King of Thorn is a very smart anime film with intelligent underlying ideas throughout. A virus begins to grip the Earth’s population and a group of hopeful survivors are cryogenically frozen in attempt to find a cure. But when the group awakens they are flung into a horrifying situation. It’s 100% fatal once you’re infected and it turns people to a somewhat fragile stone-like state in its last stage. Needless to say, it is something you want to avoid. The virus that is, not the movie. As after about 20 minutes you get to encouter the first plot twist which is the breaking point of nonstop action. I would charecterize the plot as a spiral: once a twist ends, the other one is eager to start.
While perceived as a terrible malaise by the world, many believed it to be a curse that will bring the humanity to an end, but it were the people affiliated with Venus Gate, a religious sect, that believed it was a gift from heavens. The world of King of Thorn manages keep a tentative handle on the disease that plagues it and the dread comes from the sacrifice that the main characters decide on to find a cure, placing their well being in the care of a questionable corporation and tossing away their lives as they’ve know them. Not only does the film challenge you to think about society as a whole but after pondering the events, it turns out to be more complex and metaphysical then you originally anticipated. It also has a strong video-game influence in terms of structure and creatures as the young boy accompanying the group keeps reminding us. His enthusiasm is also responsible for the few smiles in an otherwise dark adventure.
In addition, we learn of a corporation that’s apparently built a modern day Noah’s Ark where animals, plants, and a select few humans will be cryogenic-ally stored. This does not take from the compelling nature of the story and its mystery, but did not feel as rare a story experience as the first act. The third act however, is filled with exposition! There is the mystery of what has happened to the world and what the Medusa virus really is, as well as the survival aspect with a group of unconnected people battling and escaping weird monsters. Post-apocalyptic stories with monsters are nothing new in this case; it is the character interactions and the main player’s development that save the story from the “meh” category. Director Kazuyoshi Katayama (production assistant on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind), shows great effort but it ultimately lacks the dream sequences as Ghibli productions are known for, but King of Thorn is filled with imagination and ingenuity.
King of Thorn is a very good specimen of its genius. Finally, the animation proves as successful, as the look, locations, and the character design (even the blood content), were translated seamlessly from the manga. Like I mentioned above, King of Thorn is most impressive, mainly because it urges you to ask your own questions. What’s more, the social commentary on the “end of the world”, is a message more films should bring to light. It is much more than just running away from monsters; the film infuses Roman folklore and combines it with Christian mythology. If by the films credits you are left confused, it is only because the film is so grand you must revisit to fully comprehend its message. FUNimation has acquired a fantastic film into its already impressive collection of Anime films.