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YMMV / Cells at Work!

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  • 8.8: YouTube channel Anime America got a lot of flak for their (now deleted) review of the anime, giving it a pass, all because it treats Cancer Cell as a more complex character than the pathogens that came before. Not helping matters is their misunderstanding of the source material and stereotyping of fans of the show.
  • Acceptable Targets: The pathogens: multiple ones get slaughtered graphically Once an Episode and since they're Card Carrying Villains, you're not supposed to feel an ounce of sympathy for them. In some cases their gory deaths are played entirely for laughs. However, this is Truth in Television: extermination without mercy is exactly what the body does to invasive microbes.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Broken Base: The decision to portray Cancer Cell as a sympathetic Tragic Villain rather than a straight-up force of evil to be defeated leaves viewers divided. Some like the complexity behind Cancer Cell in how he's not a generic villain like most of the other nasties the Immune System deals with and that it does fit in that he's just a normal cell that was born wrong. Others feel this isn't accurate as Cancer Cells are genuinely doing harm by violating the laws of the body and shouldn't be depicted as a circumstantial victim, and then there's those who have suffered because of cancer and don't wish to feel any sympathy towards a representation of it.
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  • Cry for the Devil: Mostly applied to Cancer Cell (you're gonna be noticing a pattern here). Despite being terrible for the body when left to its own devices, some viewers can't help but feel for his plea to be treated like any other cell.
  • Designated Villain: Cancer Cell, deliberately. He himself invokes this, as he didn't choose to be the villain, but was made one anyway due to merely coming into existence, and having no other purpose or even ability to be anything other than a danger to the body. He's been hunted since the day he was born, which broke him and led him down the path of revenge. So while he is definitely a villain and is taking unambiguously villainous action, it is not as though he has any other choice besides "Suicide by Immune System".
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The Platelets are secondary characters in a story that revolves around Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell, and yet they were popular candidates for this during serialization thanks to their adorable Cub Scout-like attitudes. Their appearances in the anime brought an influx of fans. Their Leader in particular was loved enough to star on covers with the main cast, eventually getting one all to herself and her fellow workers. Special mention goes to the focus chapter dedicated to them, their job, and their mistress, Megakaryocyte. The anime sought to bolster their popularity even further, especially Leader-chan who is voiced by Maria Naganawa who is very popular with the contemporary generation for voicing Token Mini-Moe characters (the same goes for Xanthe Huynh for the English version). The Platelet leader got her own Nendoroid designed and in production when the anime was only 5 episodes into airing and Good Smile Company even said it was by popular demand!
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    • Macrophage is side character who became immensely popular both for being a badass Action Girl with a cleaver, as well as a motherly teacher who looks after the Erythroblasts (young Red Blood Cells).
    • Eosinophil is only one member of the Immune System, a friend of U-1146, but she has a lot of fans for being a shy moe girl who turned out to be a Hidden Badass.
    • Cancer Cell is by far the most fondly remembered Villain of the Week; both for being a Knight of Cerebus who changed the lighthearted tone to a dark one, as well as being a very complex Tragic Villain with a sympathetic backstory behind his villainy, as opposed to the more card-carrying villainous pathogens that usually appear.
    • For some reason, U-1146's neutrophil partners (U-4989, U-2048 and U-2626) are very loved in the Japanese fandom, getting their share amount of fanarts.
  • Epileptic Trees:
    • By far the most popular fan theory is that AE3803's Idiot Hair being crescent-shaped is an indicator of her being a sickle cell, citing her clumsiness and tendency to get lost as examples of sickle cells halting oxygen production. This has been debunked by various real life doctors and medical students who state sickle cell is a genetic disease so it's near impossible to get a single sickle cell in a body unless it was a spontaneous mutation, along with the fact the condition causes red blood cells to get stuck rather than getting lost. AE3803 has no problems passing through tight alleys, which are this series's equivalent to the capillaries.
    • There's also the theory that AE3803 was supposed to become a White Blood Cell, but was raised as a Red Blood Cell due to her hair color. Her near-constant presence during germ attacks and her Idiot Hair acting up during the first Cancer arc (much like a Neutrophil's own sensor) despite being far away from the action are used as examples. Further credence is lent to this theory in the manga due to how some of the Hematopoetic Stem Cells remarked that they were two Eosinophils short when AE3803 was being sorted for differentiation.
