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Manga / King of Thorn

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King of Thorn is a short, post-apocalyptic Survival Horror manga by Yuji Iwahara, publishing from October 2002 to October 2005. The story begins when the main character, Kasumi, and 159 other people are chosen to go into cold sleep until a cure is found for their mysterious disease, the Medusa virus. The Medusa virus is a disease which, six weeks after infection, causes the victim to have seizures; within five hours, all of the victim's cells have solidified into a clay-like substance.

When some of the sleepers wake up, the world has drastically changed; there is a veritable jungle running around and through the facility. Massive monsters roam through the facility, and there are no signs of any other human beings.

A movie adaptation was released in May 2010, whose trailer you can view here. The movie was a Pragmatic Adaptation and deviated signficantly from the canon, altering many of the characters' back-stories and omitting the Big Bad from the manga. It was nominated for the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

King of Thorn contains examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The film adaptation's creatures are primarily made of CGI. The characters are also CGI'd when fighting these creatures.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Katherine. She was an alcoholic who beat her child to the point where social services had to step in and remove him.
    • Alice also had them, which is the cause of her Split Personality.
  • Action Dress Rip: In Volume 5 Kasumi finds a dress that somehow fits her and wears it for the rest of the series. First chapter of Volume 6, she rips off the skirt because it's hard to walk in it, and wraps her hands and feet with the scraps for protection from the thorns.
  • Action Mom:
    • Katherine. A Mama Gryphon, too.
    • A little more on that subject: Katherine turned herself into a giant eagle with female breasts, believing that is how a real mother should be presented. Yeah, it's symbolic .
  • Action Survivor: Everyone who survives.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Zig-zagged with Marco in the movie. He's not a NSA Boxed Crook with a life grudge towards Zeus, but a British soldier following orders, but in turn his sister died from Medusa.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the film adaptation, Kasumi and Shizuku are from Japan; Peeter, Ron and Walter are from the United States; Marco and Laura are from the United Kingdom; Alessandro is from Italy; Katherine is from Australia; and Ivan is from Russia.
  • Adaptational Villainy: As Zeus don't appear in the movie, the role as Big Bad is given to Venus Gate itself and its computer Alice.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Tim in the manga is understandably terrified by all the monsters trying to kill him, but in the movie he is positively excited by it, comparing it to his videogame. A similarity that becomes a plot point later.
    • The movie version of Peter is a devout Catholic, a trait not found in his manga self.
  • Agony of the Feet: A continuous problem, as all the survivors lack footwear due to their hospital attire and the facility is filled with the title thorns. They end up using scraps of cloth from their shirts to make footwraps.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Marco sends Tim into an air vent so he can get to the other side of a locked door and let the rest of the group through. At least, that was the plan...
  • Alice Allusion: Alice, The Mysterious Waif, creates her protector as a giant white rabbit. He wears a top hat with a playing card stuck to it, too.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Kasumi develops a crush on Marco. The rest of the group takes notice of this, but since Marco is so hard to read it's tough to tell what he thinks of her for most of the story.
    • Ron even discusses this with Kasumi in Chapter 27:
    Ron: "I don't know what you women see in that type of guy. Tell me. These types of guys only cause women headaches."
    Kasumi: "He already has. And despite that, I am still..."
  • All There in the Manual: The Japanese website for The Movie provides full names, ages, occupations and nationalities for most of the characters, and even gives names to some of the monsters.
  • Always Identical Twins: Kasumi and Shizuku.
  • And I Must Scream: Alice was kept in a life support chamber for eight years.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Kasumi. It's a bit more complicated than that, though.
  • Anime Accent Absence: With the exception of the Japanese characters, averted in the English dub of the movie.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: The story of Sleeping Beauty is constantly referenced throughout the events of King of Thorn, with emphasis on humanity's inner desire for escape from painful realities. The ultimate lesson is that one must live life without being dominated by fear, no matter how much suffering one goes through. Zeus (Alice in the movie) and Shizuku tried to escape from reality at the expense of the entire world using the Medusa pandemic. The heroes pushed through the monsters and obstacles thrown at them, slowly discovering the purpose and will to live beyond fear of the unknown.
  • Anti-Hero: Kasumi is a Classical Anti-Hero, while Marco is mostly a Byronic Hero.
  • Arc Words: In The Movie, "Miracles don't happen without wishes."
