Far from perfect but still decent.
That was my first thought when I finished 'The Empire of Corpses' and after giving myself a little time to digest it, I stand by that thought.
I'll preface this reiview by stating that I'll try to have as few spoliers as possible, but that I'm also writing it with the assumption that the reader has a basic understanding of the plot before reading this. With that said, lets go.
It seems to be the next in a long line of anime films that would have been better suited to be a 12-13 episode series as opposed to a movie. The story deals with a very alternative look at history and as such, must spend a lot of time building the foundation of the world its set in. That makes the movie drag at times and we're given those awkward moments here and there when the characters explain things to each other that they should already know. A necessary tactic when you only have two hours.
Beyond that, the story manages to be both basic and convoluted. Basic in that the main character Watson's desire is easy to understand, but convoluted in the lengths he must go to get there. Now a journey without some kind of parel is borning but at times this one edges on ridiculous.
Philosophy and morality are center pieces of the story, which is something I'm fond of, but its not executed as well as it should be. At times it comes off as pretentious and overy complicated. The narration parts of the serious subjects are alright but shouting dueling philosophies back and forth at each other over gunfire doesn't really work when you're trying to be serious.
The climax is kind of over the top and the ending is a tad confusing as well.
Overall, the story has some good elements but its a mixed bag of sorts.
Now for one of the advanatges of it being a film instead of a series. The animation is for the most part beautiful and detailed. My only complaint would be at times it tries a little to hard at saying "that Victorian architecture looks good huh? HUH?!" Other then that it looked very nice.
As the sound design was much like the animation and on point, I'll focus on the voicework here. Funimation dubbed it and that was the version I saw. Jason Liebrecht and J Michael Tatum are predictable but not unwelcomed choices for Watson and Burnaby. Its been proven that R. Bruce Elliot can play any old man with an accent. And I must give cudos to Todd Haberkorn for finding every screeching noise possible for his role as Friday. The only questionable decision I found was giving the character Hadaly an English accent, as it shown that she's from America and presumably has lived there all her life. Not to mention the literary character shes later reviled to be inspired by is American. Guess they just thought it fit the theme? No extraordinary performances but everyone that matters was solid.
Now we're back to why only having two hours hurts this film. Many of the characters are based off of characters from literature or actual historical figures, as a result, the viewer isn't given much time to learn about them and their motivations beyond their basic goals. It feels like you're expected to already know them. This may be a result of the orginal Empire of Corpses being a novel and undoubtably having more time to flesh them out. As it stands, the viewer doesn't have to much time get to know them. So by the end of the film it doesn't feel like we've gotten very far on the journey with them. At least I didn't feel like I did.
In the end, if you're a fan of steampunk or the victorian era you'll probably want to check it out. If you're not, you should check it out someday and at least give it a shot.
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