Kasumi Ishiki: Hanazawa Kana
Marco Owen: Morikawa Toshiyuki
Shizuku Ishiki: Sendai Eri
Katherine Turner: Oohara Sayaka
Timothy “Tim” Laisenbach: Yajima Akiko
Ron Portman: Nomura Kenji
Peter Stevens: Miki Shin’ichirou
Ivan Coral Vega: Isobe Tsutomu
Alessandro Peccino: Hirota Kousei
Laura Owen: Kawasumi Ayako
Alice: Kuno Misaki
Walter: Fujita Yoshinori
The following review has mild spoilers for Ibara no Ou: King of Thorn. I enjoyed the movie, but major spoilers will kill it for you. Go see it first.
I came away from Ibara no Ou: King of Thorn feeling elated, like I’d seen something amazing. This was primarily due to the movie’s climactic ‘genre twist’ that previously had many fans giving up on the manga. Essentially, the thing that sold it for me was the reason why other people didn’t like the original work.
The anime begins as creepy science-fiction survival horror. In the first scene (as shown in the trailer), a woman plunges to her death from a New York skyscraper and smashes into the pavement, having been turned to stone. There then follows a massive infodump in the form of TV news footage describing the so-called Medusa Virus’ spread across the world.
The action then moves to Scotland, where busloads of people infected with the Medusa Virus are travelling to a cryonics lab run by a cult called Venus Gate in the hope of finding a cure. What could possibly go wrong?
When these people wake up from their induced sleep, they find monstrous bats nesting in the cryonic pod chamber and thorny vines grown up around the pods. The monsters quickly dispose of the generic characters, leaving behind those with distinctive character designs. The survivors decide to fight their way out.
Up until halfway through it was generic survival horror with the main characters alternately fighting and running away from monsters. In fact, it’s so generic that you can predict who will die and in what order with this handy chart. Consider the African-American man (Ron) and the little boy (Tim). Do you know which will die and how soon? No? Then clearly you don’t watch many horror movies.
What stops this section from being a step-down from standard Hollywood horror (which at least knows its genre well enough to try to subvert it) are the hints that Something Deeper Is Going On. One of the first clues is that the female lead’s name is Ishiki, meaning awareness or consciousness. Furthermore, the male lead has visions of her surrounded by thorns which seem to be connected to her. Oh, and she’s a twin. That’s suspicious in its own right. We also know the lab is run by a cult. Those genre-savvy enough to be bored by the paint-by-numbers handling of the first half will probably realise there’s more to the plot.
I’ll leave the review here. The revelations soon start piling up, throwing everything that went before it in a new light. Just about everything in the first act, even the annoying reporter trying to interview people as they entered cold sleep, was a Chekhovian gun waiting to go off later. That’s why I left the cinema feeling the way I did. I love massive, complicated mindscrews and this did it well. But the ending is key and to describe it would be to ruin it. You’ll have to sit through the generic horror to get the payoff and that’s just the way it is. If you really must know, the Wikipedia page for the manga will point you in the right direction.
The movie is almost certainly heading overseas (America, at least). There’s an English version of the official site and a great deal of the onscreen writing is in English. But if the wait makes you feel bad, just remember we don’t get Iron Man 2 until June 11th.