Cells At Work Complete Collection (Cert PG)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 331 minutes approx.
The human body is a remarkable thing. We may not realise it, and we certainly take it for granted, that beneath the skin and bones, trillions of tiny cells – 37.2 trillion to be exact – and organs are working round the clock to keep us alive and fight off the threat of illnesses and diseases.
It’s mystifying when you start to think about it but more amazing in exploring the multiple processes that are occurring inside us as I type this and as you read this. So, come with me on a journey deep inside an average human body, to a fully operational world with buildings, landscapes, skies, and anthropomorphic cells tirelessly navigating the length and breadth of a healthy carcass to fulfil their duties.
Chief among them is a red blood cell AE3803 (henceforth Red), freshly graduated from training and ready to get to work delivering oxygen to wherever it is needed. Red is a lively, amiable but slightly airheaded girl with no sense of direction, thus tends to get lost most of the time, but she has a guardian angel of sorts in White Blood Cell U-1146 (White hereon in), always on hand to pint her in the right direction and save her from any harm.
Whilst Red’s duties involve stamina, dedication, and time keeping, White is a neutrophil tasked with destroying any unwelcome presence in the body, be it a virus, bacteria, or any form of pathogen. Armed with a knife and adept in grappling, White is often covered in the blood of his victim, spoiling his spotless appearance, yet despite his violent work is quite a soft spoken and polite chap.
Also in the body are the Killer T Cells, blonde haired, black T-shirt wearing hand-to-hand combat fighters who take on the heavier jobs White cells can’t handle. These muscular alpha males have a problem with authority, illustrated by T Cell and his superior, the intellectual strategist Helper T Cell, and his former trainer, the kick ass female NK Cell, who sadly doesn’t get much screen time.
Like White, not every cell with a destructive role is so bloodthirsty, such as Macrophage, a dainty, polite, elegantly dressed woman straight out of a Jane Austen novel, very much critical as a frontline defence against invading viruses. Finally, we have the Platelets, cute little kiddies whose job it is to repair and restore the body from cuts, scrapes, and other physical blemishes. If you’ve seen the memes, do NOT lewd the Platelets!
Over the course of thirteen episodes and one bonus OVA, these plucky cells confront and conquer attacks from influenza bugs, Vibrio bacteria, pollen, the common cold and even cancer, whilst also struggling to keep it together during a bout of heatstroke and a brain haemorrhage. This might be a work of whimsy and fantasy in exploring how the body works but it is not afraid to tackle the darker aspects of the abuse it takes.
Based on the manga by Akane Shimizu, this is well-researched stuff and has earned the plaudits and endorsements of doctors around the globe for its accuracy and how the actions of the cells and the biological procedures have been transposed into workable and credible depictions of ease of understanding.
Shimizu and this adaptation’s director Kenichi Suzuki are both aware a careful balance needs to be struck between entertainment and education, and a very successful one has been achieved with this series. Having the cast be likeable, colourful characters with human personality traits relative to their cell counterpart is an easy first step but makes their role within the overall mechanics of the body’s working parts simple to understand, yet isn’t dumbed down that adults can’t be fascinated by them or learn from them.
This extends to the bugs and viruses as the antagonists of the story, mostly depicted as insect like alien creatures with no redeeming features. Quite a few look like they might be cousins of legendary Dragonball Z villain Frieza, whilst others could be escapees from filler arcs of Bleach. Another classic anime serving as a point of reference is Naruto, in particular a flashback episode of T Cell’s day as a rookie in training which mirrors the early days of Naruto’s ninja schooling.
For the most part the tone is light and comedic, with the one note joke of Red getting lost and White saving her being the only repetitive feature that some might tire of, and necessarily so otherwise this would be a po-faced biology lesson where nothing of value is inculcated. It’s also not much of a spoiler to reveal that good always triumphs over evil but at least the endgame in this instance has a greater merit than “just because”.
Most likely to prove contentious is the episode where the cancerous cells appear. This isn’t because it gets too dark or serious, rather the portrayal of cancer as an unwanted cell effectively born to be destroyed is a humane, if entirely accurate, way of depicting a relentless killer. I doubt the intent is to make us sympathise with cancer but it is a brave way of putting its existence into a perspective without maligning it in the same way flu and bacteria are elsewhere.
But again, this is the balance between education and entertainment. In the case of how informative and enlightening this show is, there will be accusations of its content being reductive in sticking to a safe formula per episode, but biology and medicine are such involved topics, we should be thankful there is someone able to feed us this information in easily digestible chunks.
Cells At Work is a unique show, every bit a regular anime but dealing with an irregular subject, thus making it a wonderful and welcome departure from the norm. It is simple yet inventive, fun yet educational, charming yet well intended in its mission to make us appreciate the inner workings of our bodies.
Two fully working thumbs up!
Japanese Language 2.0
English Language 2.0
Disc 2 Only:
Textless Opening Song and Closing Songs
Rating – ****
Man In Black