There’s a lot of new, exciting anime to pick from this summer, but Cells at Work! is already one of my favorites of the season. The series, based off of a manga of the same name by Akane Shimizu now available in English and released weekly on Crunchyroll, focuses on anthropomorphic cells working within the human body and how they function. Even just two episodes in, Cells at Work!’s endearing characters and hilarious, extreme riffs on actual bodily functions have already made it both stand out and surpass older, similar stories.
The series focuses on Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell, two cells that keep running into each other during their host body’s crises. Cells at Work! has no shortage of bodily material to draw from when it comes to side characters as well — the Killer T Cells and Platelets are some of my favorites so far. Episodes largely focus on a single threat to the host body and its inhabitants. In the first episode, pneumococcus bacteria invade and attempt to infiltrate the body’s lungs, and in the second, a cut to their skin threatens to suck out nearby cells and invites in unwanted pathogens.
While there doesn’t seem to be much of an overarching plot just yet, the series’ episodic structure is incredibly entertaining. This biology-heavy series could easily fall into a Magic School Bus-esque, educational cartoon hole; thankfully, Cells at Work! balances humor and bizarre action sequences with explaining all of the different types of cells featured in the series. Cells at Work! is at its strongest while working this balance, depicting real bodily functions and then riffing hilariously off of them.
After watching the initial promotional video for Cells at Work!, I was immediately reminded of a similar (but not as immediately endearing) animated work: the 2001 live-action animated film and series Osmosis Jones. The comparison was inevitable, but while both series share a premise — essentially, the cells in our body have lives of their own — the similarities don’t extend much further.
While Osmosis Jones goes for grit and high-stakes action, Cells at Work! sticks to its goofy and playful moments, even down to the antagonistic bacteria, who seem more like classic overdramatic anime villains than anything else. Furthermore, it succeeds at utilizing humor and drama inherent in the premise itself without resorting to some of the grosser bodily functions like Osmosis Jones — Cells at Work! makes something like platelets sealing a cut equal parts comical and harrowing.
Cells at Work! doesn’t take itself too seriously — and while neither did predecessors like Osmosis Jones, this show rides on its cuteness too. Check it out while it’s still early on over at Crunchyroll.