I was never a good student. Throughout my high school and college days, I actually struggled with most of my subjects. I wouldn’t say I’m stupid, though. The reason why I say I’m not a dimwit is because I can remember so many geeky stuff that most people have forgotten. Stuff like how many Robins Batman has have over the years, the locations of the warp and impulse engines on the USS Enterprise and the like. I know all of that because I wanted to learn all that stuff.
Has it helped me bring up my grade at school? Hell no! But I still learned them because I was interested because all that stuff was presented to me in an interesting way so I insisted that I memorize and study up on those subjects. If they managed to present something like the periodic table in an anime and gave each element different personalities, I would’ve memorized them wholeheartedly.
Which is why I would’ve loved it if the anime Cells at Work was released when I was going to school. I would’ve aced some of those pesky biology exams!
Cells at Work, or Hataraku Saibou in Japanese, is a relatively new anime with fresh hook. Generally, the show focuses on the stories that happen in your body and its inner workings and features anthropomorphic versions of the various cells that, you know, keep you alive. The main heroes are Red Blood Cell AE3803, who’s job is to transport oxygen, carbon dioxide and nutrients to the different parts of the body but had a horrible sense of direction, and White Blood Cell U-1146, who’s job is to fight and kill the various invaders like germs. There are also other characters that eventually get featured, such as Platelet, Dendrite, Macrophage, Memory Cell, Eosinophil and the various T Cells (Killer, NK, Naive, Regulatory and Helper). Their jobs are to ensure that their world, the human body they live in, manages to keep going.
One thing that I positively love about the show is how creative everything is! Although it’s an anime, the creators put a lot of work to ensure that there is a strong level of scientific accuracy to everything in Cells at Work. From the roles of each cell down to how the world works, everything in Cells as Work is presented in a way that anyone, even those who doesn’t know a lick about human biology, works by showing it to us like it’s the “regular” world. Sneezes are shown to be giant missiles that are loaded up with invading germs. There are one way gates to symbolize the valves in the blood circulatory system. The bone marrow are little nurseries where new cells are checked for what job they are suited for. Viruses are depicted as zombies since, technically, viruses aren’t actually alive until the latch onto another cell. According to one doctor on YouTube, most of these statements are a pretty good visualization of what’s happening in the body. I may not understand most of the “real” biology and science happening but at least Cells at Work gives the viewer an accurate, albeit, simplified version of what’s happening. So, great job, Cells at Work!
But accuracy doesn’t meat squat if it’s not fun. Thankfully, Cells at Work is not only educational but enjoyable as well. The show, in general, can feel like your typical lighthearted anime but that’s not a bad thing in itself. The animation is actually really good. I wouldn’t say that everything is perfect but the amount of detail is still amazing in almost every shot. Like I said, the world is already pretty imaginative but the animators definitely put a lot of work on even the minute details, such as giving the red blood cells’ jackets a different shade of red depending on what they’re transporting at the time.
The “main” characters are unique but, at the same time, actually look similar to the other Cells that work in the body. In fact, the main Red Blood Cell and the main White Blood Cell aren’t even called the number that’s on their uniform. They just refer to each other as Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell. Same thing goes for Killer T Cell, Macrophage, Dendrite and the rest. Yet it never gets confusing to the viewer since Cells at Work creatively uses different names for the other characters that have the same roles. Red Blood Cell has a senior so she calls her Sempai. White Blood Cell may look like the other white blood cells but they’re never called that or even acknowledged by a name. Each group of cells may all have the same uniforms but they all have different and distinct features so you know which Red Blood Cell is the “main” red blood cell, which is really smart.
Cells at Work also does a great job at presenting the information to the viewer and even pacing what you learn throughout the 13-episode anime. The show starts off relatively simple, giving you the information about what Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell’s jobs are, which is relatively easy to grasp. Things do ramp up slowly as we learn about the other cells such as Macrophage, what causes an allergy and what’s actually happening in us during an allergy attack and even what cancer is. I do have to mention on the last two things there because the episodes that focus on those topics, Cedar Pollen Allergy and Cancer Cells, respectively, are probably the best episodes of Cells at Work. Not only because you learn a lot about those topics, but because I found them to be the most entertaining and best written ones for different reasons.
I really enjoyed Cedar Pollen Allergy because it’s the most entertaining as well as probably the episode where I learned the most from. I generally know that an allergy attack is an overreaction of the body’s immune system but I never could imagine how this could happen. Cells at Work’s Cedar Pollen Allergy is a brilliant analogy of what happens during an allergy attack and what the cells are actually doing to make a simple problem worse. It also does everything in a clever way and even explains things like antibodies and histamines in easy-to-understand terms. Anyone who’s ever had an allergy attack should really watch the Cedar Pollen Allergy episode just to get a better understanding of what’s actually happening.
Cancer Cells, on the other hand, is also a great episode but because it’s the most emotional episode of Cells at Work. While the episode does go into some depth about cancer, how it reproduces and even how it dupes the body into giving it more nutrients than the other parts of the body, Cancer Cells does something I never thought I would say: I felt sorry for Cancer Cell. While it may seem odd that the show would make, of all things, Cancer Cell as somewhat of a sympathetic character, it does makes sense in the context of the show and even in the human body. I won’t really spoil the episode but the episode manages to tug at a person’s heartstrings because it gives you the anthropomorphic point-of-view of something as destructive as the disease.
In that sense, you can see why I really like Cells at Work as a whole. It’s already an entertaining and creative anime by itself. But the amount of work needed to make the show as accurate to what the cells do in real life is astonishing. It does a great job of teaching viewers topics that can feel so dry if you want to learn them from a medical book. Cells at Work is only 13 episodes long, which is a shame because I would love some more from this anime. Then again, there’s always the Hataraku Saibou manga, right?
Have you seen Cells at Work/Hataraku Saibou? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!