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.
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.
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