[Challenge] #3 Review A Book/Movie/Anything

Book Review : Prayers in the Emergency Room
Original Title : 病室で念仏を唱えないでください/Byoushitsu de Nenbutsu wo Tonaenaide Kudasai)
Publisher : PT. Gramedia  Pustaka Utama–M&C

Today's Book Review: Prayers in the Emergency room
I’ve recently been reading a manga (or Japanese comic) entitled Prayers in the Emergency Room (Japanese: 病室で念仏を唱えないでください/Byoushitsu de Nenbutsu wo Tonaenaide Kudasai), from the mangaka Tamayo Koyasu. In Japan, it was released around 2012, and Indonesian book distributor PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama–M&C bought its translation license in 2015, before publishing the series in the whole nation in 2016. I’m interested with this book because it has unusual yet interesting premise; a doctor who is also a Buddhist monk. Along with various medical terms that give us more knowledge about this field, we can also see the Japanese culture and common mannerism clearly in this manga, and you might not be able to help to wonder if the same concept were actually performed in our own culture or not. At least that is how I feel, when comparing this manga to some cheap local soap opera in Indonesia.

Prayers in the Emergency Room is more of a light narrated kind of manga. It has fun elements but deep in meaning, for we are somehow given Buddhist wisdom throughout each stories about someone’s life and soul. However, since the story is one hundred percent set in the Emergency Room, although I have only read one and a half volume of the manga, I can say that it does not always end pleasant for everyone, even for the main protagonist himself.

The manga starts with an emergency phone call to Aoba Dai Hospital and Dr. Miyake looking for Dr. Shoen Matsumoto, the emergency doctor slash hospital chaplain—a clergyman officially attached to a branch of the military, to an institution, or to a family or court (defined from Merriam Webster Dictionary)—who is apparently reading Sutra for a patient who’s just died. The story then comes about from there on around how Dr. Matsumoto, who is rather idealist, always tries hard to keep his patients alive no matter the situation. He is very stubborn in his job and his own fathom saying that all lives matter no matter what they have done. This idea is developed from Dr. Matsumoto’s past trauma, where he watches his friend drowning without being able to do anything to save him. In favor to his dearest friend, Dr. Matsumoto persists in being a monk and an ER doctor at the same time.

Prayers in the Emergency Room Vol. 1 cover
Although Dr. Matsumoto is a monk, and we all know monks should not bound to worldly pleasure or carnal desires and ought to dedicate his life to the way of Buddha, he doesn’t follow Buddha’s doctrine; he still eats meat and drinks alcohol, as well as buying lottery and being angry with people that he finds iritating. When he was being asked why he’s still consuming those, the answer coming out of his mouth, nevertheless, as expected, is wise and holy-sounded, for instance, as quoted from his dialog in Volume 1, he said, “It is part of Buddhist teaching to respect foods and drinks by not wasting them away,”. He also shuts his annoyed friends down by saying, “Buddha also teaches to respect personal opinion. Thank you,” before running away. My favorite rebuttal from Dr. Matsumoto is when he’s confronted by the hospital’s Office Lady who says he’s too bounded to his worldly misfotune in Volume 2, and Dr. Matsumoto wisely replies, “Carnal passion provide motivation to all of us, it shouldn’t be stopped forcibly! By carrying out these carnal passions, passing through indecision and suffering, the way for those who seek enlightenment will be open.”

Other funny things that Dr. Matsumoto will unconsciously do are, for example, running down the hospital hallway wearing Hangesa—a garment worn by Japanese Buddhist monks—and patients who see him will be anxious and left wondering whether any mishap is actually happening, and reading Sutra in the dead of night and scare the life out of the patients, providing us with a good cackle.

Prayers in the Emergency Room Vol. 2 Cover
 As I have stated above, this light and fun manga also have grim side of its own. Some patients don’t make it out from the operation room, leaving their dearest family with tears behind. Some can pass through their situation. As naïve as he is, Dr. Matsumoto turns himself into some kind of magical creature—not literally, most probably because he’s the main antagonist—who is able to speak to the patients and their families regarding their condition. He can convince a resident doctor to save the lives of everyone who come in to the Emeregency Room without dividing them into ‘necessary’ and ‘unnecessary’. He also pushes his own value to a cancer patient, making the patient able to accept his condition and starts coming to the Prayer Room every afternoon.

I do state at some points about Japanese culture and common mannerism in Prayers in the Emergency Room. We see doctors bow to the patients family when they are given the permission to do operation, as well as they announce the final death of the patients to their family members. This manner exists in all aspects in Japan. You see, when you’re in a train car during a train trip to somewhere in Japan, you will see the train conductors and captains bow to you when they’re about to move from one car to another. The handling of patients is also very quick and effective. I don’t understand about standard operating procedures of medical treatments in hospital, but in my opinion, this common sense that is held firm by Japanese doctors in general should be applied to all doctors in the world.

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Finally, as a conclusion, this post should be a light review of a manga as a part of my writing challenge, but it turns out to be a goddamned essay. The feeling of writing this kind of thing reminds me of the time I was still a literature student, therefore it feels really easy the time I start typing this review’s first sentence. If I were to continue talking about Japanese culture as depicted in Prayers in the Emergency Room in this sort-of essay, this whole thing might be around 2500 words and I don’t want it. I can assure you one thing though: it’s a manga worth reading. Don’t ever think that mangas and comics are just for kids; your kids who read manga and watch anime, they might have higher life value than you are. Manga like Prayers in the Emergency Room teaches us to respect life and respect the creation of God, Buddha, whatever you believe is the Creator of Universe, no matter how sinful those humans are. And if you are a doctor or wanting to be one, remember that all lives matter. Values like this should be applied everywhere around the world, not just in Japan in particular. Therefore, go to Gramedia nearest your place now and buy this amazing manga right now!
Thank you for your time and attention and willingness to read this manga/book review. I still have plenty to write as my writing challenge is going. Let’s meet again the day after, in my next post, in the next, next, and next. Bye bye 💓💓

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