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We work, and work, and work!
The human body is a vast, wide network of paths, tubes, and chemicals. To keep all of that in order, it has 37.4 trillion cells set to do their part. Supplying oxygen to muscles? Red blood cells can handle it. Remembering the body's reactions to foreign substances? Let the memory cells jot it down. And woe to the poor germ that has a run-in with a Neutrophil or a Macrophage. Between keeping clear of antigens and delivering the proper materials to different parts of the body, there's a lot of effort to be done to keep it in top shape. It may sound daunting to the average person, but to a cell, it's all in a day's work.

Cells at Work! (Hataraku Saibou) is a manga by Akane Shimizu about all the wonders of the human body, shown to us as humans themselves. The manga began running in Shonen Sirius in 2014, with up to 6 volumes so far.

The series has received several spinoff titles over its run, further exploring parts of the body Shimizu couldn't fit in:

  • Hataraku Saikin ("Bacteria at Work"), which focuses on the battle between good and bad bacteria in the intestines. Written by Shimizu and illustrated by Haruyuki Yoshida, and runs in the Shojo anthology Nakayoshi.
  • Hatarakanai Saibou ("Cells that Don't Work"/"Cells at Play"), about, well, cells that don't work. It primarily focuses on Erythroblasts; but rather than the immature blood cells being kids, they're full blown young adults that grew up into lazy shut-ins that refuse to enucleate. Written by Shimizu and illustrated by Moe Sugimoto, and runs in Shonen Sirius like its parent comic.
  • Cells at Work! [BLACK], about the life of cells in an unhealthy body. The human smokes, drinks too much, is under high stress, never exercises, has high cholesterol and does not practice safe sex, leading the cells inside to overexert themselves. The first spinoff not to be written by Shimizu, instead being penned by Shigemitsu Harada and illustrated by Issei Hatsuyoshi. Runs in Morning, a Seinen anthology.

An anime adaptation by David Production began airing on 8th July 2018. It is licensed by Aniplex USA and is streamed internationally through Crunchyroll, with 13 episodes planned.


Tropes present in this work include:

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    A-M 
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • The Anisakis nematode is depicted as a nightmarish monster that could tear through the stomach lining, when in real life the most dangerous thing about it is that it inevitably dies in the process of doing so (being normally a parasite of fish and only accidental in humans) and causes an allergic response and, at worst, blockage, which can easily be treated with proper medical attention. Granted, this would be seen as serious business on a cellular level, which is kind of the point of the show.
    • Quite literally with the immune system cells, white cells, and Macrophage in both anime and manga adaptations. They are depicted as a Badass Army fighting hordes of bacteria and viruses, the former in which harmful bacteria themselves gets this treatment.
  • Action Girl: Quite a few of the immune cells are depicted as female, most notably Natural Killer Cell.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: White Blood Cell uses this to get the drop on his enemies, as a representation of his ability to transmigrate (pass through cellular tissue). In another chapter, he squeezes through a narrow crack in the wall.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Let it be known that a manga about the human body can get you to feel bad for cancer cells, of all things.
  • Alien Blood: Subverted, the cells bleed cytoplasm (the internal fluids of a cell), but in the show it's depicted as looking like ordinary red blood.
  • Alien Abduction: Blood transfusion is depicted as this for the hapless red blood cells involved. Similarly, a mosquito bite is depicted as a giant tube in the sky sucking out red blood cells.
  • Alien Invasion: Bacteria and viruses are effectively presented as this. All of the human cells are represented as humans. By contrast, bacteria - being cells foreign to the body - span myriads of monstrous forms, but are still able to speak and have their own personalities, representing the fact that just like our own cells, they are still living organisms. Viruses, meanwhile, are presented as Starfish Aliens that cause a Zombie Apocalypse by hijacking cells. They do not speak, have no discernible personality, and don't even look like living things - which is appropriate, since it's questionable whether viruses in Real Life are even alive.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens to AE-3803 in episode 1. Thankfully U-1146 was able to save the day.
  • Always on Duty: As this is the human body, the cells never have a moment to rest.
  • Animated Adaptation: A 60-second commercial showing an abridged version of the first chapter played in front of the first episode of Welcome to the Ballroom's adaptation. The series got a proper anime the following year.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The series as a whole personifies various cells of the human body and how they function. The Platelets veer more into Moe Anthropomorphism.
  • Artificial Human: How cell reproduction is usually portrayed. Most cells are shown growing in facilities before being sorted out by the Hematopoetic Stem Cells, while all Ordinary Cells have cloning machines in their homes.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The series frequently shows its work, but there are some things it has to modify to fit into the setting.
