Cells at Work!, Vol. 1

By Akane Shimizu | Published by Kodansha Comics

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Cells at Work! has a quirky premise, one that’s fun to describe to people in one’s life whom one may wish to bewilder.

Essentially, the setting is the interior of the human body and the characters are anthropomorphized versions of blood cells, lymphocytes, and other types of cells that work together to keep things running smoothly. None of the characters has an actual name—the pair of protagonists refers to each other as Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell—and there’s not much of a plot.

Instead, the first volume is composed of episodic chapters showing how the body defends itself against various threats, including bacteria, viruses, and allergens. Along the way, information is relayed to the reader and almost immediately one starts learning things. For example, before I read this I didn’t even know the terms neutrophil and macrophage, but now I could easily talk about their functions, and that’s because I’ve got a vivid visual reminder. Also, Shimizu comes up with some clever ways to depict bodily functions. I was particularly fond of the concept of a sneeze as a missile onto which pesky germs are loaded for expulsion.

Cells at Work! runs in a shounen magazine, and I imagine its intent is to amuse and educate young readers. That said, it did take me a bit of time to accept that there weren’t going to be any story or character developments. That might change, but for now it just doesn’t seem to be that sort of manga, and that’s okay, too. It’s fun enough that I’ll keep reading!

Cells at Work! is ongoing in Japan, where it is up to four volumes. Kodansha Comics will release the second volume in English next week.

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