Some people say that the best way to solve a problem concerning internal conflict is to talk to someone about it. Whether this proves true or not is to be decided by those with said conflicts, but even so, who should one of these people talk to in order to ease their conscience? Friends, family, strangers, celebrities? These are all likely possibilities, but what is debatably the most regarded choice in the matter is the local psychiatrist. People believe that because psychiatrists have a degree in psychology or study in the field of human development and interactions that they’d make a suitable choice to fix one’s mental problems, because they would know what was going on in their minds. However, if Kuuchuu Buranko is any indicator, every patient has the exact same problem, and the doctor who’s responsible for their treatment doesn’t have to stray far in order to combat their inner struggles.
What those who choose to watch this series will immediately notice from the beginning sequences is that it’s bizarre. It is bizarre in the sense that the animation switches between standard animation and live-action, and some of the imagery is so vivid and bright that they would think they were in a dream. Along with some scenes that don’t make sense, Kuuchuu Buranko begins as a lost cause. To the unknowing, the series is just a mess of random characters doing unusual things with a single individual being guided by a doctor in a bear helmet. If one chooses to continue the series, the events that transpire within the first episode begin to unwind into a chronological system, wrapping and binding each and every character to ever visit the doctor into one central setting. Through whimsical determination, the plot of this series dances around our own image of a continuous, straight-forward story progression and shows that there are other ways to mend a conceivable plotline than previously possible. And it’s all possible due to the star of Kuuchuu Buranko: Dr. Ichiro Irabu.
When thinking of doctors, one would expect them to be clean, fresh, professional, and straight to business. Dr. Irabu is the exact opposite of all of these traits, which automatically makes him a cliche character. However, this kind of cliche is easy to like, seeing as his charm comes from the combination of his uncharacteristically child-like antics and the pure intentions behind them. While his role in the show is to push the plot forward and to help his patients recover from their problems, the beautiful thing about this anime is that he isn’t shown too much. When it comes down to it, he’s a psychiatrist, and his job is to help his patients. By taking this role, he becomes only a side character when compared to his patients, the real stars of each individual episode. However, due to his forms of treatment, it’s hard to form any sense of satisfaction after his patients find peace within themselves at the end of each episode, seeing as his methods only serve as a stepping stone to make way for the patients to figure out their quirks themselves. Again, this could be another example of his role as the doctor, which only makes him less obnoxious as a character in general. Not to mention, he’s genuinely funny.
While Irabu and his patients are the driving force behind the story’s progression and likability, there are notable side characters that also deserve some recognition. Mayumi, Dr. Irabu’s “sexy nurse,” is normally shown through live action shots, which make her more attractive… to some. She assists Dr. Irabu with giving each patient of his an injection shot, which both of them take extreme pleasure in. Basically, she’s an assistant to comic relief. However, she also has individual scenes that give her a sense of humanism, albeit minimal. Then there is Fukuicchi, a doctor who spontaneously jumps out of mid-air to inform the viewer of facts that may not be apparent to everyone watching. He only serves as a fact machine and gives additional information towards each patient’s condition. For the most part, the things said are interesting, but nothing more.
Probably the most noteworthy thing one could take from this series is its direction in art style and animation. It likes to mix between standard animation and live-action within each episode, usually with each patient, but Mayumi is normally live-action and Fukuicchi is always live-action. The amount of symbolism present with its unrealistic design also comes into play. With each injection given to Dr. Irabu’s patients, said patient’s head (or other limbs) turn into that of an animal, which appear whenever they struggle with their condition afterwards. Each animal represents the condition each patient has in some way, which makes for an entertaining watch. The most bizarre of issues arise with this, as Dr. Irabu and Mayumi can see these animalistic transformations, but seemingly no one else can. Whether this is supposed to represent that they can see the struggles that the patients go through or not has yet to be confirmed, but it would be a plausible theory. Other than this, specifically with the last episode, there are also visual phenomena that represent the struggles that each patient goes through outside of the realm of possibilities. It’s usually dots, but other symbols are also used.
At first, I believed this series was so laced with symbolism that it was hard for me to concentrate on the story at hand, but with each passing scene, the story became so much harder to follow. It wasn’t until the end of the second episode that I began to realize that while each episode feels formulaic in general, it also tries to take its time to create an ever-lasting ball of yarn, constricting each and every character together into a single, amassed creation of creativity and dots. The phrase, “Good things come to those who wait,” is easily applicable to this kind of series, as Kuuchuu Buranko doesn’t try to force its strengths upon arrival. It has just enough appeal to lure in the audience with its artistic design, and keeps the audience watching through its attention to detail and symbolism. Seeing as none of the central characters change between episodes one and eleven, it’s hard for the viewer to feel impacted emotionally upon finishing the series, but it does provide an appreciative empathy for what truly matters: helping people in need.