    • Red blood cells don't transport nutrients (stylized as food baskets), aside from oxygen — the non-oxygen nutrients are dissolved in plasma and circulate freely around the body. They also don't transport medication either, which Red Blood Cell does to abate a cedar pollen allergy. However, since the plasma isn't depicted as anything other than the surrounding air, it's more convenient for the series to depict nutrient transport as another part of the courier service, essentially combining the functions of plasma into the jobs of the Red Blood Cells.
    • Red blood cells last around 90 to 120 days in circulation. Neutrophils don't last more than 2 days. It would be highly unlikely for the same erythrocyte and neutrophil to keep meeting one another in separate incidents, which U-1146 mentions the first time he and AE 3803 part ways. This is handwaved In-Universe by the fact that cell lives are equated to the frequency they change their clothing.
    • Since they are depicted with human-like proportions, the cells are obviously not drawn to scale (though the Platelets are children because IRL they are tiny), because that would mean that Neutrophil would be twice as tall as Red Blood Cell, and Macrophage would tower above them all at nearly six times their size!
    • B-cells don't switch which kind of antibodies they produce, though again to be fair, having to make an entirely new B Cell character for each needed antibody would be kind of a hassle. Also, B Cell's gun changes every time.
    • Antibodies aren't exactly weapons: they serve more like "tags" that then signal the other immune cells to attack the tagged target.
    • Effector T-cells don't revert to Naive T-cells for any reason. They will only become Killer or Memory T-cells.
    • Despite the Sneeze Launch killing the Pneumococcus in the first episode, in real life germs can survive being expelled from the body and even use sneezes as a method of transmission.
    • The Platelets plug up the wound with the bodies of the Red Blood Cells, when technically they would be piling themselves onto the fibrin clot, later roping in help from other blood cells to form a scab.
    • Epithelium and structural cells are depicted as buildings and not as living beings, though being as alive as blood cells are (then again, it would be awkward to show roads and walls made of people stacked together...)
    • Cancer cells have no real means of fighting back against immune cells except to hide from them, so technically Cancer Cell would have simply masqueraded as a Ordinary Cell until antibodies signalled him as a target.
    • Also, the pathogens are shown to be the size of the neutrophils or even bigger, when realistically, they would actually be small enough for the neutrophils to swallow whole! The reasoning for this is likely Rule of Creepy.
    • The Anisakis worm is one hell of an Adaptational Badass: in the anime, it's portrayed as a terrifying Kaiju that threatens to rip open the stomach and devour all the cells. In real life, though, it's actually pathetically bad at invading human tissue, and in fact is only dangerous because it tries to burrow through the gut lining, fails to do so, gets stuck in the gut lining and dies, and then the immune system proceeds to Zerg Rush its already dead corpse, causing an allergic reaction. This was probably a conscious artistic choice, as it's precisely because the immune system thinks that it could tear through the stomach and devour all cells that this reaction ends up happening, and the entire show happens from their perspective.
    • Another noteworthy Adaptational Badass is the lead White Blood Cell, Neutrophil (U-1146) who single-handedly survives way too many attacks to be reasonably expected from what is essentially the body's Cannon Fodder. Plot Armor is likely to blame here, although he is implied to be especially skilled among his peers.
    • Red Blood Cells, unlike in the series, aren't really red until they exit the body and come into contact with air.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Justified since they are anthropomorphic personification of the immune system. Special mention to the Neutrophils, since they are purely white just like their namesakes.
  • Ax-Crazy: The white blood cells appear to be those nice, swell guys you could be friends with. That is, unless you are a harmful bacterium; they then become unhinged literal murderous Blood Knights out to kill them indiscriminately. The only exception to this rule are lactic bacteria that helps the body.
  • Badass Adorable: The good bacteria are cute and cuddly creatures who is capable of fighting the harmful pathogens almost as well as the White Blood Cells are. One particular Lactic Acid Bacteria in chapter 21 was able to cause serious damage to a H. Pylori that's hundreds of times its size, enough to drive it away from the gastric acid pool, so that the Neutrophils can deal the killing blow.
  • Badass Teacher: Aside from their usual duties of cleaning up foreign invaders, Macrophages are this to the erythroblasts.
  • Beach Episode: Or the closest thing a body can get to a Beach Episode. The body takes an IV shot after getting heat stress that is represented as a giant tube that brings rain. The place then turns into a resort for the cells to cool off.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The harmful bacteria are depicted as humanoid monstrosities, often with fangs, claws, or deformed body parts. The good lactic acid bacteria, on the other hand, are depicted as cute and cuddly. Opportunistic bacteria, who switch sides depending on which bacterial strain is currently on top, are in between, not being as monstrous as bad bacteria or as cute as good bacteria. Meanwhile, the human body's native cells generally appear as attractive young people.