  • Evil Is Cool: Cancer Cell has garnered a lot of fans for being a Knight of Cerebus with particularly Creepy Awesome Lovecraftian Superpowers.
  • Fanfic Fuel: How would AIDS or a similarly horrific illness be like on the cellular level? Nano Machines? Bio-engineered bacteria, good or bad? Acute Radiation Poisoning? A body with a genetic illness? Or an organ transplant? What about genetic therapy (which involves "helpful" viri injecting cells with foreign DNA in order to teach them not to freak out when they encounter allergens)? What of fictional illnesses, such as G.U.I.L.T., the T-virus, or one of the rapidly mutating global exterminator plagues of Plague Inc.? Or a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot? If the beefier leukocytes of CODE BLACK represent someone with a stronger immune system, would a fast clotter have stronger or more numerous platelets? How do the cells handle long term events like pregnancy? All that and more is ripe for the picking in fanfiction.
  • Foe Yay: U-1146 and Cancer Cell, in both of the Cancer arcs. While most cells wouldn't treat cancer cells like him as anything other than mutated monsters, U-1146 still recognizes them as living, breathing people, who just happen to go against protocol and jeopardize the body. It's that kind of outlook that actually endeared him to Cancer Cell, and the latter certainly treats him with more respect/affection than any other cell.
  • Fountain of Memes: The Platelets became among the most memed characters of the anime community in 2018.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With Osmosis Jones thanks to its similar premise.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • Red Blood Cell's numerical designation, AE3803, is a hexadecimal color for a shade of red. Specifically, the brownish-red of a deoxygenated Erythrocyte.
    • In certain back angles, on the back of Red Blood Cell's hat, it's appropriately shaped like an actual red blood cell.
    • All of the bacteria and pathogen designs possess physical features that correspond with their real life appearance. For instance Staphylococcus aureus is yellow in color and possesses 'grape' like appendages around her torso, while Pseudomonas possesses tentacles which signify the flagella they have in real life.
    • Bacteria are made of cytoplasm, while red blood cells have hemoglobin. Depicting them as the cells'/bacterial 'blood' actually makes sense.
    • Influenza viruses are depicted as small red balls with sticks protruding, which is exactly how they look in real life. Unlike most of the other infectious entities, viruses are not strictly considered 'alive' by scientists, which makes sense of the fact that they aren't depicted as being sentient.
    • Dendritic Cell has a post in a tree. In real life, the actual cell looks tree-like with their shape.
    • Enucleation of erythroblasts and graduating them to erythrocytes is depicted as a pom-pom on their hat being removed, signifying the removal of the red blood cell nucleus. This is fitting considering their hats are shaped like real life Red Blood Cells.
    • Viewing from the top view, when Macrophage uses a Spin Attack, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment where she looks like the actual cell.
    • Eosinophil wears pink clothing while Basophil wears blue, just as how real-life eosinophils and basophils respectively stain pink and blue under the microscope.
    • Cancer Cell's Lovecraftian Superpowers where he spawns multiple arms that reach out may seem like a case of Artistic License – Biology, but it actually makes sense considering how alike it is to the real life process of angiogenesis, where cancerous tumors cause new vessels to form and branch out where they then siphon surrounding nutrients into itself.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Cancer Cell. He was born wrong, through no fault of his own, and from the moment of his birth lived in fear and confusion of why he was being hunted down by the cells who were supposed to be his friends, and throws a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum as a result. When he realizes that he was a freak supposed to die, he goes into a rage and decides to take down the entire body with him. But it's not hard to feel sorry for him given the sympathetic light he's depicted in. Even White Blood Cell takes pity on him and lets him say his final words before killing him.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: A lot of people have learned of this show thanks to the Platelets and Cancer Cell.
