Project Itoh wrote a 30-page draft of The Empire of Corpses / Shisha no Teikoku before he died at the age of 34. Toh EnJoe toke over and completed the novel. The anime adaptation (Blu-ray release 2016-2-3) toke characters, concepts and scenes from the novel but is massively different from the source.
In the 19th century, technology originated from Victor Frankenstein is used to make corpses to become a productive force in society, and even as soldiers in wars. John Watson (from Sherlock Holmes) specializes in corpse research and experiments with the dead body of his best friend Friday (from Robinson Crusoe) in the hopes of restoring his soul. Watson is recruited by M (Mycroft Holmes, also from MI6 of 007) to find Victor’s Notes – which documented the technology used to create The One, the first corpse with a soul. The female character in this movie is Hadaly (from The Future Eve).
The movie is filled with action on top of a very rich story based on the super creative ideas from the novel. However, it is universally agreed that the second half of the movie is extremely confusing. This is caused by the movie making up its own plot, while dropping explanations from the novel. As an adaptation this movie cannot be regarded as good. However, due to the ingenuity of the source material, in spite of its serious flaws it is still an order of magnitude more interesting than Victor Frankenstein (2015).
Note: The true ending of the movie is shown after the credits.
Spoilers – Explanations of The Empire of Corpses
Friendship between Watson and Friday – In the movie the actions of Watson is driven by his intense desire to restore soul to Friday. This friendship is totally absent from the novel. One theory suggests that this is made to honor the authors.
Alexei and Nikolai Becoming Corpses – One theory suggests that they did it since they would be killed by the Russian government anyway. This act also shows Watson the truth behind developing the enhanced corpses, and demonstrates the importance of destroying Victor’s Notes.
Intention of M – To stop mankind from killing each other once and for all by having everyone turning into corpses, losing consciousness.
Intention of The One – To restore the soul of his bride from Victor’s Notes to Hadaly’s body, and transfer his soul to Friday’s body.
Corpses controlled by sound – In the novel it is explained that corpses have a dominant portion of a certain type of strain. This strain can be controlled by the language of strain.
Crystals – During the climax, explosive growth of strains (from the novel) cause them to manifest in crystals (?). (Quite a number of people noted its visual similarity to Guilty Crown anime series.) To greatly simplify the novel explanation of soul, it is the type of strain that determines whether a person has a soul or is a corpse. (It reminds me of Midi-chlorians in Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace.)
Ending – Watson seals Victor’s Notes inside his head by using necroware. This act causes him to lose his memory of the whole journey. He gains a new companion Sherlock Holmes (not boyfriend). Friday gains consciousness because he analyzed Victor’s Notes before, and it causes a type of strain to grow in him. Hadaly becomes Irene Adler (from Sherlock Holmes). Note: Some viewers claim the sparkle is gone from everyone’s eyes except Hadaly’s, but I have serious doubts about this observation.