  • Big Ball of Violence: B Cell and Mast Cell cause one in the background of episode 5 after the latter overdoes it on the histamines.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The reason dendritic cells have a tree motif — their name is derived from Greek dendros, meaning tree.
  • Blade on a Stick: In chapter 16, U-4989 is seen wielding a pipe, with one of his knives tied to the end by some cloth.
  • Blood Is the New Black: The White Blood Cells tend to get their jumpsuits covered in bacterial cytoplasm often. U-1146 is practically never seen without his.
  • Blood Knight: Quite literally with the immune system cells, most being different white blood cells, since they're blood cells that act like knights. U-1146 is a Knight in Shining Armor example.
  • Boot Camp Episode: One chapter is a Whole Episode Flashback to when Helper T Cell and Killer T Cell were thymocytes (developing T cells), which is depicted as them being rookies going through basic training during their time in the thymus.
  • Boss Subtitles: When a cell type appears in every manga chapter for the first time, there'll always be a text box that introduce its functions. That includes the Red Blood Cells and the Neutrophils.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 8, coming right after the first battle with Cancer Call, is a relaxing episode that's about the circulatory system, with AE3803 attempting to finish a delivery without the help of other cells.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Whoever this manga takes place inside does not have an easy life. Among other things, they contract a hideous Anisakis worm from bad sushi; suffer severe allergy attacks; come down with dengue fever; and are horribly wounded and nearly die from blood loss.
    • Red Blood Cell AE3808 is a poor victim of bacteria attacks, cells yelling at her for transporting nutrients in the wrong location, gets wrapped up in a blood clot, and is in constant danger, all of which are Played for Laughs.
    • White Blood Cell U-1146, when he is not stealing the spotlight, gets to be this whenever AE-3808 is not around. Shining examples are him getting stuck in the blood clot, getting knocked down by bacteria only to be upped by the cell of the day, and usually gets caught by AE-3808's mistakes.
  • Cast of Personifications: The manga is about personifications of cells that make up the human body, although it mostly focuses on the immune system. It also turns organs into places, like blood vessels as roads and the stomach as a giant kitchen.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: The manga follows this pattern, with lighter arcs after a darker arc. The story starts with cells being introduced, after which Cancer Cell is introduced as an Arc Villain. followed by some more lighthearted chapters. Then suddenly, the body gets into a hypovolemic shock and almost shuts down. This is followed by the lighthearted Lactic Acid Bacteria arc, which is then followed by Cancer Cell's revival.
  • Chained Heat: Erythrocyte AE3808 and Neutrophil U-1146 are briefly stuck together by the bacterial capsule of the Pneumococcus in episode 1.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Shimizu provides a helpful color guide for the cells:
    • Red blood cells (as well as Neutrophils/White blood cells) get their obvious assignments.
    • Killer T cells are black.
    • Monocytes are yellow.
    • Eosinophils are pink.
    • Dendritic Cells are green.
    • B Cells and Basophils are blue, but B Cells are a lighter shade than Basophils.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Whenever AE-3803 is in trouble,be it foreign invaders or just her getting plain lost, Neutrophil U-1146 is almost always the one to save her. This has led to some Ship Tease moments between the two.
  • Courier: Red Blood Cells are depicted as employees of a package delivery service, delivering vital items like oxygen to various parts of the body.
  • The Corruption: The Influenza virus, depicted as a mushroom-like parasite.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Eosinophil is very weak against bacteria and viruses. But if a parasite invades the human body, she becomes badass enough to kill it in one hit.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Just about every cell feels at ease watching the adorable little Platelets work.
  • Damsel in Distress: Justified by the Red Blood Cells, which are helpless and have no way of defending themselves against foreign invaders and can only run away while the White Blood Cells destroy the invaders.
  • Darkest Hour: The hypovolemic shock (extreme blood loss) episode (covered in chapters 17 and 18 respectively) is probably the darkest and most difficult moment of the whole series, probably even more than the Cancer Cell arc. Due to the loss of many red blood cells, oxygen is not distributed through the body, which causes Ordinary Cells to start dying of asphyxia, turning the dying body into a cold and desolate landscape. It gets so bad that, had it not been for the transfused red blood cells, AE3803 (and the rest of the other cells) would have ended up dying.
  • Description Cut: In chapter 26, AE3803 assures U-4989 that U-1149 is relaxing and not doing anything stressful. Cut to him hunting down bacteria with a very murderous expression
  • A Day in the Limelight: During the Lactic Acid Bacteria Arc (Volume 5), Ordinary Cell replaces Red Blood Cell as The Watson as he accompanies White Blood Cell in returning the lactic acid bacteria to their proper homes.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Despite the fact that they're usually just as sentient as the body's cells, nothing resembling civilized justice is shown to any of the body's pathogens; the one and only option is for them to be killed on sight. Obviously, this is done to follow real-life biology, and given the fact that the pathogens are all Always Chaotic Evil anyway, it's hard to imagine anything else actually working.
