Stephen reviews: King of Thorn (2009)

King_of_Thorn-982478001-largeKing of Thorn [いばらの王 Ibara no Ō] (2009)

Starring Kana Hanazawa, Eri Sendai, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Akiko Yajima, Sayaka Ohara, Kenji Nomura, Misaki Kuno, Shinichiro Miki, Kousei Hirota, Tsutomu Isobe

Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama


The premise in King of Thorn closely follows that of a horror movie, however it never really feels like a horror movie. This may simply be that I’m not a huge horror fan, and not all that attuned to the genre conventions. But as much as this uses the tried and true formula of trapping a diverse group of people in one spot and then slowly killing them off one by one, it never tries to amp up the terror. It’s all about adrenaline-pumping action and head-scratching conspiracies.

This was a pretty enjoyable film all things considered. Since I’m not much for horror, the downplay of its creepier elements worked well for me. Perhaps the biggest problem is that once they start explaining all the mysteries, you may well become even more confused. The film delves into the kind of metaphysical weirdness that anime is so often fond of. I would love to give you more of a heads up, but explaining anything beyond that would just be spoiling the plot. Also, I’m not quite sure myself just what was going on. I’ll need to watch this one again someday to see if it actually makes sense. Just make sure you go into this film knowing it’s going to get weird.

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Stephen reviews: Redline (2009)

Redline [レドライン, Redorain] (2009)

Starring Takuya Kimura, Yuu Aoi, Tadanobu Asano, Takeshi Aono, Kousei Hirota, Kenyuu Horiuchi, Kouji Ishii

Directed by Takeshi Koike


Redline tries as hard as it can to be cool. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that trying to be cool is the fastest way to fail at it. That’s not to say that Redline is a terrible film, but it feels like it spends more time trying to prove how amazingly super awesome it is than actually being good. It feels a little like Kill Bill crossed with something out of MTV’s Liquid Television. Maybe Aeon Flux, except without the crap animation and horrifically ugly character designs. I almost want to call it melodramatic, but that implies a sappy sort of sentimentality. Redline is more about being as intense as it can. I may just have to coin a new term for it. Megadramatic or superdramatic or something. I’ll figure it out later.

I have seen other anime use this style of over-the-top excitement where every scene is filled with dramatic sharp camera angles and close up zoom-ins, and others have reached higher levels of intensity, so the novelty has worn off for me. This style needs to be all or nothing. If you can’t match up with the craziest of them, then you might as well not even bother, and Redline just doesn’t manage the same absurdity of something like Dead Leaves or FLCL. Maybe someone less accustomed to anime insanity would get more out of it than I did.

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