Houko KuwashimaFrankensteinIssei FutamataSherlock Holmes
The Empire of Corpses
Also known as: Shisha no Teikoku
Medium: film
Year: 2015
Director: Ryoutarou Makihara
Writer: Hiroshi Seko, Koji Yamamoto, Midori Gotou
Original creator: Project Itoh, Toh Enjoe
Actor: Akio Ohtsuka, Ayumu Murase, Daiki Yamashita, Houko Kuwashima, Issei Futamata, Jiro Saito, Kana Hanazawa, Koji Ishii, Koji Takeda, Shinichiro Miki, Taiten Kusunoki, Takayuki Sugo, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Yoshimitsu Takasugi
Keywords: Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft, zombies, alternate universe, historical, anime, SF, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 120 minutes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=16585
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 18 February 2019
That was boring. Don't be fooled into expecting a film as entertaining as its synopsis.
Dr Watson turns Sherlock Holmes into a zombie, in a steampunk British Empire that's come to depend on the inventions of Dr Frankenstein a hundred years earlier. (I think it's more like sixty years, but never mind.) Corpses are being animated en masse and set to work, programmed with "necroware" and Charles Babbage's analytical engines. They're soldiers. They're street sweepers. They're the backbone of the world economy. However they don't have the soul that Frankenstein's "One" had, instead just being dead-eyed robots that don't think, talk or act on their own initiative.
If you're clever, though, you can make them explode. The human body's full of chemicals, after all.
The film's also full of characters from history and literature, being a big crossover with Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming, Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mary Shelley and several real characters from Britain, Japan and America. These include former U.S. President, Ulysses S. Grant.
DR WATSON = sincere and admirable in his desire to give the dead back their souls, but he's also boring. (Well, except when he's doing gross things with drills and the backs of people's necks.) He's got no sense of humour, no alternate side to his character and no interest in anything except his mission. He's a wet fish of a protagonist.
COLONEL FREDERICK GUSTAVUS BURNABY (real historical figure) = swaggering all-action Mr Testosterone. Amiable, always throwing his arm around your shoulder (or at least he's that kind of person) and utterly one-dimensional. I wanted him dead.
HADALY LILITH = has ridiculous boobs and she dresses inappropriately for the period. That's not unknown in anime, admittedly, but it doesn't fit the film's aesthetic at all. Theoretically the character should have been quite interesting, but in practice she's boring as well. Whoever perpetrated this screenplay can't write. It's dead. Every scene flattens every character, with one-note dialogue that offers no suggestion of complex inner life or the ability to surprise you. Ironically this is a sincere, classy film and you're meant to be Taking It Very Seriously, especially when people start philosophising about the meaning of souls. However there's a special kind of lifelessness that comes with po-faced sincerity and this film is full of it.
I quite liked The One. He'd have been cool in a more interesting film. I liked the exploding zombies. I liked the range of history and geography, going from Bombay, Afghanistan and San Francisco to Japan and London. I liked the impressively catholic range of literary sources. I also like the irony of Watson using Holmes as his diarist. (Zombie-Holmes can't talk or think, but he can write perfectly good prose if ordered to do so and so Watson orders him to keep a detailed diary. His hope is that this might end up reviving Holmes's intelligence.) However none of these stopped me from disliking the film quite a lot.
I was clock-watching. The hour mark made me groan, because I was only halfway through. Thirty minutes later, I was getting downright impatient and wondering why the end credits couldn't just roll now and stop wasting my time. The animation's lavish, the action's well done and the literary games are interesting... but I think it's a case study in bad screenwriting.