  • LGBT Fanbase: The Killer T Cell Squad Leader has earned a discernible gay male following thanks to the combination of his hunky design and personality.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Cancer Cell is a malfunctioning cell attempting to survive. After watching his friend get killed by Killer T Cells, Cancer Cell became wrathful, devoting his existence to destroying the body and pushing the white blood cells down to his level. Disguising himself as an ordinary cell, Cancer Cell uses one of his clones to stage an attack and gets saved by Neutrophil; Killer T Cell; and NK Cell. He then lures them to his lair to kill them with his clones. Returning to life when his genetic information is leaked, Cancer Cell manipulates Regulatory T Cell into believing him to be a functioning cell, using her to protect himself from attacks. He then invades the intestines and siphons off the toxic fumes of the harmful bacteria. Reasoning that a better world would ensure that cells of all kinds would be able to live together in harmony, Cancer Cell notes that even if it fails, he would be putting everyone out of their misery. Despite his omnicidal designs, Cancer Cell displays an unwavering respect for Neutrophil, taking both of his defeats with stride.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The Platelets have a Fountain of Memes associated with them:
      • "Anone anone!" Explanation 
      • Jokes about the Platelets abound, mostly memes warning "stop lewding the Platelets or they won't make your bleeding stop".
      • Poke the lolinote 
      • "Protecc the Platelets"note 
      • "It's sad they only live for 8-9 days"note 
      • For a while, fans took to Wikipedia and constantly vandalized the page on "platelets", replacing the images with pictures of the Platelet Leader and calling them "lolis".
    • The real Cells at Work. Explanation 
    • Korean Twitter fans have taken to reversing the colors and personalities of the cast. Of them all, "Black Blood Cell" U-1146 stands out, being a more emotional and aggressive counterpart to his Neutrophil self.
    • Then there's the inevitable jokes about the sexual side of the body, like that time of the month being when blood cells start mysteriously disappearing, egg and sperm cells having Me and My Dick style romance while the host bodies are getting nasty, or sperm cells looking like the cast of Free! (a bunch of hot, shirtless guys in a swim team). note 
    • Shipping AE-3803 and U-1146 will have fans unanimously end up saying the phrase "Great, now I'm shipping my own cells!"note 
    • Pink blood cells. Explanation 
    • A certain Cell being depicted as working in an office, just for the pun factor.
    • Given that famous meme figure Stefan Karl a.k.a Robbie Rotten passed away from cancer shortly before the release of the Cancer episode, a common response against those who sympathized with Cancer Cell was "But he shanked my man Robbie!"
    • "I want to keep my body healthy now." Explanation 
    • The anime lied to me! Explanation 
    • "Blood cuck" Explanation 
  • Moe:
    • The Platelets. A group of small children in overly large T-shirts earnestly working despite their size? Gosh darn adorable, and pretty much all of the body and blood cells that we get to see think so too. The anime also gives them voices that verge on Most Wonderful Sound.
    • Red Blood Cell herself, with viewers being endeared by her klutziness and her hilarious freak outs.
    • The Erythroblasts (young red blood cells) and Myelocytes (young white blood cells) are tiny and innocent. This is especially the case with little AE-3803 and U-1146. The former even wears a meido uniform prior to graduation, which is typical for all Erythroblasts.
  • Narm Charm: Let's see... A narrator talking like it's a children's book, anthropomorphic personifications of cells tackling the various functions of the body, some very cheesy dialog here and there. Who would ever think that an Edutainment anime that looks like it's aimed for kids would be one of the more popular anime of Summer 2018? Somehow this show pulls it off.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Because Cancer Cell is so incredibly popular for his Tragic Villain status and complex characterization that makes him one of the most memorable antagonists in the series, many are surprised when watching the show to find out that he doesn't last any longer than any other Monster of the Week.
  • One True Pairing: Red Blood Cell/White Blood Cell. The fandom unanimously ships these two together, especially after Episode 8 where White Blood Cell spent the whole episode tailing Red and making sure she didn't come to harm, while being so proud of her when she navigates the whole circulation system by herself.
  • Periphery Demographic: The anime presents itself as an edutainment show aimed for children, yet has attracted the attention of adults, especially Doctors and Biology majors for its accurate representation of the immune system. It has reached the point where biology teachers in China would assign it as homework to their students.
  • Shipping Goggles:
    • U-1146 is occasionally shipped with Killer T Cell (Squad Leader) despite (or perhaps because) of their interactions in the actual series.
    • Shipping Killer T Squad Leader with NK Cell (and, to a lesser extent, the pairing of B Cell and Mast Cell) also counts. Their on-screen interactions have been consistently hostile, and there are no indication that they remotely like one another, but clearly fans see their dynamic as a Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night:
    • A surprisingly high amount of fanart ships some of the named Red Blood Cells with members of WBCsquad (AA5100 x U-4989 is the most common pair), despite them barely interacting together. It also seems to be more of a Ship Mates thing, as they tend to be compliments to U-1146/AE3803 fics.
