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King Of Thorn (2010)

In the post-apocalyptic world of King Of Thorn the mysterious Medusa Virus have ravaged the population. As the name suggests, the final stage sees the unfortunate victim literally petrified- meaning their body turns to stone. Venus Gate, a corporation with ties to a religious sect selects a group of 160 carriers of the virus to be cryogenically frozen in the hopes of one day finding a cure. Only instead they awaken into a world gone mad, covered in sprawling monstrous thorned plants and overrun with dangerous monsters. A small rag-tag group of survivors including Japanese schoolgirl Kasumi and a muscle-bound, tattooed British ex-con fight for their survival and to try to uncover what has happened to the world while they slept.

King Of Thorn offers a pretty compelling set-up for the fan of post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Whereas in the original manga by Yuji Iwahara (published in English by the once all-powerful Tokyopop) the story started with the survivors awakening, the movie version starts with the emergence of the virus. This does take away a bit of the sense of mystery present in the source material but it also has some advantages. It allows you to get to know the characters a bit before they're frozen, and helps you understand the strength of Kasumi's bond with the twin-sister she leaves behind. After they awaken the film becomes much more of a conventional horror-sci-fi yarn, with our cast of ethnically diverse survivors teaming up to try and escape from the various beasties they encounter. Fans of films like the Alien series will enjoy this feel, and you may get a kick out of trying to guess who will be the next character to buy the farm in an unpleasant manner. While this particular part of the film wouldn't feel out of place in a Hollywood production, it doesn't last for long, before heading a totally different direction. The spectacular climax and the eventual revelations that come with it could only be anime. Think somewhere between Akira and End Of Evangelion and you're not a million miles off.

This 2010 production from Sunrise boasts some really arresting visuals. On Blu-ray the animation looks beautiful, with the backgrounds looking especially polished. Unfortunately, as with many recent anime production there's a bit of an over-reliance on CG. While this may not really be a problem in itself, the quality of the computer graphics is just not up to snuff. It's used for the majority of the monsters meaning they don't look as good as they could have. Most mystifyingly it is on rare occasions used to render the characters themselves. It's a great shame as it gives it an inconsistent look- while the 2D animation always looks great, the badly integrated computer animation just lets the side down.

Technical issues aside, King Of Thorn is still an enjoyable watch. There have been relatively slim pickings for fans of sci-fi anime in recent years as more moe/slice-of-life fare has taken hold. Sci-fi anime with a theatrical budget has been even rarer. As such, if you are that kind of fan then this will be a movie well worth your time. It may not be perfect, but it's the kind of solid sci-fi that anime does so well.