A group of scientists and hospital administrators have developed the Z-001, a computerized hospital bed with robotic features. The Z-001 takes complete care of the patient: it can dispense food and medicine, remove excretory waste, bathe and exercise the patient lying within its frame. The bed is driven by its own built-in atomic power reactor — and in the event of an atomic meltdown, the bed (including the patient lying within) would become automatically sealed in concrete. The first patient to be "volunteered" to test the bed is a dying widower named Kiyuro Takazawa. He is an invalid who is cared for by a young nursing student named Haruko. The electronic elements within the Z-001 somehow manage to communicate Takazawa's thoughts through Haruko’s office computer, and he uses the communication to cry for help.
Haruko seeks the aid of a group of computer hackers in the hospital's geriatric ward to create and install a computerized vocal simulation of Takazawa's late wife in the Z-001. This, however, gives the Z-001 its own personality, and it detaches itself from its moorings and escapes from the hospital with Takazawa in its grasp.
Roujin Z (translation: Old Man Z) had its theatrical premiere in Japan in September 1991. An English-dubbed version was produced by Manga Entertainment UK in 1994 and was shown in Australian cinemas the same year. The movie was released on VHS by Manga Entertainment in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand in 1995. The USA first saw this released by Kit Parker Films as a midnight movie in the U.S. in 1996 with a PG-13 rating.
Critical reaction was positive: Stephen Holden of The New York Times called it an “amusing futuristic morality tale,” noting how it “takes sharp digs at yuppie medical students who welcome a device that will enable them to discard their aging parents and concentrate on their careers.” Joey O'Bryan, reviewing Roujin Z for The Austin Chronicle, called the film "briskly paced, intelligent, exciting, and darkly funny."
Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, observed: “I cannot imagine this story being told in a conventional movie. Not only would the machine be impossibly expensive and complex to create with special effects, but the social criticism would be immediately blue-penciled by Hollywood executives.” Ebert and Gene Siskel named it as a “Pick of the Week” for their television show Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.
- Katsuhiro Otomo... Original Story, Screenplay, and Mechanics Design
- Hisashi Eguchi... Original Character Design
- Hiroyuki Kitakubo... Chief Director
- Fumio Iida... Animation Director
- Hiroshi Sasaki... Art Director
- Hideo Okazaki... Cinematographer
- Eiko Nishide... Editor
- Bun Itakura... Music
- Toni Barry ... Haruko (voice - English version)
- Nicolette McKenzie ... Haru (voice - English version)
- Sean Barrett ... 1st Ache (voice - English version)
- Blair Fairman ... 2nd Ache (voice - English version)
- Nigel Anthony ... 3rd Ache (voice - English version)
- Barbara Barnes ... Nobuko (voice - English version)
- Adam Henderson ... Maeda (voice - English version)
- John Fitzgerald Jay ... Hasegawa (voice - English version)
- Ian Thompson ... Ian (voice - English version)
- Allan Wenger ... Terada (voice - English version)