Friday, March 23, 2012

Iryu Review (2006)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Ryutaro Asada is a brilliant surgeon with extensive training in the field during his stint with an NGO.  For various reasons, Asada was released from North Japan Hospital but was subsequently headhunted by Akira Kato, the assistant professor of the Cardiac Surgery Department at Meishin University Hospital. Kato is looking to put together a team to attempt the Batista operation, a highly difficult surgery, to complete her thesis and key to her promotion to becoming a full professor. Given Asada's independent nature and strong morals, will Asada be able to survive at Meishin?

*Spoiler warning*

This drama takes a stern, hard look at the ethical quandaries faced by doctors in the Japanese medical system. From pharmaceutical company influences to deciding which patients live or die based on their risk level, this drama brings all of these ethical dilemmas to light via objections from Dr Asada, formerly of an NGO. At the same time, the drama also attempts to educate viewers on some of the various surgical procedures that occur, explained in layman's terms and often with commentary by Dr Kitou, which was a neat way to handle it. The only knock I might have on this drama is the general dark atmosphere in which the drama is filmed which seems to give it a gritty, depressing feel, somewhat opposite of the more aspirational message I think they are trying to get across. And I never quite grasped why Dr Asada always needs to practice shirtless on the building's rooftop (from the drama point of view)...

Sakaguchi Kenji proves to be a great Dr Asada with his clear, confident ethical mores guiding him regardless of hospital rules and politics. His steady hand during operation scenes and unflinching backbone really helped exemplify the spirit of a true medical practitioner. Imamori Izumi worked well as the sharp, no-nonsense Dr Kato although her character was less intriguing than Asada's. Casting the fresh Koike Teppei as the new intern Dr Ijyuuin was a good move as his lack of practical surgical skills was quite convincing since Teppei (the actor) would not have had these abilities either, making the drama feel quite authentic. Natsuki Mari's Dr Kitou was a breath of fresh air from the mostly male-dominated crew and a great help in explaining some of the more complicated procedures in layman's terms. The quirky Dr Arase was one of the most brilliantly acted out characters in this drama. Props to Abe Sadao for bringing this intriguing character to life. Even Kitamura Kazuki gave a fittingly detestable performance as Dr Kirima and rival to both Dr Kato and Asada.

One of the most striking aspects of this drama is its highly unusual soundtrack. The drama mixes in a variety of confident, majestic themes, often used as a resolution to the gritty sounds of the electric guitar and other instruments. That sort of music has an almost videogame-like quality which was used throughout to give the drama an edgy, nervous energy. Interestingly, this fit well with the general gritty feel of the drama although, as mentioned before, it did feel too dark for my taste.

Both the filming and music have a cold, dispassionate feel, with a seemingly continuous focus on the more depressing aspects which is rather unusual for what I would have expected would be an inspirational medical drama. Certainly, this is somewhat balanced out at various points but the contrast feels a little too eerie and dark. While the acting was certainly top notch and the plot well-defined, this was one of those dramas where I was truly curious about how the drama would unfold but at the same time felt uneasy and skittish about the developments. If you can get past that though, this is definitely a top-notch drama worth considering!

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