Shisha no Teikoku- The Empire of Corpses: [Movie Review]

Steampunk, Zombies and Skinny AssB3asddsafggcde

Shisha no Teikoku, The Empire of Corpses, 屍者の帝国
Type: Movie
Aired: Oct 2, 2015
Studio: WIT Studio <3

Summary: “The story of Shisha no Teikoku takes place in 19th century Europe, and revolves around John Watson. He is scouted by the government to become a secret agent. However, Watson lives in a world where “Frankensteins”, human corpses that are re-purposed with a false soul in order to use them as laborers, are used to improve industrial development.”– Source MAL-

I’ll try to avoid spoilers in this review. I intend to discuss the ending but I will use the spoiler tag at this moment. So you can read till the end without fearing being spoiled.

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Story: 5/10

Let’s start with the weakest point shall we?

On the paper, Shisha no Teikoku looks like the coolest thing ever. Seriously, a movie about zombies in Steampunk London with famous characters from various novels by WIT Studio? Hell yeah, sign me in. The sad part is, the movie promises you lots of things but has trouble to keep them. The story looks simple at first sight but it’s actually way more complex that you think. I’ll continue the summary that I gave you at the beginning of the review because I believe that the official summary isn’t doing much.

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Watson or Watasonu for Japanese speakers, likes to do study corpses and somehow manages to bring back to life one of them that he calls Friday and that I call Skinny Ass for obvious reasons that’ll be explained later on. At this point he’s scouted by the government and by a guy named “M” to search the notes left by Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who discovered how to implant in the corpses a “True soul” allowing them to have emotions and to speak rather than being some kind of slow motion zombies. The aim of the government is to destroy Victor Frankenstein’s notes because if they fall into the wrong hands, the consequences will be huge since the whole world is fulled of corpses, used like slaves by every government. So Watasonu and Friday embark on their journey with a guy named Burnaby to find and destroy Victor Frankenstein’s notes.

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I would like to think that the film is trying to deal with interesting thematics such as the question of the soul and the conscience. What makes me human, what is it to have a soul and so on. Other than that, the technology and its use is also another theme that the movie is trying to deal with. It was already the case in “Frankenstein”, the novel by Mary Sheller which is the book that inspired the novel which the movie is based on. Here, in an world and more particularly in a London in industrial expansion the corpses are used to generate more and more profit and nobody cares about ethics, moral or about the danger that the corpses could represent for the human race if they manage to gain a soul or to turn against their creators. Which is, you know, the theme of Mary Sheller novel’s.

All those thematics that, I won’t lie, seemed really interesting to me, are sadly not pushed nor developed as far as I would them to be. Two hours wasn’t enough when you try to deal with such complex, yet interesting thematics. We only get a few glance at those interesting topics and it’s such a shame that they weren’t developed more.

The first part of the movie is really confusing, I hope you’re ready to pay attention because if you slightly turn your eyes away you will have trouble to understand everything else. The ending is even more confusing since it’ll leave you with loads of questions that will never be answered. But not questions with a deep physiological meaning on life or “what if  I was wrong ?” No. Questions like “what the fuck just happened?”. And there lies the biggest problem of this movie. It’s confusing, it’s a mess. The first part was confusing because of the huge amount of infos that we are given, explanations on the story, the issues with the corpses and with Victor Frankenstein’s notes. Whereas in the second part, what happened in front of me left me speechless. I couldn’t understand the motivations of the characters, why the bad guy was doing that, why that happened and other stuff like that. Not much is explained and therefore the ending leaves you with a “… ok?… did someone understood what happened?” feeling. I watched this movie with friends and we had to pause it multiples times to do a “recap session” trying to understand wtf was going on here. At the end, it worked out pretty well but multiples brains had to work on this movie to understand it. That’s something.

Characters: 5,5/10

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Beware, this girlish dude isn’t Friday, it’s Nikolai, best guy IMO

The characters are almost all coming from various novels or are real people that I believe evolved in London and its surroundings during that century. Buuut that doesn’t really matter actually. Aside from little references that made me smile like “ooh look Thomas Edison” the characters being named after famous people has no influence on the story whatsoever. I tried to make links between our Friday and the Friday from Dafoe’s Novel buuut… It’s really hard to find resemblance between those two, the only thing that I can think about his that they are both “sidekicks”. Well I have another theory but I’ll keep that for later.

The character design is everything I like, plus the cast is composed by more than 50% of ikemens, so that’s a “Charibo’s going to watch it” kind of show. I know, I’m a low person, but I don’t care any more aha.

So, let’s talk a bit about the characters, are they well developed? I’d say meh. I wasn’t expecting much regarding character development since it’s a 2hour movie with a heavy story behind it. So the little character development that we get feels rushed. Too bad, since I like all the main cast, which is surprising coming from me. So, the main cast is nice, Watson is fine, he’s not a pussy but he’s a bit useless. He’s bullied during the whole movie by all the characters that are trying to make him re think  his certitudes, convictions, the way he sees their current world and his view of  corpses.

