Cells at Work!
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Cells at Work! ?
While I'm a little sorry that the pimple chapter from volume four of the manga won't be adapted for the anime, I can't argue with the choice to end on the tale of hemorrhagic shock, or more properly, hypovolemia. Of all of the threats the body has faced in Cells at Work!, this is the most drastic – an unspecified wound to the head/neck region causes massive blood loss (although dehydration can also cause hypovolemia), and this time it looks like our cell friends may not survive. That makes the closing scene of the episode so effective – Neutrophil arrives at the site of the injury to do his job only to realize that there are no other blood cells present; just gloves and hats left littering the scene of destruction. It's highly effective imagery, and it works well with the earlier symbolism of a nuclear explosion to show just how serious the situation is.
That's what makes it a bit of a shame that the first three-quarters of the episode are devoted to Red attempting to be a good sempai to a new RBC. We all know that there's pretty much no one less qualified than Red to guide a kohai, but her sempai tells her that its part of the job, so there's not much choice going forward. Even the new RBC recognizes that Red's really not up for the job, and it doesn't take a genius to see that – she botches her instructions, insists on extraneous information, and just generally makes life much more difficult for her kohai than it needs to be.
Of course, we know that she has improved since the opening of the series. She mostly gets where she's going and Neutrophil watches out for her, ensuring that the job largely gets done. Kohai isn't aware of how far Red has come, and she's visibly surprised not only by the vastness of Red's acquaintance, but also by how when push comes to shove when the Shock hits, Red snaps to and is able to keep her cool amidst the screaming hordes of the other RBCs. She may not be especially gifted at her job, but Red has learned from her friendship with Neutrophil that at the end of the day, the most important thing is to stay cool and get the job done, and if that means be the only blood cells in a damaged vessel, then so be it. While Kohai is cold and scared, Red is ploughing ahead, maintaining her routine when it's most important, and that's the greatest sign of how far she's come, both as an RBC and as a character.
The first three-quarters of the episode are clearly meant to illustrate the calm-before-the-storm, to lull us into a false sense of security that this threat will be no greater than anything the body has faced before. It must be acknowledged that it does succeed on that front—almost too well. Granted, this is the penultimate episode, but there's a bit too much of a happy wrap-it-up feel to Red's attempts to mentor Kohai. Yes, it makes the Shock more, well, shocking when it hits, but getting there definitely feels a little dull and is replete with some odd shots of RBCs awkwardly walking in place.
We are clearly in for one hell of a finale next week. The stakes are high, we haven't seen Red or Kohai since their solitary trip through the blood vessel, so those could easily be their hats and gloves Neutrophil just encountered, and the body is clearly in serious trouble. Dull as the first part of the episode was, it did its job in making the ending that much more striking. Cells at Work! seems primed to go out with a bang, and we'll just have to tune in next time to see if that's going to be literally or figuratively.
Cells at Work! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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