Released today, Anime Limited’s The Empire Of Corpses is not only a fascinating feature film because of its unique take on the ordinarily formulaic zombie genre and the living dead’s role in a living society, but also because of an interesting quirk where every significant cast member is an allusion to either a character from classical fiction, or a real-life person.
In commemoration of the movie’s home video release in the United Kingdom, we have compiled a list of the more memorable references found within this adaptation of Project Itoh’s final novel:
The protagonist of our tale no doubt has the most recognisable name; after all, it comes from that of Dr. John Watson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s widely regarded Sherlock Holmes stories that ultimately defined the detective genre.
Due to the international renown of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the former medical doctor has become a household name with the stories he often narrated having been adapted into many forms over the decade. The protagonist of our tale admittedly has little in common with his famous namesake and in fact, seems to be an opposite. Instead of his profession revolving around preserving life, the young John Watson of our tale is fascinated with exploring death and instead of being a narrator and record keeper, delegates that role to the reanimated corpse of his best friend, Friday.
Victor’s Notes and The One
In The Empire Of Corpses, the advancement in corpse re-animation technology has resulted in lower-skilled professions being occupied by the living dead; possessing no individuality of their own, they simple carry out tasks as programmed by their “Necroware”. As with any significant leap however, there are military applications of this technology and of course – the desire to enhance it; to make better soldiers. That is why the great arms race of this alternate history revolves around the procurement of “Victor’s Notes” – with the name referring to the scientist of Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, of course.
Succeeding where many had failed, Victor succeeded in re-animating “The One”, a corpse that could think, feel and communicate with the living. The notes of his research, including the key to achieving this breakthrough, have become lost over the years however – sparking an international trek to uncover their true nature. Later on in the movie, you may also notice a visual cue to a certain popular Halloween costume.
Unfortunately portrayed by neither Dame Judi Dench or Ralph Fiennes, the one who sends John Watson on this treacherous mission is none other than the head of Britain’s Secret Service, whose designation of “M” is just one of many nods to Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels – a cornerstone of British pop culture. Other allusions include the corpse Friday’s official designation of “Noble_Savage_007”, the Osato Chemical Company and the credited name of the character Moneypenny.
Alexei Karamazov and Nikolai Krasotkin:
The first stop on John Watson’s quest for Victor’s Notes takes him to India, where he rendezvouses with the Russian Nikolai Krasotkin, an individual who acts as an escort for Watson’s party; taking them to Kabul to meet Alexei Karamazov. Both Nikolai and Alexei’s names are drawn from the 19th century novel “The Brothers Karamazov” (Бра́тья Карама́зовы) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; a novel renowned for its philosophical debates concerning God, free will and morality – the latter two being questions posed to their counterparts in The Empire Of Corpses.
Unlike the majority of characters who take their names from other works of fiction, the inspiration for Watson’s bodyguard comes from a real life British military hero. Revered as a hero for his courage and adventurous spirit, Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (3rd March 1842 – 17th January 1885) was an accomplished member of the British Army who was so admired by his fellow countrymen that, upon his death at the Battle of Abu Klea, many men were noted to have sat down and cried
The character in The Empire Of Corpses is perhaps the closest to matching their namesake in personality; embodying that same selflessness, courageousness and likeable British boisterousness of the Colonel.
Constantly communicating updates in Necroware to the world’s corpse population, this large tower of a supercomputer takes its name from Charles Babbage, who amongst other noteworthy accolades, is often referred to as the father of the programmable computer.
Introduced as the secretary to U.S. President Ulysses Grant, in The Empire Of Corpses, Hadaly Lilith joins Watson and Burnaby on their journey out of a desire to learn the secrets of the human soul, tying into the literary character that serves as her basis.
Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s French science fiction novel The Future Eve (L’Ève future) centres on the creation an android (a common term the novel popularised), who while bearing the beautiful form of a woman, will not be equipped with what the creator, a fictional version of inventor Thomas Edison, considers unnecessary – a personality. Her creator also makes an appearance in the movie, albeit in a minor role.
Animated by Wit Studio (Attack On Titan) and based on the final novel by Project Itoh, The Empire Of Corpses is currently available to purchase on both DVD and a Collector’s Edition DVD/Blu-ray combo pack. You can read our review of the movie here.