There are quite a few medical manga out there, covering everything from surgeries to disaster relief (Dr. Dmat). Radiation House (ラジエーションハウス), written by Tomohiro Yokomaku (横幕智裕) and drawn by Taishi Mori (モリタイシ), centers specifically around radiology, which involves the use of X-rays in diagnosing diseases such as cancer and osteoporosis.
Set in Amakasu General Hospital, Radiation House stars Iori Igarashi, a fresh medical radiology technician. For those as unfamiliar with the advanced medical terminology as I was, the manga provides some pretty detailed explanations. As a radiologist, Iori’s job is to diagnose patients’ sickness, and report them to the head doctor. Unfortunately, Iori is a bit clumsy, and has trouble reading people’s emotions, perhaps making him better suited for work in front of a computer screen, as opposed to interacting with patients.
Iori’s social ineptitude leads to awkward situations, such as his barging in on changing patients. He is the opposite of An Amakasu, a young but serious radiologist who develops into Iori’s love interest. As we soon learn, Iori’s decision to become a radiologist resulted from a childhood promise with An, who herself had desired to become a doctor. In a flashback sequence, she thanks Iori for his help in treating her first “patient,” an injured dog. The two children were separated following An’s parents’ divorce, but Iori eventually discovers her name on the hospital website, while job hunting.
While the story’s primary focus remains with Iori and An, the first chapter introduces a number of other radiologists. Hirono Hirose is a shy new technician at the hospital, Tamaki Kurohane is presented as a seductress, Gorou Nokishita is a short, perverted little guy, and Toshio Onodera, 51, is the cocky, chain-smoking veteran among the bunch. A recent arc centers around Hirono and her lack of confidence, which stems her time on a high school volleyball team. She must overcome her shyness to connect with an equally shy patient, a musician, whose music Hirono is familiar with. The remaining batch of radiologists introduced will likely provide for many more future arcs.
Following character introductions, the first few chapters center around problems diagnosing a senior patient. Advised by Iori to visit the hospital after chronic headaches, the patient is a photographer of stars and night skies. In a heartwarming conversation with Iori, of all doctors, the photographer describes how some important things can’t be seen by eye, so to speak. This concept of unseeable truths is essentially the premise of Iori’s specialty.
The difficulty in diagnosis stems from a distorted image of the patient’s brain, a problem that is explained in depth.. The radiologists suggest solutions, but each is unsuccessful, or poses greater risk to the patient, such as triggering an allergic reaction. While his colleagues remain frustrated, Iori discovers through a blood test that the view of the patient’s brain is being distorted by a parasite. From his own conversation with the patient about his photography, Iori surmises that the patient contracted the parasite while eating crab during a trip to a foreign country. After killing the parasite with medicine, they are able to take a clearer image of the patient’s brain.
Iori later receives a thank-you from his patient following successful treatment. In contrast to Iori’s childhood memories of An, and her gratefulness for his help in treating the dog, presently An seems more angry at Iori than anything, as he was able to diagnose where she had failed to. Iori and An’s relationship gradually evolves, especially while spending time together outside of work after coincidentally meeting while out and about. A whole set of chapters detail their awkward interactions during the outing, and is the story’s first departure from strictly medical-related drama. As is typical of many medical drama, Radiation House does well in balancing drama among the recurring doctors, with interesting and provoking backstories with non-recurrent patients.
Radiation House is full of medical jargon, accompanied by long descriptions that may have well been pasted from a Wikipedia page, but are interesting nonetheless. The manga is very much rooted in the real world, with actual locations, doctors and industry happenings frequently cited. For instance, Iori attended medical school at the Washington University School of Medicine, in the US. The second arc focuses on a patient with dense breasts, a condition that increases their likelihood for breast cancer. Although the issue remains understudied in Japan, new research is coming out of the US, which the manga describes in great length, with charts, photographs, and even information on Nancy Cappello, a doctor advocating for dense breast awareness, after her own battle with cancer. The series explores other complex issues, including differences between US and Japanese approaches to treatment.
The series doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter. Some results are happier than others, as is an early story of a couple, where a husband goes from devastated to overjoyed after learning that his wife’s cancer diagnosis was actually just a misdiagnosis. This was followed by a detailed backstory detailing how the oddly matched couple met, and their shared interest in video games. A grimmer case involves a busy career woman, who can not be bothered to have herself or her son regularly tested for cancer, despite the disease running in her family. Iori manages to convey to the bothered patient the importance of testing, after determining that she has dense breasts.
Writer Tomohiro Yokomaku’s attention to detail and authenticity in writing a career-based story is evident. His previous work, a detective manga called Smoking Gun, also ran in Grand Jump, and was eventually adapted into a largely unsuccessful drama. Stylistically, however, the two works appeared very differently, as both had different artists. While Smoking Gun’s art, by Syuji Takeya, has a dark and uniquely gritty vibe to it, Taishi Mori’s art in Radiation House is bright and upbeat, with larger-eyed, round and more simplistic anime-esque character designs. Though the art can be cute, and may give the series a more mainstream appeal, it is oftentimes over simplistic, with backgrounds that are minimalistic or, at times, just too blank- especially during periods of long medical talk. Luckily, the art shines best in color pages and on volume covers.
Another similarity between Radiation House and Yokomaku’s previous work is in the main protagonist’s noticeable quirkiness. A scene rendering Iori literally immersing his face into the inside of a screen while donning an orgasmic expression, metaphorically and brilliantly conveys his intense analyzation of overlooked diagnostic information, a trait that sets him apart from his colleagues. The manga serves up some other vividly emotional metaphorical imagery here and there, the most striking being from a nightmare of the dense breast patient, who watches horrifically as her breast deteriorates before her very eyes while her husband turns away to leave her.
Unfortunately, Radiation House’s greatest weakness is its tendency to drag. With all of the character introductions and medical talk, chapter 1 is a bit of a slog, but at least manages to end on a bit of a cliffhanger. The story’s slow pace becomes even more noticeable during the arc with radiologist Hirono and her musician patient, which continued to drag on even after the diagnostic problem, involving an unclear shoulder x-ray, was solved. Therefore, this series may best be read by the volume in bulk, as opposed to following the bimonthly chapter releases.
Overall the good outweighs the bad in Radiation House, and I can genuinely say that I have learned some new and interesting things from reading. Given the number of medical drama adapted from manga, and the adaption of Yokomaku’s Smoking Gun, I could see Radiation House also receiving a drama adaptation in the future.
Radiation House began serialization in Grand Jump Magazine in late 2015. The series is ongoing, with three volumes are available so far.