Roujin Z is a 1991 movie that I came across while searching for a new movie to watch and I decided to pick it up because I liked the cover image.
The movie is about the Japan’s Ministry of Public Welfare testing a new bed that can take care of the elderly and the consequences of using such a machine. For their first test they selected an old man named Takazawa who is bedridden and needs someone to take care of him 24/7.
The bed can take care of all the needs of its occupant like bathing and feeding. It regularly monitors his health and sends an alert to the doctors and the family members if something happens to him. It also has built-in stereo, radio, phone and TV modules. The occupant can call the occupants of other beds and talk to them, or he can create a virtual friend. The movie talks about the moral implications of treating the elderly this way.
After Takazawa is made to become a guinea pig for the testing of the bed he becomes lonely and scared. He sends a message to Haruko, his voluntary caretaker, to help him. At this point it looked like Haruko is the only one who cared about him and is willing to help him. Takazawa’s family members happily gave the rights to conduct any experiments on him to the Ministry of Public Welfare.
We have seen enough anime to guess what happens next. The bed has an advanced computer that has a mind of its own and things start going out of control. The plot is something we have already seen plenty of times and it never manages to surprise the viewers but the movie is entertaining nonetheless. The animation is beautiful and the voice acting is also well done.
There are a couple of things I want to complain about though. When a guy called Terada from the Ministry of Public Welfare was introducing the bed to the media, he said that the bed can even upgrade its own hardware and I was thinking ‘Yeah sure. It will order the new parts online, sign the delivery man’s papers, unscrew itself and replace the old parts with the new parts. You should have found something else to say in order to make the bed look smart.’ To my surprise the bed did actually upgrade its hardware.
I doubt they wanted the bed to be that creative about upgrading itself because even the bed’s creator was surprised.
Here is another part that is even worse. At one point Haruko asks a group of old hackers to hack into the bed’s operating system and control it. She hands a photo of Takazawa’s wife to them and asks them to simulate her voice to try and talk to Takazawa.
I also want to mention that the idea of the bed is not as bad as the movie made it sound. They purposely exaggerated certain functions of the bed to make it look like an inhumane machine. If you have ever taken care of a bedridden old person or saw someone else take care of such a person, you know how difficult it is to take care of people who can’t move a muscle. Imagine doing that 24/7 for a decade. Even the most loving family members will wish for a break and the relationships will start deteriorating. Not every family can hire a good caretaker like Haruko. It is not such a bad idea to have a machine that helps us take care of the old as long as we spend enough time with them and give them plenty of love.
Give Roujin Z a try if you have some time on your hands. It is a good movie and it deserves more love from anime viewers.
See you next time ^^/