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A 'Roujin' by Any Other Name

New anime focuses on people, not robots

By Richard von Busack

THE NEW FULL-LENGTH Japanese cartoon Roujin Z has the humanity missing from most high-tech anime. The film focuses primarily on the human beings that operate killer robots, rather than on the killer robots themselves. "Project Z" is a plan to face the problem of "a nation of wrinklies" (as a mean government official calls it): senior citizens who are demanding too much time and treasure in their upkeep. As a result, the government has developed what might be described as an atomic-powered geezer-tender--a computerized bed that ministers to their every physical need. The guinea pig for the first such machine is Takajawa, a near-comatose gapper. His intrepid young nurse Haruko, rightly suspecting trouble, tracks her former patient down, with the help of the other old boys in the nursing home. It turns out the Pentagon is using Project Z as a proto-cybernetics program, and that the innocent-looking computer bed is actually a transformer robot.

Elderly dick-wielding guys are a blind spot in my sense of humor, particularly when they're used to reinforce the message of filial piety; the cartoon combines coarseness with sentimentality. Still, Roujin Z has a story to tell, and some attempted emotional weight to it. The coarseness and the all-too-familiar fight scenes are forgivable for the way director Katsuhiro Otomo has come up with even the very basic characterization shown here.

Roujin Z (Unrated; 80 min.), an animated film by Katsuhiro Otomo.

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From the June 6-12, 1996 issue of Metro

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