Saturday, 10 May 2014

Review - King of Thorn (2009 - Dir. Kazuyoshi Katayama)

I was expecting great things from this. King of Thorn: a tale of one man's fight to turn a struggling South Yorkshire market town into a thriving canal boat metropolis whilst wearing a shiny king hat. Wait, it says here that it's about a horrific virus that turns people to stone (the Medusa virus) and some nonsense about some people getting cryogenically frozen until they can find a cure, but when they wake things have gone a bit pear shaped. So nothing to do with reopening Woolworths then. Shame.

Actually it starts off really well. The virus is suitably chilling and the way that the story of Sleeping Beauty is weaved in to the characters being frozen, maybe for a hundred years, is all quite intriguing. When Kasumi, a young girl selected to be one of the survivors, wakes up things really kick off and I was thinking that this could well be an anime to buy and add to my collection. Many questions are raised during this first part: is it all a dream, what has it all got to do with a game that a little boy is playing, and has the shady corporation created the virus for its own evil ends? All questions that initially kept me engaged.

Then it all dissolves into a big mess. The story quickly becomes virtually unintelligible and I couldn't have really cared less about answering the questions. I could roughly follow the plot but it was hard work. All of the talk about dreams, games and Sleeping Beauty quickly becomes overdone and increasingly tiresome. It doesn't help that it's way too long at nearly two hours. Things are explained (kind of) at the end and it hints at something altogether better if the script had been a tad clearer. It's based on a manga by Yuji Iwahara, and it's entirely possible that a familiarity with this would help massively.

The traditional 2D animation is gorgeous and almost worth watching for that alone. There's something about watching a new anime on shiny blu-ray. Everything is so crisp and fluid. Then we get to the abomination that is the CGI animation. Now, I happen to think that CGI can work really well within anime; just look at Oblivion Island, Appleseed: Ex Machina or Vexille. But here it's terrible. It looks like it's running at a frame rate of 12 frames per second; it's all so jerky. This completely trashes the quality feel generated by the 2D work.

The best thing about King of Thorn has to be Marco Owen, a prisoner who is chosen for the project. He's massive and charges about punching and shooting stuff. And he says his name a lot. Things generally pick up when he gets into some action.

Apart from a promising start and Marco Owen things are pretty bleak. I normally save anime for times when I want to watch something that will at least get a 6/10 rating. This has left me feeling rather disappointed. 

If you like this you could also try:
Origin: Spirits of the Past, Princess Mononoke.

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