Cells at Work! – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: 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! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: First things first, Cells at Work! LOVES to repeat its information and often. Every episode starts with the same establishing explanation, as if worried the audience will become confused otherwise. Descriptions for certain cells/any cells featured in the episode are given every single time they appear, even if we were just introduced to them in the previous episode. All this repetition is not only time consuming but might make viewers feel like they’re watching an instructional video hellbent on teaching rather than entertaining. Also for whatever reason, often during these introductions of new ‘characters’, not only will you have a narrator describing these characters but there will also be an additional wall of text (discounting the subtitles themselves) onscreen saying the exact same thing. Maybe this was done to make it easier for Japanese viewers to follow along but for non Japanese audiences, it means a lot of extra text onscreen. One could argue that this is all part of the show’s attempt to mix education with entertainment but they also make for an annoyance for anyone already familiar with what’s being repeated and splattered all across the screen again and again.
Tom: Cells at Work! offers a lot of charm, but that stop and go nature created by the frequent need to provide informative narration eventually becomes damaging, ruining the flow in favor of informative monologues that might better service the story if incorporated more naturally into the dialogue and story itself. Cells at Work! might still have been able to weather that stop and go nature if its format wasn’t so set in stone. For five of the first six episodes the series operates on a ‘Monster of the Week’ formula, meaning these episodes play out much the same way, barring the substitution of certain story elements (different monster here, new character there, etc.) This means that by Episode 6 you can sort of feel like you’ve seen everything the series has to offer. It’s only in Episode 6 that the series finally starts to deviate from that tired approach, offering up a teaser at the end of the episode that leads into Episode 7, giving some hope that Cells at Work! will shift away from an overused formula and onto content a little more open and free.
Linny: The one off stories we’ve had so far are still plenty of fun as they offer both a mix of comedy and heart as we watch anthropomorphic cells interacting with each other, and having to face off and survive attacks from all kinds of invading germs and bacteria….often with overwhelming odds stacked against them. A lot of the characters are given a flavourful personality creating avenues for comedy and charm through their reactions and behaviour to the situation. Yes, the regular walls of text and info can be distracting but for fans of cute and adorable characters, you’re sure to find one or two to grow attached to very quickly. And if you need more than just cute, watching the bloodthirsty nature of some of the body’s protective cells makes for some amusingly dark comedy.
Tom: Cells at Work!’s comedy is what makes the series endearing, even when it feels tired in other ways. It helps that the art is generally solid, though the animation itself rarely hits highs. The character designs, and interpretation of the various aspects of our body and its would-be invaders gives Cells at Work! a unique visual charm that helps to keep your investment even when the stop and go nature damages the flow. But beneath that there’s isn’t too much else to appreciate. For as informative, in all honesty overly so, the series is the characters themselves are razor thin, with very surface level, simple personalities that make them fun, but hard to grow terribly attached to.
Linny: It is true that as strong as some of the personality traits of the characters are, they’re also the ONLY trait they have. Our introductory protagonists Red Blood Cell is stuck with her sole role as getting lost near every single episode, thus always ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. When we later learn that they first went to school to prepare for their future jobs/tasks, it makes you wonder how she ever graduated as she seems completely inept at reading directions. Then there’s White Blood Cell who’s depicted as the classic hero character, always coming to the rescue of others. Finally, there’s Platelet cells whose main shtick is their adorable childish size and mannerism, adding immeasurable amounts of moe everytime they appear and sure to bowl over anyone fond of cute characters regardless of their lack of dimension.
Tom: Overall Cells at Work! is still a fun ride, but a flawed one. While I haven’t felt like I wasted my time with the series, it’s currently a one and done for me, with little interest of ever rewatching, or owning it someday. What keeps me invested though is the potential promise of Episode 6, hinting at possibly shaking things up a little. If the series remains a monster of the week after this, I might have to downgrade my recommendation, but if it manages to ‘reinvent’ itself for the second half of its run then I think Cells at Work! will come out all the stronger for it.
Linny: Cells at Work! has potential as a way to help younger audiences learn about the human body in a more entertaining manner than just having to sit through a bland science workbook. And it also works, for the most part, as an entertaining look at the internal workings of the human body. It does suffer from a few flaws, i.e the way it chooses to inject info dumps repeatedly and its monster of the week becoming formulaic to a certain degree, but that could easily be overlooked in favour of the cuteness it offers. If you don’t find yourself completely won over by the first episode, it’s probably safe for you to drop the series, but for those with plenty of free time and a penchant for cute, you may like sticking through with it.
Cells at Work! is available for streaming via Crunchyroll