Irabu the Psychiatrist (although it's generally referred to as Trapeze) is a series of short stories about psychology from 2002-2006 by Hideo Okuda and follows the misadventures of the psychiatrist Ichiro Irabu, his nurse Mayumi, and the several patients they treat at Irabu General Hospital. (Before you ask, his father owns the place. Could you imagine this guy running a hospital? ...brr.) Unlike other doctors, though, Irabu's eccentric treatments demand that his patients have to get worse before they get better.The short stories are compiled into three books: In the Pool, Trapeze, and Mayoral Election. However, only the first of these has been released in English. Ten stories from all three books were adapted into an anime in 2009 (also titled Trapeze) along with an eleventh, original story. Three stories from In the Pool were adapted into a film in 2005, the story "Trapeze" into a live-action made-for-TV movie in 2005, a stage play in 2008 and the first 2 chapters of each book into a (extremely obscure, crappy and supposedly disowned) manga in 2004, too, but you're probably here because of the anime.And don't you dare go making the assumption that this show was animated anywhere near normally. It makes viewers fear for their own mental health. The show has a surreal visual style with psychedelic colors, trippy imagery, constant art-shifts, and occasional live-action.
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In the Pool
"In the Pool": The story of Kazuo Omori, a man in the magazine business. Omori discovered swimming could help relieve his work-related stress, but there's a fine line between doing something for healthy stress relief and pathological obsession over it. Not to mention that he's got other things to worry about besides work. Adapted as the first plot thread of the film (and the only one to not depict treatment, because Omori doesn't go to Irabu until the movie's very end).
"Making a Stand": The story of Tetsuya Taguchi, a salaryman who, after dropping a book onto his morning wood, finds that it's become permanent. Adapted as the second thread of the film and the second episode of the anime.
"Cell": The story of Yuta Tsuda, a high school student with a texting problem. Adapted as the sixth episode of the anime.
"Double Check": The story of Yoshio Iwamura, a journalist. Iwamura finds himself wondering if he has OCD when he notices that he obsessively worries about whether he left the stove on (as in, missing a plane ride to run back home to make sure everything's fine). Adapted as the third thread of the movie (with a female protagonist, Suzumi Iwamura) and the eighth episode of the anime.
"Trapeze": The story of Kohei Yamashita, an aerialist who has problems accepting the new foreign aerialists who can't speak a damn word of Japanese and keep dropping him. Adapted as the first episode of the anime.
"Hedgehog": The story of Seiji Ino, a yakuza who has a case of OCD that manifests as a phobia of sharp objects. Adapted as the seventh episode of the anime.
"My Father-in-Law's Wig": The story of Tetsuro Ikeyama, a neurologist and an old friend of Irabu's. Ikeyama has been having compulsive Imagine Spots as of late of himself doing impulsive and often dangerous things. Adapted as the fifth episode of the anime ("My Father-in-Law's").
"Third Base": The story of Shinichi Bando, third baseman for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows who develops yips out of fear of the new kid. Adapted as the fourth episode of the anime.
"Lady Author": The story of Aiko Hoshiyama, a writer who is a woman. Hoshiyama is overcome with nausea whenever she brainstorms, wondering if she'd already used that plot. Adapted as the third episode of the anime; the protagonist is instead male (Junichi Hoshiyama) and the episode title is changed to match ("Romance Novelist").
"Owner": The story of Mitsuo Tanabe, owner of a newspaper and the baseball team the Mighty Japan Great Powers. Adapted as the tenth episode of the anime.
"Anpon Man": The story of Takaaki Anpo, a student at Tokyo University.
"The Business of Charisma": The story of Kaoru Shiraki, a narcissistic actress. Adapted as the ninth episode of the anime ("Talented Child Actor") with the male Hiromi Yasukawa as the protagonist.
"Mayoral Election": The story of Ryohei Miyazaki, a worker for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Meanwhile, the anime's eleventh episode is titled "Canary" and is an original scenario about Hideo Tsuda, an emergency room surgeon at Irabu General and the father of Yuta Tsuda from "Cell".
Afraid of Needles: Ino the yakuza. note Along with knives. And fish. And table corners. And Pocky. And literally anything else long and/or pointy. The needle phobia goes into pure Hilarity Ensues combined with Dr. Irabu's obvious needle fetish...
All-Star Cast: Mostly big voice actors, but Yumi Sugimoto (Mayumi) is a pretty popular one as well.
An Aesop: If you have problems, see a mental health professional.
Also, from the last episode: Pay attention to your relationships, those act as "canaries" for your sanity.
Animal Motifs: Although they may already be present, Mayumi's "vitamin shots" will always induce them with the exception of Tanabe and Hideo Tsuda who have different transformation problems. Yamashita the trapeze artist is a penguin; Taguchi the erect is a rhino (he'shorny); Hoshiyama the romance novelist is a chicken laying empty eggs; Bando the baseball player is a (racing) horse; Irabu's colleague Ikeyama is a chameleon; Yuta Tsuda the texting addict is a woodpeckernote specifically a flicker, a group of woodpeckers who drum on wood primarily as a mating call; Ino and his rival are both neurotic toy dogs (they come to have similar problems, namely Linus syndrome); Iwamura the reporter is a raccoon; Yasukawa is a performing sea lion.
