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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.
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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.
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  • 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, spanning 13 episodes.


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Tropes present in this work include:

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  • 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.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The anime ends this way, with the cells going about their usual business.
  • 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. In the Anime, this is lampshaded by kouhai Red Blood Cell, who states that the transportation of nutrients is an "extra task" undertaken by Red Blood Cells that doesn't fall under the scope of their jobs.
    • 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.
    • 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! Of course, that would be neither threatening nor interesting to watch.
    • Chapter 15/Episode 10 treats Monocytes and Macrophages interchangeably, when biologically they have different development stages, which are typically not reversible. Monocytes are progenitors to Macrophages, and depending on the external signal can also differentiate into Dendritic Cells.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Back for the Finale: Many body cells that have appeared throughout the anime series are given voiced cameos in Episode 12, despite not appearing in Chapter 17 of the manga, from which the episode was adapted. This is likely because the anime episode in question is the first of a two part finale for the series.
  • Badass Adorable:
    • The good bacteria are cute and cuddly creatures who are capable of fighting the harmful pathogens almost as well as the White Blood Cells. One particular Lactic Acid Bacterium 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.
    • Also the platelets, who are willing to wander into battlefields and walk past hostile bacteria to do their duty, despite being little kids. Not for nothing White Blood Cell consider them their most trusted and reliable allies.
  • Badass Teacher: Macrophages are the stronger type of Immune cell, who also serve as teachers 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.
  • Briar Patching: In order to save an Intestinal Epithelial Cell, U-1146 and squad complies with the bacteria's demands and not-so-subtly point out that they are heading towards a weak part of the intestine. It actually leads to a Peyer's Patch where the bacteria are instantly surrounded at all sides.
    Intestinal Epithelial Cell: You see... up here there's a place where the villi are sparse and the membrane is thin...
    Neutrophils: *teary eyed* Nooo! Don't do it, Intestinal Epithelial Cell! Tell him Anything but That!!
  • 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.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: By Chapter 17/Episode 12, Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell are able to hold casual conversations while the latter is wrestling with and killing pathogens, much to the bewilderment of the former's kouhai.
  • 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.
  • Comical Overreacting: A significant chunk of the show's comedy derives from this, as it runs on the Mundane Made Awesome nature of humanizing ordinary events as felt on a microscopic scale. The allergy episode in particular is a nonstop cavalcade of this, representing how an allergy is quite literally your body overreacting to what should be a very minor issue.
  • Conspicuous CG: The background Red Blood Cells in the Anime. AE-3803 also becomes partially CG in a few scenes too.
  • 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.
    • Effector T Cell is a tremendous powerhouse... against the specific threat he's made for (in this case, influenza viruses). Against anything else, even a variant strain, he's useless.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Just about every cell feels at ease watching the adorable little Platelets work.
  • Damsel in Distress: The female Red Blood Cells (especially AE-3803) tend to be this, along with the male Red Blood Cells who also count as Distressed Dudes. Justified, since they aren't made to combat germs and their only role is to make deliveries; thus, they 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 that its well understood how much real-life destruction and death these germs inevitably cause when allowed to live, it's very difficult to feel any pity for them.
    • 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, and to remove 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!!
    • Standard operating procedure for dealing with virus-infected cells is to outright destroy them. Few cells are particularly comfortable with the fact that their "protectors" would turn on them like that.
  • 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. This is Lampshaded so heavily it borders on a direct reference, since the secretion center commander resorted to praying for rain out of desperation only moments before, leading to him and his subordinates to wonder if it was actual divine intervention.
    • 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.
  • Diving Save:
    • White Blood Cell does this to Memory B-Cell, Red Blood Cell and Senpai Red Blood Cell in Episode 5, when they are about to be fired upon by the Steroid.
    • Later in Episode 12, Red Blood Cell's kouhai does this to her when White Blood Cell kills a pathogen, releasing its blood spray in their direction. She's largely unsuccessful, however, and both end up getting drenched.
  • "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.
  • Episode of the Dead: The Influenza chapter/episode depicts the Influenza virus infecting bodily cells as a Zombie Apocalypse, where cells have the virus latching onto their heads and giving them a zombie complexion. The cells of the Immune system from the White Blood Cells and Cytotoxic T-Cells all fight against the infection, before Naive T-Cell who possesses the antigen specifically against this strain of Influenza, gets activated into an Effector T-Cell and lays waste to the Influenza army.
  • 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-1146 is 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".
    • In Chapter 16, while the Ordinary Cells and Mast Cell are making up with each other, AE5100 can be seen berating AE3803 again for being in the center of another incident with U-1146 watching awkwardly.
  • 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, immediately killing anything they recognize as an antigen or germ. Given that they are literal germs with no other aspirations or purpose other than to take over the body or kill the cells for nutrients, there's never a need to feel bad about it - it's something that goes on inside you every second of every day after all. 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. However, despite his more sympathetic characterization, his death is still portrayed as entirely necessary.
  • 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.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Once the heart (represented as a giant Taoist temple) shows up, the heart beating faster is heard as accelerating drumbeats. Particularly prevalent in episode 12, which deals with life-threatening hemorrhage.
  • 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.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Kinda justified, every cell wears a uniform corresponding showing what kind of cell they are. It's shown in an omake that they change clothes when it's damaged, which is a way to represent how cells are replaced in real life. Red Blood Cells also wears a reversible jacket that they switch depending if the cargo is oxygen or carbon dioxide.
