Region: 2 - UK
Length: 109 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
After emerging from a cold sleep to try and survive a deadly virus, seven people must find out what is going on and what has become of humanity.
If your body was about to become petrified, what would you do? Would you sit around with your loved ones or would you throw yourself from the top of a New York skyscraper? King Of Thorn (Ibari no Ou in Japanese) starts with the latter of these as our introduction to the Medusa virus.
This virus is a build up of a chemical in the human body, which eventually petrifies the host. The World Health Organisation classifies Medusa (also known as ACIS) as a infectious disease of the highest level. With no known cure in sight, a massive pharmaceutical company Venus Gate takes this outbreak as the time to announce their newest medical offering, Cold Sleep Capsules.
Venus Gate are offering 160 people the chance to sleep through the virus, not age and then come back out when there is either a cure available or when the system cannot look after them anymore, which should be at least 100 years. We then jump to an emergency meeting of high up American officials talking about the death of the president and the possibility that Venus Gate may have caused the virus and that something needs to be done.
We see buses transporting the people entering the capsules along with their travelling partners. Its here we are introduced to some of the main characters. The main character is Kasumi Ishiki, one half of a set of twins who seems very uncertain about going into the cold sleep capsule. Its also at this point where fairy tale nature of the story comes in as on the same bus a woman is reading aloud from Sleeping Beauty.
Once they get to the Centre (located in Scotland) they are processed, ready to go into the capsules. This requires them to change into what look like white medical clothes and remove all jewelry except for glasses. They are also given a wristband which monitors their vital signs via supercomputer Alice as well as a having a visual indicator as to how much they could be infected. Starting at white, the nearer the display is to black, the less time you have.
With all the people in their capsules, they are sent into their cold sleep. Then they wake up. They have no idea how long they have been asleep. Matters are not made any better by the lack of staff, the computer Alice not responding and the large stems of thorns that have grown all over the facility. With the group of people clueless, things then take a turn for the worse. Bizarre flying creatures descend upon them and start attacking people. These are identified as Death Bats by a young boy claiming they are in a videogame. Panic quickly erupts and after another monster attacks, there are only a few people that make it out of the room safely.
Its quite an assortment of characters, the unsure Kasumi, a convict covered in tattoos, a police officer, an Italian Senator, the lady reading Sleeping Beauty on the bus, the little boy who knew the monsters and another man that seems to know about the building. From here they have to work out just what is going on in the facility, how did it become like this, and what has happened to humanity. Assuming they can survive the monster attacks.
As a fairy tale set in a sci-fi mystery its very good. The slow drip feed of information keeps you engaged and watching the characters react to the events is interesting. It reminds me partly of the recent Playstation Vita/3DS visual novel game Virtue's Last Reward. While I really like the way the story progressed, there is an event about two thirds of the way that might be a bit too much for some, even though it is justified in the plot. I also found it odd at how underplayed the bracelets visual indicator was as it could have added to the tension.
The animation is produced by Sunrise and looks good for the most part. Some of the CGI doesn't look as good however. They can pull it off with the monsters but there are some quick cuts between the hand drawn characters and their CGI versions which can be a little bit jarring. Also the Blu-Ray version looks great.
The Japanese voice cast is solid all around with a few popular or well known seiyuu on staff.
There is also a fair few extras on the disc including a half hour Q and A session held after a showing in the Sunshine Cinema in Shinjuku with the director and producer which focuses on making the film. There is also an interesting interview with the director that is more about the films content. There is also a selection of trailers and a TV spot.