Team Medical Dragon is a Japanese live-action series based on a manga of the same name which I had never heard of. Why did I watch it then? Well, aside a lot of positive things being said about it and it seeming interesting there’s one thing anime fans might take interest in it from. The music was primarily created by Hiroyuki Sawano, the same man who did the Attack on Titan OST, Kill la Kill (bleh), Aldnoah Zero, and many others, especially recently. He’s one of the best composers and musicians around right now and one of my personal favorites (though far from Kajiura level in terms of talent or my love of their work), so finding that out by chance and then looking into what the show was made me interested. Finding out it was on Crunchy just made me bother to try it out as well.
I’m not a huge “j-drama” viewer, I’ve seen MAYBE 30 all the way through and most were adaptations of manga or anime that I really loved but there were some others both original or adaptations of things I’ve never heard of that I did enjoy greatly, though there is a lot of shitty content produced in this industry too. Most comedy ends up fucking great and very well done, then comedy mixed with other things is almost as good, then romance, then a mix of any of that with drama. The worst by a large margin are the completely serious dramas though, Japan has a hard time with those for some reason. They are always very campy, cheesy, have plenty of stilted acting, and have so many over the top villains and DUN DUN DUNNNNN moments that they end up a complete joke unless they are ALSO comedic or (sometimes) a romance.
I’m a little, well, a lot harsher on the show in this review than I feel I should have been – especially after watching up to the end of season 4 (everything available in English at this time). I greatly misunderstood a lot of things in this show that I ended up completely loving about it pretty much right after writing this.
Asada is a fantastic and pretty unique character who demands the focus of the viewer even though he barely ever does anything aside during operations or when he intensely stares at people and never says anything, and at the same time this leaves the show capable of shining that light on the supporting cast equally alongside him due to the power of his presence and overall coolness of him that draws you to him. He only gets cooler throughout, and you’ll also start to notice a lot of quirks built into the character that flesh him out a lot more than the show bothers to use words for – even down to just how he grabs a scalpel and such.
The acting is actually kind of just alright in about half of season 1, but from then on it definitely keeps taking big steps upward throughout the entire series and is overall really good after that first bit that was a little awkward at times.
The show overall though – I say here I don’t recommend it to newcomers to the medium of Japanese live action shows…and I think that’s not really necessary at all anymore. If anything, I’d probably recommend this pretty early on if someone asked what jdrama they should try, and really it’s probably the best actual drama-focused one I’ve seen to-date and one of my overall favorites probably. Anyway, I’ll keep from making this ‘update’ an entire review of it’s own – point being, this series is actually really pretty great, including the stuff I complained about.
Team Medical Dragon is one of the only exceptions I’ve come across – while it is campy, cheesy, and does have some shitty acting (mostly in the first episode), and has incredibly over the top evil big-bads who do anything for money, fame, or simply out of not giving a shit, even killing off patients and cackling evilly in their office while a baby child is sent to their death purely to get ahead in the job…yet it manages to be something really fucking cool when it wants to be and genuinely touching or sad at times and brings a bit of a GTO vibe to many scenes pretty successfully. I’d say of the very focused “serious drama” types, this is one of the better ones by far.
The actual medicine I can verify nothing about, I’m not a doctor, but it sure is cool and tense every time a surgery is going to happen and of course while it DOES happen. (Actually, I looked up some of the stuff and, well, if you watch I’d recommend it as things come up too – it’s pretty interesting what you find.) The operations are probably the best part of the show as they pack in all the main elements; cool shit, dramatic shit, and typically some emotional shit. My favorite thing in the whole season would probably be the two special surgeries that happen and, because of being such a big deal in the show, get special “intro” sequences introducing each character and their job in the OR as they prep for the surgery with Sawano’s amazing work playing over a bunch of dramatic shots of everyone getting ready, all leading up to Asada (the main character) doing that typical (yet always cool) “surgeon walk” into the room after scrubbing up and announcing the start of the operation.
Speaking of Asada, he’s a pretty cool character but very clearly an attempt at creating a new Onizuka in a new setting. He isn’t quite as rebellious though and while he does go very far and push some boundaries, he always remains within the realm of finding loopholes or forcing situations to happen through legitimate means. He never even yells at anyone in power and, sadly, kind of comes off as a typical Japanese man who is too afraid of authority to ever say anything and essentially cowers any time he’s talked down to by his seniors – something Onizuka would never do. Yet, every time he does so it isn’t because he’s a pathetic yes man afraid to lose his job, it’s because he’s scheming and he needs them to think he’s being ‘good’ and obeying them.
While that’s cool and all, it makes him far less memorable than someone who would storm in, punch their boss in the face, and then go save a life right after being stabbed in the gut by some shithead. Onizuka did that. Hell, he took a fucking test after being shot by some guys that were trying to rape one of his students, beating their asses, and running back to the school all so he could keep his job and keep changing and saving lives at the risk of his own. This guy would just stand there being cool but not saying a word (he rarely speaks in the entire show, actually) and sneakily find a way to make it possible. It’s not as cool or powerful at all, but without the comparison there he is actually a pretty good character in his own right and you’ll have that feeling of “FUCK YEAH” pretty regularly thanks to him when watching this. Otherwise, I like his quiet personality, it’s very rare you find near-silent protagonists in television shows – especially Onizuka or House types minus their brash noisy personalities. I like that about him and this show, it took the risk of having him be not just cool, but to himself most of the time as well.
The show takes “inspiration” from GTO (and of course other series like it since and before) in other ways as well especially in the concept of him being hated by all but one person at the start who brings him in and slowly building up a posse and becoming loved and respected by most by the end. Most episodes feature him dealing with a case and also one of the future team-members-to-be with both of those things ending up combined at some point in the episode and him helping them in a way that makes them realize he’s this great guy and they too become great guys. His team members all originally are kind of dirtbags and shitty people, but he ends up not only gaining some of them for his team but changing many staff at the hospital as human beings and making them want to be good doctors again. You might not like some at first, but the whole team and much of the staff grows on you throughout the show, and they even do a pretty good job with developing one of the main antagonists near the end instead of leaving him as a purely evil villain-for-villains-sake type.
Even with its flaws and it’s somewhat half-assed Onizuka-clone of a lead character, the show manages to have genuinely cool moments, actually touching or sad parts, very tense operations, and an overall enjoyable feeling when watching it. It’s not just thanks to Sawano’s music, which definitely ups the overall quality of the entire show by a lot, but every aspect which slowly managed to all become better each episode from mediocrity to actually great at times with an average of pretty good. It’s got a nice balanced mix of tense operations and medical situations with emotional character stories tied into their work and why they are how they are as well.
Team Medical Dragon isn’t something I’d recommend as a first try at the medium, but it’s definitely worth watching eventually if you’re already into live action content from Japan. I haven’t seen the other seasons, but based on this one I do look forward to watching them soon.
I also can’t end this without mentioning how fucking cool it is watching some crazy almost-impossible surgery take place while Sawano’s intensely dramatic music is playing over it. (It’s fucking cool).
And don’t worry, the really terrible English is only there in episode 1.