Roujin Z tells the story of Haruko, a young nurse, who finds herself at the centre of unintended consequences stemming from a new government program that seeks to provide a solution to the challenges of an aging population in Japan. This solution comes in the form of Z-001: a life-support machine that satisfies all physical, psychological and social desires of elderly patients. The government sponsored Project Z will pave the way to a revolution in elderly care and free “useful” society from the burden of caring for the older generation. What could possibly go wrong? However, the story promptly deviates from the utopian future that the Ministry of Public Welfare promised. The film follows the efforts of Haruko as she attempts to save an elderly patient from the clutches of Project Z. Mr. Takazoa has been ‘volunteered’ to be the first
victim ‘benefactor’ of Z-001. Haruko’s rescue attempts result in escalating mishaps that drive the plot forward. Throughout, she poses a question to Project Z and the audience: What about Mr. Takazoa? Z-001 is an impressive machine but it cannot possibly account for patient’s feelings.
Roujin Z, in its own bizarre way, attempts to explore various central themes. Most obviously, the film questions how societies should meet the challenges of aging populations: this is particularly relevant to Japan, where caring for elders is an important feature of society. The focus on the “agedly challenged” both thematically and in the cast of characters makes Roujin Z unique. The lack of care for the old is further underlined by Roujin Z’s depiction of various characters as selfish, indulgent and overambitious. The film also challenges role of technology in 21st century societies. Roujin Z wonders what other inappropriate functions technology may be designated as humanities strives towards utopia. The satirical, at times slapstick, approach of the film provides a different take on this common theme.
The satirical and slightly unsettling opening scenes set the tone for the rest of the film. Mr. Takazoa’s initial kidnapping by men in white coats exemplifies a mysterious and centralised government violating citizen’s rights in the hope of creating a sedated, impersonal utopia. The film succeeds in defining the issues that it is critiquing from the outset and starts off well. However, Roujin Z’s conscious choice not to take itself too seriously can hold it back as the story progresses. The use of slapstick throughout, at times, dilutes the themes that were so prominent at the beginning of the film. The humor can also hinder character development: we never get to see beneath many of the cast’s comical facades or beyond their initial intentions. As the film progresses, it moves further away from any social commentary and gets carried away with its wacky story. However, the unique story remains interesting and entertaining throughout as the plot develops in an unexpected way. Touching moments help foster a connection between the characters and the audience.
Roujin Z begins really well. The first half of the movies finds the right balance between satire, plot and a message. However, as the film progressed, humour took precedent over further exploration of themes and character development. Roujin Z disappoints by not building on its thought provoking foundations. It loses substance and finishes with a rather unsatisfying conclusion. Despite its shortcomings, Roujin Z’s is still enjoyable. It is filled with funny and entertaining characters, and has a thematic plot that provides some food for thought.