Fans of the original manga maybe disappointed with some of the changes done, but taking a 6 volume manga and managing to tell a story with most of it kept in was definitely a decent job. As a standalone movie without knowledge of the manga, it is a superb journey of madness…
What They Say :
“Humanity’s last hope 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?
Set in English and Japanese 5.1 language, if there is a 5.1 Japanese track in Dolby Surround I will take that, and as expected the sound system in all set ups (Jap, Eng, theatrical, regular) is really good, albeit I must admit a bit weaker in Japanese than I was expecting (not helped with a recent DVD review in 5.1 Japanese which I felt was stronger). It definitely is fine in English, but the fact I had to turn the volume up from my default settings in the Japanese is a bit of a surprise, so in terms of that probably the weakest Blu-Ray release audio wise especially with a Japanese 5.1. Visually, the animation is among the best I’ve seen integrating hand drawn and CGI flawlessly and absolutely gorgeous to watch in high-definition. No issues at all with slowdown, images when pausing, in terms of that it is a fantastic view to watch.
Menu is your standard but always easily accessible Blu-Ray menu, with shots of the film with appropriate background music in the background, the choices in a big blue box in the top left hand corner, options being Play Movie, Scene Selection, Set Up and Extras. Each of the choice is instantaneous with no menu lag like with most DVDs allowing you to select your sub-selection with ease. There is a slight delay when wanting to return to the menu however from any choice which is standard for a DVD release but this is the first time I’ve noticed it in a Blu-Ray release. Menu is pretty boring itself though the backgrounds showcase the movie at its most atmospheric and as it is easily accessible I’m just nitpicking.
A few decent extras on the Blu-Ray release, first of all we get a ‘Talk Event At Cinema Sunshine, Ikebukuro’ which is basically a written Q&A at a special screening of King Of Thorns in Ikebukuro, hosted by Jun Chiba of Kadokawa Pictures Advertising, we have Kazuyoshi Katayama(Director) and Yasumasa Tsuchiya(Producer) – in front of a watching audience, they answer questions from fans just prior to the event as this was one of the last showings of the movie in Japan. It’ a general Q&A but some interesting questions came about, specifically about the changes between the manga and the anime, which was an interesting point considering how one of the major characters from the manga wasn’t in the movie, but this was OKed by the creator Yuki Iwahara (who was also there). Discussion of the various characters (in particular Marco), how they managed to fit a 6 volume manga to a under 2 hour movie, the music, the choices made for Kasumi, it was a general Q&A of a slightly different way in presenting it, with some interesting thoughts from the discussion.
We had a brief director interview with Katayama with an anime critic Ryusuke Hikawa, discussing a lot of the scenes and their multiple meanings, the use of imagery such as the Statue Of Liberty with the thorn motif, and a general discussion about the various scenes of the movie.
Lastly, we had a lot of variation of trailers. First a Pilot Film which had some written storytelling, explanation and credits, the original Japanese trailer, the Oversea Trailer (similar but with English text) with different scenes but no voices, a TV Spot in Japanese, a US Trailer with some brief dub voices, and some previews of other releases (Madoka Magica, Eden Of The East Movie 2, Bleach The Movie 3 and the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood: OVA Collection).
Being familiar with the King Of Thorn manga but not read it in a while I was surprised to see this come out as a movie, especially to the UK. I did wonder how they’d manage to incorporate the story into a movie, and as it turns out it did a decent job – without knowledge of the manga though, I can definitely see this as an excellent movie, just with hindsight there are issues, so my rating is trying to balance between the two between the uneducated and the educated sides.
We are centered into the plot quite quickly – a deadly virus known as Medusa which has spread across the world. An apparently cult of sorts known as Venus Gate has been collecting samples of the virus and are attempting to make a cure. However, they need to experiment to see if it works and currently have no time to develop it – however they suggest to deep freeze various human subjects into a cold sleep so that their condition doesn’t advance and such when enough time has bypassed and they can cure it, they will be awakened. Unfortunately they only have enough chambers for 160 people…
…cue our protagonist, a girl named Kazumi, who has arrived in Scotland where the sleep is due to occur. She has arrived along with her twin sister who also suffers from the virus but sadly didn’t get chosen, yet she’s happy for her sister despite the tears coming and promising they will somehow see each other again. We see various other people enter the area, but as she enters the chambers, she sees various weird dreams as the viewer sees some strange scenes of confusion and violence….
