- Genre: Slice of life, action, comedy, education
- Episodes: 13
- Studio: David Production
The human body is a marvel of bioengineering. Every second a universe’s worth of microorganisms and cells work in harmony to keep the whole thing going. Billions of processes take place for every single little thing, from breathing in to growing out hair. Heck just trying to keep the place free of all the parasites, viruses and bacteria that would like to claim it for their own, takes a highly specialized army. Human beings have been around for thousands of years and we’ve spent most of that time gazing intently at our belly buttons. Yet, we’re only just beginning to unravel the mysteries of our own bodies. One thing’s for sure, there’s never a dull day in the immune system.
I have been looking forward to this one for a long time. Even before it aired, I was intrigued by the premise and excited by the team behind the project. I’m usually atrocious at predicting what will be a good series and as such I was doubly delighted to see such generally positive reviews trickle in during its run time. Now I finally had the chance to see what all the hoopla was about.
Ok…maybe hoopla is a bit of an oversell. Bloggers I like, liked this show. To me, that’s a big deal.
I was a little wary about a series that concentrates on everything that can go wrong with your health. In theory “diseases, the animation” doesn’t sound that pleasant. Yet if I could describe my emotional takeaway from Cells at Work in a word, it would be “comforting”.
Part of that can be ascribed to the production choices. The character designs are deeply familiar looking. In fact I noted continuously that bacteria and virus invaders looked exactly like Dragon Ball villains. Presenting such a generally unique idea behind an instantly recognizable facade goes a long way towards making the show easily accessible for long time anime fans.
There’s a straightforwardness to all the elements. Colors are crisp, not overly bright, mostly primary and used to distinguish characters with narrative explanation. Sound design is clean and music cues direct. The voice actors (who are all pleasant) even use classic anime voicing tropes such as exaggerated gaspings and raspy undersells in ridiculous situations.
You do occasionally get a slight impression of discount. Things lack depth. Light and shadowing is minimal and you get no sense of wider space from the images. Environmental sounds are minimal and sound design s generally a little *thin*. Not that any of this took away from my enjoyment, in fact, it may have added to it. The animation on a budget feel has its own charms. To me this series wouldn’t have worked as well as a sleek and polished gem or a super stylish standout. Cells at work isn’t the glamourous supermodel, it’s the girl next door.
This simple earnest aspect is one of the things that endeared this series to me. It manages to remain utterly uncomplicated. From a narrative perspective it’s completely episodic in nature, adopting a monster of the week formula from start to finish. The monsters in this case being invading pathogens, injuries and the like. It got to the point where I started to seriously wonder whether the person they were in was ever healthy at all? Honestly poor kid catches every single thing out there.
Although there’s a pretty wide cast, the story follows red blood cell and white blood cell (characters are named by function, more on that later) which remain pretty much entirely undeveloped. Once again, Cells at Work eschews such extravagance as intricate characterisation instead opting for basic archetypes with a few exaggerated quirks which are constantly repeated. But this also fits perfectly. Said quirks are either amusing or charming enough to remain entertaining and the characters easily coast on the strength of charisma.
In fact, every single fault I could find for Cells at Work doesn’t really matter in the long run. Because it’s a kid’s show. And a darn good one at that. I know there’s a stigma attached to the expression but there shouldn’t be. Entertainment meant for children Needs to be exceptionally paced and dynamic to appeal to shorter attention spans. The lightly educational context (which was surprisingly accurate but the way) works best in episodic form allowing facts to get repeated for better retention by the audience, while giving enough freedom to tailor every episode to the lesson at hand. A complicated overarching storyline would have muddled the message.
The same can be said for particularly layered characters. They needed to be fairly simple in order to convey a clear message while remaining entertaining. And in this, Cells at Work success better than most series I’ve seen. In fact, one of the partners where I work has two young children who love anime and this is the only show I’ve ever actively recommended to them. With one caveat…
This series is violent. And not cartoon violence either. Bloody visceral no holds barred violence. It’s even acknowledged and commented on in universe. The white blood cells mercilessly murder any invaders with glee and pride in their work and the act is animated in all its gory detail. I guess in a way it’s a pretty fair portrayal of what actually happens. However, if you are not a fan of open violence (or would rather not subject kids to it for some reason….) this one is not for you.
It says something that I found the weird clash of children’s edutainment and Scorsese violence hilarious every single time…
Cells at Work is a bloody violent series about all the things that can and probably will kill you from the inside. It’s very comforting. You should watch it with kids this holiday season.
Random thought – was I the only one who thought Helper T Cell really looked like Kazuma from Noragami?
Favorite character: Platelets (I have a heart people)
What this anime taught me: White blood cells can pass through blood vessel walls
Sip happens, it’s o.k. to wine.
Suggested drink: Elderberry Vodka Immune Cocktail
- Every time we see Red senpai – take a sip
- Every time anyone talks about “this world” – take a sip
- if it’s white blood cell – take another
- Every time white blood cells act like maniacs – cower
- Every time Helper T Cell eats cookies – get a snack
- Every time anyone gets covered in blood – take a sip
- Every time Red gets lost – take a breath
- Every time a new type of cell gets introduced – pay attention
- Every time the mention of histamine makes you itchy – take a sip
- Every time Red does not need to be saved by white – finish your drink
- Every time we see platelets – YAY!