[Manga Review] Cells at Work! Volume 1

cells-at-work-vol-1The human body is a microcosm of activity that is far beyond anything we can imagine. Everything from keeping agents of sickness at bay to healing a small cut is a process that is easy in theory to understand, but probably far from simple. So what would it be like to live the life of a cellular organism? Well, that is what Volume 1 of Cells at Work aims to answer and does so in a most unexpected manner.


Information

Title: Cells at Work!
Author: Akane Shimizu’s
Published: Jan 26, 2015 (English release via Kodansha Comics – November 2016)
Genre: Comedy, Shounen

Review

From the introductory chapter to the very last pages,  Cells at Work can only be described as organized chaos of the best possible kind as it tries to capture the everyday lives and functions of the many cells that makeup the human body in personified form. Compared to everything else that tends to get amorphized by Japanese artist, this is at least one that can be justified. In many ways, the series is quite similar to the animated film turned short-lived TV series Osmosis Jones (later Ozzy & Drix). However, instead of being a pseudo buddy cop kind of deal, Cells At Work is a little more spontaneous and aims to be somewhat informative as it does cover and introduce many of the cellular counterparts we all carry. Plus, no offense to Ozzy, but the white blood cell in this manga is a cold-blooded killer and more true to form.

As alluded to earlier, the structure for the first volume is a mishmash things: from an Alien Versus Predator-esque infection running amok to harmless allergen removal turning into Armageddon. Even though the chapters do lack variety in the type of events, they do easily makeup for it with the scope and mayhem to follow. And while the progression for chapters take on an episodic nature, they are mostly self-contained/standalone with only the characters being a constant. While the overall makeup for the manga is nothing remarkable, it is somewhat impressive the amount of detail that the author puts into the work. Everything from how blood circulates through the body to how wounds are repaired mixes together creativity and keen knowledge that makes for some interesting visual artwork. Of course, if you have no idea what something is, the manga is always quick to provide brief descriptions for your own edification. The frequency of the descriptions can sometimes get out of hand with boxes of bodily notes strewn about in various panels, yet not at all distracting or annoying.

screenshot_2017-01-24-00-13-46

One of the better examples of the information boxes.

Being a new mangaka, Akane Shimizu’s storytelling style is rough around the edges, but does not disappoint when it comes to the artwork. As aforementioned, the panels of each page absolutely drip with details; however they are still easy to follow and clearly able to see all the characteristics of certain aspects in the background or forefront. The character designs are not bad either – usually ranging between cute to creepy and never short of wildly changing facial expressions. If there is a close comparison to the artwork overall, I would have to say that it comes close to Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail.

As short as it felt, the debut work of Shimizu definitely leaves a solid impression as it mixes education and unabated enjoyment in visual format. With a slew of characters still to be introduced and plenty more unfathomable scenarios, I would every much like to see where things go from here. If you hate (or love) biology, this is as probably close as you will get to cracking  opening a book on the subject and certainly much less likely to put you to sleep.

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Pros: Well detailed panels and imangative portrayal of human body, non-stop mayhem leads to a bunch of comedic moments, easy to digest chapters.

Cons: Informational boxes tend to overcrowd certain panels, not enough variety between chapters.

Final Verdict: As short as it felt and despite a few minor issues, the debut of Cells at Work was an absolute joy to read. Filled with a lot of laughs, factoids, and fun, it’s a nice addition to any manga readers library.

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