Nobuhiko OkamotoMamiko NotoManaka IwamiCells at Work
Cells at Work!! Season 2
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2021: C
Also known as: Hataraku Saibou!! Season 2
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2021
Director: Hirofumi Ogura
Writer: Yuuko Kakihara
Original creator: Akane Shimizu
Actor: Akira Ishida, Anzu Haruno, Daisuke Ono, Kana Hanazawa, Kikuko Inoue, Mamiko Noto, Manaka Iwami, Maria Naganawa, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Saori Hayami, Shoya Chiba, Takahiro Sakurai, Toa Yukinari, Tomoaki Maeno, Yuichi Nakamura, Yuko Kaida, Yusuke Kobayashi
Keywords: Cells at Work, anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 8 episodes
Website category: Anime 2021
Review date: 29 October 2022
Hataraku Saibou
Say hello again to your body's cells! Once again, let's meet Red Blood Cell (perky, friendly, delivers packages all day) and White Blood Cell (stoic, albino, kills germs with his big knife)? Yes, it's more anthropomorphisation of the daily life of cells, bacteria, viruses and more inside your body!
In other words, it's more of the same. It's a good show and I enjoyed it, but it does have the subtle problem that its characters all (by definition) have a clearly defined job that's all they do all day. Their objective is the status quo. The show would struggle to generate story arcs or a long-term narrative direction. It's a laugh because it's different, educational and often funny, but I'd struggle to marathon it. The show's default plot is Disease of the Week, although there's nothing wrong with that.
When the show's below-par, it's not really going anywhere. It's never bad, but it can be slightly uninvolving. Sometimes I'd drift.
When it's on form, though, it's funny. This season's best episodes are all the ones that made me laugh. The platelets' reaction to medals in ep.1. The murder rampage in ep.4. A surprising amount of NK Cell's screen time in the second half of the season. The opportunist bacteria in ep.8. And, of course, the awesome depression cure in ep.5. The biology's all according to the textbooks, but the cells' human characterisation is up to the writer's whims and there will often be a funny or quirky reason why a particular character wants to behave as they do.
Then, despite what I was saying earlier, the season does actually develop a story arc. It starts in ep.4 and runs through to the end. Normal Cell (a mundane bloke with nothing special who'd love to be able to rescue people) finds four small, cute bacteria. They're adorable. They follow him. He takes them home, but they'll probably get turned into blood smears if they meet any of the show's large number of killers (White Blood Cell, Killer T Cell, Macrophage, NK Cell or indeed invading bacteria or viruses). This turns into an exploration of the different kinds of bacteria that live within the human body. (About 100 trillion bacterial cells are living inside you right now. The show doesn't mention that you're also home to about 380 trillion viruses, but I'm sure they'll get to that.)
Red Blood Cell doesn't get enough screen time, although she's not neglected. Macrophage (voiced by Kikuko Inoue) gets even less, but the adorable fan-favourite platelets get the spotlight in ep.1 and return later from time to time.
The main curiosity about this series is that five of its eight episodes are just a rerun of the 2020 movie. It's not even a remake. They're rerunning exactly the same footage. No, there weren't production problems. It's just that the original manga series has now finished (although it has lots of spin-offs), so they didn't have enough material for a full second season.
There's not a huge amount to talk about here, unless of course you're a doctor or a scientist. Scientists all over the world love this show. Biology teachers have assigned the anime to their students as homework. From a dramatic point of view, though, the show's formula is static. (There is, though, a darker spin-off series about the overworked cells in an unhealthy body. I'll review that tomorrow.) I'd never call this show unmissable, but it's often funny and/or charming. You could do a lot worse.