…she wakes up strangely to her chamber being opened, and the entire cavern area where the experiment is being held covered in thorns. Explained earlier that the chambers and everything in Venus Gate is in control of a super computer known as Alice who would wake them, the fact that it doesn’t seem to be responding is a worry. But then something else causes even more worry…bat like creatures attacking from the sky and huge man eating monsters who swallow and chew people who attempt to escape from the lift. The 160 people get whittled down to 7 very quickly, a corrupt old man, a soldier, a formerly abusive mother, a little boy thinking this is a game world, a doctor, an apparent prisoner, and Kazumi.
The movie then becomes a Gantz or Battle Royale survival style horror movie as it takes a weird twist, in terms of weird monster like creatures attacking them at every turn…made even stranger when they discover only 48 hours have passed. Whilst one of the characters dies early on, the rest we get some interesting background on, for example the doctor Peter in how he was involved in what this experiment truly was and may know more about these monsters than he appears, Katherine, the Sleeping Beauty storyteller who feels a parental bond with the young boy Tim, but has relapses to her past when she was an abusive mother, but the main one of the bunch is the apparently prisoner named Marco, who is in fact offered a way out of prison via trying to help out this Medusa mess due to his skills as a soldier and an elite hacker – he was sent to find out the truth about the virus, despite not being affected by the virus himself. Whilst he isn’t completely trustworthy throughout, the story is told through him and Kazumi as he becomes of a bodyguard to her, and we see glimpses of his past as the virus begins to affect the gang…
What becomes fascinating is when Alice is unveiled and how Medusa was ‘created’ via an alien energy hitting Russia. When one of the experimenters named Mr. Vega explains the flashback of what happened, we then find out there is another energy that came to the end which has the same capacity as Alice did for creation – this brings back the dreams that Kazumi had and why it seemed to only be affecting her. The twist that is told on what the dreams are about, how all these strange death traps occurring and the wish of the person who is causing this, is so gripping that I refuse to spoil it. This is where if you haven’t read the manga before, the scenes leading up to the reveal are such a shock yet at the same time can be figured out via the various dreams and flashback sequences that occur, it is very cleverly told and I felt was a real creative piece of writing.
The description of the Medusa virus via the alien technology is definitely farfetched, but the whole virus is pretty farfetched (basically it’s viral affecting your cells which dry up your body and petrify you) – it’s definitely a case of leave your brain out the door because the strange monsters that act and kill which aren’t really explained brilliantly at first until you get to the big spoiler, it can confuse you but at the same time you want to keep watching. Marco is a fantastically complex character, a bit of a bruiser but with a heart of gold and intelligence, and considering the ending sadly changes his destiny (but giving him a different back-story to make sure it fits in), his relationship with Kazumi is strange as you are unsure if the two are seeing each other as brother/sister, romantic, or just a means to survive, but there is definitely something there. Kazumi as well grows on you as she gets tougher, but then you see what she has had to suffer from in the past (you really get the feeling of paranoia of the Medusa virus through her flashbacks) and even the other characters get their moments, Katherine for example is trying not to regress to her old ways by being the mother figure for the young boy Tim, whilst Tim’s innocence yet understanding that this is similar to a game helps them out, yet you realize how easily corrupted he could be when ‘Alice’ takes over his body.
As a movie, I loved it – intense, character developing, managing to change the ending of the manga into something different yet still make sense, music, atmosphere, and managing to explain the very confusing scenario by the end of the movie to something that whilst sounds stupid does make storyline sense, is applauded. The one major issue however is that a major character from the manga isn’t in the movie – which causes the change of ending which will definitely disappoint fans. I can see why they did it and thus, had to rewrite it, but at the same time it is a big discussion point. In the extras, they discuss this change and even the creator was fine with it, but it’s still something different which may not sit well with fans of the manga (along with that, some of the more popular characters die whilst in the manga, they live) – as it stands though, I think fans of the manga will enjoy how fluid the animation is and how it captured the atmosphere really well in the short time it has to tell the story, and for those not familiar with the manga, as an animated movie, it works as a treat of escapism. The horrific images at times will definitely put people off, but if you can stomach that, it’s very gripping and entertaining. Enjoy.
Another movie which is hard to grade because you have to take into consideration three fans a) Fans of the manga who will not like the ending, b) fans of the manga who would like the ending and c) people who haven’t seen the manga. For the first people, yes, the ending change feels like a rushed change which you can understand due to length restrictions, but if you are in group B or C, then this is a great movie to just enjoy. Full of suspense, great visuals and music, interesting characters and a real twist of an ending. Just remember to not be stunned by the mind screw of a start and you’ll have a good movie to watch.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 22nd April 2013
Running Time: 109 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.