Ray: The Animation, Complete Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Kiki Van de Kamp

Publisher: Maiden Japan
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Why can’t all medical dramas on TV have a hospital director that’s a pirate?

If you’re one of those who are familiar with the unusual renegade surgeon named Black Jack then you probably already know what to expect from a series that is connected to the good doctor’s world filled with mystery both medical and personal. In the Complete Collection of Ray: The Animation, however, Black Jack sits this one out as we are introduced to another surgeon who searches for the truth about her past and those connected to her in a unique kind of medical drama.

Several years ago, Black Jack plucked a little girl named Ray out of a secret hospital that the good doctor believes was raising children simply to harvest their organs. He tells Ray that she is free and that her future is entirely up to her since she has been given a unique gift. You see, Ray’s own eyes were surgically removed but Black Jack gave her special ocular implants that allow her to see through solid objects. So, the little girl named Ray Kusugano grows up to become a talented and beautiful surgeon who puts her special eyes to good use performing extremely complicated procedures with ease.

When we meet Ray again she performs emergency surgery on a woman who is caught in a gas leak explosion as she is aided by a young nurse named Misato who just so happened to be not far from the explosion. To Misato’s surprise, she discovers that Ray is the new surgeon in the hospital where she works. Ray comes off as a straight-to-business kind of woman who immediately takes an interest in a boy named Kenji who not only has a major medical problem that has him quarantined behind glass but has a special ability of his own.

The hospital, it seems, is the right place for Ray since the staff also includes slacker named Shinoyama who has a talent for creating medical equipment and implants as well as a trio of nurses who can handle themselves in the way of medicine and karate. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in a hospital where the director (a man they all call Director Sawa) is something of a pirate complete with eye patch and a peg leg)? At one point, the nursing staff and Director Sawa physically takes down a group of gangsters looking to silence a patient that Ray is working on in another room.

We follow Ray as she takes on some extreme cases where her steady hand and special eyes are needed such as the case they see in an ocean-side theme park where a patient is being kept underwater in a tank to keep the tumors from spreading so Ray must perform an operation underwater. In another case, a girl needs a transplant and asks her own big sister to sacrifice herself in order to stay alive. Then there’s an unusual case where a girl who seems to be possessed has a very unusual growth inside her that needs to be removed.

Aside from performing her duties, however, Ray continues to search for clues about her past as well as find out more about the mysterious group calling itself simply the Organization. It isn’t until Ray and Shinoyama meet a girl named Red Ribbon who Ray remembers was one of the children the Organization had raised alongside her. Red Ribbon’s sudden appearance also brings with it contact with the “Man with the H Ring” who Ray believes was the man responsible for what happened to her and all the other children.

In looking back at her fragmented memories, Ray recalls a boy named Koichi that she fell in love with during her long stay in the hospital. Of course, Ray never forgot the boy but comes to realize that she might actually have feeling for Shinoyama who is willing to follow Ray into dangerous situations. Even though Shinoyama won’t admit it, his feeling for Ray has him turn down a childhood friend who comes into their lives.

While the first part of the series covers Ray’s life as a surgeon as well as the friendships she forms while working in the hospital, the second half unravels the mystery behind Ray and the other children. In fact, it’s where the series really gets interesting as Ray comes closer to the truth about herself as well as what led the elusive mystery man to do what he did. Believe me when I say that it all leads up to a shocking and well-conceived finale. That’s actually quite impressive seeing as the series only lasts 13-episodes.

The great thing is that the series handles the drama superbly, only slowing the pace for the unusual medical procedures that Ray takes on in the early episodes. There are well-placed comedic moments as well, although it’s a bid strange to find the staff and the hospital director taking on an action role like their appearance in Episode 12. Still, it’s hard to complain about a series that has the perfect balance of drama, romance and humor throughout the series.

The Complete Collection of Ray: The Animation is a surprising and wonderfully conceived anime drama that rarely gets to be seen and that is a shame considering the fact that this series has it all. Pacing issues aside, everything from the characters to the main story come together perfectly as the truth is slowly revealed to us. Make no mistake, this isn’t your usual medical drama and that alone should make this a series you should definitely check out.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Saved from a mysterious hospital by master surgeon Black Jack, a girl named Ray gains special eye implants and grows up to become a surgeon herself. While she performs surgeries that save lives, she continues her quest to discover the truth about the Organization – the group that raised her and other children. What experiments were they running and who is the Man with the H Ring?

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series sports some excellent animation but the unusual procedures and ailments look appropriately gruesome and one episode will have you cringing at the sight of the spores. The CG mixed in to animation doesn’t look awkward either, which is a really good thing.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The opening and closing theme songs are actually really good and the original score by Masami Okui with God Speed makes those nail-biting moments really intense. The voice cast is strictly reserved for the original Japanese language track but you won’t complain with decent performances from the likes of Hiroki Takahashi (as Shinoyama) and Sakura Nogawa (who voices Ray) just to name a few of the talented seiyuu.

EXTRAS: D
Just about the only extras you will find here are the clean opening and closing theme songs and a trio of Maiden Japan trailers.

OVERALL: B+
Even if you’re not a big fan of medical dramas, the Complete Collection of Ray: The Animation will not disappoint or fail to hook you into its suspenseful 13-episodes. It’s good to jump back into the world of Black Jack again but Ray just makes for an even more interesting mystery that unravels before us an interesting manner. Plus, who doesn’t like karate nurses?

Review copy provided by Maiden Japan

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