Iryuu – Team Medical Dragon
医龍 – Ｔｅａｍ Ｍｅｄｉｃａｌ Ｄｒａｇｏｎ
NAGAI Akira (story), NOGIZAKA Taro (art), YOSHINUMA Mie (medical supervision)
Seinen – Drama, mature, psychological
25 Volumes (complete)
Shogakukan (Big Comic Superior)
Dr. Katou wants to change Japanese healthcare, but she needs to become a professor at her hospital first. To increase her chances, Katou seeks out the talents of Dr. Asada to have him perform her new version of a surgery. She didn’t expect Asada to be a bum or for him to have some crazy demands to join her team! Will Asada help or hurt Katou’s ambitions?
Iryuu – Team Medical Dragon is the game Trauma Center combined with the mind games of Death Note.
While I usually refer to characters by their first names, it seems more appropriate to use their last names. Almost everyone here is a doctor, but I’m going to skip the “Dr.”/”sensei” to make this post easier and shorter.
I have a confession to make… I am a wimp. And a bit of a hypochondriac. If someone starts talking about an illness, I start feeling sick. I have never been good with blood or anything health-related. So the fact that I can tolerate all the surgeries enough to muddle through — and enjoy — Iryuu – Team Medical Dragon – is a testament to how good it is.
As anime and manga fans, sometimes we get an idealistic view of Japan. However, as a society, the country still has much social progress to make, like attitudes toward mothers who want to have a career. (Well, they’re not the only ones who need to make progress, but that’s not the point of this review.) As an American, the Japanese system of having professors in a hospital is also quite strange to me. Unlike in the U.S., where health care systems are often run like a business, Japanese hospitals are still run almost like a feudal system, with the high-ranking officials deciding which of their “vassals” get to rise in rank. However, Katou is a female doctor, and, like in the U.S., she doesn’t always get the respect she deserves.
Those facts make up the central struggle in Iryuu. Katou wants to rise in rank, but not everyone wants her ideas — or, at the very least, have a woman changing things. As such, she and others engage in mental chess games in order to turn the tide to their advantage. This doesn’t necessarily make Katou the good one and all her rivals bad. Other characters remark that some of her competitors have good ideas. Yes, there are a few antagonists, but some people also dislike Katou’s analytical approach or her cool personality. She’s no femme fatale, but she’s not a happy-go-lucky “everything will work out fine” heroine.
However, while Katou effectively kicks off the manga, she is not the central character. Asada, the first man she recruits for her team, is quite a character. He just plain doesn’t give a bleep about regulations or standards. He does what he thinks is the best treatment for the patient, and Asada’s genius-level talent usually allows him to pull through. Some view him as a revolutionary, others as a radical. Even Katou is not always sure what to do with the impulsive and stubborn Asada.
While Asada is at the center of everyone’s attention (good or bad), the manga isn’t. We don’t get to see the world from his point-of-view. The series is more about how he is seen by or interacts with the others. I’ve already discussed Katou. Another prominent character in the manga is new doctor Ijyuuin. He is commandeered by Asada into doing surgical tasks. As you may know, medical careers have a high turnover rate. Ijyuuin is young and already has burnout, and Asada is far from the kind, helpful senpai. We spend a lot of time on him and the other members of Katou’s Batista team, but her and Asada’s rivals (most notably Katou’s direct superior Yaguchi) get plenty of chapters dedicated to them. It’s a bit unusual that the “antagonists” would get so much attention, but the main group is separated for long periods of time. This prevents the manga on just focusing on a team who can save practically anybody.
Yes, instead of being solely a “save the patient” manga, Iryuu has basically two types of arcs: the psychological struggles and the surgeries. The power struggles are mostly Team Katou vs the world, but there’s a lot of internal conflicts for Ijyuuin as well as Professor Noguchi’s struggle to remain at the top of the chain. The surgeries are very realistic, with lots of charts and medical terms. Since I’m squeamish, I tend to quickly go through these scenes, but these sections will probably resonate with fans of Western medical dramas like House, E.R., and Grey’s Anatomy. I pretty much read it for the mind games. Katou is quite sharp, but she faces quite a few challenges to being promoted.
