TNB Night Owl – Cells At Work

Covid-19 plush from Giant Microbes, photo by Alien Motives

Japan produces thousands of comic books every year. They’re called manga, and they can be easily obtained both on the professional level and the fan (dojinshi) side of things. As one might expect with such a surfeit of material, much of it is repetitive and derivative to such an extent that it’s difficult to imagine anything truly distinctive. There are the usual romantic comedies, action stories, science fiction, mythic and suburban fantasies, love stories, horror, historical dramas and biographical works.

And then there’s Cells At Work.

There have been many prior educational manga… there was one which roughly translated to “The Adventures of Food Expert” which was popular in the late 1980s and featured a gourmet and roving reviewer who would teach other characters such things as the proper way to prepare ramen or why supermarket produce is inferior to farmer’s market produce… but there’s never been anything quite like this.

The manga reimagines the human body as a giant city, wherein many of the cells are humanoid representations. The central character is a red blood cell, personified as an energetic (if a bit directionally challenged) young woman whose job is to deliver oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Along the way she develops a little bit of a crush on a white blood cell, whose job is to protect the body.

It’s an odd concept, and at that point it’s more strange than impressive. That impression only holds for the first few pages. The 21 year old author, Akane Shimizu, put the type of effort into the production of this comic that Tom Clancy put into The Hunt For Red October. The level of detail found within the manga drew attention and quickly garnered fans among the medical community.

From there it’s been reimagined as a stage play, and then an animated series. It’s also had a spin-off created. It’d be a prime selection for a Friday Night Owl but for one factor: it’s not available for free in the U.S.; the rights are currently locked by Netflix and Crunchyroll.

For anyone trying to learn the basics of how the body fights off germs and viruses, or wanting to explain it to kids, it’s probably close to ideal – the worst part is some bloody violence, as the white blood cells, microphages and killer T cells are always ready to dispatch invaders to the body with extreme prejudice.

As mentioned, the episodes aren’t available for free. But there are a couple of reaction shows from a licensed general practitioner who has a popular channel for anyone who wishes to get a feel for this very odd surprise hit.

Question of the night: Are there any television shows you’d recommend to others that you’ve discovered over the last year?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.