The Z Project was intended to give the new generation a break from caring for the old. The original intenion was to create a machine to care for them without any intervention. At first glance, it looked like an excellent plan, and many of the younger generation approved of its application. But when old Mr. Takazawa become the test subject for the Z-001 machine, Haruko questioned both the tactics of the hospital and the moral implications of the machine. This is just the beginning, as Haruko has not just the hospital, but the odds against her. But then, she discovers an odd quirk about the machine: it uses a biochip, and it eventually acquires a mind of its own!
Roujin Z is a futuristic, satirically funny, morality tale written by the reknowned Otomo Katsuhiro, more well known for the classic manga and anime Akira. The movie was directed by Kitakubo Hiryuki (Blood: The Last Vampire, Black Magic M-66), and received a great degree of critical acclaim, partly because it was written by Otomo Katsuhiro, but mainly because it was a movie that showed how anime was able to deal with themes that conventional filmmakers would find extremely difficult to cope with, especially given the time of it's release.
The story is set in the 21st century, and opens with the alarming news that there are
too many old people in the world. Now, as everyone knows, healthcare is always a hot topic in political circles, and Roujin Z is no exception. The story in Roujin Z is satirical in the main, but it has disturbing echoes in the real world. The medical students in Roujin Z consider Geriatric care to be a career deadend, something that is also widely believed in the real world, and because of this, funding is provided for the development of the ultimate in geriatric care - the Z-001 "Superbed".
The Z-001 is designed to provide the patient with everything that they need, including home entertainment, baths, massages, attending to bathroom functions, performing diagnoses (and administering medication), etc, etc. The machine is powered by a mini atomic reactor, and is designed to function autonomously in the event of power shortages. The Z-001 is viewed as the future of geriatric care, and as a godsend to the young doctors and nurses and much of the populace, all of whom are unaware of the somewhat sinister nature behind the design of the Z-001.
Another aspect of the story is the inclusion of the Japanese belief that spirits can exist in any object, something which becomes a major theme later on in the movie.
The art and animation in the movie aren't really anything special. Generally the production is sturdy and well animated, but there is nothing really spectacular about it. The sound is equally well done, yet nothing special. My only gripe is that, with the english dub, the dialogue between the VAs tended to vary too much in style, intonation, and accent, from one person to another. Although the english dub is definitely watchable, I prefer the japanese dub on the whole.
There aren't many real characters in this story. The main two charcters are Takazawa Kujiro, the dying old man who is chosen as the test patient for the Z-001 prototype, and his nurse Haruko, who is against the idea of machines taking care of humans, especially her patients. Add to these two a mixture of police, scientists, politicians, military types, and student nurses.
Although the two main characters get much of the screen time, the real star of the show (in both the japanese and the english dub), is the Z-001 (if I explain more it would spoil the show).
Roujin Z is a bit of an odd movie on the whole, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. The movie itself addresses a theme that is becoming more and more relevant in the world, especially as people are now living longer than ever before. The fact that politicians and scientists come up with a method of geriatric care that has all the warmth and empathy of a thrown knife is a central part of the film, as is the callous disregard given to those people who allowed us to get where we are today.
This movie would appeal to many fans of many different genres, most especially fans of sci fi or black comedies. The film is darkly satirical from beginning to end, and is surprising in how openly it attacks the idea that simply caring for the body is caring for the patient.
Roujin Z - odd, satirical, enjoyable, and strangely enough, more relevant now than when it was first released.
Story: 9 (this is not shallow. this is not lack of development. this is parsimonious model of story)
Art: 9 (i like the art, animation, and pale color...typical old anime style)
Sound: 5 (not so engaging, but that's okay)
When coming to Mecha, often i see similar theme that was either wars between parties involved to get limited resources or protecting their home from evil darkness. This theme was okay for us at appropriate amount but human being cannot accept this amount when it exceed the inflection point where, after that point, the level of enjoyment becomes gradually decreasing. Unfortunately, back from the history of
anime to the recent anime years, this theme has exceed our inflection point. It is just telling the same theme and pattern but at different way, merely repeated re-interpretation.
Roujin Z is the only anime that i've ever seen so far that disrupt the doomed cycle of similarity within mecha theme. It's about entirely different things that are unique, creative, original, all of which was meant to criticize the dark side of commercialism and Mediacare benefit for elderly but within Japanese context, while the other party (US research & development) gains in smart way. Typical respond for this political matter was arguably uninteresting for most 20s-age people but Roujin Z manages to cope this problem by involving typical fighting mecha with military, polished with its creativity and imagination to make the fighting to become unusual, and armed with great art and animation of course. This is the aspect that enough for me to give Roujin Z overall 10 ratings because that's the important thing when involving art.
