Have you ever thought about the trillions of cells within your body? Do you wonder how they travel, what they look like, or if any of them develop relationships with each other? No?! Well fear not, anime-niacs, because the anime Cells at Work has thought about all of this for you.
Cells at Work takes place inside of an unspecified human body where major organs appear as parts of a generic city. For example, cells live in houses and apartments, the heart is a shrine, and veins are roads. It is sometimes easy to forget that there are organs at work, because cells, germs, and bacteria, are all personified (don’t be surprised, Disney would have done this eventually).
Although there are regularly recurring characters who all represent different cells in the body, the main characters are Red Blood Cell, a young woman, and White Blood Cell, a young man. Just like reality, there are millions of red and white blood cells, but these two characters are featured much more than others. Red Blood Cell is new to her job, which, like an actual red blood cell, is to deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells. Unfortunately, she is quite a klutz and often gets lost. White Blood Cell saves her from bacteria in the first episode, and he quickly grows fond of her. He is usually a relaxed and soft-spoken character, but since his job is to defend the body from foreign substances, White Blood Cell wields a knife and violently attacks germs and bacteria (not all heroes wear capes). Of course, plenty of germs and bacteria want to infect this particular body.
Nearly every episode of Cells at Work features a different disease or infection that hopes to replicate inside of and harm the body. Pneumococcus is an alien-like bacteria that has multiple tendrils protruding from his body, allergens appear as giant, expressionless blobs, and staphylococcus appears as an armored woman. The primary conflict within each episode is typically between a germ and cells of the immune system. Not just a show about fights, however, Cells at Work is very interesting, because whenever an infection or a new type of cell is introduced, text appears along with narration explaining what type of infection it is, what it can cause, or what the primary function of a particular cell is. In this way, the show is actually very educational (damn your sneaky anime science…).
Cells at Work is not only entertaining, but would perhaps effectively work in a classroom to teach children about human biology. I have never been interested in any type of science, but while watching this anime, I found myself happy to learn about different diseases, cells, and how they function. This only works because every character in Cells at Work is endearing in some way. Killer T Cells are loud and hilariously aggressive, Platelets are small, adorable children, and Macrophages are extremely elegant women who can also violently attack infections (get you a woman who can do both). While all of these characters are wonderful, my only complaint is that there isn’t enough focus on the relationship between the two main characters.
Cells at Work constantly sets up a potential romantic relationship between Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell but fails to deliver. It is clear that White Blood Cell cares for Red Blood Cell, as he tries to, sometimes secretly, help her when she gets lost. Although Red Blood Cell seems to like White Blood Cell, there have been no romantic advancements at all throughout 13 episodes. I have not read the manga, so I don’t know what, if anything, happens between them, but I suppose the likelihood of the two ever dating is slim. Obviously, cells don’t sexually reproduce, so it is possible that romance would not make sense in this show. Sure, humanoid cells are unbelievable, but I think that either the writers do not want to pursue romance as an eventuality between these characters because it would either be too unbelievable for the realistic functions of the human body, or they would rather leave the potential for romance linger in order to keep audiences interested in this relationship. Also, it is possible that these cells simply don’t have the time to date considering they are always working (hmm…maybe that’s why it’s called Cells at Work).
The dialogue is funny and upbeat, the information is all presented in an interesting and entertaining manner, and the characters are endearing. Cells at Work is a genuinely enjoyable and occasionally heartwarming show which proves that good characters can make nearly any story entertaining. Although Cells at Work has its dramatic and mature moments, I would recommend this show to anyone who likes lighthearted comedies.