Human Lost

By the late 2030s, medicine has advanced to the stage where, through a combination of gene therapy, nanotechnology, and miracle drugs known as “panaceas”, every human being can be guaranteed a lifespan of 120 years, free from any fear of injury or illness. Yet the detachment of individuals from the painful physical consequences of their actions produces a malformed society in which crime, corruption, and environmental pollution are rampant, and in which relatively privileged Insiders exist in walled conclaves while the mass of the population – Outsiders – live amid poverty and violence. Moreover, the apparent medical miracle carries a hideous side effect: increasing numbers of people are succumbing to a strange mental derangement that prefigures their horrific physical transformation into alien-like monsters. These beings – whose existence is kept secret from the public – are known as “Lost”. One night, when dissolute Outsider Yozo Oba joins a violent incursion aimed at Tokyo’s Inside fortress, he himself becomes a “Lost” – but a “Lost” with strange powers who can regain his human form. This not only precipitates a conflict between Oba and the mysterious Masao Horiki, who is determined to bring down the system he helped create, but also throws Oba together with government agent Yoshiko Hiiragi. Together, Oba and Yoshiko discover that they are special beings called “Applicants” for whom society’s elites – the near-immortal Qualified – have hideous plans…

Based on concepts in the 1948 novel “No Longer Human” by Osamu Dazai, “Human Lost” was produced by Polygon Pictures and received its theatrical release in October 2019. Rendered in a gritty visual style that combines rotoscoping with 3D CGI animation techniques, “Human Lost” draws on tropes that will be familiar to viewers of “Akira”, “Logan’s Run”, “Soylent Green”, “Neon Genesis Evangelion”,  “Ghost In The Shell”, and “Psycho Pass”. Perhaps it is because it draws on such a diverse field of sources that the plot often comes over as chaotic and threadbare, with loose ends left unexplained and the story itself apparently little more than a narrative clothes line upon which to hang philosophical concepts. The pity of this confusion is that the underlying premise is not only sound, but actively fascinating; and with only a little more care, the result might have been a solid dystopian tale that does what all good tales of this genre do: ask the “big questions” about life, death, and the universe. Nonetheless, despite its disappointments, “Human Lost” is worth taking an empty hour or two to watch on a slow weekend (its run time is a tick over 1hr 45min), not least because of its stark visuals and a story that, despite being deeply flawed, still manages to take us into thought-provoking territory.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.