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God only gives us challenges so we can overcome them.
Jin Minakata is a neurosurgeon in contemporary Tokyo, living a life of guilt after an experimental operation he performed on his fiancee Miki two years earlier left her in a persistent vegetative state. The arrival of a severely injured emergency patient at the hospital where he works triggers a series of bizarre events that result in Jin finding himself flung over 140 years into the past, when the city was still called "Edo". Stumbling through a wood, he comes upon a swordsman and his servant being attacked. The attackers try to kill him since he's now a witness and the swordsman, Kyotaro Tachibana, rescues him. Kyotaro, the son of a samurai family, is severely injured during the rescue and Jin is forced to perform brain surgery on him with improvised instruments -- including, to the horror of Kyotaro's family, carpenter's tools.
But Kyotaro survives the operation and heals with no complications. His sister Saki is attracted to the mysterious penniless vagabond with the near-miraculous medical knowledge, and finds herself drifting into the role of Jin's assistant and student. And Jin finds himself called upon again and again to use his future knowledge to save lives, in the process giving 19th-century Japan not only new surgical knowledge and techniques but the miracle drug penicillin. But even as his reknown and reputation grows, he finds he also acquires enemies, among them the "traditional" doctors of Edo, who would rather destroy him and his methods than admit that they work.
Every step of the way he agonizes over the changes he must be making to the time he came from -- changes he can see, because he has with him a photo of himself and Miki that alters itself with almost every action he takes. And a time comes when he finds he must decide between being a doctor and a friend, or ensuring that his fiancee will even be born.
- Anyone Can Die: Several, including a prostitute who dies despite Jin's best efforts to save her (but does so with a dignity she would not otherwise have had), and Ogata-sensei, when his tuberculosis finally kills him.
- Arc Words: See the page quote.
- Con Man: The abortionist, who promised a seven-year repayment period for a loan Ryoma arranges to help Jin finance the penicillin production, but who actually put seven days on the written agreement -- and then tries to use it to gain complete ownership of the medicine.
- Cow Tools: While some of the tools of modern surgery already exist in recognizable form in 1860s Edo, the ones that Jin must have made often garner this reaction from both his associates and the craftsmen hired to create them -- at least initially.
- The Confidant: Saki, whom Jin tells of his origins and sometimes uses as a sounding board for his concerns about changing history.
- Cross Dresser: The actor to whom Kyotaro goes for help is part of a theatre tradition which employs cross-dressing males, and appears to enjoy cross-dressing off-stage as well.
- Deal with the Devil:
- The loan Ryoma arranges with the abortionist.
- The promise -- and execution -- of a public act of self-humiliation by Kyotaro in exchange for money from the actor to pay the abortionist.
- Delayed Ripple Effect: Jin uses a photograph of himself and Miki (in an obvious Shout-Out to Back to The Future) to track how badly he's disrupting future history. Unlike Marty's photo, though, Jin's doesn't show himself fading in and out, but his fiancee Miki -- and the location and poses in it change multiple times. And it vanishes entirely when Jin cures Nokaze's breast cancer.
- Disney Death: Ryoma, who falls into a river and is nearly washed out to sea during an assassination attempt. His friends and enemies believe him dead for several weeks before he makes his way back to Edo
- Fan Girl: Hatsune is the very-restrained 19th-century version, with her worship of an actor in an Edo theatre company.
- Geisha: Despite appearances to Western eyes, Nokaze and the other women in the Edo red light district are not geisha. They are courtesans, who have geisha training, but in addition to the entertainment services of a geisha they also provide sexual services, which geisha do not.
- Giving Radio to the Romans: Penicillin and medical treatments from the early 21st century in Edo-period Japan.
- Heroic Resolve: What carries Kyotaro through an act of unthinkable (for a samurai) public abasement before an actor (not the lowest possible social class, but not far from it) in order to keep the manufacture of penicillin from falling into the hands of a con man. Later, Jin tells him that what Kyotaro did was "the bravest thing I have ever seen".