  • Artistic License – Biology: "Well... I think it probably evolved from some animal, or maybe suddenly mutated." Possibly justified, as "evolved" implies "mutated over a long period of time", as opposed to "suddenly mutated".
  • Asshole Victim: Alessandro, the Jerkass Grumpy Old Man, is the first member of the group to get killed.
  • Awful Truth: Marco knows more about what's really going on than the rest of the group does, and keeps a lot of awful truths from them.
  • Back from the Dead: With sheer willpower, and a little help from Alice.
  • Badass Normal: Applied to pretty much everyone, but especially Marco. But eventually....
  • Barefoot Poverty: None of the sleepers have access to shoes upon waking up, as they're all in patient scrubs. Eventually, they improvise some rudimentary foot wrapping from their clothes to walk around somewhat easier.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Marco
  • Big Fancy Castle/Building of Adventure: Pretty much the whole story takes place within the isolated, thorn-covered, monster-infested castle.
  • Big "NO!": A full-page Big "NO!" in the final volume.
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • Averted with Ron. He survives all the way to the end of the story!
    • Played more straight in the movie. He’s the third member of the group to die.
  • Bland-Name Product: There's a 'Mindows' operating system, and 'Bell' computers.
  • Body Horror: Copious examples. Infection by Medusa causes the body to slowly petrify and eventually shatter. If you're lucky, you might instead get a very nasty Lovecraftian Superpower. And then there's Alice, who has been reduced to a head, heart, one lung, and one arm, and kept alive inside a life support chamber for eight years.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Played with. Zeus is smart enough to know that letting his archenemy live after he's discovered his master plan is a bad idea, and after some Evil Gloating, disposes of him rather quickly. Not only does he have one of his minions beat Marco to a pulp and then stab him, he has him dropped from a ledge. However, Zeus fails to consider the possibility of Marco coming back to life. And then, he makes the very stupid mistake of letting Marco hack into his data and erase him from existence.
  • Boxed Crook:
    • The government recruits Marco this way. The fact Marco wants to take revenge on the infiltrated facility's system administrator (Zeus) certainly helps.
    • Averted in the movie, where Marco is actually a British special forces agent who has assumed the identity of a lottery-chosen crook to try and bring down Vega, who is believed to have created and dispersed Medusa.
  • Brain Uploading: One of the first things super-hacker Zeus does as part of his A God Am I is download his mind into a new Medusa form. "That shell could never contain my potential..."
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Kasumi goes through a lot of this. Amazingly enough, she manages to get through it pretty well. Shizuku, on the other hand, doesn't fare quite as well.
    • Alice went through eight years of breaking, leading her to eventually become a Broken Bird.
  • Breaking Speech: "Shizuku's fate... is your fault."
  • Came Back Strong: Marco Owen is killed by Zeus. However, Alice sacrifices her life to bring him back, and the new Medusa-enhanced body she gives him has useful new abilities such as a resistance to Zeus's electrical attacks.
  • Canon Foreigner: In the movie, Marco's sister Laura Owen.
  • Cat Boy: Laloo Also the Zeus Breed; and Tim becomes half of one.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • After watching the security tape with Kasumi on it, Tim says to Kasumi "That's you, isn't it?" She denies this, believing the person on the tape to be Shizuku. By the end of the story, it turns out that Tim was right.
    • Justified; At the time, Tim couldn't have known the truth about Kasumi and Shizuku, and Kasumi didn't remember what had really happened on "that day".
  • Chained by Fashion: Alice's giant rabbit protector is adorned with chains, which it can also manipulate as weapons.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Zeus makes his first, unnamed appearance during a flashback in volume 2 of the manga. Did you think the goofy security administrator in the Hawaiian shirt would turn out to be the Big Bad?
  • Clear My Name: Marco's motivation in the manga.
  • Cloning Blues: This comes up towards the end of the manga, since by that point both Marco and Kasumi have died and been resurrected as Medusa constructs; essentially, they are just copies of their original selves. Marco, not being one prone to angst, simply recommends they live on as normal.
    Marco: Your worth hasn't changed. And it never will.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Not long after Marco gives Kasumi a gun, she fires it accidentally and parts his hair.
  • Clothing Damage: A monster rips Kasumi's shirt badly enough that she has to find new clothes when she eventually gets to safety.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The film adaptation, at only 109 minutes, adapts all 6 volumes. While it does follow the same basic story, there are several changes throughout.