The first downside of Iryuu is all the sexual and ecchi stuff. Fortunately, these scenes become less frequent once you get past the beginning, and most future instances can easily be skipped. Meanwhile, one character’s motivations (both his original and his true one) are eyerolling, and his relationship with the nurse Satohara is pretty warped. Character development is also kind of iffy. We learn more about each character, but they don’t really change. At least that can be attributed to the fact these are all adults and have fully formed personalities. Asada, meanwhile, remains much of a mystery. He’s really more of an enigma despite being the hero. The doctors Ijyuuin and Kihara can be plain annoying. It takes awhile for Ijyuuin to really grow, but I guess that’s the point. The ending is also terrible. Seriously, that‘s how you end your 25 volumes? I mean, the main conflict of the professor elections is resolved, but geez…
If you can live with its minuses, readers are rewarded with a fascinating look into the Japanese medical field and how the Hippocratic oath isn’t always upheld. Doctors often legally stay truth to their profession, but morally? Not always. There’s also other issues like gender discrimination, job benefits, racism, and always following instructions. Again, while Japanese hospitals operate differently than American ones, I know many of these problems exist here as well. Whether you are interested in becoming a doctor or nurse or not, the manga is designed to raise awareness and promote change. Having someone supervise all the medical parts shows the creators’ commitment to making this series pretty realistic despite Asada’s amazing talents. The first chapters seem the most incredulous with a surgery with a broken tube and a car battery. Asada is also at his craziest in the early chapters while Katou is more outspoken. Again, I like the story best once it settles into itself.
As a seinen series. The two main females are designed to be quite beautiful and attractive. I mean, Asada when he shaves and Ijyuuin are not ugly, but the women definitely add a bit of eye candy. Again, this probably did well to attract attention, but it’s a bit unnecessary. There’s also a wide range of characters from bulky men to stressed out middle-age women to seemingly feeble old men. Fortunately, the characters are easy to tell apart with physical characteristics like oversized muscles and long noses. Lots of diagrams and realistic images of internal organs are included, and I’m sure this was no easy task even with digital art. Considering the series lasted over nine years, there’s not a huge shift. The characters’ hair mostly become more wispy.
Chance of License:
Shogakukan titles are mostly licensed by Viz Media. However, I don’t think a single title from Big Comic Superior has been released in the U.S. That pretty much gives you an idea of how low the chances of Iryuu being picked up are. In addition, it’s 25 volumes long, making it quite an investment. Twenty-five volumes in itself is a hurdle that’s often overcome, but it’s a bigger risk for a seinen and mature series. Iryuu would almost certainly need to be rated M due to the blood and sexual situations. This also limits its appeal. Finally, a lot of manga fans might not be interested in a manga about operations and hospital leadership; it’s much more of a niche genre than saving the world with superpowers. If it were to be licensed, I would expect it to be released in omnibuses to reduce its length. Saijou no Meii is another medical-centered manga that has two major advantages over Iryuu: it’s shorter and a shounen series. These make Saijou no Meii much less risky than Iryuu. In addition, Give My Regards to Black Jack is a similar manga that is available for free online.
If you want to import this title, expect quite the difficult read. You need to be able to read Japanese at a high level. There’s not furigana, and all the medical terms means it’s less-than-typical manga fare. Yeah…I just guess what’s going on.
Unofficial scanlations have released more than half of the series. The manga is available in French under the title Team Medical Dragon. Quite frankly, that’s probably the better route to go than tackle all the kanji.
Iryuu – Team Medical Dragon is a manga that is both informative and entertaining, but it’s definitely for older readers. This may make it difficult to market, but the series is a fascinating insight into power struggles in the real world.
The manga has inspired a live-action series. The drama has four seasons, all available on Crunchyroll. The drama is not a direct adaptation.