Cells at Work! CODE BLACK – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

That was…different.

There’s a handful of spin-offs to Cells at Work!. I’m not kidding, look it up. As far as I can tell, Cells at Work! CODE BLACK is the most famous of the bunch, in part because of how much it mirrors its parent series. Mainline Cells is set within a healthy body (…I think) whereas CODE BLACK takes place in a body that has subjected itself to an unhealthy lifestyle, the main cause of which is heavily implied to be smoking. If any spin-off was to get its own anime adaptation, it was definitely going to be this one.

It was nevertheless a surprise to find out that the anime adaptation of CODE BLACK will air alongside the second season of mainline Cells. That does come across to me as overkill, I doubt Cells at Work! will fade from people’s consciousness any time soon, but I will admit that the idea of it airing back to back is pretty cheeky. It does make the prospect of blogging about Cells again a bit more complicated though. Like, I don’t have to cover both shows…but where’s the fun in picking just one?

As the saying goes, seeing is believing. I figured the premise would entail a less charming experience compared to mainline Cells but goodness, this does feel pretty different. Whereas the parent show started off by throwing you into the middle of things, CODE BLACK starts off with much more fully fledged setup. The story begins with a Red Blood Cell named AA2153 (Junya Enoki) graduating from his training and receiving a job orientation. Within day one however, he experiences whiplash as the body he works for is no longer the peaceful, stable place it was in the orientation video. The whole place is dirty and run down, matching the unhealthy lifestyle of the host body. Germs are aplenty and they even act less like talkative psychopaths and more like mindless monsters. All the other cells around Red is exhausted and on edge and this even includes the Platelets. THE PLATELETS!

Most notably, the show is quite violent. Not that the main Cells series didn’t show brutal murder or cells dying but those instances are almost always shown in such ridiculous manner, that it comes across as comical. Here though, it appears that the intent is to be visceral. The rabid germs getting cut up emphasizes the brutality rather than the absurdity. At one point, Red sees his senpai die and become zombie-like due to carbon monoxide pensioning, thus letting it sink in his mortality and a surviving member of a decreasing population of Red Blood Cells. It’s not at all like in the main series where you and the characters take it for granted that they could die at any point and that’s part of the humor.

Similar to our leading duo in the main series, Red is accompanied by a White Blood Cell. This particular one, U-1196 (Yoko Hikasa), appears to be a seasoned veteran. First off, that character design (oh my). Second, I can see a lot of potential in that contrast, how Red is already questioning the point of his work while White continues to fulfill her duty despite possibly knowing that she’s fighting a losing battle. The question then is how the back and forth will play out. Will White simply be a source of inspiration for Red? What will happen if she ultimately caves into the stress of the situation?

I’ll admit, it is pretty off-putting seeing a formula I’ve gotten accustomed executed so differently. I’m not entirely sure if I even want a more serious Cells at Work!. Part of Cells‘ appeal is its absurdity. To have it be played more grounded and straight doesn’t sound intuitive to me, let alone fun. Then again, that is part of the potential with spin-offs. The whole point of them is to offer a spin on a previously established premise. I suppose time will just tell whether or not this particular spin works or not.

Thanks for reading!

Watch Cells at Work! CODE BLACK on Funimation

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