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Dat skinny Ass, 10/10 would drop dat towel again

As for Friday, it’s quite hard to talk about him since he doesn’t talk, who he is rather clear since the beginning but his motivations are explained later and do make sense. Strangely, despise being a slow motion Ass and a steampunk version of Ciel Phantomhive, I like him, more than Watson. Strange right? Other than that, he has a skinny white ass that we got to see when dat towel droooooped.

The main cast is also composed by two other characters, Hadaly, the only bad ass girl of the show, and Burnaby, another bad ass character who’s motivations and intentions were never explained. Why is he even doing all this? I dunno, I’ll never know. Like I said earlier, it’s another flaw of the movie: the character’s intentions. Aside from Watson, Hadaly and mayyyyyybe Friday, the motivations of the characters, especially the bad guys are unknown or badly introduced, which leaves us with a strange feeling, the feeling of not really carrying about them and of course not really understanding the point of their journey, of their fight.

Art 10/10

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Wit studio has done a great job once again. This movie is eye candy everywhere. From the snowy cold landscapes to the noisy, full of corpses city of London, every scenery has its own meaning. I like that. The animation is amazing, the fights are great and skinny ass is skinny on point. This is no secret, I love this kind of Art. I want to make babies with mountains and lakes now.

Sound 8/10

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NIKOLAIIII <333333

Sounds cool too, nothing memorable but it was good enough to set good moods for action or drama. The insert song during their travel and the succession of scenery was really on point. The seiyuus are doing their jobs, I was surprised to see my best Bro of the winter season 2016, Haruhibro from Hai to Gensou no Grimgar dubbing Watson.

“So we meet again Haruhibro”.

Honorable mention to Skinny Ass’s seiyuu aka Hinata Shouyou and soon Allen Walker, who’s doing a great job at grumbling and shouting.

Ending:

There lies my try to understand the ending. If you haven’t seen the movie and wish to see it, don’t click on that button. Seems obvious to me but at least I’ve warned you.
Don’t come crying to me “nngggghh charibo you said it was a non spoiler review”.

True, but I can’t deal and fully evaluate a work if I obliterate the end of it.

Oh and remember to watch everything, after the credits there’s another scene.

If you haven’t watched the movie but you couldn’t care less about being spoiled, go ahead and click.

[spoiler] So, at the end, Watson tries to give Friday a soul buy transferring his memories or his soul into Friday’s body thanks to that strange crystal stuff that no one has ever heard about. Watson looks like he’s dying but at the very end, after the credits, Watson is alive and has found a new gay boyfriend named Holmes and is jerking around the city. Friday is also alive and stalking his old boyfriend on a rooftop. So, apparently Watson forgot everything about his old friends and his journey whereas Friday has now a soul. My theory being that Watson failed to give a soul to Friday and lost his memory whereas Friday had developed a soul thanks to his journey with Watson. Like, a new soul, not the old one when he was Watson’s gay friend but a complete new one, only remembering what happened during their journey. That’s what he said at the end of credits, thanks to their journey, now he understands more stuff and might get closer to the answer of what”being conscious “means.

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After watching this end I suddenly remembered some  philosophical theories regarding the question of our own existence thanks to the other, developed by Levinas and many others guys but I can’t think of any other theorists right now, sorry. Looks like my year of philosophy in high school was finally useful.  So it’s thanks to the other that we exist, the other is proving us that we are alive and that our existence and actions have an impact on him and on the world around us. The other is also the one that can define us, without totally controlling us nor understanding us. So for me, during his journey, Friday Skinny Ass met loads of characters with different aspirations, goals, personalities and with his constant  interactions with Watson, he managed to develop a “soul”, to be aware of himself and of his own existence.

I also, do believe it’s one of the possible interpretations of the novel Robin Crusoe, maybe not the one written by Dafoe but at least by Tournier, where Robinson, successively reach happiness and peace, passing through different states of interactions with nature and finally with the other, in the person of Friday. Although in Shisha no Teikoku, Friday Skinny Ass is the one recovering his “lost soul”, I’ve always believed that in the novel from both Tournier and Dafoe’s, Friday wasn’t real and was just a mean for Robinson to prove that he was still alive and aware of his own existence on an lost island, isolated from the rest of world.

