Welcome to Irabu's Office (TV)
I'm always up for new and interesting series that have never even crossed my mind before. And, I guess you can say that, I wanted to find something completely out of the box from what I normally review on any of the blogs I write for, including my own. Then came along a series that not only have I not heard of before, but it's probably one of the more "out there" series that I've ever seen in recent memory! It involves the most crazy of doctors, mental illness, and the most colorful and strange animation. And this series is called Kuchu Buranko... AKA Trapeze... AKA Welcome to Irabu's Office... It has a few names.
Eleven people, each of them suffering from apparently groundless physical symptoms, land at psychiatrist Dr. Ichiro Irabu's consulting room, in the hope of finding a sympathetic doctor, who listens to their troubles, gives them some pills, and with this, solves their problems once and for all. Instead, they find that Irabu is an eccentric person, with childish features and with little to no sympathy. He employs drastic and unheard-of treatments, and instead of counseling, he prefers to look at his patients' background personally. Despite his strange behavior and methods, he can always help his patients find the real causes behind their symptoms, while being amused at the awkward situations, which the patients get into by following his advice.
One of the first things people will notice while watching this series (aside from the fact that finding it legally is a pain in the butt since it's unlicensed in the states), is how utterly odd the series actually looks. There seems to be some kind of mix between animation and real world images/maybe some rotoscoping, a la Flowers of Evil. The real world pieces are used either for some backgrounds or for the patients and Mayumi in order to show real life facial expressions.... or to just show how hot and sexy Mayumi is. With the rest of the animation, it's full of bright colors and different patterns that manage to coincide with whatever the patient is going through in that episode. It's a rather interesting choice, and one that many may not find appealing. However, some viewers may have seen something similar to this before, and I'll explain why. First, the series is from Toei Animation, the same company that produced Sailor Moon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, and Mononoke. That last one may seem like an odd one to mention, but hear me out. Toei is very very well know to produce many of the shows we've seen as kids or have had a hand in the distribution of others. So, right away, the animation style of Irabu makes some sense. Now here's where it gets really interesting... The director of Irabu is Kenji Nakamura. Now he hasn't done a whole lot, but he has directing credit with [C] - Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility, Gatchaman Crowds, and (DA DA DA DA!!!) Mononoke. Now, if you've seen Mononoke or Bakeneko from Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, then the choice in animation now seems a bit more understandable. Irabu isn't the first time both Nakamura and Toei have gone in this kind of direction. Really the only major difference between these two series is Irabu's use of color in order to really counteract with the seriousness of the show's story.... Or at least some what serious.
Now, I've saved the big item to discuss for last because it is a rather serious topic. The series is about mental illnesses and the patients that go through treatment in the most bizarre of ways. All of the illnesses in this series are real, from OCD to Yips and even Phobias. What Irabu does is let us explore these illnesses in a rather light hearted way so as to keep from being overly serious in tone. And to help solidify the accuracy of the medical information, there is even a character named Fukuitchi that pops in via cut out doorway in order to halt the scene and explain the medical side a little further. Hell, this can be seen as a bit of a running gag as well, though it is also a rather informative one. However, there is one other thing this series does in order to keep it's comedic tone regardless of the subject. Remember those vitamin shots? Well, there's a reason for that. Every time Mayumi administers a shot to a patient, their head turns into that of an animal, and rather specific ones at that. After the shot, whenever the patient exhibits signs of his illness, his head naturally turns into his selected animal for, apparently, only Irabu and Mayumi to see along with the viewer. This is to help draw a kind of parallel between the behavior a certain animal has to whichever illness is plaguing our patient of the week. So if you have a phobia, you may end up with the head of a yippy dog. If you are a bit of a narcissist then you're a seal. Insomnia? Well, have a penguin head! By creating this parallel between the mental illness and animals, it adds to the comedic quality of the series as well as make a commentary on basic human and animal instinct. As weird and odd of a show this is, it actually does have really good commentary on mental illness. It takes those mental illnesses to extremes sometimes, but it's still a decent commentary on them none the less.
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