So is the protagonist, Makato Kido, quoted upon entering an empty flat. This is the character we are dealing with here: detached, playful, and inquisitive – a deadly combination for a science professor. He is known throughout the film by nicknames because he has no individuality himself, nothing that makes him unique beyond his intelligence. Indeed, out of boredom, he becomes set on making an A-bomb.
Makoto (played by Kenji Sawada) teaches chemistry at a high school. He develops a sleeping gas which he initially tests on his pet cat then proceeds to use it on a security guard (whilst disguised as an elderly man) to steal his gun. Later, while on a field trip, Makoto and his class are held hostage by a man with a machine gun who demands to speak to the emperor. In the following negotiation with the police, the man is killed. This is where Makato meets the negotiator, Detective Yamashita (Bunta Sugawara). After procuring all of the materials needed, he constructs the bomb and a decoy. He calls in his demands to the police and requests Yamashita specifically to act as negotiator. It’s all a bit disjointed in the way it’s presented but it’s more about chronological events than specifically relevant events (though having a more global context provides some very interesting parallels). Makoto’s initial demand is pretty harmless: televised baseball games without commercials. His next demand is to allow the Rolling Stones (who were historically banned from Japanese venues due to a narcotics charge) to perform in Japan. He speaks to them through a vocal scrambler which masks the frequency of his voice, so Yamashita is clueless as to who the caller is. Makato soon arouses the interest of radio personality, Zero (Kimiko Ikegami), who gets involved in a major way propelled both by journalistic and romantic endeavours.
Makato is an oddly sympathetic character because on the one hand he is impulsive, reckless, and absent-mindedly selfish, but on the other he is the product of his own destruction. We, the audience, know this, but he does not. He’s an interesting enigma; intelligent but not wise, observant but not introspective, conscious but distracted. He is not intentionally malicious, but neither is he concerned with the welfare of others. A very harrowing scene is when Makato realizes he has radiation poisoning, but even this doesn’t seem to affect him, he is emotionless unless the emotion is extreme – a very unstable character.
While the plot is really pretty straight-forward, there are a lot of interesting things happening. Makoto is so obsessed with his project that he even begins to teach “how to make an a-bomb” in his classes to the befuddlement of his students. The scenes in his lab while he’s manufacturing the bomb are well done and reportedly accurate. Indeed, the tone of the film is what makes it all work. The message is immediate and oddly relevant today – are modern day terrorists motivated more out of curiosity and boredom than nationalistic or religious inclinations? It’s a film more clever than it’s often given credit for; a satire about nuclear terrorism that’s thoughtful, quirky, and ultimately, tragic.