Cells At Work!
The cells of the body, and their functions, are analogized as people working in a vast city (and surrounding countryside), with special emphasis on the functions of defense against disaster and invaders.
OK, so in reality white cells actually eat bacteria (phagocytosis) rather than slashing them with knives, and I believe that influenza strains are designated by their "HN" surface antigen presentation (and not as "Type A", "Type B", and such.) I'd also note that the body these guys are part of seems to have terrible luck as far as disease and accidents go. But reality be damned, this was still one of my favorite Summer 2018 series, full of goofy charm and delightfully weird characters.
The ethos of the body, as portrayed here, resembles that of our macro world in some ways, less so in others. Dedication to duty is prized, and both our main protagonists are dedicated enough. One (of many of her kind) is Red Cell, who, like many characters in this show did or will do, harbors doubts about her own competence (well, she DOES have a terrible sense of direction), but also as with the others her resolve does lead to considerable improvement in her performance. The other lead is White Cell (the White Cells are completely white; the Red Cells are given normal human complexions.) White Cell, like his brothers, is gung-ho about wiping out invading bacteria, though we do have a sexist stereotype here, in that White Cell always seems to be rescuing Red Cell, in particular, from attacks by germs. (Bacteria here BLEED when sliced by the White Cells, and when the bacteria die their eyes turn into X's, just like in old comic strips.) The white cells of our lead's type, Neutrophils, all seem male, but we DO get some token female immune cells- one is "NK" ("Natural Killer") cell, a shonen-style female fighter (in the tradition of characters like the lead in Battle Angel); another group of "female" immune cells are the Macrophages (the chief one is voiced by Belldandy herself, Kikuko Inoue), who are (usually) dressed as maids, but who are also surprisingly adept with cleavers, clubs, and other implements of (bacterial) destruction. (This show boasts an impressive list of familiar voices- Red Cell is voiced by the nearly ubiquitous Kana Hanazawa, while the Narrator (who explains each cell's function, as they're introduced) is Mamiko Noto.)
The world of this "body" has, in addition to several characters becoming more confident in themselves, several other major themes. One is that, in THIS world, misfits are NOT welcome. Another is a tendency by the body's management to automatically react in certain ways even when those reactions actually make things worse. This is a prominent part of my favorite episode, the "Cedar Pollen" one, which emphasizes that allergies represent an overreaction by the immune system: here we have a panicky "Memory Cell" (who can't really seem to remember ANYTHING without his notes); a "B Cell" and "Mast Cell" ("Don't call me a Fat Cell!") who respond to each other's secretions by reflexively ramping up their own; and the "Cedar Pollen" itself, which stupidly lumbers along, like one of the dimmer sort of Sailor Moon monsters only able to say its own name ("Cedar!"), but which is otherwise pretty harmless. (The "changing the nozzle" bit is a priceless sight gag, by the way.)
The series has several admirably quirky characters, such as Basophil, a robed figure who doesn't seem to really do much except describe ongoing events with apocalyptic poetry; and the Monocytes, figures in hazmat suits whose true identity is meant as a delightful surprise. And, of course, we have the Platelets- the blood components that seal wounds- which are depicted, here, as children in construction-worker outfits (for the "kawaii" factor).
The show's closing theme, by ClariS (of Oreimo fame), titled "Cheers" (excuse me, "CheerS"), is (I HAVE to put it this way) infectiously perky and cute.
There are a few things I need to note here:
-The hats of the Red Cells are rather clever; the hats LOOK like actual red cells from above, so there are several scenes where rushing crowds of red cells, from on high, look like actual circulating blood.
-Several times, the day is saved by medical intervention. The cells themselves, of course, are unaware of the outside world (except as a hazard, when they're sucked out through a wound, and those who meet this fate never return), so they regard medical treatment as Divine Providence (even when it's a bit problematical- for example, a steroid drug looks, and acts, a lot like The Terminator.)
Imaginative, and often terrific fun; it's not always light-hearted (for example, the two-parter that closes the series), but Red Cell, White Cell, and their fellow cells are always delightful, even if some are a bit peculiar. Like I said, one of my favorite summer series. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Quite violent, though it's almost all directed against anthropomorphized bacteria. (The fact that they bleed still bugs me for some reason.) There's no fan service. We'll rate it PG.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Cells At Work! © 2018 David Production
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