By Kappei Matsumoto and Hakua Nakao. Released in Japan by Futabasha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Action. Released in the United States by Futabasha on the JManga website.
Sometimes you buy a manga for a striking cover, or because of good word of mouth, or because you enjoyed the works of the author previously. And sometimes you simply have to buy a manga because of the title. That was definitely the case with Anesthesiologist Hana, one of Futabasha’s seinen offerings that, true to its word, is the story of a young doctor named Hana and her days working at a local hospital as an anesthesiologist.
While the precise genre of anesthesia manga may be unfamiliar, it becomes apparent on reading this manga that it’s the latest in a long line of workplace seinen, the sort of story that shows our everyman (or woman, in this case) hero and their struggles as they strive to do their thankless job. There are times when it seems to get overwhelming, or they think about quitting, but that never happens, because they grow to understand the importance of their job, and learn to take happiness in it.
And that’s pretty much what you get here. Hana is a young doctor who’s been with her hospital for about three years, and has come to learn the thanklessness that comes with it. In the first chapter, she even tries to resign, though can’t quite follow through with it. The surgeons she works in the operating room with are either obnoxious jerks who call her incompetent or sexist boors who try to cop a feel. The hours are mind-numbing and they’re constantly short-staffed. She rarely sees the sky, eats cup ramen for most meals, and her love life is zero. Most importantly, the job is thankless; everyone loves the surgeons who perform the operation, or doctors in other fields such as ophthalmology, but an anesthesiologist is only singled out if something goes wrong and a patient is lost.
Nevertheless, Hana manages to keep herself going – mostly. She has a grumpy, cynical older sister friend and a bubbly, more naive younger sister type who are her two fellow female anesthesiologists. Her boss is stern but overall a good-hearted guy. And one of her fellow doctors, though a bit weird and suspicious, is even quite handsome – and seems to notice the good qualities in her, possibly as he feels he’s lost them in himself (he has a somewhat sad backstory). The chapters are mostly episodic, but as the series goes on we do see the cast all banding together to help each other out, much like any good workplace.
There is a lot of focus on the actual ins and outs of anesthesia. Sometimes a bit too much – the manga can get a little dry at times, and it has to be careful not to look like a textbook, a la Stone Bridge Press’s ‘Manga Guide To’ series. I have no medical education, so have no idea how accurate everything really is. But it seems accurate. This isn’t a fantasy comic book world where you can always tell the psychics by their nosebleeds. The manga goes into great detail about exactly hat Hana has to do and watch out for, and the inherent dangers involved. There’s even a chapter discussing drug use, and how it’s not just using drugs properly for anesthesia, but keeping an eye out for drug takers among the staff that can be a problem.
Despite being a seinen title, there’s surprisingly little fanservice – Hana takes a shower in the first chapter, and is quite busty, though not overly so; she’s also groped a couple of times. The author’s notes make it clear that they had an original idea of making the hero a male doctor, but the editors told them to change it to a busty female. Not unsurprising; this kind of story, with all its exposition, earns more charm points by having a cute young woman as our viewpoint character.
Overall, I enjoyed this first volume. It can be very dry at times, and is never going to be incredibly exciting. But I feel I’ve learned an awful lot about anesthesiology, and I want to know more about Hana and her ongoing adventures (is she going to hook up with sexy doctor? Or is he just a mentor figure?). If you like workplace medical shows, give this a try.