    • This is one of the big reasons why Cancer Cell is such a tragic villain - despite never actually doing anything wrong, he was treated like a monster from the moment he was born because of a mistake his progenitor made. It would be incredibly inhumane if not for the fact that he can and will kill everyone else in the known world if he's allowed to continue existing.
  • Demoted to Extra: Epithelial cells are presented as environment instead of as people, despite being every bit as alive as the blood cells. This is most likely done to simplify matters, or to reduce the potential issue of having every wall, floor and door the protagonists pass through be composed of people stacked on top of each other.
  • Destructive Savior: A Steroid deployed during a cedar allergy attack managed to suppress the reactions, but at the cost of leveling the rest of the area.
    Cells: We're sorry, Mast Cell and B Cell! You guys... you guys are so much more civilized than that thing!!
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • During the heatstroke chapter, the body was about to collapse from the heat and the blood cells can't defeat a rampaging bacterium. Then, suddenly comes "a flood from the heavens" (actually a fluid infusion) that rehydrates the body and solves everything.
    • Just as the body was about to shut down from a hypovolemic shock, the red blood cells are gone, the Ordinary Cells are dying due to lack of food and oxygen, and the bacteria are rampaging in the body... suddenly comes an army of red blood cells from a blood transfusion to get it back in order. It's almost a played straight version of the trope, but not quite, because we see where the new red blood cells come from.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Macrophages are just as bloodthirsty as their male counterparts, but they tend to hide it under a calm, gentle appearance.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The opening theme of the anime, "Mission! Health Comes First" is sung by Kana Hanazawa (Red Blood Cell), Tomoaki Maeno (White Blood Cell), Daisuke Ono (Killer T Cell) and Kikuko Inoue (Macrophage).
  • A Dog Named "Dog": All of the various personalities in the series are pretty much known by their cellular name. Luckily, this hasn't caused the setting to be as much of a Planet of Steves as one would think; some of them are identified by the call signs featured on their clothes,note  while groups of the same cell will have only their most prominent member referred to by species name.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The squad leader of the Killer T-Cells, who trains his underlings in a harsh way.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A few for the anime:
    • Cedar Pollen appears in the opening before its proper debut in episode 5.
    • Before becoming an important character in episodes 6-7 of the anime, Cancer Cell appeared in disguise encountering AE3803 twice in episodes 2 and 3. Akira Ishida is listed in the credits as "Ordinary Cell". He even appears for a split second in the intro!
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first few chapters contained odd immunological responses like killer T-cells being sent out against bacteria (killer T-cells kill infected human cells, and can't do much against bacterial infections), while neutrophils show up against the flu virus (neutrophils are too small to ingest infected cells). This also makes White Blood Cells' name an Artifact Title as they are later clarified to be neutrophils. Thanks to the anime adapting chapters out of order, it reduces the weirdness by introducing the immune response gradually.
  • Economy Cast: Despite there being trillions of cells in the human body, each prominent recurring cell is more or less functionally representative of their entire cell type. For example, while there is an entire squadron of Killer-T cells, it's their squad leader who plays the largest role, and while there are ostensibly several macrophages, only one frequently makes an appearance.
  • Eldritch Location: The "Outside", which is where all of the viruses and bacteria are coming in from, and which also serves as a Death World for the cells if they ever happen to fall out into it from their world.
  • Edutainment: While it is a fun story, it teaches readers about the basic functions of cells and microorganisms in the body along the way.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Weaponized. Dendritic Cell's ability to activate Naive T Cells is depicted as him showing old photos of the rest of the squadron, which in turn reassures the Naive T he's talking to and allows him to join the fight as a musclebound Effector T Cell. We soon get a shot of the other T cells getting "agitated" (depicted as sudden chills) from sensing this taking place.
    • A later arc also plays on the "agitation" angle by having him tossing a whole box of photos into a crowd. The cells get so embarrassed they basically go into overdrive, combating the oncoming threat.
  • Everybody Cries: All the erythroblasts at their graduating ceremony in the bone marrow do this.
  • False Innocence Trick: A bored Ordinary Cell makes fast friends with a possessed cell, thinking it to be a harmless prankster. This quickly turns on its head when the cell tries to kill the poor boy after goading him to try on his "hat".
  • Fantastic Caste System: A downplayed example, but what type of cell a given blood cell grows up to be is determined by the Hematopoetic Stem Cells, who apply such designations to the cells at birth.
