Imagine a world where each and every one of the citizen only responsible for one thing: keeping it alive.
You can complain or throw tantrum, but you are bounded by this chain to do your respective jobs—no matter what happens. It’s your end goal, and your responsibility. If work is as usual, that’s great; you’d only need to deal with additional unexpected issues from time to time, but everyone’s friendly and that makes things ok. You can depend on and trust each other as all of you serve for a single purpose.
But, here’s the thing.
What if the world that you’re living in—despite what you’ve done for it—try to destory itself?
And you, can’t do anything about it but to do your best to sustain it.
However strong, desperate you are, even if your comrades are crushed, suffocated, and died in front of you, you are not to halt your job. Almost as if you’re a robot built to function for that one purpose, and will keep functioning until you run out of power. Doing the same thing, again and again, 365 days a year without any breaks or vacations.
These are, essentially, what our cells do.
30 trillion of them.
What Cells at Work! add into the characters of this education-type anime is an element that fuel every living things, a word that we know better than any other creature; they evoke emotions by firstly introducing the good and the bad. Viruses and bacteria are depicted with typical villain anger and destructive power, while normal, helpful cells exhibit a softer, desperate side in respond to what happens around them.
None of either side can overstep their responsibility, and be a hero or a villain at whim. It’s why you don’t see a red blood cell killing a bacteria, or a white blood cell transporting oxygen and munching on platelets inside your body.
And by creating a small, restricted world like this, conflict motivations by different characters are thrown inside: fear, needs, selfishness build up within each character, merging and deciding how they act, how they feel and what do we feel watching them.
It seeps in the next element: empathy.
And given the constant state of chaos their world are plunged in, the highlight of it is helplessness.
Because at times, even if you are the protagonist, you literally cannot do anything.
These little stories behind each cluster of cells are what up Cells at Work!, and with the stakes that any cell living within the harsh condition inside the body could die, it’s clear to all that no one is safe. Cells work until they die, and eventually some—like red blood cells—are broken down to pieces and ingested as nutrients to our body. Somewhere along the line, it’s created a reflection of our society, to a certain extent.
We live to work, and work to live. We might enjoy it, we might not enjoy it, but time still continue to flow—life goes on until we shut our eyes for one last time. So, we can only give it the best we can, while we can. This is a cycle of life that not much anime focuses on, let alone have the suitable battle-royale-type-setting to flesh out each character, and their non-hostile interactions with each other.
Yet, Cells at Work! (CODE BLACK, especially) accomplishes this by integrating simple acts that a society, a community, or just a small tight-knit group has: working together for a common goal, exchanging worries and happiness with each other, and relying on each other.
Interactions of all kinds, is what bring forth emotions of all stages, rooting from our empathy.
The characters can’t feel anything, if they are alone.
Interaction adds depth and different layer of characteristics to how they present themselves, and the visuals highlight the darken ink tone on their facial expression, while the music can sink into deep silence at heartbreaking moments—all of these and much more capture these stories in realistic frames.
And, there’s no better ways to portray how true it is. Cells work for us relentlessly, so that we can live; and this applies to all struggling in the workforce as well. But the most important takeaway from Cells at Work! is how inspiring the characters are, not only in their vision and perspective in their journey of life, but how it leaves a stern reminder for us—to appreciate, and live a healthy life.
Because if you can no longer move, then everything will have become a naught.
This, is the greatest lesson we can learn from our cells.
To know that, our cells, are at work.