People rave about the adorable Cells at Work! anime that is blowing up this season, but did you know that there is a spinoff intended for a mature audience?
For those not in the know, Cells at Work! BLACK is a spinoff series approved by the original author (Akane Shimizu) but made by a different author and artist (Shigemitsu Harada and Issei Hatsuyoshi) that shows us what takes place in the unhealthy body of a human who partakes in many vices, not least of which includes frequent drinking, smoking, and even sex.
“But the original manga was still pretty cute, how bad could it possibly-“
Cells at Work! BLACK is a much more cynical and bleak view on the human body. Due to the carelessness of the host body, the cells instead of being slightly overworked but happy couriers, are instead intensely stressed workers who almost never catch a break, and die by the hundreds whenever complications occur. The author doesn’t pull back any punches when it comes to these guys’ mortality rate, and many of them are battleworn and plagued by the deaths of every cell that falls in the line of duty.
I mean, let’s just look at the cover comparison here.
The red blood cell has a significantly bigger workload, and has a posture and expression that betrays the stress he’s going through. The white blood cell is still the same cold expression, but the presence of blood and a wicked looking cleaver instead of a knife males her look just a bit more battle-hardened.
To further the point of how seriously bleak the body’s situation is in, even the germs and viruses look way less comical, and are instead more feral, emaciated, and savage.
But it’s not only the action and violence that gets the cynical upgrade. The body, instead of being a well-oiled and bright city-like society in the original, more like a glorified company than anything, is now a dystopian society where every cell is told to do their jobs, or die trying, for the glory of
Mother Russia the body!
The Helper and Killer T-Cells, the elite, are shown here to be overly paranoid and stressed, dealing with every problem, minor or major, with a manic determination.
Even the SEX is amped up, with one chapter having the red blood cells go to the liver for “detoxification”, in what is a clear analogue to the famous bars, clubs, and cabarets found in the red light districts of Japan.
They don’t shy away at all, with events such as an erection and sexual intercourse being shown as just as straining for every cell involved, and taken completely seriously. You wanna feel bad about getting a boner? Here you go!
The art style is also, in my opinion, a bit more detailed and subdued in every panel than the source manga, which was more focused on comedic gags and fun education segments. As you can plainly tell, there’s not a lot to be laughing about in this manga, but it IS still just as informative. Due to the more mature subject matter, subjects such as sex, alcoholism, and smoking, can be tackled. It’s still funny to me how these things are considered not kid-friendly but violent murder is.
The expressions of every cell says so much about how hard it is maintaining such an unhealthy body. Something I like a lot about the artstyle is how subtly expressive the eyes of each character are. It’s always wrinkled or stretched, hiding a lot of pain and stress from the poor conditions that they live in. It’s rather unsettling how closely they relate the machinations of the body with the unbearable guilt that people feel surviving a tragedy where others died.
While only the first 5 chapters have been translated English as a volume, the raws reach up to chapter 10. The story so far is very captivating, and the darker tone is actually done very well. I found myself wanting to be healthier after reading it, way moreso than watching and reading the original series. That alone makes it a better PSA than anything I was forced to watch back in middle school about the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle.
I really don’t want my body turning into a really janked up version of 1984.