Empire of Corpses Reanimates a Classic Tale | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the fall 2015 anime film “Empire of Corpses,” produced by Wit Studio, directed by Ryoutarou Makihara, based on the novel by Keikaku Itou. 



Oh my, is it already passed Thanksgiving?! Woah, since I’ve been slacking I’ll make this one brief. Shall we visit the first of three films based on the late novelist Itou’s melancholic work and see if Wit Studio was able to breath life into his ambitious project?

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Zombies and Steampunk

Welcome to an 1800s London where zombies roam the streets! Not really, sort of. Scientists have played god with dead bodies long enough that they’ve patented it down to a system called reanimation. In other words, the Brits are reviving the dead. It’s not a foolproof process, however, for the key to understanding life itself–the soul–does not return upon reignition. Because these walking corpses are incapable of experiencing the joys and sorrows that life presents, they’re mainly revitalized to serve in the labor force.

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But every lab experiment comes with its breakthroughs, and that is exactly what befell Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Rumored to have been the first to successfully reanimate a corpse with a soul, the great mad scientist suddenly disappeared–his work supposedly vanishing with him. Inspired by his love for research and science, John Watson pursues hunting Dr. Frankenstein’s notes regarding the blueprints of the soul in order to revive his best pal, Friday. Throughout his journey, Watson unearths the terrifying truths of corpse technology, and how costly the science is for not only the living, but also for those who have long since passed on.

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What exactly makes up the “Weight of the Soul?”

I’d like to first point out that I understand why the film, despite its glorious visuals, was poorly received by critics. The first Project Itou film tries to dish out a lot of hard, unknown science, but above all make you feel emotional connection to the lead character Watson and his situation. Grasping the conceptual stuff is particularly tricky, and the ties between real life historical figures and their fantasy counterparts don’t seem to make understanding the basics much easier. It’s even arguable that the rules of the world presented are poorly laid out from the start. This build up of failed comprehension and attempt at emotional appeal led to a cataclysmic finale on both the story and visual levels.

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Beyond the messy climax, I did quite enjoy the relationship between Watson and Friday. Their exchanges (well, Watson’s actions and Friday’s silent responses) felt genuine, and above all, I think that matters more than a shaky concept deliverance does. When Watson felt curious or distressed, the actions were reciprocated on myself. Also, to go against the crowd, I really liked the female role. Though she mainly served as a reminder of the scientist’s goal–Friday serving as his ambition–I found myself wanting her to also receive a happy ending. The Russian scientist Nikolai could’ve used more screentime, but I digress since the show mainly revolves around Watson’s side.

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The Incredible World of Sherlock Holmes

Empire of Corpse’s strongest point easily lies with Wit Studio’s fantastic job in creating an atmosphere similar to a Sherlock Holmes film straight out of Hollywood! Such entrancing lighting, rich symbolism, and articulate detail in the machines and other devices absolutely blew me away. Each of the characters stand out beautifully in their own way, from the deadpan expressions of Friday to the stylish English outfits of a steampunk society. Action scenes would engage any viewer (I’m a sucker for vehicle chase scenes, so the opening really drew me in), and it all culminates into a finale so stellar it became a visual feast. I had to pick between absorbing or comprehending, and, well, I think you knew which won. I did notice Redjuice and Egoist accredited, which would also explain the Guilty Crown vibes.

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While I cannot recall any specific tracks, the music did do the show justice in contemplating the Sherlock Holmes tone. On the auditory side, huge props to the English voice cast and THE ACCENTS that tied so well with the concept and setting. Wonderful performances from Jason Liebrecht (Watson) and Micah Solusod (Nikolai).

Final Thoughts

Even if the concepts presented are a bit tricky to grasp near the end, this movie achieves in the feels department for me. Perhaps I was missing the context of the original Frankenstein novel for a few of those bits, but I did find it okay for the most part. It’s another demonstration on how far man will go to pursue knowledge above all else, an ultimate nudge to the idea that for us humans, some things are best not knowing.

“Beauty and sublimity are not what shape the future. It’s the willpower to try to actualize one’s words and feelings for someone else–DON’T YOU SEE!?” – John Watson

Final Assessment

+ Breathtaking visuals, fantastic steampunk design

+ Emotional attachment to Watson’s struggle with Friday

+ Fascinating project history, happy to see Itou’s work animated

– Started off simple enough, but lost its footing by the end

– “Weight of the soul” not explained thoroughly

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I’m signing off on the first Project Itou film with a hot “Coffee” rating here at the cafe! Understandably flawed, but still quite enjoyable. This was the finale to my Halloween break following Shiki, a title which I reviewed a week or two back if you’re interested. Shoutout to Crimson for recommending this movie to me!! What did you think of Empire of Corpses? Were you disappointed with the results or did you find it particularly noteworthy for anything? Let me know because parts of me (the living ones, at least) are still a bit conflicted! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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I know it’s fan art, but LOOK at that mechanical detail!

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Seraph of the End Review

PLEASE, PEOPLE! It’s not Attack on Titan. It’s not even close. Sure, the main character wants to kill every last one from the enemy side – that is pretty close to Eren Yeager’s passion, though Eren is a much more dimensional character. Seraph of the End is absolutely, without a doubt nothing like the famous Titan-smashing epic, and I can confirm that by this first half alone.

