Cells at Work!
Episode 11

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Cells at Work! ?

When it comes to temperature, my feeling is that you can always put more clothes or blankets on, but there just comes a point where you simply can't take anything else off. (Thanks, Shel Silverstein!) In other words, I'll take cold over heat any day. While next week's two-parter may begin to push that issue a bit more, as manga readers will already be aware, this week's story about heat stroke certainly doesn't make a very good case for the human body's ability to function in extreme heat.

We join Red and her fellow RBCs as they're circulating close to the skin in an attempt to cool an already overheated body down. Red remarks that the surrounding landscape looks awfully dry and that she'd heard the dermis being talked up as the exact opposite. That and the fact that she and her pals are sweating buckets is a major sign that something's simply not right – Cells at Work! may not be the most anatomically sound show with its anthropomorphized cells, but it almost never has them dripping sweat, even when Red or Neutrophil is running around. Possibly that's because they were saving the moment for this episode. Regardless, it makes for a good symbol of what's going on: the body is overheating and dehydrating at an alarming rate.

Apart from the fact that one of the sweat gland cells makes a remark about “global warming,” we don't actually know what's causing the body to overheat. There are a few ways that it can happen, with of course external temperature being a big one, but some medications and diseases can also contribute to what is more technically called “hyperthermia.” (Its reverse is the better-known “hypothermia.”) Given the other signs we've had that this is a young(er) healthy body, external temperature is probably the cause, and certainly news in recent years has reported a marked rise in heat-related deaths and problems due to hotter summers. Whether or not that means that the show is making a point about something non-biology-related is up for debate, but the increasing number of heat-related problems people are experiencing does make this episode feel a bit more timely than some of the others, and if nothing else may help to remind people to stay cool and hydrated so that they don't have to picture their poor little platelets imploringly looking for water.

If anything, I feel like this episode didn't go quite far enough. The inclusion of a germ for Neutrophil to fight off made for a terrific scene near the end (anyone else hear the Jaws theme in their head?) but otherwise didn't necessarily contribute to the overall message about heat sickness, although it does make the point that a body in crisis isn't as effective at fighting off invaders. The melodrama of the wilting cells could have been played up a lot more for entertainment purposes, much in the way that Red's clumsiness and lack of directional sense typically is. Given the set-up we've had up to this point, a poignant scene with Red and Neutrophil or a Victorian one with the platelets could have been both fun and very effective while still getting the point about the dangers of heat stroke and dehydration across. Not that the Chief of the Sweat Gland's rain dance isn't humorous, but there's really a lot more that could have been played up.

Of course, all of those ideas could have tread on the toes of the two-parter (from the end of manga volume four) that's going to serve as the series' grand finale. I'll have to withhold (most) judgement until I see how it plays out; if it sticks to the source material, I think we're in for a memorable ending in Cells at Work!'s final two weeks.

Rating: B

Cells at Work! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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