs of the two twin sisters, Kasumi and Shizuka, which look cute in regards to the way they were drawn. All in all, there was a significant variety in character designs that made each character's role quite convincing.
For an anime that was meant to be a movie, the 3D animation in King of Thorn felt a bit weird, since most of the action scenes in the movie are played out with 3D models instead of 2D human characters that we were used to seeing early on. However, none of them manage to stick out too much, since the grim lighting in the area gives them the chance to blend in. Thanks to the toon shading/cel shading technique done to the 3D models' textures, the designs don't take away from the 2D characters shown during the other scenes. While the models are not on the same level of 3D featured in high quality shows such as Fate/Zero, they are still animated rather well.
FUNimation deserves a round of applause for King of Thorn's English dub, since they took the liberty to give each character in the movie the proper accent that represents where they come from. Despite the Japanese cast having the one and only Kanna Hawazawa as Kasumi, I felt more connected with FUNimations dub, since it's always nice when dubs take the liberty of adding elements that compliment the show's theme and setting.
Surprisingly enough, the movie came with a few extras packed into the DVD. One noteworthy feautre is a footage from a live event that has the film's director, Kazuyoshi Katayama (Big O) answering questions related to the movie, along with Yuji Hiwahara making an appearance during the event. There is also a pilot trailer that shows the film in its prototype stage, which shows how far the film has gone in regards to the visuals shown.
Watching King of Thorn felt like trying to wake up from a deadly nightmare that takes the best parts of a survival movie and meshes them together with elements found in a fairy tale book. However, unlike the effects of a bad dream, the entire experience turned out to be rather entertaining. While there were some key points from the manga that were lost in the film (Based on some quick research.), the main story still holds up well for what it is. Whether you have experience the source material or not, the film still acts as a great take on a story about a group of people trying to survive a tragic event.
8.0 - Great. A perfectly good film or series that defines its genre without resorting to any cliches.
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