This Week in Anime
Cells at Work! Makes Learning Fun (and Disgusting)

by Jacob Chapman and Steve Jones,

Cells at Work! turns the human body into a thriving civilization with wildly entertaining results. This week, Jacob and Steve share their favorite things about this unusual piece of edutainment.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


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You can read our weekly coverage of Cells at Work here!

Jacob
Steve, are you ready to take an enriching and educational journey inside the Wonderful World of the Human Body? :D

Steve
Golly, am I ever!


Ah, the beauty that lies beneath the skin~

Turns out, deep down, we're all anime. And an extremely violent anime at that!

Cells at Work! is just like the Magic School Bus, if Ms. Frizzle's students were constantly on the edge of a gruesome and psychologically scarring demise.

(So what I'm saying is it's just like the Magic School Bus.)

And I love it! Now this is my idea of a healing anime. It's literally about your body healing itself!

I remember being appropriately traumatized by that episode when they Innerspace themselves inside Ralphie, and I'm so glad a new generation gets that same experience! Cells at Work! is a damn fine piece of edutainment that makes me nostalgic for those days of watching Magic School Bus or Schoolhouse Rock in class.

Except I'm pretty sure Magic School Bus never featured monster girl bacteria. Or pathogen girl, I guess? Pathogirl? We still gotta iron that out.

Right. It turns out that your red gooey insides are actually a metropolis, filled with hard-working cells from neutrophils to basophils to Steve's Wife:

You can call me out all you want, but I'll call myself out more. I'm brimming with anticipation for the episode where they explain that one of the macrophage's jobs is to, uh, eat other cells.

What level of vore is it when the vore-er is already inside you?
...You know what, don't answer that.

Incidentally, this is why I got a degree in the life sciences. I just didn't know it at the time. I did it for her.

So Cells at Work!'s premise writes itself, but what makes it relaxing and endearing instead of unbearably twee is the show's astute sense of humor and playfulness. The show relies on a juxtaposition of cuteness and hyper-violence that drives some of the most entertaining anime out there.

That balance can be best summed up by this image:

(which is surprisingly biologically accurate too!)

It commits to its core conceit. If our cells were people, there'd be A) a whole lot of them with very specific roles that interlock in a beautiful example of the power of evolution, and B) just unfathomable amounts of death and destruction


WE HARDLY KNEW YE

Honestly, I like learning new things from my entertainment, and it's been a long time since high school bio class, so I'm glad that Cells at Work! can deliver such a great combo of goofy comedy and a gentle massage for my brain-meats.

Yeah! Like even though I have a biochem degree, it's been a good while since I took a cell biology course. And Cells at Work! does an excellent job of breaking down the immune system into its component parts and explaining the roles of each type of cell. If you asked me a month ago what the difference is between an eosinophil and a neutrophil, I'd be panicking!

But now I know: one has twintails and the other is
Ginko from Mushi-Shi.


Anyway, this anime could be a godsend for any weebs taking a bio course.

And all this information is delivered from the perspective of a new hire, a Red Blood Cell who just wants to find the alveoli and make her deliveries without getting lost in the spleen somewhere along the way. AND HAVEN'T WE ALL BEEN THERE? Even though there are trillions of cells in the body, she keeps running across a certain special White Blood Cell, giving us a little taboo romance to go along with all the world-saving superhero action. It's got a little bit of everything going on dramatically to spice up the biology lesson, and I'm already rooting for whatever constitutes a courtship between these two cells.


RBC-chan, he needs like five beach towels.

I'm so glad "I ship Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell" is a sentence I can say now. Life finds a way.

And if you're a fan of weird monsters, HOO BOY.

Most pathogens look like monsters under a microscope anyway, but blowing them up like this really drives the point home.

I loved how they depicted a parasite as a kaiju. Makes sense both in terms of scale and looking awesome.

Yeeeeeeah that episode was the closest the show got to actually grossing me out. Adorable launch sequences of sneezing out Pneumococcus are one thing...


But um, uh, oh god oh god D:

I'm not gonna be able to eat sushi for a whole...ever. Ever again.

Just...stay away from the cheap stuff...

Or anything that makes tiny horrible whale screams.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also liked how they depicted a virus as opposed to the bacterial infections. They're physically smaller, but with the ability to hijack a cell's basic functions, i.e. turn them into zombies!

It's fun AND accurate!

That episode also makes it obvious that Cells at Work! comes to you from the same studio that's graced us with four (soon to be five) parts of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

Yeah, from the bold colors and lines to the striking poses and playful tone, Cells at Work! was a perfect match for David Production.

Of course, nothing in Jojo's was as incredibly moe as the actual MVPs of Cells at Work! How could we forget the best characters in the whole show?!

I NEVER THOUGHT I'D FEEL SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT BLOOD CLOTTING BUT HERE WE ARE. Bless these platelets.

And the very best thing about these sub-cellular sweeties? You don't have to just feel the need to nurture and protect them. YOU ALREADY DO, EVERY DAY!

They work so hard! I'm never gonna look at a scab the same way again.

Okay but let's talk about those scabs, because this is one place where Cells at Work!'s creative license bucks against what I know about biology enough to be Kind of F***ed Up.

At the end of episode two, there's this cute little sequence where the platelets round up nearby cells to use as a dam to close off a scrape.

The show says they'll be "free" in three days, but uh, They Are Dead, Those Cells Are 100% Doomed to Dry Up and Wither in Their Sticky Prison.

You're a murderer, Platelet-chan.

I mean, they're "free" in the sense that they are free of this mortal coil for the rest of all time.

These poor cells have a lifespan of like nine days! But the contrast between the gruesome reality and the tongue-in-cheek fantasy is what makes Cells at Work! so special, and I look forward to seeing more every single week.

It's just so cute and clever all the way through. Like depicting a naive T-cell as a literally naive young boy with no battle experience, or depicting a basophil, whose function still isn't totally clear, as a mysterious guy in a poncho who speaks only in riddles.

Cells at Work! does a fantastic job of putting the "tainment" in "edutainment," and it should be a delight for both bio majors and fans of knife fights alike! You won't see a white blood cell blush anywhere else.

Man, how does THAT work? Just wait until next year, we'll get an anime about the blood cells's blood cells at work!



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