While we think of human beings as singular organisms, on a cellular level they're more akin to the ultimate workplace. Every healthy, mature cell in the human body serves some kind of purpose, and ideally, they all work together to maintain the body's health and well-being.
But what if some of those cells simply refuse to get up and go to work?
A Spin-Off of Akane Shimizu's Cells at Work!, Cells NOT At Work! focuses on a small group of Erythroblasts — immature red blood cells — and the Macrophage whose job is to raise them and send them off to work. But unlike most dedicated, hard-working cells, this group refuses to grow up and join the workforce — essentially making them the cytological equivalents of NEETs. Each of them are fully capable of becoming working cells at a moment's notice, but due to various reasons — narcissism, insecurity, or just plain laziness — they continue to live in a nursery alongside literal children.
So begins the comedic adventures of a hapless young Macrophage trying to get this bunch of freeloaders out of the nursery and into the workforce, by hook or by crook... and usually with less-than-successful results.
Illustrated by Moe Sugimoto under Shimizu's supervision, NOT At Work! began publication in the Shonen Sirius anthology in July 2017, alongside its parent comic. Kodansha Comics has licensed the manga for American release, and began publishing it in October 2019.
Cells NOT at Work! provides examples of:
- Anthropomorphized Anatomy: In keeping with the rest of the franchise, all of the characters are cells in a human body, portrayed as humans.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: The more experienced Macrophages could be described as having this, as they are very much believers in "survival of the fittest" and insistent that nonworking cells must eventually be disposed of. Yet their attitude is less about social Darwinism than basic pragmatism: the human body is a land of finite resources, and there is no practical justification for continuing to feed and care for cells that are incapable of doing, or simply have no intention of doing, their jobs. It's important to remember that while the cells may be portrayed as human, they are decidedly not, and this is how things are supposed to work in the human body.
- A Day in the Limelight: The entire manga is this for Macrophage between the hijinks lies quite a bit of information on her contributions to the body.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: In-universe. Macrophage is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of killing Erythroblasts that cannot or will not enucleate, even though it's her instinct and the law of the land.
- Edutainment: Special bonus chapters for the main series anime had a Macrophage lead the Erythroblast crew around studios to learn about animation production.
- 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 NOT at Work are a group of immature young adults that still live at their nursery.
- Mood Whiplash: Occurs at the end of the first volume, where Macrophage is informed that she must dispose of the Erythroblasts that refuse to enucleate. Granted, this may not come as that big a shock to people who read the other series or have studied the human body, but it certainly raises the stakes after a few chapters of silly antics.
- NEET: The Erythroblasts are completely mature but refuse to enucleate into Red Blood Cells for different reasons, putting them into the cytological equivalent of this. The only exception is 031, who refuses to enucleate because he thinks he hasn't learned enough — but Macrophage disagrees.
- Painting the Medium: A Shōnen series, NOT at Work keeps youthful concepts like NEETdom and coming of age as its main focus. Slice of Life elements 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).
- Slice of Life: Unlike the main series and the other spinoffs, NOT at Work has little action and concentrates on the lives of the cytological equivalent of NEETs.