That’s it Tuesday Philo with Charibo, is over thanks to you for listening. I might be over thinking this, really. I might be trying to explain and to find a signification to something that might not have any but eh, at least I tried.[/spoiler]

Final score: 7/10

I know I’m kind on this one, but the Art saved this show, I also liked the characters and the story of this movie. Although it failed to keep all his promises I do believe it had genuine intentions and wanted to make us think about all those issues. However it was a disappointment for me. I’m not mad though, this is not a disaster. But it’s obvious that it could have been better handled with maybe more explanations on the incentives of the characters to make this whole steampunk uchronia a little more clear. But overall I had a nice time watching this. When I think about this movie I don’t feel any anger towards it but rather regrets. It had everything to become one of my favourite animated movies but sadly, the story couldn’t leave up to my expectations and handle the huge weight of the issues it was dealing with.

So, should you watch it? Well if you like the same stuff as me and if the show sounded cool to you, you should check it out, to make your own opinion, maybe you will find it less confusing than I did. Who knows?
But if you have no interest whatsoever in this kind of show then don’t, seems pretty obvious eh?

Well this is it, I shall now take my leave.
I hope I didn’t say to much bullshit trying to understand the ending
OH WELL
See ya

Charibo

I'm a living joke

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13 Responses

  1. oh my god you totally saved me. :’) I was so lost about this show and googling up the show’s wiki/wikias detailed synopsis left me with just one single paragraph(which was the summary you mentioned at the start of your article.) :'(

    The thing is, could you help me explain what Alexis and Nikolai were trying to do? [spoiler]Like why’d he kill Nikolai and why did Watson say that Alexis was crazy because he reversed the soul or something like that? [/spoiler]

    It would be awesome if you’re able to make light of it! Love your reviews, keep writing :’)

    • Charibo says:

      Aha thanks :D Well I really think the summary isn’t enough, it just explains nothing about the movie which is already confusing, so I thought I could try to explain at least the beginning of the it.

      Ok so, what I understood is:
      [spoiler] Alexis and Nikolai had a link with the Russian government, which wanted to find Frankenstein’s notes in order to give a soul to the corpses and to do bad stuff with hem. They knew how to get to the notes and they decided to side with England and M against Russia. So they helped Watson to get to the notes to destroy them. However, apparently Russia was after them and they knew they were going to die anyway since they betrayed them. So in order to “stay together/alive” Alexis transformed Nikolai into a corpse and Nikolai did the same thing to Alexis ( by putting the weird needle in his neck). After Watson and the gang leave, we can see Alexis and Nikolai at the table, doing stuff but being corpses. Same at the end, we can see them in a pack of corpses.

      And Watson told Alexis that he was crazy since he transformed a living person into a corpse, also because Alexis was killing NIKOLAI T^T. Who was awesome, yeah I’m still crying…
      [/spoiler]
      So that’s more a theory than a real explantation since I’m not sure that I understood correctly everything…

      And thanks for the nice compliment, it means a lot to me :)

  2. Helen says:

    I ended up watching this movie because my friend kept telling me how good it was and I was literally so confused the entire time omg… I thought I was dumb or something LOL but I’m happy I found this post :’) Thank you for the wonderful explanation!!!! (Btw the whole Nikolai and Alexis thing was so freaking confusing to me too orz)

    • Charibo says:

      You’re welcome :) Happy I can help other people. It was also confusing for me the whole time and writing this review I thought: god I hope I’m not telling too much bullshit… But since I haven’t found any explanation on internet :/ eh, that’ll do :)
      God dammit Nikolai, so confusing, but so awesome.

  3. bedmonds says:

    I think your explanation of the ending is about as close as anyone to get to a full explanation. I would love to see how the novel fleshes that stuff out. Thanks!

  4. IJustHappenedToReadThis says:

    Lol nice to know that I wasn’t the only one that finished the movie with a general feeling of confusion. At this point I’m not sure whether it was the movie or the bad subbing job (for the version I watched) that is to blame. Still, I’d like to share some of my thoughts and maybe disagreements on the ending(spoilers).
    [spoiler title=”Spoiler”]First, to shed some light on what Watson was doing at the end. I believe the First was trying to use the souls of the other human beings to birth the soul of his “bride”, which was apparently a forbidden technique in Victor’s notes. Since Watson has the notes, I think he was trying to use a similar technique, using his own soul to birth one for Friday. He was chanting the “do you recognize me” ritual, the same one from when he first put a pseudo-soul into Friday. Also. after Watson stopped the First, the souls of all the “zombified” people in the world were returned, so it shows that it’s perfectly possible to put a soul back into a body after it’s been vacated.
    Second, I’m not too convinced that Watson’s the one that lost his memories from his journey, or even all his memories for that matter. If Watson only lost a portion of his memories, it’s likely he’d still remember Friday from his past. There’s also no reason for Friday not to stay with Watson after he awakens with a soul. Like… there’s no indication that Watson would be happier to forget or if Friday stayed away. I know Burnaby says it’s better to “stay ignorant”, but we all know Watson is not the type to choose that path, and it’d be a shame if Friday chose for him. In addition, I don’t recall “memories” ever playing a part in terms of making up a soul. I’d like to think Friday was simply looking over him at the end there in a scout or overwatch role.
    Third, I think that Halady sticks around. She changed her name to Irene Adler, who was the love interest of Sherlock in the stories, suggesting she’s still attached to Watson in some way. I think she’d fit the role of a lady watching over from the sidelines perfectly (while maybe following her own agenda). Of course, it’d follow that she’d have a romantic relationship with Watson, which is what I’d personally prefer to believe. She and Watson share an intimate moment after defeating the First, and she does mention she “has a boyfriend” to Burnaby. I saw it as Halady simply informing Burnaby (who’s been away awhile, since he forgot she uses a new name now) of their relationship. Who better to “see London” with than Watson? [/spoiler]
    You’re free to disagree. ^-^
    I hope they make a sequel or at least make a better wiki to explain some of this stuff.

