Iryu Team Medical Dragon is a manga by Akira Nagai drawn by Taro Nogizaka, made into a four-season Live-Action Adaptation.
The series follows Dr. Asada Ryutaro, a Japanese heart surgeon who spent years working for an NGO in war-torn countries. He catches the eye of Dr. Kato Akira, another cardiac surgeon who works by-the-book even in a war zone in the middle of nowhere. Years later, when Kato is working on a thesis about a promising new surgical procedure called "Batista", Kato enlists Asada to head up her star surgical team. Asada, however, lacks any faith or investment in the Japanese university medical system and only reluctantly agrees to work for Kato.
Kato is caught between a rock and a hard place. In order to secure her professorship at the hospital, she has thrown in her lot with Dr. Noguchi Keno, who agrees to support her only as long as her thesis can help him fulfill his ambition to become the head of Meishin University Hospital. Vicious interdepartmental politics takes far greater precedence in Meishin's upper echelons than any other occupation — including saving lives and fostering the abilities of good surgeons and physicians. Nevertheless, Kato is given some leeway to assemble her Batista team... which means she leaves it up to the rebellious Asada, who is hard enough to handle on a good day. That's the rock.
The hard place, for Kato, is her rival Dr. Kirishima Gunji. Unbeknownst to Kato, Kirishima is working on the same procedure — and going about it in a far less ethical manner.
While Asada assembles his team one by one, he keeps himself busy by working in the hospital's ER. The head of the ER, Dr. Kitou Shoko, desperately wants to poach Asada from the cardiac department: his skills are exceptional and his position tenuous at best. Asada, Kato, Kitou, Noguchi, and Noguchi's rival on the hospital board engage in a delicate game, for on top of all of this, Asada wants Kitou's natural-genius anesthesiologist Dr. Arase Monji for his team.
Meanwhile, Asada must collect and keep the best and brightest people he can find. His first teammate is Satohara Miki, a nurse who worked under him in the NGO. The second addition is Dr. Ijuuin Noboru, an intern who has yet to be corrupted by the politics and shenanigans of the hospital, but lacks confidence in his skills or the ability to act independently. Dr. Fujiyoshi Keiji joins after his own heart condition requires Asada to operate on him. Kato herself is added as first assistant.
Once the team is assembled, their troubles only multiply.
Team Medical Dragon was serialized in Big Comic Superior from 2002 to 2011, amassing 25 volumes overall. It received the 50th Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga in 2005. The story uses a cast of characters and focuses on many problems prevalent in medical care, such as human error, anticancer agent treatment, hospital infections, and a troubled health care system.
The series provides examples of:
- Always Someone Better: Asada is such a skilled surgeon that no one else in the hospital can ever hope to catch up with him. This comes to bite him when he performed a surgery on a gastric ulcer patient without without performing complete gastrectomy on the patient, when such would be the standard practice. Asada's operation was a success, but when the patient was sent to the Digestive Organ Department and suffered complications, the less-skilled surgeons were unable to perform Asada's feat and the patient died of blood loss. This would not have happened if Asada had just performed the gastrectomy as expected.
- Apple of Discord: Kunitachi's offer to get Asada into UCLA serves this for the Team.
- Batman Gambit: The electoral reform plan.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: The heroes are all quite good-looking, especially Asada, Katou, Miki and Ijyuuin. And the "good" doctors who still cares about the patients' well-being rather than politics (such as Fujiyoshi and Nakada) are still drawn nicely even if they aren't exactly Bishōnen. Meanwhile, the sleazy doctors, such as Kihara, Noguchi, and Sofue are... significantly less attractive.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
- Asada. He was fired earlier because of his Jerkass nature, but was hired by Katou because of his skill.
- Dr. Arase is a drunk and abuses anaesthetics, but his uncanny ability to monitor and maintain a patient's condition and knock out anyone precisely by the count of seven gives him the Ultimate Job Security.
- Celibate Heroine: Katou swears off marriage and starting a family because it would get in the way of her desire to reform the Japanese medical system. Not to mention, the only guy she's ever considered marrying now has his own family.