  • Fisher King: Whatever is happening to the body externally reflects in some way on the cells' plane. For example, a person suffering from heat stroke will have that reflected in their world as a massive heat wave.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The outcome of half of the infections that happen in the series are fairly easy to guess.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Turns out Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell already met each other when they were still an erythroblast and a myelocyte (basically children cells) when a bacteria attacked the bone marrow they were staying in. However, they only met that once so they don't remember each other's faces when they meet again as adult cells.
  • Foreshadowing: As Cancer Cell lays dying, he says to U-1146 that he admits defeat "for now". He keeps his word come the "Return of Cancer" arc in Volume 5.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • U-4989 is frequently seen...improvising, and taking advantage of the environment alongside using his standard repertoire of knives, such as: A box of Steamed Buns (chapter 15), One of his knives, tied to a pipe, acting as a crude spear (chapter 16), A giant marshmallow rod, seen playing with it after the arrival of the transfused Red Blood Cells (chapter 18), and Acid-resistant enamel cookware armour, to complement his actual weapons (chapter 20).
    • In Chapter 8/Episode 6, U-1148 was having a serious discussion with the disguised Cancer Cell about how some cells are simply fated to die in order to keep the body safe, and the next scene cuts to NK Cell stomping on Killer T Cell on top of a pile of crates, while declaring, "I won".
  • Furry Confusion: The regularity with which White Blood Cells get covered in blood, much less Red Blood Cells bleeding, can get rather confusing. Lampshaded when U-1146 quips about a scratch he got during an abrasion event.
  • Genius Loci: Well, the "world" the cells are in is inside a human body. All the disasters they're experiencing are actually illnesses or injuries the body is experiencing.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Staphylococcus Aureus mocks White Blood Cell for his dedication to the fight when all the other non-combat cells flee and the more threatening defense systems are too far away to help in time. He mocks her back for having overlooked their greatest and most reliable allies... cue the Platelets, easily the least threatening cells in the whole body. Who promptly clot up the abrasion, cutting off Staphylococcus' invasion route and turning the tide of battle in one fell swoop.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The Immune Cells are merciless against foreign invaders, killing anything they recognize as an antigen or germ. The other side is not better since they are planning to take over the body or kill the cells for nutrients. This is one reason why Cancer Cell wants to multiply and take over the body. Since the world wanted him dead, he feels that the other cells should taste what being hunted and killed feels like.
  • Here We Go Again!: Chapter 3 of the manga and Episode 3 of the anime, which ends with the immune cells now having to deal with Influenza A, that not even that Effector T-Cell and his progeny were able to take down, as effector T-cells are antigen-specific. Ouch!
  • Headbutting Heroes: Killer-T and NK cell don't get along and will bicker and fight each other given the chance. NK does this to make sure that the other cells will be safe, but Killer-T will still insist on doing the job.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: The Neutrophils are practically insane when they encounter a harmful bacteria or any harmful foreign body that enters the body. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say they take their job way too seriously.
  • Inherent in the System:
    • Allergies are portrayed this way. Everybody did their jobs exactly the way they were supposed to and it turned into a disaster anyway.
    • The Return of Cancer arc shows the same problem as concerning Regulatory T Cell having a tendency of defending cancerous cells due to still having some similarities to the rest of the cells in the body (i.e. their white t-shirt that reads cell). The only reason they were able to wipe it out quickly the first time is that they got to it first.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The Killer T Squad Leader doesn't get along with either Helper T Cell or NK Cell and is rather dismissive of White Blood Cells, especially U-1146 when he's hanging out with AE-3803.
  • ISO-Standard Urban Groceries: A variation. The food baskets that Red Blood Cells occasionally carry (which represent nutrients—see Artistic License – Biology, above) always contain one or two baguette sandwiches, and occasionally, apples and oranges.
  • Kaiju: The Anisakis worm, depicted as a whale/eel monster.
  • Killer Robot: The steroid is depicted as a Cyber Cyclops with a Wave Motion Gun for its eye which indiscriminately destroys anything in its path regardless of friend or foe until it runs out of power.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The fate of pretty much any bacteria or other threat who crosses paths with White Blood Cells. Expect lots of blood/cytoplasm.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Happens when the steroid bot goes on a rampage in episode 5.
  • Meat Moss: Large concentrations of cancer cells (tumors) resemble this, crawling all over the walls and ceilings of their cell membranes, a continuous mass of malformed limbs, moving faces, and teeth.
  • Me's a Crowd: Bacteria like the Pneumococcus can divide themselves to gain larger numbers. As can most cells, such as when Former Naive T-Cell returns as a whole army.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Sits at about a 2, with a consistent source of how and why the cell community has as much tech as it needs to function, as well as consistency in how foreign substances are portrayed.
