What Are You Watching? Cells at Work!

EDITOR’S NOTE: What Are You Watching? is a feature series that dives deep into why we love the anime we love. You told us what you were watching, and now we’ll dig into why.

By Yali Perez

If you read my column, A Mom’s Guide to Anime, you’ll know that anime is an integral part of my life, and it always has been. As a sickly kid who spent more time in hospitals than with friends or at home, anime was a chance for me to escape when my body just wouldn’t allow me to. I am still a sickly adult, but doing better.

I remember watching The Vision of Escaflowne, Pokémon and The Slayers from my hospital bed or at my godparents’ when my parents needed a break.

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I’ve spent a lot of time being mad at my body, because I felt I missed many parts of “normal” life.  Just as I used anime to get me through a difficult time, it took an anime to heal the broken bond between myself and my body. Of course, I’m talking about Aniplex of America and David Production’s Cells at Work!

It certainly didn’t cure me of my ailments (if only it could), but it helped me understand a part of myself. A part I no longer dislike.

It’s all about your body.

Cells at Work!, based off the manga series of the same name, was written and illustrated by Akane Shimizu. The anime series turns the cells and complex ecosystem of the human body into anthropomorphic characters working in a community to keep the body functioning.  

For as silly as the plot may sound, the show itself is tremendously entertaining and educational. Each episode shows you how the cells in your body handle different situations.

The series’ first episode turns the bacteria that causes pneumonia into a team of evil villains. I have had pneumonia. Talk about an accurate visualization. Another episode about a simple scratch becomes an apocalyptic-style event, which might feel accurate to some. 

Cells at Work! takes a far-fetched concept and makes it informative, impactful and action-packed.

There are more than a trillion cells in the body. You will care about all of them.

Cells at Work! Platelet

The human body is filled with trillions of cells working in tandem to keep us operational. The main characters of Cells at Work! are a red blood cell named AE3803 and a white blood cell named U-1146.

AE3803 is your classic adorable-but-clumsy lead, with U-1146 having to come to her aid. These two share many heartfelt and romantic moments that will have you rooting for them from beginning to end.

RELATED: Cells at Work! Season 2 Announced for January 2021

There are also the overzealous and ready-to-fight T Cells; the beautiful but deadly Macrophage; the charming Dendritic Cell; and the most precious Platelets you have ever seen. Seriously, you will want to protect the Platelets with your life!

Cells at Work! brilliantly displays how important each cell is and how integral their functions are. No one character is more important than the other. Yes, the story often centers on AE3803 and U-1146, but think of them more like our guides through the human body and the other amazing cells we’ll come across.

The villains are real, literally.

Cells at Work! may be a work of fiction, but its villains are very real. They’re also terrifying. Except for the Cedar Pollen Allergy…they were kinda cute.

Each villain is uniquely designed to accurately portray how serious they are in the real world. Pneumonia are a group of Power Rangers-style foes; the Influenza Viruses are zombies; Food Poisoning is a parasitic sea monster; and Cancer Cells look like ghosts.

These depictions are meaningful to the story and work to illustrate how they impact real human lives, with a bit of anime flair. It’s why I’ve recommended this show before in A Mom’s Guide to Anime! Seriously, it’s a great tool.

A healing moment

As you make your way through the show’s first season, you’ll traverse the entire human body, learning more about not just your own makeup, but how hard your body works on a moment-to-moment basis.

There’s a scene in Cells at Work! where U-1146 mentions that the cells are “just doing their jobs.” And if those cells know that what they’re doing might cause harm, they won’t do it.

This moment hit me.

I realized that I am here, an adult. My body did everything it could to get me from being a sickly kid to an adult living out her dreams. Instead of being mad at my body, I learned to be grateful.

Cells at Work! might seem like a show that shouldn’t work, but I’m here to tell you that it absolutely does. Akane Shimizu crafted a masterful story that is equal parts funny, thrilling, heartfelt and educational.

RELATED: The Works of David Production, From JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to Fire Force

Think about it: how many anime series are technically all about you? Cells at Work! is your story! It’s a chance to get up close and personal with a part of yourself that might feel like a mystery.  

So, get ready to introduce yourself to, well, yourself in Cells at Work! And, if you were a sick kid like me, maybe it will bring you some healing and better understanding.

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