- Commitment Issues: Asada values his freedom and independence, and hates being tied down by bureaucracy. He comes to Meishin under the stipulation that he's only staying until Katou manages to reach her goal, and eventually leaves to return to NGO after the professorship elections is over. Even though he comes to see Ijyuuin and the rest of the Batista Team as True Companions, he remains adamant that he will not be staying at the hospital.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: One of the main themes of the show is how Japanese university medicine is caught in a stranglehold relationship with pharmaceuticals companies and medical device manufacturers.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Batista operation, after a fashion. Since it's about operating on a beating heart, it is incredibly dangerous, easy to botch and in fact has a high mortality rate.
- A Day in the Limelight : Each character who joins Asada's team gets an episode revolving around them before they join.
- Despair Event Horizon: For Kihara, after his mother gets badly injured in a car accident, and the only one that can save her is Asada, and he's busy in the Batista.
- Determinator: Ijuuin, who is trying to carry blood into the hospital, in the middle of a terrible storm, and with a broken arm.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Upon first seeing the amply-endowed Miki walking by, Dr. Kihara is so distracted that he has trouble with the routine phrase "good morning".
- Drowning My Sorrows: Arase extricates exorbitant amounts of money for his services only to literally piss it all away on alcohol to drown his guilt over being involved in a drug trial that resulted in numerous patient deaths.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Professor Noguchi is easily the most despicable character in the series, being the worst embodiment of the ambitious Corrupt Corporate Executive among Meishin's higher ups. However, he does have a genuinely loving relationship with his wife, and this ends up redeeming him when Noguchi eventually gives up on his ambitions and retires to enjoy the remaining days of his life together with Sakie.
- Evil Former Friend: Kirishima and Asada used to be good friends, until Kirishima framed Asada of a medical malpractice that eventually led to Asada's exile.
- Face Death with Dignity: Explored with a terminal lung cancer Patient of the Week, who was given an experimental anti-cancer drugs that causes her immense pain. After realising that she has cancer, both the patient and her husband decides to move to a hospice instead, and the picture of her taken before her death shows that she is much happier there than in the hospital.
- Face–Heel Turn: Faked handily by Ijuuin to secure a reliable line of information from Kirishima on the hospital's dicey political situation long enough for the Batista team to execute the third procedure.
- Family Versus Career: The medical profession in Japan is so demanding that people who wants to go far in their career is constantly made to choose between spending time with family or focus on their work.
- Dr. Katou swears off marrying and starting a family, because she wants to focus on her goal to reform the highly obstructive medical system in Japan. She used to have a boyfriend, but her dedication to her career prevents her from having any meaningful love life with him, so they break up, and he goes on to marry someone else.
- Dr. Fujiyoshi, a single dad, has to leave his young daughter in the care of her grandparents because his work takes up most of his time. He briefly considers leaving Meishin to be closer with his girl, but ultimately decides that his skills and talents are more needed in Meishin.
- Dr. Isaka's husband wants to have a child, but Isaka herself isn't too keen on the idea because she fears the repercussions that she will face from the other women if she takes a maternity leave.
- Dr. Beppu, another single dad, has to juggle between taking care of his patients and his sickly son. Choosing one would often get him into trouble with the other.
- First-Name Basis: Miki is just about the only character who is referred to by her first name on a regular basis. Asada also calls Kirishima by his first name, perhaps an indicator that he still considers the latter as a friend.
- Gender-Blender Name: Dr. Katou's first name is Akira, and she has been mistaken as a man by people who only knew her by name.
- Gentle Giant: Fujiyoshi is the largest member of the Batista team, and perhaps largest doctors in Meishin. But he is also the best at caring for post-op patients to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible, and that their needs are properly met.
- George Jetson Job Security: The characters spend the entire series working under the looming threat of being fired or exiled to branch hospitals even as they perform successful surgeries, save lives, and expose dangerous negligence and malpractice.
- Good Doc, Bad Doc: The main conflict driving the plot of the story is the confrontation between those medical professionals who want to keep the corrupt system the same and value their own advancement and salaries over patients' lives and those willing to risk their careers in order to help patients ethically.
- Informed Attribute: The Batista procedure is described as defying even the exquisite skills of only the topmost genius surgeons, but the actual surgeries end quickly and experience only peripheral complications.
- The Intern: Ijuuin is "the intern", but rather than being bright, naive, and ambitious, he's paralyzed by the terrible atmosphere of the hospital's ruthless politics and plagued by doubt in his own skills.
