King of Thorn (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 6, 2012 by  

“King of Thorn” is a film that will entertain those who enjoy action, horror and fantasy.   But also can appreciate a complex film that is not too banal or simplified. With that being said, it’s one of those films that probably requires multiple viewings.  Featuring beautiful artwork and animation from Sunrise, “King of Thorn” may be different from the manga series it was loosely-based on, but still manages to be an enjoyable film worth watching!

Image courtesy of © Yuji Iwahara, Published by Enterbrain, Inc./Team IBARA. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: King of Thorn

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sunrise/FUNimation Entertainment


Release Date: September 18, 2012

Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama

Screenplay by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Kazuyoshi Katayama

Storyboard by Kazuyoshi Katayama, Tsukasa Sunaga

Music by Toshihiko Sahashi

Originally Created by Yuji Iwahara

Character Design by Hidenori Matsubara

Art Director: Goki Nakamura

Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Onda

Mechanical Design: Kimitoshi Yamane

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kana Hanazawa/Brina Palencia as Kasumi Ishiki

Akiko Yajima/Luci Christian as Timothy Laisenbach

Ayako Kawasumi/Anastasia Munoz as Laura Owen

Eri Sendai/Alexis Tipton as Shizuku Ishiki

Kenji Nomura/Bob Carter as Ron Portman

Kousei Hirota/R. Bruce Elliott as Alexandro Pecchino

Misaki Kuno/Monica Rial as Alice

Sayaka Ohara as Katherine Turner

Shinichiro Miki/Christopher Bevins as Peter Stevens

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Patrick Seitz as Marco Owen

Tsutomu Isobe/John Swasey as Ivan Coral Vega

Yoshinori Fujita/Todd Haberkorn as Walter

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?

In 2002, Yuji Iwahara created “Ibara no O” (King of Thorn), a manga series that featured elements of science fiction, horror and fantasy, the manga series was published in “Monthly Comic Beam” from 2002-2005, and was released in America via “Tokyopop” in 2008.

In 2010, an animated film produced by Sunrise and directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama (director of “Appleseed”, “Dragon Warrior”, “Doomed Megalopolis”, “Those Who Hunt Eves”.  The series adaptation (a loose adaptation) was co-written by Katayama and Hiroshi Yamaguchi (“Bastard!!”, “Blue Submarine No. 6”, “Gate Keeppers”), music by Toshihiko Sahashi (“Akazukin Cha Cha”, “Cutey Honey Flash”, “Angel Links”), character design by Hidenori Matsubara (Ah! My Goddess”, “Elementalors”, “Sakura Wars”) and art direction by Goki Nakamura (“Cat Soup”, “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”, “Ashita No Nadja”).

And now “King of Thorn” will be released on Blu-ray & DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

“King of Thorns” takes place during a time when the world is suffering from a deadly Medusa virus.  Hoping to find a cure to defeat the virus, 160 people in the entire world was selected to become candidates to experiment a cure against the virus.

We are introduced to one of the candidates, Kasumi Ishiki (the main protagonist).  A teenage girl who struggled with leaving behind her twin sister Shizuku.  Despite having the Medusa Virus, Shizuku encouraged Kasumi to be brave and take the opportunity to be part of the potential experiment, if it would give her the chance to be cured.

While she and the other 159 people were put into their hibernation, they were told by Venus Gate Labs, the company responsible for the system that an artificial intelligence known as Alice would be taking care of them.

One day, all 160 people have awaken.  But what they have awakened to, was giant vines with thorns and these monster bats that try to eat at them.

While many were being attacked and killed, seven of them managed to escape.  Kasumi is joined by Marco Owen, a tattooed individual who seems to be someone with soldier experience; Katherine Turner, a blonde woman who had the worst Medusa case among the survivors, she is the motherly guardian of a little boy named Tim; Timothy Laisenbach is a six-year-old infected by the virus but very mature and intelligent, that for some reason, the whole entire situation with the monsters feels like a video game he mastered and seems to know the monsters and how to defeat them.  Others joining them include Peter Stevens, the creator of the hibernation capsules; Alexandro Pecchino, a politician; Ron Portman, a Black man from the United States and a man known for his strength.

Thinking that they have been in hibernation for years, they realize through data in the lab that they have only been asleep for 48 hours.

Now each of the seven try to escape from the monsters that are trying to hunt them down inside the laboratory.

