Kai Byoui Ramune (Dr. Ramune -Mysterious Disease Specialist-) is filled with over-the-top shenanigans and zany humor amidst impossible scenarios. One might consider it a rather dumb but nice show with goofy characters telling you to talk about your feelings, something people can generally get behind. But through a veil of whimsical fantasy and extremely unlikely scenarios, Dr. Ramune can spread important messages to people who might otherwise be unwilling to pay attention. Many countries could respond to mental health issues better and Japan is no exception.
Commonly Overlooked Issues in Society
Most people will look at Takaharu with his chili nails and his secret ikemen looks and think ‘what a silly problem, that wouldn’t happen!’ But while a collective society can have its merits, it also certainly has its downfalls. Takaharu’s refusal to overshadow his friend seems a misguided but valiant attempt to protect his friend, but standing out in Japanese society as anything other than normal can have some very dire consequences. Bullying can be relentless if you do not act and perform like ‘normal people’ and thus forces people to downplay or hide their unique traits, even sometimes their exceptional abilities. Artistic and musical abilities are often undervalued in favor of factory or company skills as showcased by Shun’s father.
On the opposite end, talented children like Koto are almost punished for being exceptional. It’s not enough to succeed, they must constantly be pushing and maintaining high levels regardless of their health or dreams. Especially when it comes to education, children from a young age are expected to spend hours at school and hours on homework, and often children go to cram school after. Japanese students have a 60 day longer school year than American children.
The Treatments Force Others to Take the Disease Seriously
Depression and anxiety result in ‘sad’ behavior or ‘nervous’ behavior that healthy people commonly believe can be alleviated by working hard or powering through. When it comes to general hard work, collapsing and getting a fever are nearly romanticized and it’s not until that moment that people will tell you to stop working so hard and take it easy. Silent suffering is praised in a society that overworks its populations to where it’s not uncommon to see people asleep on trains and sidewalks after grueling hours.
The whole point of most of Ramune’s remedies is to highlight the danger of the disease rather than to cure it. This forces both the sufferer and those that love him/her to see that the disease is in fact, a danger to his life and must be alleviated to save them. He puts the patient’s life or body part on the line to force healthy change that can’t be ignored. Invisible illnesses can be ignored but the loss of your voice or you d*ck is pretty universally regarded as bad and must be cured!
Helping or Hurting, Family Can Play a Huge Role
One of the things Dr. Ramune does well is the use of either terrible or hilarious examples of parents like Toko’s controlling mother or Shun’s adoring but demanding father that won’t immediately anger parents by seeing themselves in those characters. And while these examples are very out there, it’s important to show how loved ones, despite good intentions, can really harm others.
While Shun’s dad wishes for his son to take over his company because he wants Shun by his side, the dad is effectively killing what makes Shun so special by burdening him with these desires. Rio’s mother’s own issues are completely understandable after losing a child. However, her refusing to face them causes Rio to suffer even though she loves him very much. Even Kuro’s loving, close-knit family was right by him while he was dying. Their blind trust in him to resolve his own issues made it impossible for Kuro to ask for help. So many well-meaning family members are right there but overlook their children’s pain.
While Japan isn’t totally stagnant on mental health care, there are some causes for concern. Tatsushi Sakamoto was appointed to the new role of Minister of Loneliness to address mental health issues. But, seeing as he’s already in charge of rectifying Japan’s declining birth rate, it’s likely a large focus on ‘healing’ will be in finding a partner and starting a family, a suspicion further implied by the title. This is more sweeping symptoms under the rug instead of addressing issues head on. Dr. Ramune’s zany characters and supernatural diseases allow people to see mental illness in a different, almost light-hearted way. Something ever-present and consuming that can’t be fixed by any other means than proper medicine and honest communication. As more people associate Dr. Ramune with laughs and good feelings, hopefully, the stigma towards mental health will also decrease.