The Anime White Coat Conundrum

If you’ve taken a look at my profile, you’ll find that I’m trying to get into medical school when I’m done with college. While the idea of a doctor commanding large amount of respect and monetary well-being has seemed to be less of a truth recently than before, it’s still a noble cause to strive for. And one of the iconic items a doctor has is his/her white coat, as that item alone makes the doctor, and in another aspect, the scientist; credibility increases many fold, and assurance comes to all who see it. It’s an honorable thing in real life, yet it’s annoying for me to see this honor being misused in anime, and I’m sure it has also been noticed before.

An exception to the rule, especially since he almost never wears white.

Whether it’s Icchan in Angelic Layer, Dr. Tofu in Ranma 1/2, or even old-school Dr. Tenma in Astro Boy, somehow possessing the white coat always seems to make main characters with those jobs abnormal in some way, shape or form. Be it a debilitating obsession for another character (in Tofu’s case), a misguided zeal for love/power/prestige/what have you (check out the old Mermaid Forest OVA for a good example of that, if you can; expired licensing and VHS/LD format only notwithstanding… :P), or just plan randomness (ICCHAN GO BOOM!) for examples, people who seem to help anime humanity always have some foible.And while it’s funny and awesome to watch at first in small doses, it’s kind of irksome to see the Xth mad scientist/doctor attempt to operate on a unwilling patient to see how they work/be the main misguided villian blinded by science and whatnot. People that seem to buck this change or transcend those means are few an far between, but are always nice to see (Black Jack come to mind for me here, and I’m sure there are more). And even then, those rare individuals still have some quirks attributed to their character.

A genius in mechanics, not in society.

I also wonder what motivates people to continue to utilize this archetype with little modification. Maybe it helps people relate to them somewhat, and maybe come to care for them. Since doctors and scientists are seen as smarter than most, the bizarre traits help mitigate this factor, since we all are a little bit strange in our own way. Or it could be that on their own, these people behind their occupations seem boring and thus need some spicing up. It could also be an example of negative social commentary, maybe being that someone who devotes their life to helping people always has something wrong with them. Who knows?

Regardless, it is interesting to think about or at least for me to rant about. 😛 The people with white coats can be normal people too, even in anime. :3

A little randomness is all well and good, but I’m sure the octopus agrees that too much is offputting.


7 Responses to “The Anime White Coat Conundrum”

  1. 1 Lainforce April 10, 2007 at 1:23 am

    I think anime doctors tend to have this sort of reassuring presence that gives them a certain aura. Like a Mr. Fix-it.

    Dr. Tofu could solve basically every problem, and he had a quirky personality. Maybe that’s why he’s one of my favorite characters in Ranma.

  2. 2 shinji April 10, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Doctors have also been widely used in hentai flicks. Just the same the character seems to portray someone who commands respect and at the same time mysterious..

  3. 3 Babel April 10, 2007 at 6:12 am

    The problem with the white coat is that it’s too generic – it is worn by people in so many different jobs and professions, from bakery workers to researchers, though on the whole it’s seen as a mark of someone in a responsible position. Although as you rightly point out, many who wear this ‘uniform’ do nothing but good for those around them and the world in general, there are of course the few who engender the negative connotations we all see so often in anime. I think that is simply a function of the importance of what many who wear the white coat do in our society – they are the movers and shakers of the world in many ways, and they are responsible for introducing new and previously unknown concepts to us. Unfortunately, we have an inbuilt fear of the unknown and anything we cannot understand. I think we often see these individuals as ‘meddlers’ simply because of the difficulty in understanding what they do – a factor which is played upon by the media (we all know how much the news people love a ‘mad scientist’ story).

  4. 4 Pete Zaitcev April 10, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Dr. Tofu is mostly seen in gi-type martial arts uniform. I do not recall seeing him in a doctor’s coat even once, although it might have happened.

  5. 5 thebign April 10, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    zaitcev: I could always mean it figuratively as well as literally (but retaking a look at Ranma shows that I made a little mistake). 😛
    But you get that I’m talking not solely talking about the coat, but the person that “wears” it, so to speak.

    Babel: I do think that we compensate for our lack of understanding by doing things to further increase that deficit, by which it won’t matter to us anymore. Being zany makes them more isolated from the “normal” people, or something like that.

    shinji: I would assume that most times in hentai, these doctors would be up to “no good”, or be much less inhibited than the normal person would be. On your other point, I do hope that that mysterious factor isn’t assumed to be something strange all the time.

    Lainforce: Makes it sound familial in a way. :3

  6. 6 mark February 27, 2008 at 12:19 am


    I am looking to purchase a coat such as Dr. Azuma wore in “Cashhern.” I don’t even know what it’s called. Can anyone help?



  7. 7 Link April 8, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I was skimming around the internet and found this post. I have a medical themed anime/gaming blog, and I too have found and discovered the multitude of amazing doctors and scientists in anime.

    Doctor Tenma from Monster however by far being one of my favorites. 🙂

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