But as the survivors continue trying to escape from the laboratory and surviving, the more they learn about the true intent of the Venus Gate Labs, Alice and themselves.


“King of Thorn” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is HD Native.  And as one can expect from an animated film, especially from Sunrise, the amount of detail on the art backgrounds are fantastic.  Colors are vibrant, character animation is features detail and shadowing but the most amazing aspect is how CG was incorporated in this animated film.


“King of Thorn” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Because the animated film features a lot of action sequences, there are a lot of gunfire, a lot of rampaging eels and vines attacking their prey.  The film is quite immersive and good utilization of the surround channels and LFE.    Aside from language differences, the Japanese and English lossless soundtracks are well-acted and pretty much utilizing the same mix for special effects.


“King of Thorn” comes with the following special features:

  • Talk Event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro – (29:23) Featuring the May 2010 event featuring Jun Chiba (Kadokawa Pictures Advertising Producer), director Kazuhoshi Katayama and Yasumasa Tsuchiya (Producer) who discuss the film and answer questions from the audience.
  • Director Interview – (11:32) Anime critic Ryusuke Hikawa interviews director Kazuhoshi Katayama.
  • Pilot Film – (1:54) A short pilot (usually created to get animated sponsors to create a feature film).
  • Original Trailer – (1:55) Original Japanese theatrical trailer for “King of Thorn”.
  • Overseas Trailer -(1:48)
  • TV Spot – (:17) Japanese TV spot for “King of Thorn”
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:02) Funimation trailer


“King of Thorn” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the animated film.  Also, included is a slipcover case.

“King of Thorn” is one of the most complex manga series out there.  Fascinating, bleak and in some ways, the story reminds you a bit of films such as “Aliens”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”,  “Matrix” films, “Sunshine” and “Flatliners” (and other sci-fi related films), there is so much story featured in the original manga series that for its film adaptation, Yuji Iwahara had to simplify it for those who would watch the film but never read the manga.

And surprisingly, director Kazuhoshi Katayama and Hiroshi Yamaguchi were both able to accomplish it through their film adaptation by not following the manga 100%, but using the characters featured in the manga series. Having read a few volumes of the manga series, while not faithful to the original storyline, on its own, it does make for a fascinating yet complex anime film.

For one thing, when it comes to differences, for those who read the manga series may be disappointed to find out that Zeus, the antagonist is not even in the film.  And also situations have changed for certain characters, as well as having a completely different ending for the animated film.

While some may cry foul by the change of the film vs. the manga series, in Japan, for those who have watched animated films based on an anime or manga series have grown accustomed in seeing animated films that are different from its original source.  Fortunately, if one is entertained by the film,  possibly then after, they can pursue reading the much better, original manga series.

With that being said, “King of Thorn” is a film that combines horror and fantasy.  At first glance, the animated film plays out like survival horror/disaster film, with survivors who have awaken from their hibernation capsule find out that the entire lab have been filled with monsters and large plants with thorns.  And you try to figure out which one of them will survive by the end of the film.

For the most part, the film is exciting with a lot of tension and plenty of action scenes that look and sound great on Blu-ray!    But because of the corruption that has taken place in the lab, there is this whole entirely different element  that is introduced to the whole “survive the entire ordeal” storyline, situations that make you start to doubt the characters in the film. Are these people genuine?  Are these people crazy?  Needless to say, I found myself having to watch the film twice and had to rewind many times, because I felt I was missing something.

The film can get complex and confusing and unfortunately, even discussing the complexities of what I was confused about, would be spoiling the film.  But let’s just say that once you get to the big reveal at the end of the film, you kind of feel cheated.  In a way, “King of Thorn” is a perfect example of a complex manga series that would have benefited from an 13 or 26-episode anime series rather than a 110 minute film.

As for the Blu-ray release, Sunrise did a magnificent job in providing us a film that looks incredible and features beautiful artwork, the lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks were well-done and was pleased to hear the soundtrack of “King of Thorn” being immersive.  And it was great to have a few special features including the talk event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro and giving us the opportunity to understand what Kazuhoshi Katayama was trying to accomplish for this film.

Overall, “King of Thorn” is a film that will entertain those who enjoy action, horror and fantasy.   But also can appreciate a complex film that is not too banal or simplified. With that being said, it’s one of those films that probably requires multiple viewings.

Featuring beautiful artwork and animation from Sunrise, “King of Thorn” may be different from the manga series it was loosely-based on, but still manages to be an enjoyable film worth watching!

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