As a blogger for Nerdcore Learning and through its vision and spirit, I try to keep my posts revolved around merging a “nerdy” idea (usually involving video games, comics, and the likes) with an aspect of medicine (which I suppose would also be “nerdy” but more importantly, the “learning” perspective). In this post, I hope to bring to light a topic of medicine from a very unlikely source – the Japanese manga, Naruto.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Naruto (now currently known as Naruto: Shippuden), it is a Japanese manga series created by artist Masashi Kishimoto that was first published in 1997. The manga chronicles the adventures of a young ninja protagonist named Uzumaki Naruto who experiences character development through various trials and tribulations. Overall, the series has garnered positive reception as well as a loyal fan base (including myself!), making it consistently one of the top mangas amongst various surveys. It is personally one of my favorite manga comics, and a series that I keep up to date with.
In my personal Xbox 360 game collection, you will find Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, and as a mini-review/plug, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is a fantastic game that boasts a roster of 44 characters. There is an interactive storyline where you have to fight through most of the major story arcs in the Naruto manga, and it also has a separate arcade-versus mode. Were it not for the fact that I own Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, I would have bought the most recent title, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations that boasts a roster of more than 70 characters! The fighting mechanics of both titles are one of the best that I have ever played in terms of a 3D-style arcade. If you are looking to pass some time, definitely check out the Naruto manga series as well as the Ultimate Ninja Storm game titles.
Not to digress any further, the point of this post was to merge an aspect from Naruto with a topic from medicine. The subject matter that I want to explore is the concept of chakra, which is a fundamental theme in the world of Naruto. In Naruto, chakra is an inherent form of energy that an individual generates and is also required for performing various ninja techniques; it is similar to other terms that you may have heard sometime in your life including the words mana, ki, MP, and energy. While going through the Naruto manga, you will find that the strongest ninjas always have an immense amount of chakra that allows them to perform magnificent techniques. Chakra can manifest itself in various ways, applications, and forms. It can be used for attacks and defense, to heal people, cast illusions, and much more. Furthermore, chakra acts as an invisible force that can be sensed, gathered, and transferred.
Interestingly enough, the concept of chakra is used in a form of complementary alternative medicine (what we in the USA define as alternative) called reiki. Reiki is a spiritual/energy-based practice that was first introduced by the Japanese practitioner, Mikao Usui around the year 1922. The first time that I was exposed to reiki was when I was volunteering at a hospital a few years ago, and happened to get caught up in a conversation with a reiki practitioner. It was explained to me that reiki practitioners were able to ease suffering and improve prognosis for certain types of patients including patients who were in the ICU or cardiothoracic surgery patients. This was done by the accessing of important chakra points on a patient through the presence of the practitioner’s energy, usually by the placing of palms on a patient (with either direct or indirect contact). When I initially heard about reiki, it was pretty unbelievable because it seemed to have popped out of the Naruto manga, but it wasn’t until I had a lecture on complementary alternative medicine during psychopathology, that the lecturer stated that there was some data concerning reiki in improving the prognosis of these mentioned patients and even shortening hospital stays (which may be why hospitals are starting to create reiki teams). The exact mechanisms are unknown, but the data suggests that it works – and if it helps the patient, why not? It’s cost effective, noninvasive, supported by evidence, and improves patient outcome.
While I am not an expert on alternative medicine and do not claim to be, I hope to have elucidated the existence of reiki. I would also like to clarify that much of alternative medicine has not been researched in an evidence-based methodology, which is why we have the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a division of the NIH) – as such, there may not be any clear evidence of support for reiki; this post was merely to show a connection between a theme in alternative medicine with one that was found in a manga and to share some personal experiences with reiki in hospitals. Now that the world in which we live is becoming even more globalized and accessible, I won’t be surprised if western medicine slowly evolves into a form that integrates even more aspects of eastern medicine, not just reiki. We are certainly familiar with other aspects of eastern medicine including herbs and acupuncture. And as more clinical data is researched about alternative medicine, we will eventually be able to utilize the best of both worlds of medicine.
Other Links: http://nccam.nih.gov/