Saturday, October 15, 2011

King of Thorn (manga, vols. 5-6) by Yuji Iwahara

As with After School Nightmare, I realized a while back that I had come very close to finishing this series, so I decided I'd finish it during my vacation. I probably would have benefited from a reread of the previous volumes, and, as with After School Nightmare, all I had were the volumes I hadn't yet read.

At least the final volume of After School Nightmare made sense to me, even though I wished I could reread parts of the series after gaining new knowledge about what was really going on. The final two volumes of King of Thorn were just really confusing. Iwahara crammed a lot into six volumes. Although I wasn't quite as lost as a newbie to the series would have been, the events in the final two volumes were still tough to process. I'm assuming it would have been a little easier if I had read the first four volumes more recently - 3 years is a long time.

It's not surprising to me that King of Thorn was turned into a movie. This series has always had the feel of a big budget sci-fi action movie, and these final two volumes are no exception. Iwahara brings out more varieties of monsters and creatures and leaves things open enough at the end for a sequel (not that I've heard anything about there being a sequel in the works).

(Again, GIANT SPOILER ALERT, read the stuff below at your own risk!)

For those who actually read all the volumes in this series one right after the other, the ending is probably mind-blowing and awesome. I mostly just tried to keep my head above the water, and I think I've managed to get straight in my mind what happened to the twins. Iwahara kept up the hints of romance that appeared in the earlier volumes, but then, in my opinion, ruined that tiny romantic subplot by introducing elements of brainwashing to the series. I'm assuming readers were supposed to think that Marco would have come back from the dead to protect Kasumi even if he hadn't been brainwashed, but I couldn't help but doubt the romance anyway. I didn't think there was enough time for Iwahara to truly prove that Marco's actions weren't affected by the brainwashing, so what should have been an "aww, how sweet" moment was soured for me.

Finishing this series didn't give me the same urge to reread all the volumes that finishing After School Nightmare did, but I would like to see the movie one day. Six volumes seems like a lot to fit into two hours, but I think it's doable, and I think this is one of those series that could be even better in animated form. The monsters and action scenes would be a lot of fun to watch, and Marco would make for great eye candy.

Below are summaries (as much as I was able to figure out) for the volumes I read:
  • King of Thorn (manga, vol. 5) - Katherine dies, giving her body over to Medusa - her motherly instinct is born from her body, in the form of a bird creature with breasts. The creature almost dies while protecting Tim, so what's left of the group leaves Tim and the creature in a safe place. Kasumi finds Alice, the creepy little abused girl who was the first person to contract Medusa. Alice reveals to Kasumi that her form is just a hologram (or something similar) and takes Kasumi to her real body, which is in shocking condition. The only reason Alice is still alive is because of Medusa. Meanwhile, Marco is getting the crap beaten out of him by Zeus.
  • King of Thorn (manga, vol. 6) - This volume is chock full of stuff that confused me. Zeus has Marco killed. Zeus reveals that Kasumi's twin, Shizuku, has been around all this a giant monster. He also reveals that everyone has been unconsciously trying to protect Kasumi because of brainwashing he (or possibly Shizuku - my notes aren't too clear on that) did to all of them while they were in cryogenic stasis. Marco drags himself back from death, with the help of the last of Alice's energy, and helps Kasumi get to the real Shizuku, who is somewhere inside the giant monster. In order to save everyone else in the group from being turned into Medusa monsters by Zeus, Kasumi has to get through to Shizuku, and when she does, she learns the truth: the real Kasumi is dead. When Kasumi was chosen to be put in cryogenic stasis, she tried to get Shizuku to commit suicide with her, and Shizuku accidentally killed her while resisting. As far as I can figure, Shizuku was already succumbing to Medusa when she was taken to the cryogenic stasis lab, and she used Medusa to create another Kasumi, sort of like bringing her back to life. Kasumi, of course, is shocked, but Marco seems to have suspected something like this, and he gets her through it. The series ends with everybody deciding to go out into the world and help anyone who hasn't already succumbed to Medusa fight the monsters and learn to control their Medusa powers.
See what I mean? That last volume in particular was super-condensed confusion for me. I felt like begging Iwahara to give me more time to breathe and think.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • After School Nightmare (manga) by Setona Mizushiro - If you'd like another series that may blow your mind, you might want to try this, even though it's got less of a "blockbuster movie" feel than King of Thorn and is less action-oriented. I have written about every volume in the series.
  • Avatar (live action and CGI animation movie) - When the newest Medusa monsters started running around, my first thought was "Wow, those guys look kind of like the aliens in Avatar." Plus, there's action, a bit of romance, cool creatures, and people doing stuff in artificially created bodies that they can't do in their own bodies. I've written a little about this movie.
  • Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (manga) by CLAMP; Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (anime TV series) - I haven't yet finished this series, but there are elements to it that I think are similar to King of Thorn. This series has action, romance (to a greater degree than King of Thorn), and some potentially mind-blowing events in the later volumes. I've written about volumes 17 and 18 of the manga.
  • Ceres: Celestial Legend (manga) by Yuu Watase; Ceres: Celestial Legend (anime TV series) - If you'd just like another messed up twin story, you might want to try this, although be warned that the twin drama is sorta kinda incestuous. On their 16th birthday, Aya, the sister, inherits the powers of and ability to transform into Ceres, a vengeful celestial maiden. Aki, her twin brother, has inherited baggage of his own: the personality of the man who Ceres loved and who betrayed her starts to take him over. This series is more romance-focused than King of Thorn, but there's still plenty of action, dark fantasy, and drama. I consider this one of Watase's darkest works, although I think the ending is at least bittersweet, if not completely happy.
  • The Matrix (live action movie) - This movie starts off with the mind-blowing stuff and then gives you action and coolness for the rest of the running time. Those who, like me, found themselves gasping for breath in that last volume of King of Thorn might appreciate a movie that gives your brain a chance to catch up.
  • Blue Gender (anime TV series) - I have to admit, I've never seen this series. I added it to this list because the basic premise sounds very similar to King of Thorn. The main character is diagnosed with a disease and is put in cryogenic stasis. When he wakes up 15 years later, alien bugs called the Blue have taken over Earth and a few select humans have moved to a space station called Second Earth.
  • Resident Evil (live action movie) - Another action-filled story with flesh-eating monsters (zombies!), survival horror, and a main female character who gradually regains her memory of how she came to be stuck in the middle of all of it.


  1. I totally agree with your thoughts on the last two books for King of Thorn. I always thought it was such a great premise ruined by the too much crazy toward the end. XD

    And yes, I think the author probably could have done better with more space to breathe but at the same time so much of the reveals were confusing abstract concepts, I barely remember anything concrete about the last two books.

  2. I'm glad it wasn't just me that was confused. One of my notes said something like, "Wait, are they all just dreaming this or is it really real?"