Cells at Work!: A World Within Your Body


R E V I E W – A N I M E


Abrar Jamil


A life-threatening injury to the head. Heavy bleeding, a dramatic increase in blood pressure, loss of homeostasis… it’s chaos. Plus, those sneaky bacteria aren’t going to let go of this chance to invade. A state of emergency has been declared: hemorrhagic shock! A fatal condition usually resulting in death. But nothing’s stopping this Red Blood Cell from its duty. 

Red Blood Cell AE3803 is new to its job and can’t figure out the route to deliver the supply of oxygen she’s carrying. She’s determined as ever, but naive and completely clueless. Luckily, Neutrophil U-1146 is willing to help. Tunnels, access routes, one way roads, precincts, plazas… wait, why is a blood cell using a real-world map? Yes, you guessed it. It’s a city of cells and organs. Inside your very own body!

 

Akane Shimizu’s Cells at Work! (Hataraku Saibou) brings to life (well, they are already alive) all that’s going on under your skin. A world of bodily pathways where the population is composed primarily of cells is a perfect setting for showcasing just how seriously they take their jobs to maintain a healthy physiological system 24/7. 

It’s hard to pinpoint any single character here as the protagonist. Just about every cell, be it the blood cells, macrophages, dendritic cells, brain cells, or any other you can name, is equally important to the functionality of this series as a unique, educational anime. You can tell each cell has been created with utmost care as to include the nitty-gritty details of their structures, which makes for a diverse and colorful family of characters. The Red Blood Cell acts only to guide you through the body’s different parts, and is acquainted with different cells on the way. When a new cell is introduced, the anime makes sure to explain its features and rather interesting backstories (yes, stories of how they developed into a mature, functional cell) in a precise yet enjoyable way, for those eager to learn more about physiology but too lazy to read biology textbooks.

What makes this anime so great is that its uniqueness overrides its need for a plot. Instead, the series progresses by showing different instances of the Red Blood Cell’s journey through different organs. However, this is a human body, so let’s face reality… the journey isn’t always smooth. Bacteria and viruses lurking at every corner imaginable, wounds, sepsis and — drumroll please — cancer cells! As challenging situations continue to recur, the body cells must work ceaselessly in perfect harmony to eliminate what could potentially result in severe damage. The anime has the residents of the human body face everything from easy cases like common cold, heat strokes, fungal infections, to deadlier conditions like Type A Influenza, tumours, and Staphylococcus aureus attacks! 

Another thing you might like about the anime is the fun, bite-sized notes that appear on the screen to explain various phenomena. You may find this useful, especially if you’re the biology fan who loves jotting things down. The educational aspect of this anime caught the attention of biology teachers in China, leading them to encourage their students to watch this anime, with some even issuing watching it as homework. Now, that’s some homework everyone’s going to do!

While Cells at Work! increases our understanding of how our insides work, it also includes fight scenes, a tad bit of comedy, and is in general, a pleasant watch. Though, in that case, I would say that the fights with the bacteria and other microorganisms are not as satisfying as one would expect. The white blood cells usually kill off the enemies with ease, and while that’s sometimes disappointing, it just goes to show that the body they live in has good immunity. The comedy is on par with any other anime and makes things less boring in the academic sense.


One key factor that makes an educational anime really stand out is its level of accuracy. While this is mostly expected of medical dramas, the same goes for anime. Cells at Work! has proven itself highly accurate through meticulous use of biological terms, character structures, and detailed visuals of physiological processes like digestion, respiration, circulation, and other systems. This also includes accurate descriptions of cells and working processes of viruses and other invading microbes.


Cells at Work! currently has two seasons and a whole lot of spin-offs. If you loved watching the anime series but can’t satisfy the learner in you, then check out the manga, which contains even more detail on each topic. If you loved the series but need something different, try hand-picking from the countless spin-offs, such as Bacteria at Work!, Cells NOT at Work! or Cells at Work!: Baby! (which shows the development of immature cells in a growing human embryo!). If you’re tired of watching everything going smoothly, bored of favourable outcomes and would like a bit more dark content, then give Cells at Work! CODE BLACK a watch, which is currently airing. This version of the series showcases the functioning of cells in an unhealthy environment where the body they live in has various medical complications and undergoes a rather detrimental lifestyle. This series is a reference to the American medical drama CODE BLACK, which depicts the rather dark side of the healthcare system, where doctors face death and defeat in the confines of an emergency room. 

Overall, Cells at Work! is an anime that’s sure to keep you thrilled for each next episode with surprises and new cells. For diehard anime fans and biology enthusiasts alike, the accuracy, comedy, and enjoyable visuals of this anime make it a must-watch. So whether you are looking for something to pass time, a Chinese student stuck watching this as homework, or just want those cute platelets to make your day, I would recommend this unique yet underrated anime for your watchlist.

 


Abrar Jamil is a sucker for anime, ridiculous food combos, and would eat almost anything with chopsticks. Send him anime suggestions at [email protected]

 

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