Another reason for my 10 ratings is that, although the concern of this anime is the lack of story stretching (we want more story development beyond this. we want more!!), it is quite reasonable to be humble for this aspect and forgive it unless there is incremental development from other authors. Moreover the premise of the arguably simple story is strong enough to tell the whole picture, making it unnecessary to be explained more further. That's why this anime stand on its own in less crowded space.
Some might argue this anime was silly or dumb. And some might argue the story is too short and shallow. My counterargument for this: it is silly but not silly and watching anime shouldn't be so serious unless the anime itself forces us to be so serious. So that's why Roujin Z makes more fun to watch than deep political theme of mecha in Jin-Rou or Ghost in the SHell series.
Roujin Z is a very imaginative and unique anime, unlike any other you've ever seen. If we take our elders from the loving hands of human beings and tug them under computer supervision, there are bound to be some unforeseen consequences. But I bet you never in your life could have imagined a computer nursing bed, turning into a self-upgrading mecha xD. The sole idea of it is incredibly hilarious!
In this satirical tone Katsuhiro Otomo(director of Akira) sets out to discuss the ever incresing problematic of aging population, which is even more actual today, than it was 20 years ago, when Roujin Z came to
life. And he does so in a blatantly direct way, unlike many other anime that choose to address social problems in a more abstract way, under the cover of fantasy.
Roujin Z raises an important discussion. It is true that the modern youth has to process incredible amount of information daily, engulfed in work, and are troubled by their bed-ridden elders. But, putting them in hands of a machine is inhumane - as the young caretaker Haruko puts it. If you are curious about how absurd can Otomo get in his funny allegories, I suggest watching the Stink Bomb segment of anime Memories.
A lot of famous names have collaborated on this movie, including Satoshi Kon, as an art and scene director. It was the first anime he worked on too. In a perpetually self-upgrading mecha nursing bed, you will instantly recognize the absurd mozaic of elements, which Satoshi Kon later developed to it's maximum in Paprika, with his colorful fantasies.
Roujin Z has aged incredibly well. Otomo must have had an exceptional insight into computers and internet, which in early 90s were only starting to seriously pick up. Even though at times his image doesn't completely fit with the technology of today, it's really close in general.
You can find out more about Roujin Z on ANN: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/buried-treasure/2008-04-17/roujin-z .
I thought Roujin Z, or Old Person Z, was a really cool movie. I wasn't aware of how visually iconic it was until watching it and realizing the things that had taken inspiration from its visual style. It brought to life all of my fears of being elderly and having all of your human rights taken away from you by a medical establishment. This film takes that trepidatious thought a step further and imprisons an old man in a care-taking robot, that then adopts the personality of his deceased wife and comes to life because biotechnology.
• Next time you think of bio-tech, just think of
the iPhone Ten, X, whatever you want to call itーwith its crazy, larger than life bio-chip… then think of Roujin Z. We are so close to androids and organic technology that it is frightening! Your iPhone may start feeling oppressed over the next few years and become a Sky Net 2.0, in a really bad way!
• I feel that although this film was made in 1991ーit is as relevant as ever! The directors’ other work that he headed weren't as impressive to me, but iconic in the era that they came out. Hiroyuki Kitakubo was the head director for Black Magic M-66 and Blood: The Last Vampire; he also did key animation for Akira. In fact, the original creator of Roujin was no other than Katsuhiro Otomo himself, the original creator of Akira.
• The animation, premise, and designs for this film are brilliant, but the execution, characters, and further planning is average. A big damper in the movie was all of the weird, perverted, old men that were trying to screw the young nurse took some of the charm from the film and made it something sleazy and gross. How are you supposed to feel emotionally compelled by the relationship Kijuro and Haruko, when he's just some sexually devious old guy?
• I mean, with the array of the colorful, zany, and prominently cartoonish castーI would assume that it was pure satire, but it’s hard to fathom the mood at times, since the movie has very serious moments. Overall, I think that the iconicism in and itself makes the movie a must-watch for a burgeoning anime fanatic, and it gets a 6/10 from me.
Sifting through the dark, forgotten recesses of My Anime List like some sort of anime hipster, our writers have brought you 15 of what they consider to be the most underrated anime out there. Under appreciated masterpiece or stinker that got the reception it deserved; you decide.
Before he was one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Satoshi Kon was a manga artist. From early success in college to ambitious collaborations with the likes of Katsuhiro Otomo and Mamoru Oshii, his manga work is highly recommended to better understand his genius.