- Internal Reformist: Dr. Akira Katou is trying to reform the Japanese medical system by getting on the board of directors of their hospital.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Kirishima denounces Asada's style as too flashy and cutting edge, and other surgeons have tried some of those techniques with disastrous consequences. Kirishima instead advocates for safe and proven methods that any surgical team can do.
- Last-Name Basis: Most people in the medical field don't see each other as friends, so very few actually know anyone else's first names.
- Like a Son to Me: Since Katou used to date Noguchi's son, Noguchi sees her as something like a daughter. Although he fights her when she keeps on going against his orders, they manage to reconcile after Katou saved Noguchi's life by operating on him after Kunitachi's procedure failed. He gives her his support for the Elections and offers her (in a roundabout way) some advice and encouragement about how she should manage her professorship.
- Miser Advisor: Arase, the anaesthesiologist. In fact, he's only on the team until the next Batista operation because Asada paid him to do so.
- "Not So Different" Remark: Asada with surgery and Noguchi with boardroom politics. They can both be pretty Machiavellian when it comes to achieving their goals. The kicker is that both of them acknowledge it and become besties over dinner.Noguchi: You have a lot of things going for you. Strong leadership, a self-righteous personality that affects people, and such stubbornness and determination that you won't stop until you achieve your goals. You resemble me the most.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Noguchi and the rest of the hospital board. The board is outright stated to be democratic in name only, as it will vote for whomever Noguchi cares to nominate for a professorship. In fact, hospital politics are possibly the main focus of the story.
- One of Our Own: Fujiyoshi and his daughter have congenital heart defects. At first, Fujiyoshi refuses to let Asada operate on his daughter because he considers it medically unnecessary. Naturally, it's Fujiyoshi himself rather than his daughter who collapses on a sidewalk and must be operated on by Asada and Ijuuin.
- Patient of the Week: There are three Batista cases, but Asada et al get night shift emergencies every once in a while. The Batista cases are pretty much forgotten as soon as their operations are over. Each of Asada's team gets their own POtW: Ijuuin takes charge of a terminal lung cancer patient being abused for drug trials, Kato must decide whether to take on the hospital's former head nurse as a Batista case, Arase has to save the life of the bartender at his usual joint, and Fujiyoshi is a twofer, being himself the Patient of the Week and having a daughter with a heart condition.
- The Rival: Dr. Kirishima is first introduced as a rival surgeon who is also doing research on the Batista procedure like Katou, and later comes to Meishin to usurp her position as Noguchi's successor.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: In one arc, Ijyuuin braved through the storm and traffic in order to collect some blood tranfusion packs for a VIP patient he's (partially) in charge of, even getting severely injured when he gets into an accident on his way back to the hospital. Unfortunately, the patient dies before Ijyuuin could get back to him. In a more uplifting note, however, the blood that Ijyuuin brought was used to save another patient, whom Dr. Nakada was treating, meaning all that effort wasn't a complete waste, after all.
- Supporting Protagonist: Even though Asada is without doubt the star of the show, most of the Character Development is focused on Ijuuin, a young intern Asada took upon himself to "mentor".
- The Starscream: Kirishima is the professor candidate that Noguchi brought in to Meishin and was banking on to make Katou fall from grace. Then, when stronger candidates begin to make appearance, Kirishima tries to force Noguchi to retire earlier than planned.
- Sweet Tooth: Asada enjoys binging on desserts and cakes, and after leaving Meishin would often badger Arase to buy him desserts. Miki also recalls that he'd often bring cakes over when he visits her and her brother, but would always buy more for himself, and notes that he'd probably get diabetes soon.
- Technician Versus Performer : Ijuuin would go by the book if it weren't for Asada browbeating him into doing things in increasingly improbable but necessary ways. Also, Asada and Ijuuin are able to detect the diseased parts of a heart by touch, but Technician Kato can't and completely derails her original thesis topic towards finding a method that doesn't rely on intuition.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Kirishima starts off as a manipulative and conniving jerkass who embodies the worst corruptions of the Japanese medical system. However, after he reconciles with Asada, and bonds with Kihara, Ijyuuin and Kunitachi's son, he drops most of his arrogance and genuinely grows to care for others. Ijyuuin later acknowledges that while Asada's wild Sink or Swim Mentor style would help him grow better, the steady and reliable guidance that Kirishima offers is the one he'd rather emulate. In the epilogue, Kihara also calls Kirishima as a compassionate person.