This is the last of three reviews as part of my post analysis covering the very well executed REEL Anime 2010 that wrapped up today in Melbourne and interstate. Overall it was an incredibly successful event (making the top 20 box office sales) held by Madman highlighting some seriously brilliant Japanese anime.
King of Thorn is essentially a survival horror that takes introduces meta-physical and psychological aspects of persona, and suffers greatly for it as it gets buried under its exposition and complexity.
The Medusa virus, which turns people to stone as the name obviously implies is an interesting concept as it becomes a widespread plague, but its introduction is way too heavy handed and from the opening it is clear that this would have worked better as episodic content. There is a perceived trend in Japan for wacky contests and team-work related ventures and King of Thorn is no different. Initially a huge group of the inflicted are cryogenically frozen, a friendly computer system ALICE (oh dear) will watch over them. Of course nothing goes to plan and the group wakes up only to be conveniently culled thus reducing the numbers to a convenient size of various experts (doctor, weapons specialist, mercenary etc).
Without spoiling the story, as it is by far the most important element of the film, the facility is overrun with deadly thorns, strange monsters are attacking and there is a clearly growing sense of impending doom within the mystery elements. The film falters here as each scenario does not really seem to escalate or change, the same demonsaurs (yes, demonsaurs) pursue them and the story becomes very vanilla, I lost interest for quite some time in the middle and it did seem to drag on considerably, especially with the lead survivor, the school girl Kasumi goes through an awakening of sorts through many painful, often repeated flashbacks to her twin sister. ALICE the seemingly psychotic computer program provides too much exposition and after a final meek confrontation it is all over, it actually ends quite abruptly.
This film was an exercise in mystery and horror but seemed to fail on both accounts, the trick up its sleeve came near the end and by that point it was already too late, although some elements were explained there was no clarity or realisation and the whole scenario played out as a 'thorn' in my side' by the time the credits rolled.