EARLY next month, Japan Academy Award winners are due to be announced, but yet, “Code Blue : Doctor-Heli Emergency Lifesaving – The Movie”, is nowhere to be found on any nomination lists, despite breaking the all-time box office record for Japan-made movie with over 9.2 billion yen in gross box office takings.

Launched in 2001, Doctor-Heli is Japan’s national project for helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS), which provides swift mobile, rapid response rescue in life threatening emergency cases and disasters.

Deployed by the local government fire department during disasters, such as earthquake, tsunami, flood, fire, explosion and major accidents, Doctor-Heli’s movement is commanded by the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT).

The service involves the transportation of emergency specialist flight doctors and flight nurse to the fire department, ambulance and Doctor-Heli meet up points when there is no appropriate landing space for the helicopter.

As of September 2018, a total of 53 Doctor-Heli missions were deployed at hospitals all over Japan.

Flight doctors and nurses board the helicopter within 7 to 8 minutes after receiving request from the fire department or DMAT. Speed is always paramount to render first response to retain consciousness, appraise and stabilize the patient’s condition before further treatment at the hospital.

Meanwhile, “Back to Code Blue : The Movie” was released as a sequel to the TV drama series of the same title which in 2008 (Season 1), 2010 (Season 2) and 2017 (Season 3), followed by one telemovie after Season 1 was aired. The story theme revolves around four young emergency medical doctors and a flight nurse going through the grind as part of the emergency medical team to become certified as flight doctors.

Ten years after the first season was aired, this team of ‘doctors’ have made it to the cinemas as brain surgeon, emergency specialist surgeon, obstetrician, gynecologist specialist, orthopedic surgeon, flight doctors and senior flight nurse.

Wow! Super doctors they are not, and the movie repeatedly reminded the audience that doctors, are after all, are not god, but just ordinary human beings. They are people with all sorts of limitations, imperfections and emotions, as they deal with one traumatic heart wrenching case after another.

If you watch the official movie trailer, you might think that it is an action movie, with large scale accident scenes, helicopters and flight doctors looking dashing in their super cool flight suits, but beneath all those play-acting, they ride the emotions of the audience in slices of human drama.

What actually broke the box-office for “Code Blue: The Movie”? Obviously, it was the bigger than life ‘doctors’ and ‘nurses’ that drew the crowd.

Never underestimate Japanese fandom; a fan can watch a movie at the  cinema for up to five or six times just to see the actors they adore on screen, with legions of drama fans making most of the movie audience.

But, most importantly, I think the storyline is simply inspiring to move so many hearts. The scenes feature staged critical and serious situations, with bloody surgery performed on screen to bring the right dose of reality to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Although it is not for the faint-hearted and those cautioned by the movie ratings, you would invariably notice children and teenagers filling the cinemas, after having been inducted by watching the TV series.

Why, even my children watched Code Blue (both the movie and the latest episodes) and thought they were cool. Pre-school children watched the drama and mimicked the doctors in their make-believe world. High school students watched the drama to be inspired to become doctors or nurses (and actually became one). Practicing doctors immerse themselves in the drama and feel motivated to become a part of emergency team doctors.

But, why? It is all about the stories, the values and emotions that the audience brought back home after watching the movie. When some of them were asked by the media as to how they felt post-movie, they talked about the strong message of love, teamwork, togetherness, friendship, and family behind the thespian façade of playing medical doctors.

I believe, in Malaysia, too we have lots of movies that inspire young people. I hope there will be more for them to emulate and ultimately grow up to work together and give back to society. Skilled professionals with high moral values are needed to help move the nation forward towards becoming a developed country and not merely looking at the Look East Policy as just another novelty.


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