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Anime Expo 2018: Cells At Work! Premiere Report
by Kyle Cardine,
The human body is quite the complicated system, and Cells at Work! by manga author Akane Shimizu attempts to showcase all the complicated processes through anthropomorphic cells. The new anime from David Productions premiered at Anime Expo this weekend with the voice actor of White Blood Cell Tomoaki Maeno, Kodansha's Yohei Ito, David Production producer Nobutaka Kasama, and Aniplex producer Yuma Takashashi joining the premiere.
It is easy to get a little lost in the extensive medical terms and vocabulary used in the show, but Cells at Work! does a good job at showcasing the various bodily functions in a humorous and colorful way. The show follows Red Blood Cell, voiced by Kana Hanazawa, as she delivers oxygen around the human body like a postal worker. After a surprise bacterium invasion, she meets White Blood Cell, whose sole job is to hunt and eviscerate any invader. Now, I'm not exactly sure how and if bacteria actually “bleed,” but Cells at Work! really does make sure blood sprays across the screen as White Blood Cell goes in for the kills.
Red and White Blood Cell spend the rest of the episode hunting down a rogue bacterium, running into other cells who are on the job. By far the highlight of the cast introductions is the group of Platelets, represented as a class of kindergarteners. They are extremely cute, and they show up quite a bit as highlighted members of the cast.
The episode ends with White Blood Cell trapping the bacteria in casing and sending him flying out of the human body in a rocket, which then explodes in much fanfare. A newscast loudly proclaims “ROCKET LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL” as the cells celebrate and go back to their jobs. This actually is the series' rendition of a sneeze. Cells at Work! seems to really think about the most bombastic way to illustrate the most microscopic of activities, so it will be fun to see what other ways our bodies act are depicted.
One big notable feature of the show is the detailed backgrounds. As Red and White Blood Cell travel around the body, different organs have wildly different environments, from bustling cities, forest villages, and Victorian homes. Kasama emphasized the importance of the backgrounds as the manga also features very detailed settings. There are a variety of ads and signs that Kasama also said added flavor to each of the organ locations.
It is a little hard to follow the deep references on how the body works and the extremely specific biological terms, but maybe if I paid better attention in school I would know more than just how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Hopefully the show will take its time to educate as well like something in the light of Moyashimon, while having the same lively and colorful spirit David Productions is known for.
Following the premiere, the cast and staff were on hand to answer a few questions.
Q: Maeno-san, can you tell us a little about how you felt when you landed the role of White Blood Cell?
Maeno: At the audition, I was with Kana Hanazawa, who plays Red Blood Cell, and I felt that she and I would make a great match. I was very happy that we got cast.
The White Blood Cell is an interesting character because on one side he is a vicious and savage bacteria killer, and on the other he is polite and kind hearted to his friends. What process did you have in portraying these two drastically different personalities?
Maeno: White Blood Cell shows no mercy to any external bacteria, but is very kind to fellow cells. So I enjoyed playing this extreme range so I can play cold and warm at the same time.
Do you find any similarities between you two?
Maeno: I think White Blood Cell and I share a very similar vocal quality. [laughs] I think both of us share a quality where work comes first.
Ito-san, Cells at Work is a popular manga in Weekly Shonen Series Magazine. Could you please tell us how the anime adaptation came about?
Ito: The manga was drawn by Akane Shimizu and features a lot of characters and very detailed backgrounds. The panels are very dense. I know that this the type of manga that translates to good anime. I wanted to have this style animated by a studio who could draw many different characters and draw detailed backgrounds. This was around the time I got a phone call from Takahashi-san at Aniplex saying they would like to animate your property. On a separate occasion, David Productions was speaking to me saying they would love to animate this title. I'd say the process was that I was blessed in stumbling across partners who shared the very same aspirations in coming up with a quality title.
Kasama-san, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a huge hit in the US. Can you tell us how your studio got involved with this project?
Kasama: As Ito-san mentioned, there was a process of us coming together. I've been, and all of us at David Productions are, a fan of the manga. I loved it so much I purchased the first volume the day it came out. We also have a history with Aniplex working on a title called Inu x Boku Secret Service. We have had a history with working with Kodansha too, so we were delighted to have a chance to work with them. At David Productions, when we look for a property to animate, we do have an internal discussion and we loved Cells at Work because it's an unique story in that it's realistic but at the same time very fantastic. So we looked for the talent who would be capable on working on this and we got the director Kenichi Suzuki, from JoJo, and the character designer Takahiko Yoshida.
Takahashi-san, why did you host the premiere at AX?
Takahashi: Because I think AX is a great anime event. Also as we've seen, Cells at Work! is a story that takes place inside the human body. We're Japanese and we made this and I assume a lot of you are American, but inside we're all the same. And I thought this was so common that I thought Anime Expo would be perfect venue for a world premiere.
Do you have any final remarks?
Takahashi: Thank you so much for coming. I've enjoyed this anime. Thank you so much.
Kasama: Before leaving Japan, I asked the director Kenichi Suzuki if there's anything the audience should look out for. He said that the characters do stand out, but he put in a lot of detail into the background art as well. A lot of the body parts are labeled, and he would be very flattered if people took out their Japanese dictionaries and checked out every single [sign].
Ito: When you watch Cells at Work!, all the cells are so hardworking and lovable. I think they're lovable because the audience is too. I'm hoping as we watch the show we can come to love our own bodies, all the bodies of our friends and loved ones, and develop good care of our own bodies.
Maeno: This is my first time in the US, and I was very happy to get a warm reception from everyone. I'm pretty sure when you watch Cells at Work!, you will come to care for your body and appreciate what your body does for you.
Cells at Work premiered on Crunchyroll on July 7 - you can watch it for yourself right here.
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