    • Charibo says:

      That’s actually a really interesting theory! I won’t disagree on many things since my theory is more an interpretation based on my feelings more than something based on actual facts :D
      But:
      [spoiler]
      About the first, it was the part that confused me the most, so I cannot really argue with you on that part. Though I do think like you, that it proves us that it’s possible to put a soul into a dead body. But the first managed to put his soul into Friday’s bod right?
      WHAT IF

      WHAT IF
      Watson did the exact same thing, and at te end it’s not Watson who’s with Sherlock, but Friday into Watson’s body? And then Watson is into Friday’s body, looking over Friday in Watson, with sad look like: it’s cool that you are enjoying your new life.
      MMMMMMMHHH…. I’m going way to far here XD

      I still think Watson forgot about them though. It looked like he was starting a complete new life, a new adventure with Sherlock Holmes, whereas the others were just watching him like guardians, but not interfering with him to let him live his new life.It’s the sad smile of Friday at the end that made me think that. He looks at Watson with a gentle, protective but yet sad look, as if it was impossible for him to be with Watson.
      Also, maybe Watson did not forget about Friday when he was alive but the part after he turned him into a corpse. I cannot imagine Watson starting a new life if he knew Friday was still alive and with a new soul. Then for Hadaly I agree that she’ll play an important role in Watson’s life but maybe not as a romantic interest since she’ll be with Sherlock. So it’s more likely that she will still continue to protect him without him knowing her true identity
      [/spoiler]
      I don’t think they’ll ever make a sequel but the movie is coming to North American theaters on April 19 and 20th ( according to Funimation), so we’ll probably get more reviews and explanations of the movie, which is a good things, more brains working together on the same thing always brings a lot.

  5. pnafam says:

    Oh thank you so much for the theory. I was seriously confused with the ending and couldn’t just leave it that way T^T Now with this I think I could understand the movie a little bit more. :))

    • Charibo says:

      Oh my, thank you very much (͡• ͜໒ ͡• )
      Glad that I could help someone to understand this movie. Even if I’m not entirely sure that I understood everything correctly.

  6. kdfe001 says:

    I saw the dubbed version a few days ago, and when the movie ended, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was “What the hell did I just see?” Imagine, if you will, an entire theatre room of totally confused people. So, there was no clarity to be had from watching it in one’s native tongue.

    Thanks for providing a few theories on what happened – my friends were equally confused, so I sent them the link to your site.

    (Actually, Irene Adler was not Holmes’ romantic interest. She only appeared in one story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and she had the distinction of being one of the few who outwitted him, by which she earned his respect. At the end of the film, when she states she’s meeting her boyfriend, I assumed it was the man she married in the story.)

    • Charibo says:

      I can perfectly picture that scene. Even if I watched the movie with some friends and discussed it with them afterwards, I wasn’t able to understand everything and had to watch this movie another time. That’s when I started to understand the ending and Nikolai’s scene.
      I did not check out the dubbed version since english isn’t my mother tongue there’s not really any advantages for me to try it out, but if even the dubbed version was confusing, then nobody can save this movie.

      Well, thanks to you for sharing my review :) Not sure if my theories are providing sufficient answers but heh, at least I tried.

      Oh I see. I’ve never read this novel but got confused by the image of Irene Adler as she’s represented in the various movies, adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. Especially in the new movies and the series where she’s a sort of romantic interest for Holmes. That’s good to know then, thanks for the precision ^^

  7. Hello!! You save me with your review!!!! xD
    I watched the movie few days ago and i felt with more questions than answers! So, thank you!
    For example: i passed 2 days thinking about “why Nikolai did that??? WHYY, GOD, WHYY??” and then i started to search on internet to find some light in this dark maze(????????)
    I loved the movie but, as you said, they missed in maaaany points…
    Greets from Argentina ♥

    • Charibo says:

      Aha XD Thanks to your comment I somehow feel like some kind of super hero who saves people from the depths of animu. I like that è_é
      Thanks for the nice comment :)

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