  • Monster of the Week:
    • For the most part, the series follows a simple plot of random harmful pathogens invading the body and causing havoc until the cells of the immune system defeat them in one way or another. Justified, since that is what actually happens in the body everytime, and that way, the manga can show the different germs that menace the body, the cells who fight them and how the immune system works. The only notable exceptions in the first four volumes are the episodes of the Cancer Cell and the hypovolemic shock, that last two chapters for each one and feature threats that nearly kill or seriously harm the body.
    • Volume 5 is an exception to this, since, except for the first chapter, that has a Helicobacter pylori as the monster of the week, it follows a cohesive plot of U-1146 and Ordinary Cell trying to find a home for the lactic acid bacteria, mixed with a new influenza outbreak, an invasion of harmful bacteria in the intestines and another confrontation with Cancer Cell.
  • Monstrous Germs: The bacteria are depicted as evil aliens that wouldn't look out of place in Dragon Ball.
  • Mountain Of Bodies:
    • The blood clots are depicted as a mountain of blood cells caught in a huge fibrin net patched over another net which covers a giant sinkhole.
    • A darker example happens in the pimple chapter, where U-1146 stumbles upon a mountain of corpses of his fellow Neutrophils, aka pus.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: For starters, sneezing is portrayed as a missile launch and a scrape on the skin is a giant sinkhole. Allergies are portrayed as an apocalyptic event, with a great floodnote , eruptionsnote  and earthquakesnote  happening before a steroid was able to stop them a la The Terminator.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The anime's opening shows U-1146 carrying the Platelet Leader while he's about to attack, just like he does on the manga's third volume cover.
    • Though Effector T's JoJo-like transformation was already in the manga, it gave David Production (who do the 2010s adaptation) a good excuse to bring out their house style for the occasion.
    N-Z 
  • Nice Hat:
    • Unlike the nondescript caps worn by most blood cells, Red Blood Cells wear puffy red hats that are based on how real-life red blood cells are shaped.
    • Erythroblasts wear similar hats, but contain a pom-pom at the top that symbolizes their nuclei.
    • Averted by any Normal Cell whenever illnesses like Influenza show up.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The Neutrophils look out of place when compared to other cells in the body. Their chalky white complexion coupled with featureless black eyes lacking light puts them into near Uncanny Valley levels.
  • One-Gender Race: Most types of cells when appearing in multitudes are depicted in only one gender. Exceptions are Red Blood Cells and Platelets, which are depicted as both male and female. Justified somewhat for the Ordinary Cells, as they're the only characters shown cloning themselves.
  • One-Man Army: U-1146 is portrayed this way, surviving bacterial attacks that should have killed white blood cells in real life. An example of this is defeating the acne germ king by himself when many of his comrades were killed. Sure he gets help from the hair cells but still...
  • Opening Narration: Each episode starts with the following from The Narrator:
    Inside the human body, roughly 37.2 trillion cells work energetically, 24 hours and 365 days. They are all working very hard. This is the inside of a human body.
  • People Jars: The regular cells are in charge of creating clones of themselves using these.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: U-1146 white hair covers his right eye, as does NK Cell's black hair.
  • Pokémon Speak:
    • The Lactic Acid Bacteria all can only speak "Nyuu". It's derived from nyuusankin, the Japanese term for them.
    • The Cedar Pollen Allergen all can only speak "Cedaaar".
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The anime adapted the manga chapters out of order to fix some issues on how some cells are portrayed. It is also done to focus on introducing characters and as a way to make a character arc for AE3803.
  • Prophecy Twist: Legends passed down between Memory Cells tend to have this effect. One such legend involved the ground splitting, floods, and volcanoes erupting when the body had an allergic reaction to cedar pollen. All of these happened, but slightly different: The eruptions were sneeze missiles, the land rising was the inflammation of the nasal mucosa, and the floods were the overproduction of histamines and tears.
  • Running Gag:
    • Red Blood Cell freaking out and responding with The Scream whenever she encounters a harmful invader or gets berated by other cells.
    • U-4989 and his various improvised upgrades, arms, and armour. See Funny Background Event for a list.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Memory Cell's prophesy did happen thanks to the overproduction of histamine that Mast Cell produced and the emergency immune system kicking in. U-1146 acknowledged this trope, saying that even if the flood didn't happen everyone still has to do their jobs so the outcome would be the same.
  • Schmuck Bait: In order to trick some invading intestine bacteria, a swimming cell held hostage by them seemingly gives them what they want by leading them to a pocket of the stomach with food stores. They actually led them to a Peyer's Patch, which gives the White Blood Cells a convenient place to gather up all the offending bacteria in order to kill them all in one place.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: How the Neutrophils are depicted in killing off bacteria and viruses.
