Human Biology is Hilarious and Gross: Celebrating Cells at Work!

Dive deep into the microscopic world with a look at the 2018 TV anime based on Akane Shimizu's manga

Paul Chapman (@gooberzilla) struggling in the jaws of a life-sized model hippo.


With so many interesting titles being released, every new anime season is a fantastic voyage. But older seasons also have many wonderful things to offer, and so “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” continues to plug away at the Summer 2018 Revival, a retrospective of some of the series that made the summer season of one year ago unique.


This week we're checking out an inner-space when we dive deep into the human body with a look back at Cells at Work!, a TV anime that's one part Biology 101, one part slapstick comedy, and one part nightmare fuel on a microscopic scale.



What's Cells at Work!?


Based on the manga by Akane Shimizu, Cells at Work! is a 2018 TV anime with direction by Kenichi Suzuki (Drifters) and animation production by David Production (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure). Crunchyroll describes the story of Cells at Work! as follows:


This is a story about you. A tale about the inside of your body… According to a new study, the human body consists of approximately 37 trillion cells. These cells are hard at work every day within a world that is your body. From the oxygen carrying Red Blood Cells to the bacteria fighting White Blood Cells, Get to know the unsung heroes and the drama that unfolds inside of you!


Further proof that Japan can turn anything into a mascot character, Cells at Work! takes the central conceit that every living cell within the human body is a tiny person with a well-defined job and runs with it, exploring the daily lives of anthropomorphized cells...and the numerous pathogens that make their labors difficult.


Red Blood Cell and her senpai deliver nutrients in the Cells at Work! TV anime.


It's Fun!


The production design is a major reason that Cells at Work! is such an enjoyable show. It's entertaining to see how the various organs and tissue systems of the human body are visualized as geographical locations, or how each type of cell is given a personality that reflects their real life function (e.g. how all of the Killer T cells are brash, aggressive soldiers).


Red blood cells become uniformed couriers frantically delivering canisters of oxygen and picnic baskets full of nutrients. White blood cells become knife-wielding assassins. The nasal system becomes a hot-springs town. It's very bright, colorful, and imaginative, and the opening and ending themes will get your toes tapping.



It's Educational!


In addition to being entertaining, Cells at Work! is also loaded with educational information, especially in its examination of how various pathogens cause different diseases and how the human body's immunological system defends itself from all sorts of invaders. In addition to collaborating with numerous public wellness campaigns, Cells at Work! has also garnered praise for the sympathetic way it deals with topics such as cancer, a diagnosis which is still greatly feared and stigmatized.


A virulent pneumococcus bacterium protects itself with a capsule shield in the Cells at Work! TV anime.


It's Horrifying!


The human body is something of a horror show, and Cells at Work! doesn't shy away from this fact, approaching the subject with a jolly mix of humor and terror. Neutrophils and macrophages engage virus-infected cells, bacteria, and other threats with melee weapons, resulting in comically gratuitous blood-spray and cringe-inducing squishy noises when the white blood cells ingest their enemies through the process of phagocytosis.


Sometimes played for comedy, sometimes played for drama, sometimes cute, sometimes disturbing, Cells at Work! is brimming with violence and mass-destruction, so sensitive viewers should be aware of what they're getting into well in advance.


A hand rake wielding Platelet hitches a ride on the shoulders of White Blood Cell, who brandishes his knife against any possible invaders in the Cells at Work! TV anime.


No Rest for the Wicked.


Crunchyroll currently streams Cells at Work! in some 66 territories worldwide, and the series is available in Japanese with subtitles in English, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. If that's not enough biological adventures for you, a Bluray release of Cells at Work! will be published by Aniplex of America later this month.

Additionally, an English language version of the original Cells at Work! manga is available from Kodansha Comics, and later this month, Kodansha Comics will also begin publishing Cells at Work! Code Black, a spin-off manga written by Shigemitsu Harada and illustrated by Issei Hatsuyoshiya that explores the stressful lives of the cells inhabiting an unhealthy body.

The inhabitants of the human body are terrified and overwhelmed by a group of cedar pollen allergens.


A highly episodic series, its equally easy to enjoy Cells at Work! in bits and pieces or in marathon sessions. If you're interested in a cartoony crash course in human cellular biology, or if you're just in the mood for some slapstick violence and gross-out humor, and if the series is available in your area, then please consider giving Cells at Work! a try.


Monocyte, a white blood cell clad in a hazmat suit and gas mask, gives a hearty thumb's up.


Thank you for joining us for the latest installment of the Summer 2018 Revival with “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”. Be sure to tune in next time when we transition from red blood cells to bloody conflict as we face off against marauding hordes of Mongol warriors with a tiny band of outcast samurai.


Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!


Hime poses for a Crunchyroll ad banner.



Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.

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