Doctors: Saikyou no mei (Seasons 1 and 2)

Crusading doctors are certainly nothing new in the J medical staple -- doctors who are renegades, confrontational and do their best (or worst) to buck the system that they are forced to work in. Kosuke Sagara, a surgeon specializing in gastroenterology, is no different in that respect. However, aside from being the ultimate surgeon, he is a brilliant strategist bordering occasionally on the Machiavellian. Underneath that cloak of smiling affability that wanders around Dougami General Hospital, is a ruthless manipulator whose chief goal is to transform a mediocre hospital into a world class facility. Fortunately, for the hospital and its inmates, this meddling doctor is on the side of the angels and his clarion cry is "everything is for the sake of the patients".

J-medical dramas are almost never just about medical treatments. There's the usual team building and recruitment process as well as the moralizing about the supremacy of patient care. What's different though is the hero of the piece who uses every weapon at his disposal to make sure that his ideal of good medical practice and his own survival is maintained at every turn.

Despite the good doctor trading in some morally dubious tactics, it's impossible to dislike Ikki Saramura's charming portrayal of Sagara. Saramura plays all the different aspects of the surgeon with an understated brilliance and invokes our sympathy for his connivances especially when his main rival is such an obvious lightweight. A buffoon as you will. Suguru Moriyama, successor to the Dougami hospital, has the potential to be a great surgeon but lacks any shred of self-awareness for genuine change much less have any nous to run a hospital.

Season 1 sees Sagara transform Dougami from a three ring circus into a quality medical facility through his machinations. It's all done gently and subtly, without fanfare and before anyone else knows what's happening. From poor work ethic to disputes with nurses, the doctor steers the ship slowly, slowly catchy monkey. On top of that I've never seen anyone so chuffed about getting cancer but Sagara even manages to deploy that to shake things up within the team.

Season 2 delves into the the succession issue. The incumbent director of Dougami is desperate to retire and take a round the world cruise but her immediate successor is not up to the task and the whole world knows it. After some clever manoeuvering in the background with no substantive progress, Sagara throws down the gauntlet and puts his hand up as a contender. This brings Sagara into conflict not only with Moriyama and his sycophantic lackeys but with those loyal to the director. In spite of the mammoth task of continuing transformation, Sagara shows repeatedly why he is the master of the game.

It's a terrific show and my only complaint is the paltry number of episodes. There's even hints of romantic possibilities between Sagara and nurse Miyabe which may or may not be one-sided. The cast is good overall and there's the usual jdrama hamming around but all in all it's a blast. Bring on Season 3!