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Cells at Work! Manga Exhibit Tours You Through the Human Body

posted on by Kim Morrissy

The Cells at Work! manga exhibit, which ran from October 9 to 22 in the MATSUYA GINZA department store, was a delightful tour through Akane Shimizu's manga and the basics of human cell biology. It introduces you to each main character and their role in keeping the body healthy, with plenty of photo spots and interactive parts along the way. Like the series itself, the exhibit is peak edutainment.

The first part of the exhibit introduces the characters. The written explanations are simplified descriptions of how the cell functions in terms of real-life biology. For example, Red Blood Cell's description states that her job is to deliver oxygen to the other cells in the body. However, the description also mentions some of the character's quirks in the manga, such as how she tends to bumble about but is generally a hard worker. The explanations are accompanied with Shimizu's detailed line art, capturing a range of character expressions and standout moments in the manga.

The second part of the exhibit introduces you to the layout of the human body, as portrayed in the manga. For example, there's the heart, which is always crowded with blood cells, and the blood vessels, which can sometimes be so narrow that the Red Blood Cell has to squeeze her way through. The small and large intestines are where nutrients get absorbed, and these are visually portrayed as factories.

Next, the exhibit introduces you to the variety of villainous viruses. The written explanations describe the various battles that took place within the manga. This is also where the first photo spot is situated, so you can become a virus yourself.

This section also describes the various ailments that can affect the body, like cuts and heat stroke. Another interactive area in the exhibit has one of the Platelets ask you to help create scabs, which will mend abrasions on the body.

Finally, the exhibit introduces Shimizu's rough drafts and notes, so you can get a clearer picture of how Cells at Work! came to be. One interesting thing to note is how Shimizu's notes for the plot outlines involve a lot of text. It's clear that Shimizu writes down everything relevant about biology as it comes up in the plot.

This final part of the exhibit also introduces the media mix around Cells at Work!, including the anime, stage play, and the various spinoff manga. (There are six of them in total!) It's amazing how huge Cells at Work! has become in the four years since it began serialization.

Outside the end of the exhibit, there's a merchandise store and one last interactive photo spot. You can pick up the White Blood Cell's knives and recreate the scene where he appears upside down from the ceiling. Obviously, you don't literally hang from the ceiling in order to take the shot, but you can take a regular photo and then rotate it to create a similar effect.

A wall outside the exhibit had space for visitors to stick post-it notes with messages to the staff. I was touched when the exhibit staff noticed my message: "Thank you!! from Australia"

The Cells at Work! exhibit has ended in Tokyo, but there are plans to bring it to the Aichi prefecture in the future. Keep your eyes peeled on the exhibit website for updates.


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