Cells at Work!! Season 2
Episodes 1-2

by Lynzee Loveridge,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Cells at Work!! (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Cells at Work!! (TV 2) ?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions in these reviews are observations made by the reviewer(s) and should in no way be construed as medical advice! If you have a question, please contact your general practitioner for information!

Part of what I'm going to collectively refer to as "edutainment Thursdays," Cells at Work!! and its gritty older brother Cells at Work! Code Black hope to both teach about the functions inside the human body and how it reacts to invaders like bacteria and viruses. David Production handled the original show and this eight-episode sequel while Liden Films is adapting Code Black.

I was a big fan of the original, and while I sometimes found the narration to be invasive in a "show not tell" kind of way, it was a lot of fun and became day-of viewing for myself and my husband. Now that we have two new seasons, I'm ready to once again immerse myself in the gory cartoon world that is the human body. I'm also dragging aforementioned husband Matt (RN) along for the ride. He basically used his encyclopedic brain for medical stuff instead of being smart like me and memorizing profile details for fictional cartoon characters. What a rube. After each episode I'll add some of Matt's comments on how accurately things were visually translated into the show.

That's a lot of preamble to let you know that I really like this franchise and these first two episodes have let me down immensely. The first episode, "Bump", feels like it was ill-suited for the premiere as it draws attention away from Red and White Blood Cell to focus on a one-off character: Backwards Cap, a platelet. The decision might have been driven by the Platelets popularity from the previous season, but we get minimal interaction between our two leads for a cute character drama focusing on a platelet that's not very good at its job.

The danger in this episode is brought on by a hematoma, what is more commonly referred to as a "bump" or "goose egg" after hitting your head. We've seen the platelets form blood clots in the previous season, and this one more or less follows the same routine with blood cells being whooshed out (thanks to the break in the capillaries and subsequent internal bleeding) and white blood cells getting stuck in platelets' fibrin nets to help form the clot. White Blood Cell looks on from his sticky perch as the child-like platelets dash around, encourage one another, and go about making the clot. Backwards Cap struggles but is encouraged by the leader Platelet and the drill sergeant-like Megakaryocyte.

This is the first time we've met Megakaryocyte, a white blood cell responsible for creating platelets. The design of this cell as a no-nonsense mom was pretty cute. She was not a particularly sweet caretaker but given that her job is essentially herding cats in order to stop the body from bleeding to death, I can cut her some slack.

All in all, episode one felt pretty dang low-stakes and a missed opportunity to highlight the major characters, but I figured episode two would adjust the course. Except Red Blood Cell is hardly in it and the animation really bottomed out. Episode two looks awful from a character animation standpoint – when it's animated, that is.

The first half of the episode is dedicated to one gag: Memory Cell is trying to remember something. Meanwhile, a strain of Mumps (parotitis) is wreaking havoc in the parotid gland (two salivary glands located on the jawline under the ears). B Cell continues to try to get Memory Cell to focus and give him the information needed to make antibodies. After thwacking him upside the head, Memory Cell realizes that the 'prophetic dream' he thought he had was actually a memory of a previous battle with Mumps. The body was immunized.

The actual immunization sequence was actually pretty clever as we see the needle enter the body and drop off already damaged Mumps virus which the White Blood Cells easily defeat, allowing the information for antibodies to be gathered without much issue. Likewise for the design of Mumps itself, which looks like someone with a Mumps infection (swollen parotids) and like an Otafuku/Okame mask. It's the combo of Memory Cell's singular joke and its poor implementation that brings the episode down. There are a number of scenes that are attempting the "grotesquely hilarious" face gag but the art quality isn't up to it. Most of the battles are still frames with speedlines and that only gets worse in the second half.

The episode's second segment highlights the small intestine as White Blood Cell takes Red Blood Cell AE3083 and her kohai NT4201 on a tour. He's berated by Killer-T Cell for slacking off in what I can surmise is dialogue that needed another pass through an editor. The two groups end up having to work together to trick Campylobacter bacteria (a bacteria that can cause diarrhea; fittingly, its head looks like a poo swirl) into a Peyer's Patch in the small intestine. I had never heard of this prior to this episode, so consider me educated. Apparently there are "honeypots" that lure unwanted bacteria with nutrients in the small intestine where they are destroyed. Man, the human body is cool! We're also introduced to Peyer Patch proprietor M Cell for the first time (no relation to Memory Cell), in the form of a refined-looking bartender.

The Peyer's Patch segment has some really unnatural sounding dialogue throughout, which was pretty distracting on top of the pretty-poor animation. The above screengrab is from episode two and highlights some of the artistic issues. Things look weirdly smooth, for lack of a better word, on top of the previously mentioned animation problems.

Cells at Work! is doing its job: I'm learning things in a fun way! But it could do one better by not immediately sidelining its main cast. That we're already having animation issues this early is also not a great sign.

Observations from Matt (RN): The mumps vaccine is live attenuated which is actually not the norm for most modern vaccines. This means that the virus is still alive when the vaccine is administered and is why the Mumps seen in the episode are still moving but weakened. For comparison, a flu vaccine could have been represented by the capsules just having dead bodies inside and the COVID vaccine would be represented as blueprints for making COVID training dummies.

Rating:

Cells at Work!! is currently streaming on Funimation.


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