Art Major Biology: Occasionally the details of a case break from reality for the sake of the story, although it's instantly noted whenever this occurs.
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Irabu. The least of his eccentricities is probably his fetish of the backflow of blood into a syringe.
Couch Gag: Every episode has end-credits artwork pointing to the subject of the next episode, ending with the patient ending up at Dr. Irabu's office and a promo for the next ep. Done in particularly hilarious fashion for the end credits of Episode 5/preview for Episode 6, featuring a patient with a texting addiction; and the preview for the episode after that, which is full of fish and doggy pawprints (the subject is...a yakuza).
Epiphany Therapy: An odd example, but it's definitely there. Rather, there are no loud, spectacular epiphanies, but the psychological problems seem to just quietly stop existing. Keep in mind each patient sees Irabu for, at most, a week, and we've been dealing with deep-seated stuff like obsessive-compulsive disorder and dissociative identity disorder. The series finale has an interesting example of epiphany therapy in that Irabu seems to just manually extract Hideo Tsuda's neurosis.
Though mostly averted in episode 8... As the patient's epiphany was more about learning how to deal with his OCD in the long run, and it's noted that instant cures do not always happen.
Evil Laugh: While Irabu is not evil per se, he definitely laughs like this.
Eye Scream: Ino wears a pair of goggles on the off-chance this trope might occur, since he's terrified of sharp objects.
Faceless Masses: More precisely, if you don't have a speaking part, you're a moving cardboard cutout. Pretty much lampshaded in episode 5, where a couple people on a train and a lecture hall full of college students suddenly become human with comical "pop" sounds just to gasp.
Gender Blender Name: There are two Hiromi Yasukawas in this series: a woman in the books ("Trade Show Model") and a man in the anime ("Talented Child Actor"). Apparently Mr. Yasukawa is a Mythology Gag. Lampshaded in the gg fansub ("They turned Hiromi from a female model into...Michael Jackson").
No Export for You: Only the first book, In the Pool, has been released outside of Japan, and that was back in 2006.
Older Than They Look: Tanabe, who looks maybe 30 but was a young man during the post-war reconstruction. Subverted; his post-traumatic stress flashbacks muddled how he perceived his own age. He's actually an old man like you'd expect.
Security Blanket: A yakuza has one in episode 7. The Predictable Yasu (rival ganglord to Ino) is shown to use a wakizashi as a security object.
Also Ino's skier's goggles in the same ep as prescribed by Dr. Irabu as a Magic Feather to treat Ino's sharp-objects phobia.
Shown Their Work: The narration is interrupted from time to time to Info Dump psychology facts relevant to the plot. In one case it's also used to point out something that wouldn't work in real life, but was used in-show for the sake of the storyline.
The Info Dump sessions are in part designed to remove stigma re mental health treatment. It's also interesting how there are slightly different diagnosis criteria between Japan and the USnote for example, most stuff that is noted as OCD in the various series is generally diagnosed as other types of anxiety disorders in the US; probably different standards between the DSM-V and the Japanese equivalent for psychiatric diagnoses.
Spirit Advisor: Irabu, to a degree. After Mayumi's shots, Irabu's patients see and talk to him everywhere; it only became obvious that he was in a place it was impossible for him to be in when he's shown on the baseball field with Bando...during a game.
Although he is there physically from time to time, as shown in episode 5.
And shown to especially hilarious effect in episode 7.
Super OCD: Two aversions out of three ain't bad...the one example, Iwamura,◊ didn't start off so extreme, though.
Also averted, with exception of Iwamura, in the anime.note Iwamura would probably be the sole patient classified as having possible OCD in the west; the others seen as having "OCD" would be seen as having generalised anxiety disorder.
Theme Tune Cameo: The anime uses instrumental mixes of various famous Denki Groove tunes, including the anime's opening, "Upside Down", as its soundtrack.
Trickster/Stealth Doctor: The closest one can come to describing Irabu. Half the time he drives his patients up the wall with his childish antics and hair-brained folk cures. The other half of the time he gives advice to the patients to take self-centered actions. All of this usually is intended for the patients to eventually reach an epiphany and help them help themselves.
Dr. Irabu's therapy consists of a combination of placebos (the infamous Vitamin Shots) and essentially encouraging his patients to embrace their inner child or at least their true feelings to the point of being a blatant enabler for this in the fourth and fifth episodes.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Yamashita's purple, Taguchi's green, Hoshiyama's red and yellow (possibly an aversion, since his actor has his hair colored the same way), and Bando is a sort of auburnish, but Irabu takes the prize—just look at him.◊