Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy (Comedy)
What’s in it?: Mass Destruction (sort of), Big Robots/Mecha, Chases and Races, Dirty Old Hacker Guys, General Weirdness
In the very near future in Japan, the number of elderly people is steadily rising, and it is becoming more and more difficult to care for them. This is of concern to the student nurse Haruko. You see, there is a government experiment with the goal of completely automated care of the elderly going on, and it just so happens that the test subject for the project is going to be Haruko’s patient. The project, a bed that can do anything from bathe a patient to have a conversation with him, is a miracle of modern automation. Things get a little weird when the old man starts calling for help; using the bed’s built in Internet connection. Well, Haruko and friends have no choice but to help the old man escape, but they’re having a number of problems with that process. After a couple of failed attempts, the bed (yes, the bed) decides to take matters into it’s own hands. You see the bed starts thinking that it’s the old man’s dead wife, and doesn’t like the way he’s being treated. Yes, you read that right. To make matters worse, the bed was also a secret military experiment, and has capabilities to match. So we’ve got an automated elder care bed that thinks it’s an old man’s wife running away from the Ministry of Health and the military and wreaking havoc in the process, all the while carrying around an ‘out of it’ old guy and being chased by some overzealous nursing students who are in turn being monitored by a crew of elderly hackers. Then things start getting really weird…
By the creator of Akira, and it shows. Roujin Z has a plot involving a government experiment gone wrong and a decidedly Akira-esque power run amok type end. But once you start watching it, it becomes abundantly clear that Roujin Z is about as far from Akira as you could picture. Just imagine what would happen if one of those secret military experiments gone awry or one of those robots that go around fusing with everything in sight (think 1st part of Bubblegum Crisis) was, deep down, a really nice person. You’d think that being a broad political satire about elder care of all things (not what you’d think of as material for a sci-fi comedy) would be enough weirdness for one movie, but Roujin Z also manages to poke fun at a whole genre of sci-fi by turning all the ‘technology gone awry’ conventional wisdom completely on its head. The story itself, though really strange, is acceptable (and quite emotionally effective for a satire/parody combination), but for a movie this weird, it is a little slow, and a lot of the jokes are surprisingly subtle. The leisurely pace is sure to lose some people’s attention, and the sense of humour is too quirky and downright odd to be for everybody, but I really enjoyed it, and fans of really strange science fiction or quirky comedy (preferably both) are almost sure to have fun.
Art wise, Roujin Z is nice, if not spectacular. The backgrounds are detailed, the mechanics are properly animated, and the character designs are cute, if not original (and they’re not by Otomo; everyone doesn’t have to share the same face). Though not quite full theatre quality, the animation is high budget and smooth. The action, which there’s a reasonable amount of in the last few minutes, is quite well done, too.
Overall: Roujin Z is most definitely not for everybody; not serious, but leisurely paced and not quite as wacky as it could easily have been with this story. On the other hand, it is a great variation on the technology-gone wild/robot running amok theme, and a social satire to boot. If the idea sounds like fun to you, you’ll probably like it, but if you’re a really big fan of Akira, be warned: this is very different.
So how bad was it?
Fine for most ages, but may be hard to follow for younger viewers. Would probably be a PG.
Violence: 1 – Lots of destruction, but no serious violence.
Nudity: 1 – One “in bed” scene.
Sex: 1 – Same scene, implied only.
Language: Subtitled version: 1- Nothing of note. Dubbed version: 3 – A fair amount of profanity.