Cells at Work!
Episode 6

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Cells at Work! ?

This episode of Cells at Work asks the important questions: is it okay to ship Red and Neutrophil? Not that the question is asked outright; it's more that the story about Erythroblasts and Myelocytes follows the basic format of the good old high school romance. When Red was just little Erythroblast under the care of Macrophage in the bone marrow, she got lost during a class and ended up being attacked by a bacterium. And who should show up to help her? A young Myelocyte who would one day grow up to be our favorite Neutrophil! Yes, it's a fateful childhood encounter between two people who would meet again with only vague memories of their early bonding experience, the sort of thing that forms the base story for countless romances in all demographics of manga.

Honestly, it's probably more tongue-in-cheek than anything else, but it does add to the appeal of what's basically an educational show to throw in a romantic subplot. More importantly, this week's episode provides a break in the monster-of-the-week format we've been following for the past month. It's a format that's largely been working, but breaking it up with both a half-episode of something totally different and then the start of what could be a multi-episode arc with the introduction of cancer cells in the second half is a welcome change.

That first half is pretty darn adorable, as well. As usual, there are some clever devices used to make things both clear and understandable to biology novices. The use of hats throughout the series has been generally good, but this week takes the cake with little Erythroblast's pom-pom. It not only serves to make the kids look cute, but it also works to illustrate the enucleation of the cells (not to be confused with the surgical removal of the eye, which is spelled the same way) by having Macrophage pull off the pom-pom as a graduation ritual. The pom-pom also serves as a warning system, locking the doors to the veins so that Erythroblast can't escape the bone marrow, which in the case of our particular friend is probably a good thing. More to the point of cuteness, however, is not only getting to see our favorite cells as children, but seeing Myelocyte before he became Neutrophil. His bravado with his toy knife as he tries to protect Erythroblast is both adorable and indicative of who he'll become, and the episode does a good job with making his personality the believable root of the guy we've been watching all season. Plus it really is kind of fun to see him panic like any regular little kid – efficient and cool-headed he may be, but even he gets in over his head, something we won't get to see for a while yet in the main story.

It does seem like a good idea not to make the entire episode focus on the cells as children, however. The second part of the episode introduces us to NK Cell, yet another piece of the immune system, roughly analogous to the Killer T cells. NK, which stands for “natural killer,” is the Rambo of the immune system, and she dresses like Revy from Black Lagoon. (Actually, she sort of looks like her in general.) Her role is to target fast-moving viruses and cancers in general, so those in the know will have guessed what was going on with the odd cell Neutrophil killed before NK's reveal at the end of the episode. Since she and Killer T clearly hate each other, this will make next week's fight against Cancer particularly interesting, because like this week threw in some romance, next week can play with rivals having to work together.

These little human touches are just part of what makes Cells at Work so much fun – they aren't just anthropomorphized cells, they're little people living in your veins. And okay, that's a little creepy if you think about it too hard, but it also makes sense, because they're part of what makes us what we are. Also, think how adorable a veterinary version of this show would be. Who wants to pitch one?

Rating: B

Cells at Work! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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