  • Cowardly Lion: Kasumi. She believes she is weak and useless, having depended on her braver twin Shizuku for most of her life. Later she depends on Marco for protection and often needs him to rescue her. However, she's still able to put her fears aside long enough to save someone else's life. She even saves Marco a few times, and earns his respect for it.
  • Cult: The Cold Sleep project was sponsored by a cult called Venus Gate. They planned to harness the power of Medusa to remake the world, only to discover too late that Evil Is Not a Toy.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Kasumi. See Cowardly Lion.
  • Dead All Along: Kasumi died before the manga began. The one who appears in the story is a Replacement Goldfish who was created using a Lovecraftian Superpower, and doesn't realize it until The Reveal in the final volume. In the movie it's a Dead Person Impersonation done by Shizuku due to mental stress.
  • Deadly Upgrade: See Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Ron, Marco, and harpy!Katherine survive in the manga, but not the movie.
    • Also, Kasumi and Shizuku's parents. They were shown alive in the manga and were there with Shizuku to drop Kasumi off at the castle. In the movie they died from Medusa, leaving the girls living together as orphans.
  • Death's Hourglass: The bracelets on the survivors’ wrists. When the bar on them turns completely black, they are in the final stage of Medusa Virus and will petrify very soon.
  • Defiant Stone Throw: How Kasumi saves Marco from a dinosaur in the first book; she chucks rocks at it so it's too distracted to eat him. Marco uses this chance to break the bridge the dinosaur is standing on.
  • Demoted to Extra: Zeus is absent from the movie, though he does make a brief appearance in a photo at the beginning. His real name is written as Steve Austin.
  • Despair Event Horizon: This happened to Shizuku when her twin sister Kasumi failed to force her to die together with her. Once she realized that her sister is dead, Shizuku's mind snapped and triggered the Medusa within her. As a result, Shizuku did everything she could to restore and preserve Kasumi's life using Medusa, even at the expense of the entire world. She used Medusa to create an exact double of Kasumi, including her personality and memories up until just before her suicide.
  • Doomed Defeatist: Ron decides to split from the rest of the survivors because he figures that it's no use going on now that they've seen the condition the rest of the world is in. He later changes his mind and, surprisingly, lives to tell the tale.
  • Dream Within a Dream: This starts happening near the end of the The Movie. See Mind Screw.
  • Driven to Suicide: How Vincent Coral Vega dies.
  • *Drool* Hello: The "Demonsaurus" monsters in the movie are fond of this trope.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: It's revealed later that all the survivors had "keys" implanted in their minds, one being to "protect a weak Japanese woman with your life." Meaning that all of them were under The Dulcinea Effect towards Kasumi, irrationally protecting her despite never knowing or meeting her previously.
  • Eat Me: Marco and Kasumi have to let the mother monster swallow them to stop Zeus and save Shizuku.
  • Enemy Without: Alice, who (as a result of abuse from her family) developed an alternate personality called Laloo to take the abuse for her. When Alice became infected with Medusa, it manifested from her back in the form of Laloo. How did Alice respond? By locking him in a room and burning the house down.
  • Mystical Plague: "Medusa" is a disease that came from a meteorite; spreading across the globe and turning most humans into statues. (and others into monsters). It's revealed to have a psychic vector; rather than a viral or bacterial one.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The manga begins in the year 2008. The movie, released in 2010, bumps this forward so the outbreak begin in 2012 and the characters go into cold sleep in 2015.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the film:
    • Shizuku and Kasumi are given the last name Ishiki.
    • Tim is named Timothy Laisenbach.
    • Katherine is given the last name Turner.
    • Ron is given the last name Portman.
    • While the Senator isn't given a name in the manga, he's named Alessandro Peccino in the film version.
  • No Name Given: We never do find out anything about the Senator except that he's, uh, a senator, but he's a jerk so who cares. The rest of the cast do eventually get names, even if it takes two-thirds of the series for them to get mentioned.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: This gets used quite a bit in The Movie soundtrack.
  • Older Than They Look: Alice stopped physically aging after she was infected with Medusa. Thus, she's been trapped in the body of a child for eight years.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Zeus's real name is Steve.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Kasumi and Shizuku. The Movie says they're 15 years old, while the manga implies they might be 17.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: One of these is the result of Katherine's Heroic Sacrifice.