Its the year 2015 and the Medousa virus has become a pandemic, turning infected people literally into stone. Venus Gate, a Russian organization, has invited 160 infected people to Scotland, where they will be frozen in capsules until a cure is created for the Medousa virus. Among them is a young girl named Kasumi, troubled with having to leave her twin sister, Shizuku, behind. Reluctantly, she joins the others and enters the capsules. However, some time after they are all frozen, they wake up to find that the castle has been covered with thorny vines and inhabited by vicious mutated creatures. Only seven survive, including Kasumi, and they all must work together to find a way to get out of the castle in one piece. But the question is, what really happened?
Adapted loosely from the manga of the same name, King of Thorn is a strange sci-fi story that takes severe twists and turns until you are unsure what is going on. That can work for and against this particular concept, and it does both for many different viewers. This movie is interesting, but somewhat rushed toward the end and a bit confusing. However, it is also a movie that you really have to pay attention to in order to fully understand and connect the dots, and it may require several rewatches to do so. But, the film does have its good qualities.
Story: The concept for this film is certainly an interesting one, and, at first, it is paced and written very well; the post-apocalyptic nature of the story hooks you and keeps your attention for most of the story. Around the second act, though, the story starts to "fall apart", or rather, throw plot points at you that you were not prepared for. Because of the limited time, the movie strays far away from the canon, throwing out parts of the plot that would take too long to explain or that are really not needed. The story, therefore, suffers greatly because of the hastily explained parts of the plot that would naturally need more time to construe the more complicated details. The twist and the entire third act is a huge payoff, but also very confusing and hard to understand unless you are really paying attention. Its not a bad story, but the rushed writing toward the end is very noticable, due to the moderate pacing at the beginning. As said before, a few rewatches to entirely understand everything may be in order, but even at a first timer's standpoint, the story isn't bad; just really rushed and complicated toward the end.
Animation: Normally when one thinks of Sunrise, they think of high quality animation, and this movie definitely has some; that is, the 2D animated scenes are. The motion is fluent and the action scenes are very well done. The character designs were also pretty true to the ones in the manga. However, when the CGI animation becomes involved, it gets pretty ugly. The first couple of times that the CGI animation is used isn't all bad; they generally fit in, especially if you aren't looking so closely. The same goes for the giant creatures animated in the same way. But, it becomes glaringly obvious as the film goes along, and the CGI makes the characters look like early computer game graphics; they move awkwardly and look bizarre in 3D. If the movie was entirely animated with one style or the other, it might have been better, but when it was mixed, it looked pretty strange.
Sound: There aren't too many tracks in this movie that really leave an impression, except for the main theme which is used constantly in the film. Its eerie and beautiful, giving the film a tone within the first couple of minutes it is used. The ending song is pretty good, but not entirely memorable. The Japanese cast does a great job, each fit their character and delivered the right amount of emotion when needed. The English dub is fantastic, giving the characters actual nationalities (although the accents are funny), and the stellar cast does great with their delivery. The voice that stood out the most was Brina Palencia, who was so emotional playing Kasumi.
Characters: While good characters, nothing much is known about them. That is, except for our heroine. Kasumi's character is the only one who's backstory and detailed characteristics are fleshed out and explained well enough for us to understand. The source material this story came from explained the other six survivors, as well as the other minor characters, very well. This did not carry over well in the film, however, as the backstories had to be watered down, probably because of how long they had to fit everything in the film. So, the other characters are less detailed, leaving us with a few side comments or sentences that explain an important piece of information. However, this does not mean that they are not interesting or unique from emotion; these characters act in different ways that separates each one from another, so even if they are not well rounded characters, they still have some substance.
Overall, this movie is a pretty good post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller. While rushed and some of the characters fall flat, the story and idea itself are creative and gripping for at least two thirds of the film. With partially great animation, great twists, surprising action, interesting characters and stunning vocal tracks, this movie is pretty memorable and appealing. Once you get past its flaws, it shines a bit more than once thought.