Running Time: 80 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR, probably R
Format: Widescreen 1.66:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region: 1
MSRP: $24.99

Own It!
Roujin Z (1996)

With an ever-growing population of elderly, "the country" (obviously Japan, but with mysterious references to "the Pentagon" obscuring the issue) must find new ways to care for the infirm. A man named Terada has what he thinks is the future of elderly health care: a robotic bed called the Z-001, which can feed, bathe, entertain, and even medicate its inhabitant. Haruko is the young nursing student whose charge, the emaciated Mr. Takazawa, is selected to test the prototype robobed. Although she is understandably bitter at her replacement by a piece of machinery, it turns out that she may be justified in her concern for Takazawa.

Drawn to Terada's hospital by a computerized call for help, Haruko and her friends arrive at Takazawa's bedside just before it begins to move on its own. Soon it becomes clear that the Z-001 wants to make its inhabitant happy in any way that it can, even going so far as to assume the personality of his long-dead wife. Haruko finds herself drawn into an increasingly complex series of events as the surprisingly advanced Z-001 runs amok and its creators try to shut it down.

Consistently humorous and warm, Roujin Z highlights the problem of Japan's elderly in this romp of a fantasy without getting mired in the more realistic (and depressing) aspects. Fortunately, the young characters are honestly concerned about the problem and about Mr. Takazawa in particular, while still remaining naive enough to act rashly in certain situations. The most heartening scenes in the film involve a ward of ancient computer hackers who assist Haruko while furtively peeking up her skirt. Roujin Z's most important contribution may be in its portrayal of "senior citizens" as human beings. Anime fans looking for a bit of plot (and humanity) with their transforming robot action should take a look.

A bit of speckling here and there, but otherwise a fine transfer. I continue to be impressed by the English dubs of more modern anime films; this one brings a new level of humor and a number of new jokes to the film. The menus are simple and easy to navigate, although I question the wisdom of putting subtitles and audio tracks in separate sub-menus. The subtitles are are white with black outlines.

There are no extras on this disc.

Chris Holland, 4/21/2002