Original Title: Dr. 倫太郎
Mental health is a relatively sketchy subject within the Asian context [The Global Culture of Eating Disorders], but the psyche is a complicated matter that gets even more complicated within a cultural background  — It’s not your Yang, it’s totally your Yin! — so I was skeptical about the approach a Japanese drama would have on the different mental maladies that would hover characters’ heads on a weekly basis in Dr. Rintaro.
Eternally squint-eyed and pursed-lipped expression Masato Sakai plays the mild-mannered psychiatrist, Dr. Hino Rintaro, also a teacher at the university hospital he works for, owned and promoted by the ambitious and geisha-loving Chairman Ennoji (Fumiyo Kohinata), who holds business meetings at his favorite Zashiki  with geisha Yumeno (Yu Aoi) and ex-geisha Yumechiyou Okaasan (Kimiko Yo).
Chairman Ennoji is about to close a murky deal for government funding, backed by his best doctors- surgeon Dr. Hasumi (Yutaka Matsushige) and head of psychiatry –and pill-pusher– Dr. Miyagawa (Keishi Nagatsuka), who sees Dr. Rintaro’s Kumbaya-methods for treating patients as a threat to his position at the hospital. Dr. Rintaro, however, has a loyal team of people — old pal lady-friend Dr. Mizushima (Michiko Kichise), nurse Kaoru (Yuki Uchida — ZING! Welcome to the Quiet Room connection!), and medical students Kawakami (Rin Takanashi) and Fukuhara (Issei Takahashi).
This ten-episode series directed by Nobuo Mizuta (No More Cry!!! , Mother) and written by Miho Nakazono (Hanako and Anne) has Kumbaya to spare, as day by day trustworthy Dr. Hinorin gets to appease his patients (and sometimes those around them) with tender love and care. Yes, Dr. Hinorin- make those gambling addicts sit down to do remorseful lines a la Bart Simpson. Having said that, I did find one of the storylines compelling; that of Yumeno’s relationship with her gambling-addicted debt-ridden mother Ruriko, played by Atsuko Takahata to extreme campiness and chilling horror. If there ever were an alternate Japanese adaptation of Batman, I’d like Takahata to play The Joker. Yes, please. Thank you. She was great against her pivotal scene with Sakai, and did wonders with her time against Yo and Aoi, who gets to play a D.I.D  patient with greater effectiveness in the second half of the series.
Debt is a pretty common plot device in Japanese shows [see Gokuaku Ganbo], and so is the irresistible male lead [think: Galileo]- everyone is in love or ends up smitten by Rintaro’s psychiatric magic and big closed-off heart, hitting its highest point when he becomes a TV personality (and they show you the way to the hearts and psyche of the Sasaeng fan!), despite the many would-be runs with the ethical board of a hospital. Oh, well.
Only recommended to hardcore Yu Aoi fans (like yours truly). I mean, she gets to be a geisha (like her role of Omoto in Ryomaden), there are lovely hints of her lovable Osen at the beginning, as well as a broader spectrum of Mina from her English role in Shunji Iwai’s Vampire. It’s definitely jump-started my fandom love.
Dr. Rintaro is avaiable through Hulu JP.