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King of Thorn – Anime Film Review


mma5082Title: King of Thorn
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia) | Funimation Entertainment (North America)
Based on: King of Thorn manga series by Yuji Iwahara
Audio: Hybrid Dub
Subtitles: English
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Cost: $29.99 on DVD / $39.99 on Blu-ray
Special Thanks: Madman for kindly providing me with Blu-ray sample of this release

Panic spreads worldwide as the Medusa Virus – a fatal pandemic that solidifies the body to stone – threatens to wipe out the human race. One-hundred and sixty infected individuals are selected to be cryogenically frozen while a cure is developed. Kasumi is one of those chosen for the experimental program. 

Forced to enter without her twin sister, Shizuku, her distress multiplies when she awakens to find the facility overrun with thick, thorny vines and ravenous monsters. As Kasumi and six others fight a losing battle to escape this labyrinthine nightmare, questions cloud her distorted mind. Where is her sister? Why did their only salvation mutate into a deathtrap? If they survive, how much longer do they have to live? 


Aired during Reel Anime 2010 alongside Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, Summer Wars and Redline – King of Thorn is the final of the four to receive a physical media release in Australia, around two years since first hitting our shores on the big screen. This (almost) two hour animated film is an adaptation of the six volume action / survival horror manga series by Yuji Iwahara. Having read the entire manga series I thought it was an interesting decision to release it as a film instead of a 13-episode anime series which would have allowed them more time to focus on the characters and remain more faithful to the work in my opinion. However, despite the time limit meaning they had to cut and rewrite some content, they used the core storyline elements well to provide an enjoyable, interesting and intense experience.

The world is succumbing to a mysterious disease known worldwide as the Medusa Virus, which as the name suggests causes a person infected to petrify and turn to stone. With its rapid rate of contraction and threat of potentially wiping out mankind, 160 humans are randomly selected to be placed into cryogenic sleep until either a cure is found or one hundred years have passed. Kasumi is one of the lucky few, while her more outgoing sister is not… and despite making a promise to meet up again when she awakens…. when she does she will have to fight to keep the promise.

Assumingly only 48 hours had passed when they awaken to find the castle in ruins, covered by thorns and them under threat by a number of mutant monsters. Kasumi and the remaining survivors fight for their lives to escape… while many of them hide their own secrets.


As I mentioned above, due to limitations they had to essentially adapt much of the storyline to fit it all into an (almost) 2 hour block of time. While this mean’t they essentially wrote out the manga’s primary antagonist from the mix and secondary survivor characters such as Katherine and Timothy didn’t receive as much attention as they could have, the core elements of the story as well as the major plot twist at the end remained relatively faithful to the original and embedded the theme of the fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty which many should already be familiar with.

In-fact some areas of the storyline benefited from the shorter and more direct progression of the plot, for example the introduction to the Medusa Virus, the cryogenic project etc was expanded upon at the beginning of the film. This is in contrast to the manga where information is unveiled more progressively and the introduction is condensed to only a few pages at the beginning. On the other hand, especially near the ending they did feel like they were rushing it along a bit too quickly, and even another ten minutes to flesh the key concluding plot points would have been appreciated. But overall, the ammendments from the original plot were varied in their value, some beneficial and some not so beneficial – but overall it made for an interesting watch.


The only decent character development in this film went towards Kasumi and her sister Shizuku as well as Marco who was one of the other survivors. The relationship between Kasumi and Shizuku is well established at the beginning, with further flashbacks appearing occasionally as events progress. Marco receives less focus than the two girls and has his backstory slightly rewritten however still serves his role to an extent but didn’t seem to be as of much focus given this. They did an interesting job of providing a justification for why all the surviving characters actually made it out of the cryogenic chamber alive (at the very least) – however disappointingly while you get small snippets of their development they are never really touched upon. Granted this would most probably have no impact on the main storyline but as they occasionally tease you with it – it was annoying to not see it result in anything.

Given King of Thorn is of the survival horror genre and the survivors are faced with many threats in their attempts to escape – a fair chunk of the storyline is dedicated t0 action scenes of varying degrees. It helped set the mood and was appropriately incorporated to not seem out of place or make the film seem nothing but one revolving around action. That being said, while the delivery of the storyline may not be consistently great, leaves plot holes and can get a tad confusing around the end – as a film adaptation of a moderate length manga series I think it fared quite well.


The Japanese studio Sunrise were behind this film and I must admit despite a few minor kinks they did a pretty damn good job of it. Character designs were well detailed and when coupled with the many other aspects of the films design – the dark and dank corridors the characters have to work their way through, the animation and the unique CGI monster designs – they harmonize together and suit the genre and intended mood very nicely. King of Thorn in my personal opinion is definitely one of the nicer looking action-oriented series I have watched in a while and is one I am glad to have watched on blu-ray.

The music tracks used in King of Thorns were for the most part of a high standard and blended well with the scene they were used in – especially what I assume is the main theme of the film which stands out as having both a melancholic and sort of fairytale vibe to it. While the film does not come with any form on opening or ending sequence, it boasts an ending theme titled “Edge of This World” by Misia and was a simple ending I sat all the way through to listen to.

As with most Funimation Entertainment anime releases, this title includes both the original Japanese and a brand new English dub for viewers to select from. The English dub attempted to portray the characters as a more international group of people – assumingly to imply that the cryogenic “lottery” was open to people around the world. While you may be a fan of this or you may not be, I found it gave some diversity to voice actors/actresses who have been more active in recent months and years (Eg. Luci Christian). Focusing on just the main characters, Brina Palencia (Black Butler, Spice and Wolf) and Patrick Seitz (DuRaRaRa!!) served well as Kasumi and Marco. However, a special mention needs to go to Stephanie Young (Eden of the East, .hack//Quantum) as Katherine.


As with quite a few anime releases recently licensed by Funimation Entertainment, they are rather generous with their extras offering. The extra goodies on offer include:

  • Talk Event at Cinema Sunshine, Ikebukuro  – A translated, 30 minute talk session held on the 25th May 2010 in Ikebukuro. A nice extra to have and fairly interesting to listen to.
  • Director Interview – As the title states, a fully translated, 11 minute interview with Kazuyoshi Katayama who was director of this project.
  • Pilot Film – Two minutes in length – features a couple of scenes not present in the finalized release.
  • Original / Overseas / US Trailers
  • TV Spot
  • Trailers for current Madman Entertainment releases – Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Eden of the East: Paradise Lost, Bleach the Movie 3 – Fade to Black and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – OVA Collection


While the storyline can be a tad hard to follow at times and perhaps never lived up to its full potential, King of Thorns is a solid anime adaptation of the source material boosted by strong visual and musical backings and suitable voice acting. While it may have taken far too long to hit Australian shores, it is a release I could recommend considering if you did not have the chance during Reel Anime 2010.

Final Score
Storyline / Character Development: B
Design: A-
Music/Voice Acting: A
Personal Preference: A-
Extra Content: B+
Overall Score: A-

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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