The Empire of Corpses (Shisha no Teikoku) Review

The Empire of Corpses (Shisha no Teikoku) 2015 Wit Studio

This film is about 2 hours long. From Wit Studio best known for “Attack on Titan”. The time frame is 1879 with locations for the action in London, India, Japan, San Francisco and finally back to London.

Here is a brief look at the plot for this film. Victor Frankenstein was successful in re-animating a corpse. With his technology, the world is using corpses for manual labor and in the military. The film starts with John Watson uploading information in to a corpse. He hopes to find the “soul”. Is he successful? I never found out. He names the corpse Friday. And here begins a conceit that I don’t really care for in this film. But more about that later. Let us return to the plot. Watson with Friday is sent on a quest for the Victor’s Notes – the lost notes of Victor Frankenstein (here after to be known as the “Notes”). Along the way he meets exploding corpses (or should we call them zombies), violent zombies and nearly indestructible zombies. Watson along with (his man) Friday, Burnaby, Hadaly Lilith and Nikolai, they travel the world where they find the “Notes”, then lose the “Notes”. They, minus Nikolai, end up in London to take on the One (or First) and “M”. It is at this point the film looses it train of thought. The One has the “Notes” but loses control of them to “M”. Meanwhile the brain of Victor(?) is about to send out sound pulses to cause the zombies to kill the living. What is our hero John Watson to do? Of course he is going to save the day. What at what cost you might ask. And then there is the side story of the relationship between John Watson and (his man) Friday. As a zombie, Friday is also controlled by the sound pulse. By the end of the film all is put right. Though I have to admit it unclear if the “Notes” are truly destroyed.

Now on to what I got out of this film. My first problem with the film is that the poster for the film did not match the artwork in the film. The artwork is serviceable but not what I expect from a Wit Studio production. I will say that the action is fast paced. While I know John Watson’s quest was for the “Notes”, I must have missed the why? I understand John Watson had an intellectual curiosity about the “Notes” as a seeker of the human soul. The problem with this film is that it did not create a world for me. Or at least create a world I could understand. With “Shaun of the Dead” I understood how the zombie could be used in society. This is because it established how the zombie moved and was motivated. In this film I see them moving around doing manual labor. But are they doing a good job? They seem pretty slow and jerky. How do they interact with live people? This is what I mean by building a world that I could understand. On to the next problem, Friday, who was he? Later in the film it is revealed that he was a friend and colleague of John Watson. They must have been really good friends! He allowed himself to be killed and then re-animated. Though he did come back as one hell of a secretary. I have not read the book this film is based on. Maybe the book fills in the background information that the film has left out. Sadly the film has not made me want to seek out the novel. Another problem I have with the film is the naming of the characters. This was a lazy trick for the film to do. It is also a lazy gimmick for a novel to use. I want a film to challenge me. This device was not very clever as far as I am concerned. Unless of course you don’t know who these people are. I was entertained with the first name, John Watson. And then amused with the re-animated corpse was named Friday. It was down here from there with the naming of the characters. And then we get to the ending sequence. I think I know what was happening, but it all comes at a rush. It is almost like the director wanted to get it all over with. It was after all a two hours film. And that is pretty long for an animated film. The “Notes” are treated like a football. First the One has then, then “M” has then and maybe they were passed to John Watson. I think that is what happened. Then there is the brain of Victor controlling the zombies (?). Oh and I forgot, the One wants his promised bride! Why not! Let’s throw in the kitchen sink shall we! Lets see. John Watson wants to understand the “SOUL”, so he needs the “NOTES”. The One wants his promised bride, so he wants the “NOTES”. “M” wants to rebuild a better world without war and violence, so he wants the “NOTES”. Why is this always a goal in these films? With this film there is a new spin on the Zombie mythos: that music makes them go crazzzzy. This film mashes steampunk, zombies and punch cards! At the end of the day, my major problem with “Empire of Corpses” is that it just too long. It could have done with serious editing. I like a long anime film, just not this one. I would not watch this film again. There was nothing in there that made me what to see it again. Not the story (plot), art direction or voice acting. Not even when John Watson stand mouth agape when he see the Nautilus rise up. As I watched I said of course we get the Nautilus and Thomas Edison. The Nautilus is a creation of Jules Verne, but what the heck lets throw Thomas Edison into the mix. Edison in a fictional version is the creator of Hadaly. As I said before, this device I find very tedious. I am sure there are people out there who enjoyed this film. I am not one of them. There were times when I felt like Friday, just staring dumbly or blankly. Am I looking forward to the two film in the trilogy (Harmony and Genocidal Organ)? Of course I am.