Cells at Work!
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Cells at Work! ?
This week's Cells at Work! feels like it really skirts the edges of edutainment. Ostensibly the episode is about the maturation of T cells in the thymus, or “Thymus School” as the show frames it. The real story, however, is about the relationship between Killer T (or at least the one we see most frequently) and Helper T, with a little bonus Regulatory T thrown in for good measure. All three of them started out in the same place, the thymus, a lymphoid organ in the neck, as thymocytes, although eventually they matured into three different variants of T cells with distinct functions. Contrary to what you might have thought, it turns out that the guy we now know as Helper T was originally the tough guy of the group, while Killer T was an emotional weakling, barely making it out of Thymus School and spending most of his time getting worked up.
Or perhaps this isn't as much of a surprise as the latest batch of trainees thinks; think back to the episode about Naïve T Cell and his JoJo's-like transformation into a buff Killer T with a lick of super Saiyan hair. Given his backstory, it isn't much of a stretch that our vaguely tsundere Killer T would have the same history. In fact, with this episode following Neutrophil's guardianship over Red's circulation and the revelation that Killer T really just wants to be friends but can't allow himself to, this feels like one of the most contiguous sequences in the series thus far. Even better, we hear young Helper T give young Killer T basically the exact same speech Killer T gave Neutrophil last week, showing us precisely what caused Killer T to become the cell (person?) he is today.
Since Helper T's job is to direct the Killer T Squad, this makes a decent amount of sense in terms of the show's stated lesson plans. Young Killer T definitely respected (and was a bit afraid of) young Helper T, and looked up to him in a reluctant kind of way. Thus when Helper T became his official commander, his words were even more fully burnt into Killer T's mind, and he modeled himself on his memories of his childhood rival/friend, even if he's not sure he's a fan of Helper T's current lifestyle. Regulatory T, meanwhile, has been watching over the two of them since thymocytehood, so having her grow up to take on a role where she's meant to be monitoring their actions (or at least Killer T's) also works in the context of character development dovetailing with a simple biology lesson.
For those less thrilled with episodes like this where the science takes more of a backseat to character work, at least they didn't reveal that Regulatory T was a fujoshi fantasizing about Killer and Helper. Overall this is a more interesting episode than the one about Red and Neutrophil as children, possibly because we don't know these two characters quite as well and the door was opened to the possibility that Killer T had more going on than we initially thought. Unfortunately there are some visual issues here, with awkward running in a few spots (though not the scene of deliberately stiff naïve T cells training under Killer T, which does feel purposeful) and a weird shine effect on Helper T's cheeks that make it look as if he's got a large scar or the world's oddest tan line on his face. We do see more macrophage character designs, however, so that's a bright spot if ladies in Victorian maid outfits are your thing.
Cells at Work! reverts back to its original formula next week with the return of yet another infection. That actually feels like a relief, because while I appreciate the series playing with its format, the most consistent episodes are the bacterium-of-the-week ones. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to try and get the opening theme out of my head – the new verse we got this week is only making it harder to stop hearing it.
Cells at Work! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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