You might think, after hearing about a TV Series entitled The Bull Doctor, that the series would be about a veterinarian whose medical practice included bulls, cattle, and the like. You might think that the setting would be out in the American west, and you’d probably consider that the show would include some cowboys. If you thought any or all of the above, you’d be dead wrong – emphasis on the ‘dead’.
The Bull Doctor is a Japanese TV Series about forensic pathology – or the study of why a person or people have died. We have Makiko Esumi in the lead role as Dr Tamami Oodate (Oodate Sensei). She’s just been asked back to the Joto University Hospital to work as a forensic doctor – in short conduct autopsies. The last time I watched Makiko in a role, she played a brilliant surgeon who had the worst luck in finding a guy to be with. That show was called The Love Revolution (produced in 2001 but I saw it just a few years ago). This one is her first appearance in a TV series since 2007. Welcome back. ( Okari
Also on hand is Satomi Ishihara (below). I’ve seen her in a high school baseball TV series called H2 <(2005), as a nurse in the TV Series Ns’ Aoi (2006), as an athletic airline stewardess – sorry – cabin attendant/basketball player in The0 Flying Rabbits film (2008), as a high school teacher in the TV series Puzzle (2008), and one more – as a forensic medical student in the series Voice (2009). This time she’s a homicide detective working with forensic doctors. Go figure.
So what is this one about, besides the overview of forensics?
It seems that Japan needed a distinct overhaul to the laws and regulations surrounding autopsies and forensic studies. This drama goes a long way in that direction because as you will see – autopsies that should be done are often refused, autopsies that have been done are not always accurate, and more often than you’d think or like – Death certificates are either false or forged to hide crimes. So in this series, the guidelines for medical procedures and methodologies involving autopsies, the hospital administrative side to forensics, and the police investigative techniques are all put under the microscope
So the series is at once important and topical. Yes, that does mean serious. But this is not say that the series is all work and no fun. The series has romances, issues about raising kids, work related stress intruding on home life, some comedy, conflicts between the police and the forensic doctors, and some office politics. So it works as not only a medical series, a police procedural, but also as a family series. There are some fine actors and actresses who round out the ensemble cast making the series quite entertaining.
While the stories and cases are interesting yet somehow, they all manage to not get solved, or explained, until we are almost at the end of each episode, in sort of a brief summary. While the settings/locations are mostly in the forensic department itself as well as in the lab where the actual autopsies are done, often we go out to a crime scene. I liked the look of the series which involved lots of location settings, and employed a good many long lens zoomed close-ups which gave us the kind of very attractive facial images with indistinct, or blurred backgrounds due to the reduced depth of field settings.
I thought Makiko Esumi (above and below) showed a strong screen presence as the tough minded truth seeker who wore either the Doctor’s white lab coat, or the surgeon’s blue gowns most of the time. When she wasn’t wearing those, it was mostly jeans or slacks with that cute hat that see most often while she’s pedaling a bike to work.
On the other hand, Ishihara’s (below) role was more difficult. She’s good in the role, but she’s playing a young female homicide detective, who has some issues to solve away from being a cop. Meaning we buy into her as a character involved, a woman seeking to find her way, but not so much as a homicide detective. Of course she has a tough boss who never wants to see things correctly, or fairly, or even go along with her theories which could impact the department’s budget takes a hit each time the police command an autopsy. Oh those bureaucrats who complicate matters for her. Besides that, she’s involved with a doctor in the forensics department – Nakura Sensei, played by Goro Inagaki who played his role, through all 11 episodes in a manner that was so low-key that it was off-putting . While his character arc improved greatly by the end of the series, his acting did not. He was the weakest part of the series.
It had 11 Episodes and the broadcast period was from July 6th to September 14th in the Wednesday Night 10:00 PM slot.
I’ll close by telling you why the series was called The Bull Doctor. As I said up top, it was not about veterinary medicine. Instead think of the fact that Dr. Oodate was so concerned with finding the truth, and overcoming any barriers to the truth, that she operated like a human bulldozer steamrolling through the office, the lab, or over or through her colleagues. The terms stepping-on-toes or following orders were somewhat foreign to her; hence the title: The Bull Doctor.