  • Ship Tease: For whatever reason, despite being cells, belonging to the same body, etc., U-1146 and AE-3803 have romance tinged interactions. For example, in the beginning of Episode 4, U-1146 and AE3803 were at the stomach's observation deck... as if they are having a date.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: Definitely on the sillier side of things with a dash of violence. Gradually, the manga is not afraid to show off some deadly consequences on the human body such as Heat Stress, Hypovolemic Shock, Dengue and Cancer and how the immune system responds to said dangers. The first two example even implies that the human body was hospitalized and given medical aid.
  • Shooting Gallery: The Boot Camp Episode features thymocytes (developing T cells) going through a training exercise where they have to identify and attack cut-outs of Ordinary Cells that have become cancerous or been infected by a virus.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Effector T Cell is a parody of various heroes in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. In the anime, he even uses Jotaro's famous "ORAORAORA!" yell.
    • The tengu mask attaching itself to the Langerhans resembles the way Stone Masks attach themselves to people.
    • Also, the way Eosinophil kills the Anisakis worm, depicted as a white, whale-like monster, by leaping onto it and spearing it, may as well have had her say "from hell's heart I stab at thee!"
    • Cancer Cell strongly resembles Ken Kaneki with his white hair, mismatched blackened eyes, and Lovecraftian Superpower of producing additional appendages from his body. The cancerous extensions could also be a reference to The Thing.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The cells' different personalities, uniforms, and habits all come from some aspect of the cell they were based on. For example, the part about a pneumococcus hiding in Red Blood Cell's carton in the first chapter / episode? An academic paper less than a year before it was published.
    • While showing the bacteria as creepy aliens, there are some references to their actual morphology, such as Staphylococcus Aureus having a dress shaped like a grape cluster, or the gram-positive Pneumococcus being purple.
  • Snow Means Death: The hypovolemic shock chapter portrays body shutdown as a freak blizzard, which most of the blood cells fall unconscious in.
  • Straw Civilian: Downplayed. Ordinary Cells and Red Blood Cells other than AE 3803 tend to fall into this, calling the fervent passion that White Blood Cells and other members of the immune system have towards killing pathogens creepy, but know full well not to get in the way.
  • Stealth Pun: Sneezing is depicted as a high-powered missile carrying junk and unwanted materials — a literal "snot rocket", if you will.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Neutrophils will actively chase off foreign enemies and follow them until they are killed.
  • Sweet Tooth: All Red Blood Cells are shown as being fond of ice cream. Justified, as "ice cream" in the body is actually glucose/dextrose, which red blood cells rely on as their sole energy source.
  • Theme Tune: "Mission! Health Comes First!" goes for a more traditional variant than most anime opening themes, as it's sung by four of the characters' voice actors and the lyrics are a basic description of the characters' jobs and the premise of the series itself.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: The original Cancer Cell is on an advanced stage that he can disguise himself as an Ordinary Cell, even managing to fool both U-1146 and Killer-T. Only NK Cell is able to sniff him out thanks to her ability to sense cancer cells. He even managed to convince Regulatory T-Cell into thinking he is an Ordinary Cell, hindering both NK and Killer-T from killing him.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Naturally, the chapter that introduces Eosinophil culminates with a fight against a parasite, allowing her to show off her true skill.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Played for Laughs. Everyone sported this after the Steroid Bot's rampage in episode 5.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Happens a few times whenever a crisis happens thanks to a character's shenanigans. Mast Cell, B Cell and Memory Cell had been victims of this.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: To a degree. Nutrients for different kind of cells are represented differently.
    • Red Blood Cells are only able to consume glucose, which is represented as ice cream.
    • Neutrophils eat pathogens they kill, including a processed version that appear to be based on instant noodle cups.
  • Tragic Villain: The Cancer cells are mutated, dangerous beings, but although they pose a threat to the body they just want to live a normal life like any other cell. After one gets pursued and figures out they're supposed to die, he goes berserk and decides to take the whole body down with him if he isn't allowed to live.
  • Training from Hell: Thymocytes endure a harsh training regimen before becoming Naive Cells then later into Killer-T Cells. It is stated that only 2-3% of the cells pass to become Naive Cells.
  • Unlucky Everyman: The body the cells live in is one. They suffer all sorts of afflictions ranging from mild problems like flu or allergies to far more serious problems like dengue fever, hypovolemic shock, heat stroke, and critical dehydration. Of course, if they didn't go through all of this, we wouldn't have a story.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: A description of a cell pops up whenever a character appears every single episode.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The anime is a very lighthearted story about the functions of the immune system sprinkled with little bits of violence. This makes Cancer Cell feel out of place to the point that one can think he came from another show.
