There's a new medical drama or two just about every season in Japan, but Fuji TV's spring 2019 drama Radiation House
particularly caught my interest for its focus on radiology.
Earlier this year, a sudden illness landed me in the hospital. Prior to this, I hadn't thought too much about radiology, but my bout with a unicorn infection made me realize just how much rides on radiology. I was seen by specialists of different departments with various conjectures about what might be wrong with me, but the diagnosis depended on the radiology results. After each inconclusive report, I got booked for another type of radiology test. The last test, a PET scan, ultimately provided the needed answer. Without that PET scan, I would have still recovered, but I'd have to live with the uncertainty of not knowing the cause of my illness.
Based on the manga by Yokomaku Tomohiro and Mori Taishi, Radiation House revolves around the radiology department of a hospital. Though the series is from the viewpoint of the underappreciated radiologists and radiographers, I could also see the experiences and anxieties that I went through as a patient in the stories.
Naturally, Radiation House employs some unrealistic tropes like the classic rule-flouting genius doctor Igarashi Iori, played in hyper-eccentric mode by Masataka Kubota. Despite being a licensed radiologist, he takes the position of a radiographer, a radiology technician who performs the imaging. Igarashi chooses this non-doctor role because of his childhood promise to proud, insecure radiologist Amakasu An (Honda Tsubasa), who totally doesn't remember him and also doesn't want a radiographer sticking his nose into doctor territory. Being the weird prodigy with a heart of gold, Igarashi constantly breaks protocol to provide diagnostic observations that save lives and impart important lessons about what matters most.
The fact that Igarashi is constantly making his own call with imaging and conjuring open timeslots from thin air is probably the most unbelievable part about Radiation House, as anyone who's ever had to wait for a radiology appointment can attest. Still, the drama provides insight into the level of detail and analysis that goes into imaging and interpreting, and also the try-and-try-again process of investigating and diagnosing an illness.
The Radiation House family of radiology night owls offers the solid chemistry and amusing mix of personalities that any workplace drama needs. Kubota Masataka delivers another one of his charmingly characteristic performances as the pure-hearted but unpredictable and socially awkward protagonist. Honda Tsubasa and Hirose Alice are both fine as the stressed-out doctor and the newbie radiographer, respectively, though the latter has less to work with character development wise. Endo Kenichi and Yamaguchi Sayaka are particularly awesome as the veteran radiographers who are pros at their jobs but not so in control when it comes to personal issues.
While medical dramas about surgeons and ER abound, radiology really doesn't get much primetime attention as it doesn't lend itself as naturally to narrative tension and excitement, or even to human stories since radiologists tend to communicate with other doctors and not directly with patients. Many people might not even know that radiologists are doctors, and that they're the ones who interpret and report the imaging results to the attending doctor. The drama, as well, acknowledges this perception, with the radiology team constantly dealing with being understaffed and overlooked in the hospital.
By having an unconventional main character, Radiation House is able to generate that narrative tension and patient interaction conventionally needed for medical dramas. It may not be the most accurate representation of the radiology department, but Radiation House certainly provides an interesting and entertaining look into a crucial medical field.