Education via cuteness, I’m okay with that.
What’s the Story?
The human body is a complex and fascinating thing, made up of millions upon billions of cells, each with their own unique job to do. Follow Red Blood Cell as she tries to find her way around the intricate map of the body, somehow always managing to come across a new invading germ or disease. Fear not though because it’s the White Blood Cell’s job to deal with those, cutting down anything that might harm the body (though how he gets all that blood out of his white overalls is still a mystery). Not that anyone cares about any of this because then there are the Platelets and they’re just too cute.
Making something both educational and fun is no easy task, as I’m sure any teacher will testify (not that I’ve ever taught anybody anything, I speak only as a guy with a relatively short attention span and a tendency to daydream). Unless a subject is one that I’m already interested in I don’t have much patience for mountains of explanations and I tend to zone out (luckily there’s a lot of stuff I’m interested in otherwise this would be a problem). Luckily for this show it knows exactly how to engage me in its subject matter. When I look at this show on paper it shouldn’t really work, I mean shows about the inside of the human body have been done before and we’ve even had shows that follow the cells of the body, that’s fine. Where this show should fall down is, well the first is the tonal whiplash as on the one hand we have the ever adorable Platelets and on the other we have the White Blood Cells massacring invading germs and walking around covered in blood. Those two things should not be in the same show.
Then we move on to the characters themselves and, well, there’s not much to them. The various cells we meet across the series all have a defined character trait and stick to that for the course of the series. The closest we come to character arc is with our leading lady, Red Blood Cell, who’s arc basically consists of being a directionless newbie and turning into a directionless senior. Yet, this show manages to make me care about each and every one of its characters. Red Blood Cell may not develop all that much, but you see her tackling her problems with a single-minded determination to improve and that is something to cheer for. All the others cells are brimming with personality and make whatever their gimmick is really work to both be educational and funny.
As I said, on paper I don’t think this show should work, the tonal dissonance and lack of development would kill most other shows, but, for one, the tone is used as a great source of comedy and as for the development, well, it’s best to view this series as an anthology in my opinion. Each episode has a new situation crop up, whether that’s an invading germ or a serious medical condition, or sometimes even just a spotlight of a particular cell. Whatever the case we always have the familiar faces of Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell on hand to guide us through whatever this week’s problem is.
Where this series excels is in the fact that it can perfectly balance its comedy and drama, deftly switching between the bizarre behaviour of some of the cells and the more dramatic situations like a life threatening disease. The plotting is pretty top notch too, managing to introduce a problem and resolve it in just over twenty minutes. When the situation is dire you can’t help but feel tense, heck this series made me feel sorry for cancer cells, if you needed any proof that this show knows who to work the feels, that’s it right there.
As for the animation is it’s often bright and colourful with some really nice character designs. The Platelets are cuteness personified and some of the germs look genuinely threatening. I like that there’s such a wide variety of designs, even if a fair few of them get repeated quite a lot. There isn’t much call for any major action sequences in the show, but it’s perfectly good for what it has to do. Also there are plenty of well directed shots and when that’s combined with the pacing, that’s why this show is so good at balancing its mood.
I don’t really know what else to say about this series, if you have even a passing interest in the human body then check this show out. It delivers its story in an extremely informative way, without ever feeling like it’s bogging you down in exposition. Every situation is represented in a memorable, if sometimes bizarre way (sneezes are rockets that blast germs out through the nose), so that you’re sure to remember what you’re being taught, which is surely the point of education. Heck I’ve learnt about so many different cells that I never even knew existed before, like Killer T cells and the like.
Cells at Work is a very entertaining and informative series. If you’re after character development or a rich ongoing story then look elsewhere. What this series excels at is short, yet effective stories, each one tackling a new situation or specific cell. It knows how to get you invested in a story in a short amount of time and rarely disappoints when it comes to a satisfactory resolution. Be prepared to impress your friends with knowledge of cells they’ll never have heard of before. This is definitely one series that’s worth giving a check up.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.