Monday 9 July 2018

First Impressions: Cells at Work!

Cells at Work!
Cells at Work! is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll 

It's a widely agreed fact that Osmosis Jones is an often-overlooked piece of brilliance from the world of animation, so much so that you have to wonder why more creators haven't tackled the idea of depicting the inner workings of the human body in such a way. Cue the release of Cells at Work!, a new anime adaptation of the manga series of the same name by Akane Shimuzu. The series is being animated by David Production and directed by Kenichi Suzuki, both of whom are best known for their work on the various JoJo's Bizarre Adventure instalments. Given how absurd and frenetic that show can be at times, something as hopefully off the wall as Cells at Work! will be right at home here!

Red Blood Cell AE380White Blood Cell U-1446

Inside an undetermined human body, it's red blood cell AE380's first day on the job when there's a sudden attack from a group of Pneumococcus germs. After being saved by white blood cell U-1446, AE380 continues her route to the lungs with U-1446 joining her to look for one germ that managed to escape. On their journey they pass by Platelets and T-Cells, before eventually parting ways when they reach their destination. However unfortunately for AE380, turns out that final Pneumococcus germ was closer by than they thought!

When it comes to undertaking like anthropomorphising the human bodies, character designs are the first thing you definitely need to get right. Not only do the main characters have to look memorable, but they also need to effectively reflect what they are and what purpose they serve. This is the first thing Cells at Work! has definitely managed to get right, rather brilliantly depicting red blood cells as uniform-clad delivery workers rushing to deliver packages of oxygen (and more) across the human body. By contrast the white blood cells are monochrome fighting machines - organised, regimented and driven by their mission to stomp out germs. These are the two main sets of characters we'll follow throughout the series, given AE380 and U-1446's placing as the protagonists. It's interesting that while the rest of the blood cells certainly share the same basic traits as the leads, but don't share completely identical designs. This could have easily been done and been completely justified by the set up, but the fact it wasn't gives Cells at Work! that extra bit of uniqueness – the feeling of world that's populated rather than just a personification of bodily functions.

The PlateletsThe Killer T-Cell

These are the only "units" we meet in the episode though, as appearances are also put in by the macho man T-Cells and adorably child-like Platelets. Again both these personifications are superb in conveying their functions – the T-Cells being militant in their recognition and destructions of foreign material and the Platelets being small, new cells. The added comedy of small children performing manual labour to repair to body just makes it all the better. Finally you have the germs, with this episode's particular focus being on the Pneumococcus germs. Suitably monstrous and/or alien in their design, they almost look like they belong in a different show – precisely because they don't belong in the body. It's these bits of detail that make Cells at Work! feel so immediately immersive, and that even if the plotting doesn't turn out to be up to scratch the world building at the very least should have something to offer each week.

The two main characters seem pretty likeable so far, despite being pretty tropey when it comes to their personalities. AE380's klutzy but hardworking, while U-1446 is pretty focused worker with an clear softer side lurking underneath his germ-slicing moves. As far as introductions go the episode has a fairly straightforward plot that primarily focuses on the first meeting of these two characters, but there's plenty else going on around this as we get accustomed to how the body looks are works.  Little touches like the lungs having a dozen fans installed go a long way, while the idea of a sneeze as a tactical germ missile launch sequence is brilliant in its execution. While nothing feels especially over the top in Cells at Work!, it has a right level of craziness to it that the logic behind it all seems somewhat plausible.

PneumococcusBless you!

While Cells at Work! may not be working off of an entirely original premise, it's unique qualities in terms of the character designs and design of its human body are more than enough to give it that air of freshness. Its first episode seems to a promise a fun little show that's charmingly informative in the same way a children's educational video may be, with David Production's visual style enhancing that overall creativity. If you're looking to add another show to your pull list and haven't got this one on there already, Cells at Work! is definitely one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Osmosis Jones. "Overlooked piece of brilliance".