Film / Reviews

'Human Lost': Osamu Dazai's classic novel gets lost in sci-fi technobabble

by Matt Schley

Contributing Writer

“Human Lost,” the latest computer-animated flick from the folks at Polygon Pictures (“Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters”), is being touted as a futuristic update of the classic Osamu Dazai novel “No Longer Human.” To say certain liberties have been taken with the material is an understatement: I’ve been over my copy a few times now, and I can’t seem to find the part where people transform into giant human-eating monsters.

“Human Lost” takes place in a dystopian future Tokyo where a computerized system called SHELL (which stands for Sound Health Everlasting Long Life, if you must know) helps keep people from dying well into their 100s. However, it can’t prevent some folks from getting “lost” — losing their humanity and transforming into gruesome creatures out for a bite of their fellow citizens.

Thankfully, there’s a crack team to deal with these monsters called HILAM (Human Intelligence, Laboratory, Mechanist), who take one down in the film’s opening sequence, set on the mean streets of future Takadanobaba. One wonders if college students still get drunk there.

Human Lost (Hyuman Rosuto Ningen Shikkaku)
Rating
Run Time 110 mins.
Language JAPANESE
Opens NOV. 29

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to main character Yozo Oba (voiced by Mamoru Miyano), an artist so depressed he routinely kills himself only to be unwillingly brought back to life by SHELL. Oba is soon persuaded by the obviously evil Dr. Horiki (Takahiro Sakurai) to swallow a suspicious-looking pill that makes him “lost.” But, unlike most of the lost, Oba doesn’t lose his humanity, retaining control of his actions despite his beastly appearance. This makes him a potential asset for both HILAM and Horiki, who are on opposing sides in a battle for humanity that also involves some old guys kept in a cold storage room. Oh, and I haven’t even explained what GRMP, MAP and HUMAN stand for.

Feeling lost yet?

The originator of this acronym salad is screenwriter Tow Ubukata, known for similar messy meditations on the technology-infused future of humanity like “Mardock Scramble” and “Ghost in the Shell: Arise.” Ubukata presents a lot of interesting ideas here — considering Japan’s rapidly aging and shrinking population, thinking about the burden of the increasingly long-lived on society seems like a worthwhile endeavor — but the technobabble-heavy script veers more wildly than an ex-human beastie, and the inclusion of elements from Dazai’s novel feels almost like an afterthought.

The film is animated by Polygon Pictures, a studio that got in early on the computer-generated anime game during the first half of the decade with properties like “Knights of Sidonia.” While its, uh, polygon counts have certainly improved since then, there’s a definite house style, making virtually all its films and series look about the same. If you’ve appreciated this look in the studio’s previous work, you’ll no doubt find things to like here. Personally, I can never really shake the feeling I’m watching a long video game cutscene.

Early scenes in the film feature some impressive action choreography, including a motorcycle chase that seems to nod to anime classic “Akira,” but by the end of the film our main characters are duking it out amidst of a cloud of gray smoke, as if the animators lost the will to render background art.

No longer human? Make that no longer interested.