  • 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 rather often. Especially notable 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: Episodes 12 and 13 feature Scenery Gorn in the episodes proper and the episode preview/recap, with the lighthearted ending/opening sequence in between.
  • 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. Thankfully, unlike in real life, they are not actually killed and simply rendered very uncomfortable for a few days.
    • 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: A major point of the show is showing how often-mundane events in and around the body are perceived when on a cellular level. 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 
  • Never Bare Headed: Except for one scene during the Cedar Allergy episode and most of the Heatstroke episode, every single Red Blood Cell and most immune cells are almost never seen without a hat that depicts the kind of cell they are.
  • 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. Those hats are anything but cool.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The Neutrophils look out of place when compared to other cells in the body. Their chalky white complexion, Creepy Shadowed Undereyes with pitch-black eyes puts them into near uncanny valley levels. Plus they don't have any eyebrows!
  • 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 for the all-male Ordinary Cells, as they're all just self-made clones of each other.
    • In "Thymocytes", both boys and girls are seen training in the thymus during a flashback. However, in the present, only male Killer T cells are shown, Helper T cells have only ever been represented by one male character, and Regulatory T cells have only been represented by one female character. Therefore, it's not clear if female Killer and Helper T cells exist and we simply haven't seen them, or if the female T cells seen training were all training to be Regulatory.
    • In Cancer Cell's flashback, we briefly see what appears to be a male Natural Killer Cell, making them another exception.
    • In Chapter 27 of the manga, U-1146 believed that his male band cell senpai, later revealed to be Basophil, was Eosinophilic after failing to find his name among the Neutrophilic band cell record. The fact that he thought to do so seems to suggest that male Eosinophils also exist.
  • 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 King by himself when many of his comrades were killed. Sure he gets help from the hair cells but that's still pushing it...
  • 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.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Viruses such as Influenza and Rhinovirus can turn ordinary cells to zombie-like creatures by attaching itself to a host head. Said host can spread spores that can affect other cells. Combined this with it's speed and ability to antigen-shift, these viruses are a pain to contain and kill.
  • 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 immune cells are portrayed. It is also done to focus on introducing characters one by one 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 Escort Mission: Red Blood Cell decides that she's going to stop being such a burden to others due to her No Sense of Direction (a liability when blood cells are anthropomorphized as oxygen deliverymen). In order to encourage her, White Blood Cell discreetly follows along to pick up after her (throwing her directions notebook and hat back when she loses them in a crowd), make sure she stays on track (realigning a road sign so she sees it) or protect her from harm (sneaking up on and eliminating a pair of bacteria lying in ambush). He is easily spotted by other red blood cells, which gets him dirty looks as they think he's a stalker.
  • 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, even at great risk to their own lives.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Killer-T definitely doesn't daydream about being on friendly enough terms to play cards with the other cells.
  • 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.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: NK Cell and Killer-T can't just get along and will bicker no matter who they're facing. Killer-T even lampshades that they have no compatibility whatsoever.
  • 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. The first verse (sung by Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell) is generally used, but the anime will use the second verse (sung by Killer-T and Macrophage) on occasion, such as during the former's day in the limelight in Episode 9.
  • 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: The White Blood Cells sport these whenever they're fighting, emphasizing their serious, combative nature. Played for Laughs in episode 5, in which everyone sported this after the Steroid Bot's rampage.
  • 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. U-1146 in particular is often seen drinking (or trying to drink) tea.
  • 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, just like in real life, only 2-3% of the cells pass to become Naive Cells.
  • Triple Take: All involving U-1146:
    • When AE3803 accidentally hit him with the steroid bot container in episode 5.
    • When Killer-T punched him in the face after he admits wanting to be friends with the Red Blood 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.
  • Vague Age: Given that the cast is made up of personified human blood cells, which have a huge disparity of lifespans ranging from a few hours to several months in real life, this shouldn't be surprising. To prevent unnecessary horror, cell death and replacement is represented by characters going home and changing their clothes, but even then the characters still don't seem to age at the same relative rate - we've seen the same Macrophage from the time Red Blood Cell was a child up until now, Dendritic Cell seems to have many generations of T Cell photographs under his belt, and neither of them appear to have aged a day. To make things even more confusing, once a cell has reached maturity it appears to stop physically aging, leaving them as permanent young adults or, in the case of the platelets, small children.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: Every single chapter/episode, a description of a cell's function pops up whenever a character appears, even our main characters.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The anime is a very lighthearted story about the functions of the immune system sprinkled with little bits of violence. While the pathogens are all varying degrees of nasty and do pose a threat, their villainy is highly exaggerated and comical and under the right circumstances, all get taken down quite easily. Cancer Cell Breaks this format, being a thoroughly-ruthless Knight of Cerebus that relishes in the thought killing innocent cells, has an actual Freudian Excuse toward doing so, and can give our heroes such a brutal ass-kicking that an entire army's worth of backup needs to be called in before he can be stopped. 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 when he saved him from a rogue cellnote , offering to hear his last words and learning he views Cancer Cell as a cell struck with misfortune rather than an invader. So much so that he takes his defeat by the latter gracefully and tries not to fight him in the Return of Cancer Cell arc, even offering him a chance to join his crusade of destroying the body.
  • 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 

  • 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.
  • 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, Cells At Work

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