Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Cells At Work
Anime Studio: January 20th, 2019
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Comedy / Biology / Edutainment
Released: January 20th, 2019
Language: Japanese / English
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Japanese Promos, Animated Shorts
This is a story about you. A tale about the inside of your body …
Inside the human body, roughly 37.2 trillion cells work energetically 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Fresh out of training, the cheerful and somewhat airheaded Red Blood Cell AE3803 is ready to take on the ever-so-important task of transporting oxygen. As usual, White Blood Cell U-1146 is hard at work patrolling and eliminating foreign bacteria seeking to make the body their new lair. Elsewhere, little platelets are lining up for a new construction project.
Dealing with wounds and allergies, getting lost on the way to the lungs, and bickering with similar cell types, the daily lives of cells are always hectic as they work together to keep the body healthy!
Edutainment is a genre that you sometimes hear people scoff at. The fact is though, it’s a style of learning that works very well. For example, many years ago, there were a series of books called How My Body Works. This has an accompanying cartoon series called Once Upon A Time…Life. The moment I heard about Cells At Work, I couldn’t help but think back to this.
In truth though, the comparison can only go as far as the core subject matter. Both were about the inner workings of the human body and featured anthropomorphized versions of our cells. Where they split apart is in the style of presentation. Cells At Work is unashamedly anime. The character designs range from atypical ‘pretty’ characters for the cells of our body to invading germs, diseases, and viruses that wouldn’t look out of place in Bio-Booster Armor Guyver. The way the individual stories play out too feel very shonen to me.
Given the popularity of anime as an artistic medium, this has come at a wonderful time too. At its core, Cells At Work is very much a scientific look at the human body, it’s just presented as a comedic piece. Where it gets really interesting is in how it avoids a potential pitfall. The relationship between Red Blood Cell AE3803 and White Blood Cell U-1146 has a romantic edge to it that leads to multiple situations that are very similar in how they play out. This makes sense, as the way our bodies deal with risks can seem repetitious when broken down to simple principals. As a result, repetition was very much a risk here.
Rather than let this become a problem though, the show does a good job at pivoting to other cells at just the right moment. The result is that the episode gives us a good variety of characters to follow – and turn gives us a much more complete view of the intended lesson – while never leaving us too far from our main pair. This was remarkably well executed in that regard. And the lessons themselves are, to my knowledge, scientifically accurate too. For all the over the top action present on screen, what happens is firmly based in reality, which is an excellent balance to achieve. Just look at the episodes based around cancer, for example. Here, we see the way cancer works, as well as the way our bodies try to combat it.
From a visual standpoint, the character designs are the strongest part. While the animation is decent enough, the fact that each cell type (and subsets of said cell) has a distinct look is what really shines. The outright creepiness of certain germs too is a joy to see, as what the mutated nature of cancer. The audio is also strong here, with both the sub and dub voice cast doing some fine work. I was particularly happy to see that the studio got the dub cast to do a dubbed version of the opening theme. That was a lot of fun. It’s just a shame that they didn’t get to dub the short bonus episodes too.
The only real downside I can see to the series is that binge-watching it will only be as enjoyable as you find the subject matter. If you aren’t interested in biology at all, then Cells At Work may not be much more than a passing curiosity for you. If you do enjoy biology or are at least open to the subject though, this is a nice addition to your collection. It works as equal parts entertainment and learning tool, which is exactly what it needed to do. This gets a solid 4 out of 5 from me.