- High Class Call Girl: Nokaze. Unlike the typical High Class Call Girl, though, Nokaze was raised from childhood to be a courtesan, and is kept a virtual prisoner in Edo's red light district by the twin forces of law and tradition.
- Historical Domain Character: Most prominently Ryoma Sakamoto and Koan Ogata ("Ogata-sensei"), but a number of other prominent Edo-period figures cross Jin's path.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Varying levels of expression and subversion among the courtesans and prostitutes of Edo's "red light district". Nokaze seems cynical and cold, but it becomes obvious that this is a mask of sorts; she is also a case of toying with the trope, as she yearns for Jin but by the end of season one knows she will not win him and heads out into the world alone. Also Hatsune, the nearsighted prostitute to whom Kyotaro is attracted.
- Identical Grandson: Nokaze and Miki. It's even a plot point.
- Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: Actively subverted by Jin at the end of season one, who decides to let Nokaze die of breast cancer instead of allowing events to transpire which might prevent the birth of his fiancee in the future.
- Jerkass: Jin, for most of the back end of season one, as he offends friends and colleagues, alienates the women who love him, and violates his oaths as a doctor in his desperation to ensure that Miki still gets born (and by implication, remains his fiancee).
- Jidai Geki: In-universe, Jin speculates that he's fallen into one (or a dream of one), until he is splattered by the blood of a murdered man.
- The Medic: Jin, who finds himself called upon for emergency medical treatment several times.
- Meganekko: Hatsune, a nearsighted prostitute given glasses by Kyotaro. Somewhat subverted in that she only wears them regularly for him.
- Messy Hair: Ryoma, constantly.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The sentiment (if not the intensity) expressed by Hatsune when she realizes how she had unintentionally broke Kyotaro's heart while ranting in a fever.
- Never Found the Body: Ryoma, after the assassination attempt on him. Mainly because he was alive but unconscious and washed almost out to sea by the river he fell into.
- No One Could Survive That: Not exactly said word-for-word, but pretty much the thought expressed by a group of assassins (and their bosses) after their target falls off a cliff into a river during the assassination attempt.
- Ojou: Saki, although an Edo period version rather than the modern one.
- Once Per Episode:
- Jin checking the photograph of himself and Miki.
- Jin angsting over something, usually changing history.
- Toward the end of the first season, the preserved fetus seems to open its eyes at least once an episode.
- Period Piece
- Please, I Will Do Anything!: Kyotaro, to an actor who can help rescue Jin (and the penicillin) from the machinations of a con-man.
- Samurai: The Tachibana are a samurai clan. And there are samurai extras almost everywhere.
- Screw Destiny: What several characters plus most of the audience are practically screaming at Jin toward the end of the first season.
- Secret Secret Keeper: Ogata-sensei deduces that Jin is from the future surprisingly quickly. (Later he reveals to Jin what he knows.) And toward the end of the first season, Ryoma overhears Jin's confession to Ogata-sensei's tombstone and learns Jin's origins.
- Shout-Out: Jin's photograph of himself and Miki is a clear shout-out to Back to The Future.
- Squick: Multiple depictions of surgery so realistic you'd swear they were filmed at a hospital. Lots of blood and bits, and sizzling smoke when blood vessels are cauterized with hot iron rods.
- The depictions of burn and syphilis victims are also disturbingly realistic.
- The fetus in formaldehyde which seems to be somehow key to the time travel -- particularly whenever it opens its eyes.
- Steampunk: Probably the best description of the extremely low-tech production system for penicillin that Miki designed in order to show up Jin early in their relationship.
- Time Travel
- Victorian Novel Disease: Ogata-sensei's tuberculosis, which while more realistic than the usual implementation of this trope is still rather underplayed.
- Wangst: Jin practically wallows in it at times, to the point that the viewers may find themselves wanting to slap him.
- Yakuza: The firefighters, actually. They are much more of the ninkyo dantai type than boryokudan, but are still a band of swaggering thugs when they're not actually fighting fires.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Saki.
- ↑ As a minor god, believe it or not