King of Thorn (Ibara no O) (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 12-Dec-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Interviews-Crew-Talk Event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebuhuro
Interviews-Crew-Director Kazuyoshi Katayama
More…-Pilot Film
Theatrical Trailer-Original, overseas and US trailers
TV Spots-x 1
Trailer-x 4 for other anime films
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 109:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kazuyoshi Katayama
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Yuji Iwahara
Kazuyoshi Katayama
Akiko Yajima
Hiroshi Yamaguchi
Kana Hanazawa
Jamie Marchi
Toshiyuki Morikawa
Sayaka Ohara
Eri Sendai
Akiko Yajima
Stephanie Young
Neal Malley
Tomomi Masuda
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, at the end of the closing credits
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In December 2012 in New York the first deaths occurred from the deadly Medousa virus. The virus, which mutates through three stages, quickly spread into a world-wide pandemic with a death rate in the final stage of mutation 100%, the human body being turned into stone. The disease threatens the existence of the human race so the Venus Gate Foundation, an organisation with a majority shareholder a religious cult that predicts the end of the world, selects 160 people infected with the first stage of the virus to be interned, frozen in cryogenic sleep in their research castle in Scotland; when a cure for the virus is discovered, the 160 will be awoken and form the gene pool to regenerate the human race.

     Among the 160 selected who journey to Scotland is Japanese teenager Kasumi (voiced by Kana Hanazawa / Brina Palencia) who travels with her twin sister Shizuku (Eri Sendai / Alexis Tipton). She has not been selected, so saying farewell to Shizuku is very painful for Kasumi. The 160 are frozen in place to begin their sleep then, suddenly, they awake to find the castle chamber encased in vines with huge thorns. Even worse, the facility is overrun with monsters who kill the sleepers until only seven remain, including Kasumi, soldier Marco (Toshiyuki Morikawa / Patrick Seitz), policeman Ron (Kenji Nomura / Bob Carter) and a young boy. The group need to discover just how long they have been asleep, what has created the thorns and monsters and how to escape the castle and survive. As they die one by one, even escape from the castle will not necessarily answer their questions, or resolve their futures.

     King of Thorn (Ibara no O) is based on the manga of the same name by Yuji Iwahara. It is directed and co-written by Kazuyoshi Katayama and is certainly hugely ambitious; this is anything but a simple survival story for the themes in the film include identity, religion, bioterrorism, and the very nature of dreams, wishes and reality.

     But does it work? Yes, and no; King of Thorn is visually exciting, thoughtful and interesting but when the film finished I was left wondering just what had happened! We know from the beginning of the film that the U.S. government is suspicions of the Venus Gate Foundation and believed that it had, in fact, been responsible for releasing the Medousa virus and that other bioterrorist attacks were being planned. This adds a another layer of mystery right from the start, and as well there are suggestions in the film of a religious undercurrent. At various times during the film there is lengthy exposition, some of which may be true, some not. We also get flashbacks to scenes we have already seen – or are they re-imaginings – and it is never clear if we are watching a dream, reality, alternate reality, dreams becoming reality or maybe even a video game, with its various levels and monsters that must be defeated? And if what is happening is a dream, or someone imagining events as in a dream, whose dream is it? Kasumi? Shizuku? Or is someone, such as the computer Alice, controlling and fostering the dream? And are we in fact watching Kasumi being frozen, or her twin Shizuku? All this is quite confusing although the one constant in the film that provides some clue to the filmmakers’ intentions is the Sleeping Beauty fable, a fairy tale that is frequently quoted throughout the film.

     From the talk event included in the extras it seems that some fans were less than impressed with the changes to characters and the ending made by the filmmakers, but the director points out the difficulty of reducing a 6 volume manga to a less than 2 hour film, and discloses that they decided to concentrate upon Kasumi’s story arc. That is done, but a lot remains. It may be that fans of the manga will be in a better position to understand that is happening, but for the uninitiated King of Thorn still tries to cover too many ideas, some of which once introduced are not really explored, and comes across as confusing. I still enjoyed a lot of it though, and one can only applaud anime that tries to be thought provoking and intelligent.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     King of Thorn is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original release ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG 4 AVC code.

     The print is sharp and has beautiful amine colours. The earlier scenes outside the castle have nice pastel greens, yellows and blues, but once inside the colour palate becomes very dull and muted with greys and dark browns, plus the dull green of many of the monsters. This colour scheme is enlivened by flashes of red and yellow for gun muzzles, explosions and fire effects. Blacks and shadow detail are fine, contrast and brightness consistent.

     There was slight ghosting around 10:43 with the bus moving in front of brick walls, but otherwise I did not notice any marks or other artefacts.

     It is anime so lip synchronisation is approximate in either audio track.

     The English subtitles in a clear white font. They seemed error free and were easy to read.

     A very good looking anime print, without issues.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Japanese or English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I listened to the Japanese and sampled the English. The most noticeable difference was that the English is much softer.

     Both the Japanese and English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The sound design is very enveloping, but is nicely balanced. The surrounds are frequently employed with music and ambient effects, but burst into life during the fights against the monsters, with gunshots and explosions, water effects and falling debris. There is panning and directional effects with helicopter engines, winged creatures, voices and gunshots. The sub-woofer added appropriate bass to music and explosions.

    The score was excellent. There is a plaintive piano theme, but the score frequently uses choral sections and organ to enhance the religious feel of the events. The score works well and is is nicely rendered in the audio mix.

    The audio was loud when it needed to be, but did include quieter moments and was always well balanced.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Talk Event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebuhuro (29:23)

     Director Kazuyoshi Katayama and producer Yasumasa Tsuchiya are on stage after a screening of the film and answer questions. They mainly speak about reducing a 6 volume manga to a two hour film, including changes to characters and the changed ending. They also comment about the theme song. At the end there is an appearance by the manga author Yuji Iwahara. Some reasonably interesting stuff, especially concerning the character of Marco.

Director Interview (11:32)

     Kazuyoshi Katayama sits on a couch with anime critic Ryusuke Hikawa. They discuss certain scenes with multiple meanings, the significance of some scenes, the lies characters tell and the connections and layers within the film. Katayama is a lively and engaging speaker and this is an interview well worth watching to pick up some of the film’s nuances.

Pilot Film (1:54)

     A 2 minute summary of the plot of the film, part trailer, part pilot.

Original Trailer (1:55)

Overseas Trailer (1:48)

TV Spot (0:17)

US Trailer (1:02)

     Actually the trailer for the Blu-ray / DVD release.

Previews (4:46)

     Trailers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Eden of the East Movie 2 – Paradise Lost, Bleach the Movie 3 – Fade to Black and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – OVA Collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our Region B release of King of Thorn is identical to the Region A US release, except that it comes with a DVD of the film if that is of value.

Summary

     King of Thorn is hugely ambitious for its themes include identity, religion, bioterrorism, and the very nature of dreams, wishes and reality. It is intelligent and exciting but in the end it tries to cover too many ideas and ends up confusing.

     The video and audio are very good. Extras are interesting and of value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, June 03, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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