Shisha no Teikoku- The Empire of Corpses: [Movie Review]
Steampunk, Zombies and Skinny Ass
Shisha no Teikoku, The Empire of Corpses, 屍者の帝国
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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