    • Pairing Macrophage and Dendritic Cell together is also quite common, despite their lack of actual moments together. However, as members of the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPC), macrophages and dendritic cells do share a close biological classification—and this probably serves as the basis for the ship, regardless of the relevant characters' actual on-screen interactions.
  • Shocking Moments:
    • Cancer Cell revealing himself and unleashing his Lovecraftian Superpower of Combat Tentacles is one of the biggest shockers in the series.
    • The body suffering from hypovolemic shock is not a moment to sneeze at either, being one of the most harrowing moments the whole cast had to face and only narrowly averted in the end.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Being a series based around humanized versions of blood cells, viruses, and the general inner workings of the human body, it's, in some ways, a Moe-fied Osmosis Jones (or for non-Americans, Once Upon a Time... Life due to its Edutainment status).
  • Spiritual Successor: In a lot of ways, Cells at Work is like an edutainment spin-off of Psycho-Pass. Like the citizens of Psycho-Pass, the cells are all assigned professions from the moment they are born in order to contribute to the society, that society being the human body. The Immune System is a microscopic version of the Public Safety Bureau who hunt targets deemed a threat to either detain or execute before they can cause too much damage.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel:
    • Despite depicting the chaotic (and often disgusting) happenings that take place inside the human body each and every day, the series somehow manages to avoid any of the gross out factors that normally comes with this sort of concept and instead oozes heartwarming charm from every angle. With its clever symbolism and design choices, varied but unanimously-lovable cast of characters, and lighthearted tone that rarely wanes despite the constant conflict, it's very hard to not smile and feel happy for your own body's hard work when tuned in. This is one of the reasons why Cancer Cell is such an effective Knight of Cerebus.
    • Special mentions go to the Platelets who provide "Awww" moments in virtually every scene they are in, from how hard they work, playing with each other or the older cells, or having trouble reaching places due to their short height.
  • Ugly Cute: Cedar Allergens are little more than blobs with faces but there's something endearing about them, especially with the anime's jiggly animation. It helps that unlike the other monsters, they're actually completely harmless and the conflict of the episode revolves around the immune system's completely disproportionate response to them.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: To some, Regulatory T Cell can be seen as this during the Return of the Cancer Cell Arc. While it's stated that her allying with the revived Cancer Cell is because that she's incapable of recognizing cells born within the body as a threat, the way she's depicted during her tenure as The Dragon, namely stomping on a downed Killer T and delivering a "Reason You Suck" Speech to him doesn't help in making her appear entirely innocent, which isn't helped by the fact that she's telling them to not attack other cells, while attacking them and displaying no issue with the Cancer Cell trying to outright kill them. Plus, it can come off as rather baffling that, regardless of her inability to register threats born from the body, she doesn't recognize that Cancer Cell is the Big Bad even after all his talk of wanting to kill the body and attempting to kill her fellow cells.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion:
    • In the anime, Naive T Cell has a feminine-sounding voice that might cause him to be mistaken for a short-haired girl. (The fact that he is actually voiced by a female voice actress probably doesn't help.)
    • There are both male and female platelets, but due to their unisex clothes and having high-pitched and childish voices, some viewers have mistaken them for being all girls. The most prominent male platelet is the one distinguished by having his hat backwards. This is so bad that even official material can get confused, particularly with Backwards Cap-kun, where the subs for Season 2 Episode 1 call him a girl, and the Cells at Work: Platelets! spinoff outright turns its version of him into a girl.
  • What an Idiot!: Due to the anthropomorphic representations, some natural reactions become this instead of just chemical imbalances. Such as responding to a hemorrhage by increasing blood pressure and being surprised that this caused even more blood cells to be ejected, or the immune system going into overdrive due to the presence of allergens.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: On one hand, the Edutainment factor and the adorable characters intended to appeal to children. On the other hand, gory violence, a few genuinely disturbing antagonists, and depressing existential horror in the Cancer Cell arc.
  • Woolseyism: During B-Cell and Mast Cell's Volleying Insults, the Japanese version has Mast Cell yelling out that the B in his name stands for "Baka", to which the subs and English version adjust to the rough equivalent of "bonehead".


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