Shisha no Teikoku, The Empire of Corpses, follows the science fiction adventure of a “death obsessed school boy” named John Watson and his reanimated sidekick Friday, employed by the British Empire to uncover the mysteries that revolve around these reanimated corpses. Based on novels written by Project Itoh, this beautifully animated late 19th century Victorian era thrill ride takes you through a twist on the tale of Dr. Frankenstein.
Corpse engineers like John Watson work to fill the world with the reanimated dead to re-purpose them as laborers. Bringing international conflict along with a conflict that hits closer to home for the protagonist, the trial and error in the scientific pursuit of recreating “the one.” During their travels, you witness a wide range of scenic backgrounds that both pair well with the late Victorian setting and conveys a dark tone that the reality of bringing the dead back to life bears.
Shisha no Teikoku doesn’t shy away from the brutality of death, making this one hundred twenty-minute movie more notably appealing. Whether it’s resurrection/reanimation, or a scene on the battlefield, there’s blood around every corner, and, though not light hearted, it’s something that is portrayed well. With a healthy dose of tension, drama, and action the story progresses rather nicely and is easy to follow despite the science fiction theories of reanimation throughout. Though this is a film that nonchalantly flirts with the taboo of death, it does so in a way that allows for all the climactic buildup and storytelling to fall into place. Coupled with the Steampunk machinery and Victorian era illustrations, the wonderful musical scores by Yoshihiro Ike seem to make the dramatic scenes of death fit like a glove, when they were used of course.
If drama is what you’re looking for Shisha no Teikoku has it etched into its very core. This enjoyable ride can have you at the edge of your seat at times and even through the action packed scenes of violence this movie’s overarching theme is a drama through and through, filled with emotional tension between friends, enemies and the journey, It’s not one to leave you unsatisfied. Overall the animation is amazing, the characters are varied and based on literary figures and the story is entertaining enough to keep you watching.