Review: Juui Dolittle–of Cats and Dogs and the Morality of Euthanasia


Nothing beats the tedium of the daily grind like the basic happiness of loading a choice episode over free streaming. Since I felt like going back to basics, in the search bar went ‘Oguri Shun wiki.’ I thought it better to be updated in his fictional life than dwell on the fact that he is, finally, dreadfully married. Fan girls cope that way.

Veterinarian Dolittle, or Juui Dolittle was Shun’s J-drama offering for 2010. Based on the manga of the same name (figures, Japan), the drama sees Shun reunited with Hana Yori Dango playmate Inoue Mao. For fans who were brokenhearted that Shun’s Hanazawa Rui didn’t end up with Mao’s Tsukushi Makino, this is a dream reunion come true. But if you are looking for a dose of the high school romantics, this is not the show for you. Chemistry between the friendly actors is natural and apparent, but sweet and lovey-dovey, they were not.

But I am getting ahead of myself, as well as revealing the first reason I got pulled into this drama, the second being that it featured a lot of bewilderingly cute animals.

A brief synopsis: Tottori Kenichi is as foul-mouthed as he is an excellent veterinarian and animal surgeon, presenting a trade-off dilemma to his pet owner clients when he shows them his charmless attitude and announces his exorbitant fees without batting an eyelash. Deemed as cold, seemingly validated by his mantra, “pet care is a business”, Tottori looks like the last human on earth to care for the cute and defenseless. But as his former classmate and friendly rival Hanabishi Masaru puts it, he places affection more on animals than he ever could on humans. Mao’s Tajima Asuka enters the picture when she comes to Tottori begging for mercy and cure for her ailing horse. Unable to foot the 3 million yen bill but desperate to save the animal, Asuka agrees to work off her debt as Tottori’s assistant, and thus begins the spin of the tale.

SPOILERS from this point on.

The plot thickens when pet care business politics is thrown in, together with several doses of dysfunctional family drama, and the early twist of the popular “charisma vet” Hanabishi’s inability to perform an animal operation. Asuka steps into the persona of the curious audience, thrown into a world she does not know and is forced to understand through Tottori’s crude words, unapologetic high intellect, and short temper.

Arguably the heart of the series though is the story of each animal, finally heard once settled on Tottori’s examination table. Fondly and teasingly dubbed as Dolittle by Hanabishi, Tottori has the gift of empathy to the voice of animals. There are many ways of loving your pet the wrong way, the same way humans can strangle each other with affection, and this seems to be one of the salient points that Tottori forces on the owners in as many rude words as needed.

Another encompassing theme prevalent throughout the story is euthanasia. The moral dilemma of animal mercy killing is not as poked on and analyzed as it is with humans, but the similarity in the values behind it is put in high relief. This is done particularly in a scene where Minister Domon, a practical proponent of the procedure,  considers the same ending for his comatose father.

Who are humans to decide when animals should die? asks Tottori. What makes us better that our convenience is placed before theirs, at the expense of their lives?

I guess I didn’t expect such philosophical musings from an animal medical drama. Fluffy cats and dogs, I did expect. But tense scenes at the operating table and the ethics that underlie human-animal dynamics, I did not, which just goes to show the depth of my ignorance. And if only for that, this is definitely a show I wholeheartedly recommend.

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