Vampires crawled out of the chaos that emerged from a mysterious disease that spread like wildfire. With this disease wiping out all humans older than age 13, the scheming vampires subjugated the remaining youth like livestock, keeping them huddled together in fear as they sucked their blood whenever needing to.

Orphan Hyakuya Yuichirou survives in the slums under vampire rule. Yu hates them with a passion, but when they threaten his orphan family, his rage ignites, and he dreams to kill all of the vampires. Every last one.

Episode one of this anime is by far one of the best first episodes I’ve seen to date. Entrancing mood, exhilarating pace, musty and dark setting – you’ll easily be amazed! Not to mention, the end leaves you with such gushing emotions you can only hope they build up as the series progresses . . .

Sadly, nope. Episode two abandons our gloomy vampire paradise to bring us, yes, our overused high school setting. Ughhh. Just wait, it gets a little better, for as soon as the next couple of episodes are over, we return to the frontlines but with opposition in mind and a “Cursed Gear” in our hands. These strangely overpowered demon weapons turn vampires into dust after a single hit! Now, our true story unveils itself as we follow the Moon Demon Company, a vampire resistance team among others composed of Yu and his new friends, which sets out to eradicate the enemy in this post-apocalyptic Japan.

I admit that after episode one I, was incredibly depressed to witness a more stereotypical yet simply conventional plot. Had they taken out the whole school training thing and spent more time rescuing some encaged children and building characters this way, then I could consider forgiving the series. At least the latter half returned some interest, though very little.

Seraph‘s cast is cliché. The cocky protagonist, the “friend” that bickers with the protagonist even though they’re close buds, the shy boy, the tsundere, the a**hole chief – it’s all there, trust me. Mikaela, Yu’s orphan brother, does stray from the norm, but there’s not enough screen time of him to uncover layers of depth. Yu himself, albeit narrow-minded, still manages to be an entertaining character for me. There is, however, one individual that stands out more than Mr. OP Shounen.

Her name is Shinoa, the female protagonist whose sarcasm and merry wit stands out as a new character type for me. She’s amazing with the scythe, which would be cooler if we saw more, but Shinoa also always seems to know what’s going on (besides the end). Her ability to remain above everyone else yet not be annoying makes her interesting to watch. Hayami Saori portrays her charming mannerisms and constant teasing with little sardonic bolts of high-pitched laughter, a joy to listen to every time! 😉

The art is absolutely phenomenal!! Sharp, bold, eye candy characters against soft pastel building ruins and sunsets adds so much to the “devastated world” theme. Actual animation by Wit Studio (Attack on Titan with Production I.G.), however, sucks the bum hole. Action scenes are super awkward, as one moment you’ll watch a soldier holding up a sword to a vampire, then we skip to a character monologuing for five minutes, afterwards flashing back to view the characters in the same pose. Who decided to choreograph this, cause this is literally so awful! There are a few neat sequences involving the Cursed Gear, but that’s all you will get from the animation.

One of the main reasons I stuck with this series was for the music, but like most of it so far, I was tragically disappointed. It’s quite true to say that it’s “just more Hiroyuki Sawano,” as one reviewer put it, but it also lacks impact and stand alone pieces I’ve come to expect from him. My biggest complaint wasn’t the low quality of the tracks, though rather the placement of them. During sit-down dialogue or transitions we get music, and that’s great, yet during the hype of battle (which already suffers from lazy animation), sometimes nothing is playing!! That’s just outrageous considering the stakes! Besides the awesome techno opening “X.U.” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Gemie, there just wasn’t much going for the soundtrack.

Seraph of the End is by no means a bad show – heck no! I found enjoyment in the characters Yu, Mika and Shinoa (occasionally from Guren, a possibly back-stabbing adult . . .), the art and the music (wherever it was).From a reviewer’s point of view, the show is a terrible pile of plot holes and poor storytelling. The whole time I felt like I was being teased, much like Shinoa does to “baka Yu.” Samples of smooth animation and intense music are few and far between, enough to tie you over until the next quality moment.  Just from a casual watcher, however, I’d conclude that the show was fairly entertaining.

Thus, I will leave Seraph of the End with a “Coffee” rating (6 ish/10) and a recommendation to NOT watch it until the hopeful second season clears this mess up (Krul Tepes do something!). I will be following the second season which airs in the fall, but do note that my interest level is already scraping the damp cobblestones in front of young Yu and Mika’s home.

“I don’t ever wanna say I survived because I left someone else to die ever again!!”- Yuichiro Hyakuya

+ Sharp, bold characters against pastel backgrounds make for phenomenal art

+Shinoa’s youthful, sarcastic, easy-going yet witty personality is a new character type

+ Thrilling first episode; final episode leaves off on a good note, one refreshed and ready for a sequel

– Fine premise, very sloppy focus so far

– Most action scenes are flat and awkward

– Music not timed/placed as well – not as effective

What did you think of this spring’s Seraph of the End? It’s only the first cour, and hopefully the second is much better than this one. Still entertaining though ~ I hope my review was interesting! I appreciate all of the likes you guys leave me and the follows are also super helpful 😀 Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host