"Based on a story by Otomo Katsuhiro, legendary creator of Akira, and directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Roujin Z takes a pertinent and amusing look at one of Japan's very real social problems - the growing elderly population - and comes up with a rather extreme solution!"
"Set in modern-day Japan, the government is faced with an ever- worsening problem of an ageing population. The Ministry of Public Welfare have tackled this problem head on and at last are ready to introduce the solution: 'The Z Project'."
"Z" is a fully automatic bed, programmed to take care of every possible need of the elderly person. This extraordinary machine will cook, feed, wash, exercise, entertain and toilet its elderlv patient."
"The first trial will be carried out on an unsuspecting Mr Takazawa, but his young nurse, Haruko, is anxious that "Z" is less humane than the authorities are admitting."
"When the old man sends a message for help through her computer, she breaks into the centre to try and free him. Suddenly the "Z" programme begins to malfunction and the true reason behind its development becomes apparent...."
"The Japanese boast the longest life span of any race: 82 years for women and 76 for men (compared to the UK's 79 for women and 73 for men). As a result, Japan is facing an ever-growing ageing population: by the year 2020 they can expect 24% of the population to be over the age of 65, the highest proportion of old people in any industrialised nation."
"Various schemes have been devised to cope with this potential problem: "Extended Leisure Stays Abroad" ships old people to faraway places to offset the high cost of social welfare in Japan; retirement cities are planned and a Tokyo company have invented the 'rental family' available for lonely and elderly Japanese couples whose own children have moved overseas or are simply too busy to visit."
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo Screenplay: Katsuhiro Otomo Character Design: Hisashi Eguchi Mecha Design: Katsuhiro Otomo Copyright: Tokyo Theaters Co. Inc., The Television Inc., Movic Co. Ltd., TV Asahi, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. Language Format: English Language Running time: 80 mins Certificate: 15 Label: Manga Video Catalogue no: MANV 1051 Price: £12.99 Release Date: 12th September 1994
This film is Katsuhiro Otomo's first anime after Akira and it does not disappoint, with all Otomo's hallmarks - beautiful animation, sharply drawn mecha, an intelligent, layered plot not lacking in humour, and long worm-like wriggly things that take on a life of their own.
The main thrust of the story is the ever-relevant, ever-increasing cost of looking after an ageing population, and involves the problems this causes to the State Medical Emergency Lines (or SMELS) and the Special Homes In The Sun (or SHI...) - you get the picture?
In an effort to alleviate the burden on the state budget, and also to further his own career, the basically-honest-but-too-caught-up-in-his-own-importance bureaucrat develops a computer bed to care for the elderly. The guinea pig for the trials is chosen against his will, his nurse isn't going to take this lying down (although the guinea pig doesn't have any choice), and the computer engineer isn't quite what he seems. Cue lots of running around, a gang of octogenarian hackers, the unplanned redevelopment of large amounts of real estate, and a bit of tasteful schmaltz.
Like Gunbuster, this is anime that you don't have to be an aficionado to appreciate. Watch and enjoy. [Marlon Seton]