“Cells at Work” by Akane Shimizu had such a unique sounding concept that I just had to give it a read. This manga takes place inside the human body and opens on a hardworking red-blood cell in the middle of carrying out her delivery duties. Suddenly, she is attacked by an invading force of bacteria! Just when all seems lost, a white-blood cell appears to defend her. But will he and his colleagues be able to defeat all of the disease causing bacteria and save the day?
This set up might sound a lot like Osmosis Jones, with anthropomorphized cells carrying out their lives inside a city like vision of the human body, but Akane Shimizu puts her own personal spin on the idea. “Cells at Work” is actually very educational, with lots of factual data presented in text boxes to explain what the rolls of different types of cells are and to give background info on things like the bacteria. I actually feel like this manga could be used in biology classes as a way to make learning about the immune system more interesting. I learned a few new things myself and I liked having all these details sprinkled throughout the panels. But that’s not to say that this isn’t also an entertaining manga! There are plenty of gags that had me chuckling and the action scenes were pretty exciting and surprising bloody. There isn’t much in the way of an overarching story, instead, each chapter the cells are forced to tackle a different scenario, such as: seasonal allergens, diseases and scrapes. It was fun to see how the cells overcame these various challenges and I am looking forward to more.
The art in this book looks great. The character designs suit the narrative, with the different types of cells wearing different types of uniforms that fit their roles, and all of the bacteria having cool, alien-like designs that reflect both their nature as invaders and their real life appearances.
If there is one weakness to the story it would be that the earnest red-blood cell and the stoic white-blood cell are more archetypes then they are characters. We really aren’t given much information on them or given much insight into their personalities. Of course, the focus of the manga is more on the episodic scenarios and how the human body reacts to them then on a character driven narrative, so I didn’t feel that this detracted from my enjoyment of the story.
This is both an informative and fun look at the immune system and human body, with action, humor and education all rolled into one. I’ll defiantly be picking up volume 2!
Final Grade B+
For more information on this manga please visit Kodansha’s website: http://kodanshacomics.com/volume/cells-work-1/