  • Villain Respect: Cancer Cell respects U-1146 because he views Cancer Cell as a Cell instead of a mistake. So much so that he does not mind when he is killed by the latter and tries not to fight him in the Return of Cancer Cell arc
  • The Virus: Well, the viruses. They're depicted as accessories like hats or masks that forcibly attach themselves to cells and brainwash the victims. The victims then create more of these hats/masks.
  • Visual Pun:
    • The Dengue virus is depicted as Tengu masks; "dengue" is pronounced very similarly to "tengu" in Japanese.
    • Similarly, the chemical purine is depicted as stacks of puddings (purin is Japanese for pudding).
    • Macrophages holding up wooden cut-outs of Virus infected cells and regular cells for Naive T-Cells during training, as they're antigen presenting cells.
  • White Shirt of Death: Neutrophils and macrophages are clad in white (neutrophils are chalky-white on top of that), which makes all the blood they get while slashing and stabbing enemies to death stand out more.
  • Whole Episode Flashback:
    • AE 3803 thinks back to her childhood in the bone marrow on a delivery run there.
    • One chapter focuses on the past between Killer T and Helper T during their time in the thymus, which is depicted as a military academy.
  • Wingding Eyes: Each time when an enemy dies, their eyes often have X's on them. This would result in a Mood Whiplash in which after Cancer Cell dies, his eyes turn into X's after a dramatic conversation between him and U-4989.
  • You Are Number 6: Because there are so many Red Blood Cells and Neutrophils, they are all given an alphanumerical designation code that serves as their name.
  • Zerg Rush: The invading bacteria attempted this in episode 2. It failed thanks to the Platelets sealing off the wound.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: An influenza outbreak is portrayed this way, with the infected cells becoming zombie-like. common colds are also portrayed this way, the only difference is that the infected cells seems to have a sense of self.

Tropes present in the spinoffs:

    In general 
  • Painting the Medium: Each of the side stories is either shown or implied to be in their corresponding demographic's body:
    • Saikin (Bacteria at Work), a Shojo series, takes place in a high school girl's body, so the bacteriae's appearances are more stylish or elegant than the ones in the main book. Their home is also shown to have a Victorian aesthetic, and a character is shown using magic to perform their cellular duties.
    • Hatarakanai (Cells that Don't Work), a Shōnen series, has its main focus being youthful concepts like NEETdom and coming of age. Slice of Life elements (a popular shonen topic) are present, and its protagonist has the most boyish attitude of all Cells series. It's also the closest spinoff in tone to the main manga (which itself used a young male voice to depict the host body in the anime).
    • BLACK, a Seinen series, is in an adult male's body, depicted as a "black company"-like landscape. Hard lines and hazards abound, adult concepts like layoffs and hostess clubs are present, and most cells look noticeably older than their main series counterparts.
  • Spinoff: Each and every one of them.

Cells at Work! [BLACK] has its own article.

    Saikin 
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Completely averted with bacteria in Saikin, as both good and bad bacteria are depicted as attractive. Justified, given that bad bacteria are good in moderation for the digestive system, so they have no reason to make them straight-up enemies.
  • Deadly Gas: In Chapter 1, Clostridium perfringens produces a large amount of hydrogen sulphide gas to harm the good bacteria.
  • Enfant Terrible: Salmonella is portrayed as a very powerful and cruel little boy, that tries to take over the host body.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The bad bacteria are portrayed as this. No matter how much havoc they wreak on the body, good bacteria will always be there to stop them. They're also a generally goofy bunch.
  • The Narrator: U-1146 teaches the biology here.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. As a series about intestinal flora, the issue of bowel function is understandably raised with some frequency. The fourth chapter, for example, is about the host's constipation.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: All the good bacteria love vegetables, but all the bad bacteria eat meat (appropriate, considering their rivalry). Chapter 1 tells us that the host body loves to eat meat as well, since one of the good bacteria mentions it's all she ate for the past week.

    Hatarakanai 
  • Instant Fan Club: 328 has a fan club for Macrophages; among its members are a Red Blood Cell (DW7310), a Neutrophil (2310), and an unnamed Erythroblast.
  • Manchild: Instead of the young children seen in the main series, the Erythroblasts of Hatarakanai are a group of immature young adults that still live at their nursery.
  • Edutainment: Special bonus chapters for the main series anime had a Macrophage lead the Erythroblast crew around studios to learn about animation production.
  • NEET: The Erythroblasts are completely mature but refuse to enucleate into Red Blood Cells for different reasons, putting them into the cell equivalent of this. The only exception is 031, who refuses to enucleate because he thinks he isn't learned enough - but Macrophage disagrees.
  • Slice of Life: Unlike the main series and the other spinoffs, Hatarakanai has little action and concentrates on the lives of the cell equivalent of NEETs.

Alternative Title(s): Hataraku Saibou

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