King of Thorn was a manga created in 2002 by Yuji Iwahara and then made into a feature film by Sunrise in 2010. The film has now come stateside from Funimation and presents a gripping survival film set in the not too far future. A mysterious virus, called Medusa, that turns people into stone is rapidly spreading across the globe. A corporation, called Venus Gate, is studying the virus has a plan to select 160 individuals to place in cryogenic sleep, in order to wake up years later. Kasumi Ishiki and the rest of the survivors wake up to giant thorns growing all over the compound, as well as massive dinosaur-like creatures. Kasumi and a bunch of the other survivors band together in order to find out what’s happened to the world they knew and unlock the mystery of the Medusa Virus. With the use of some fantastic imagery and some really interesting plot twists, King of Thorn is one anime film no one should miss.
The film utilizes some fantastic takes on fairy tale imagery, through the use of the thorns and beautiful castle in Scotland, where most of the film takes place. With this next to some shocking violence of the various creatures that attack the survivors, it felt much like watching an animated Grim Fairy Tale come to life. The story within King of Thorn, the survival aspect of Kasumi’s life alone, make for an interesting tale, in the way that its presented. Right away, we are given enough to get the gist of what is going on and her past trauma’s that have lead her up to the point of leaving her sister behind, while she enter’s cryo-sleep. What makes it fascinating are the exact details and what happened in the interim of her sleeping that make for an interesting plot twist and show the strengths of Hiroshi Yamaguchi and Director Kazuyoshi Katayama’s screenplay of Iwahara’s material.
One thing that I certainly don’t understand about the film is its approach to blend both computer CGI models with traditional animation. Throughout the film, during scenes where the group is confronted by the monsters inhabiting the compound. During these scenes, the characters that are primarily done in traditional animation become CGI, like the monsters. While scenes are still animated really well, it certainly is noticeable when they interchange back and forth like this and become somewhat problematic in trying to immerse oneself into the world of King of Thorn.
The film comes in a DVD/Blu-Ray Combo pack from Funimation and has plenty of good materials that come with it. There’s a 30 minute interview with the Director and Producer, where they held a Q and A after a screening of the film, a promo short film, a ten minute interview with the director and a bunch of trailers for the film and for other Funimation properties. On Blu-Ray, King of Thorn in a beautiful 1080p AVC encoded transfer with an aspect ratio 1.85:1. I think that the reason why the CGI parts looked so out of place is because of how great this transfer looked. The audio is presented in two Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, one in English and the original Japanese track. I preferred the English track compared to the original Japanese language track in King of Thorn for one simple reason, accents. In the English track makes an major effort by showing that the cast come from various parts of the world and do some incredible accents. Whether its Luci Christian’s German accent for Tim or Stephanie Young’s Australian accent, everyone in the English dub adds a bit more flair to make it really stand out.
Overall, Sunrise and Funimation have a sure fire hit with King of Thorn. Its a harrowing tale of survival amidst a great backdrop of fantasy and sci-fi proportions. Highly Recommended!