First Impressions: Cells at Work!

Looking back at some of David Production’s recent works, it’s evident that they have always endeavoured to produce a range of genres and animation styles. Whether it’s the long-running hit series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or even the more light-hearted Ben-To, David Productions have established themselves in recent years as one of the many influential companies working in anime today.

So Cells at Work! is an interesting take on the cells that work in the body, presenting the different blood cells as anthropomorphic characters that run around in order to accomplish various tasks. Right off the bat, we are introduced to the the “roughly 37.2 trillion cells” that work to make the human body function. The series opens with big open shots that illustrate the various settings and the large number of people running around.

Following this, we are introduced to our female protagonist Erythrocyte or Red Blood Cell, who to my knowledge does not have an individual name other than her serial number of AE3803. What the show does incredibly well is establishing all these key characters within the first couple of minutes. We get quick glimpses of this new world, followed by our protagonist who is attacked by a gang of Pneumococcus germs who become the main antagonist of the first episode. This interaction also involves the introduction of our second main character, Neutrophil or White Blood Cell who is also only recognised by his serial number U-1146.

To an extent, I understand why they chose not to give these two characters names as it gives them a sense of industry. They aren’t special or uniquely individual blood cells, but rather just another member of the large cohort (think FN-2187 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens). I’m not familiar with the original manga, and thus I am hoping that maybe they’ll give these characters names that aren’t “White Blood Cell” or “Red Blood Cell”. I don’t know, maybe I just find it strange.

Anyway, the first episode plays heavily with the contrasting and often playful dynamic between the two main characters. We have a young, goofy and awkward female character that is introduced to an intense and slightly intimidating male character that’s sole purpose is to exterminate any germs.

Red Blood Cells deliver oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body through blood circulation, basically like a food delivery system that runs around carrying packages. Her mission to delivery oxygen to the lungs is first depicted through a delightful montage of her trying to enter different areas, only to discover that she was nowhere near where she needs to be in the first place. This is interrupted, however, when she discovers that a rogue Pneumococcus germ cell is also trying to get to the lungs, and thus chaos ensues between her and the White Blood Cell.

Definitely the strongest point of this series is the comedy. It’s fun, light-hearted and not over-the-top. A lot of it stems from the Red Blood Cell’s character, whose ditzy and quirky behaviour is juxtaposed against the cut-throat chase between a typical male hero protagonist (White Blood Cell) and the over dramatic villain antagonist (Pneumococcus). There are certain instances where I felt that the comedy would be a little left field or out of place, especially in sequences where the two characters are engaged in an epic battle while the Red Blood Cell squeals in fear in the background. But that’s in no fault of the series, because its ability to juggle a rich and engaging action plot inside an otherwise comedic storyline is both unique and well-handled. Once you get over the weird contrast, it’s easy to recognise that the contrast actually contributes to the overall comedic tone.

At its core, the concept is what separates this show from the rest of what Japan’s industry has to offer. It depicts the human body system as this living and breathing world (pun intended) with different entities running around to get jobs done. There’s the Red Blood Cells that act as the standard, average population, who are protected by the White Blood Cells or even the Killer T Cells that act as the defence force (like the Police or the FBI) against dangerous germs. There are even Platelets who are portrayed as adorable little children running around with small tools like chairs or ladders.

If it isn’t the precious children doing chores that gets you hooked, or the surprisingly strong comedic timing, perhaps the music soundtrack will get you pumped. The opening in particular was a lot of fun. Without even seeing a second of the actual show, the song’s upbeat tempo and catchy tune will have you obsessed with the show’s characters from the get-go, even if you have no idea who anyone is.

I reckon a lot of people will get a huge kick out of this, especially if you’re well-versed with human biology and the way the body works. It’s got charismatic characters, an interesting concept, phenomenal comedy that will have you laughing out loud, the list goes on…

Seeing as though it’s only the first episode, it’ll be interesting to see where the writers take the show. The first episode was a solid introduction into this world and the characters, and I’m excited to see what kind of overarching story arc they chose to write into the show.

– Ethan D.