|King of Thorn|
The film, directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama (Appleseed and Big O), and co-scripted by Katayama and Hiroshi Yamaguchi took the basic story of the manga and adapted it brilliantly and with deliberate pace to fit into the time constraints of the full-length picture to some mixed anticipation.
Character designs for the film are provided courtesy of Hidenori Matsubara (Ah! My Goddess!, Sakura Wars, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo), with Kenji Andou (Brigadoon, Karas, Origin ~Spirits of the Past~) providing the monster design.
The plot of King of Thorn begins simple enough, but gradually builds upon itself, as it develops the survival aspects of the characters and the horror and bizarre of the unknown.
In the year 2012 a strange virus known as Medusa has reached pandemic levels with a death ratio of 100%. The virus kills its victims by eventually turning their bodies into a stone-like substance, hence the name Medusa.
Taking action, an organization with a laboratory in Scotland offers the option of "Cold Sleep" to a select few persons, in the hopes that while they are under, a cure can be found for the illness. The story focuses primarily on the events of 7 people prior the cold sleep, and after.
In what seems like a matter of minutes since they were placed in deep sleep, the less than 200 participants are awakened to find the entire facility covered in huge thorned vines, and to also frighteningly discover that they are no longer alone; as the entire complex is now crawling with prehistoric type monsters bent on hunting them down.
Now, surrounded by the thick maze of thorns and the onset of the violent and strange creatures, the survivors make their way from the bowels of the facility, to the outside world; with more mysteries and complexities emerging as the minutes pass.
From an outsider looking in, it is easy to say that this is a treat for the eyes, the ears, and overall an instant masterpiece in anime film-making. I can say this because I didn't read the manga, and therefore have no silly bias with regards to story accuracy.
I can also say that despite my being glued to my seat, hanging on to every subtle sound that emerged, and feasting on the magnificent artwork, I was rather perplexed at the end. Which isn't all that difficult for me, as I've got quite a lot of stuff rolling around inside my noggin. But there are subtle clues and eye-catches throughout the film that one will only really understand during a second viewing.
After all of that I'm not at all saying that the end of the movie is bad; it's a very satisfying conclusion, and it even managed to throw a curve-ball at me from orbit, that I am still scratching my head over. But you'd best be prepared for some investment if you want to figure everything out the first time around.
If I had one minor issue with the movie, is that it seemed as if toward the last quarter of it, it would have been better if there was a more smoother and finely crafted delivery. I for one felt like I was being force-fed a lot all at once, and some of the key revelations to the plot were crammed at me with a lot of dialogue and imagery, and flashbacks.
I felt a little like I was watching a complicated version of a Christopher Nolan film, and if anyone who's seen one knows, that is kind of an irony.
With all the moe and fan-service being pumped out of Japan these past few years, and the recent turmoil that the industry has been in from one side to the other; it seems like this film is a breath of fresh air. It reminds me of why I started watching anime to begin with, and it does something that I wish every anime and film made would do. Leave me feeling entertained.
I'd recommend this film to anyone that likes a good thriller, and psychological adventure through a parallel narrative of Sleeping Beauty. King of Thorn is Surreal, sublime, and a surefire winner.