Hataraku Saibou!! Review

I think we’re really stretching what constitutes as a ‘season’ now. Like…it’s usually supposed to be 12 or 13 episodes. We’ve established this. This has nothing to do with how it impacts the quality or anything else with the storytelling, but rather a PSA on the fact that it seems like the definition of ‘season’ now is ‘whatever the showrunners want it to be’. I guess.

Story:

While I’m tempted replicate Mamiko Noto’s narration spiel about how the body has 37 trillion cells that all work hard to keep a human body alive, I’m instead going to just let everyone know that this season is essentially the intestine and digestion system season since that, broadly speaking, eats up a greater majority of the show’s runtime. Compared to the first season’s multitude of episodic romps that end in one or two multi-episode arcs to cap off the season, season two by comparison starts off with a multitude of half-episode episodic romps before transforming into a larger narrative picture that ends in a single multi-episode arc. Very similar on paper, but different in execution.

For starters, season two feels like it flows a little better once it’s past the half episode romps. This is largely due to the fact that the series introduces four little plot devices that help move the story along. Which plays into the larger scope of the intestine’s role in the body, as well as the rest of the smaller minisodes that occur while our characters are stationed in the intestine. By contrast, the beginning parts of the season feel more awkwardly paced than everything that comes after that. Primarily due to the fact that the show plays out like Saturday morning cartoons where each episodic plot is only eleven or so minutes long. Which as a result, create some really choppy stories that narratively don’t really mesh well with each other or the other two-thirds of the runtime that’s dedicated to the digestion system. This is in part due to the fact that each of those short form stories are focused solely on various immunity cells that we’ve met in the past, but also because each of these stories are vastly different from one another since each cell’s job is different. And featuring two polar opposite short stories next to each other in a thirty minute timeframe can create a bit of whiplash.

I’ve also learned that because the body is so indecisive and dangerous to itself, the plots that come out of this show, while biologically correct…need a surprising amount of suspension of disbelief to be taken into consideration. Which I guess is part of the charm with Cells at Work given its anthropomorphizing of human cells to show off the kind of harrowing crap we humans put our bodies through every day. Unfortunately, this leads to the series seeing a little nonsensical at times with some philosophy and deeper meaning that personally I don’t think needs to be there since just the concept of this show is wild to begin with. And making the cells think about their place in the world and why they’re in this perpetual cycle of work and death is a bit too meta for this mostly educational show to handle methinks.

Characters:

Compared to Season 1 where it seemed like our resident air-headed red blood cell got all of the attention, this season seemed to shift the focus off to our resident White blood cell and his line of work in protecting various parts of the body. (Aka just the intestine for a majority of the show.) This is partly due to the fact that every episode tackles a greater problem that the characters are notified of prior compared to the first season where our resident RBC just kind of stumbled into every major situation that occurred, screaming her way into next week running for her life while clutching onto her precious deliveries. While I’m happy the show swapped its perspective to give us the ‘other’ perspective so to speak, so too comes the philosophical aspect of Cells at Work which in my opinion is shaky at best. Which comes to play only because the story demands that the Neutrophil that’s designed only to take out foreign contaminants has human thoughts and emotions. And questions the validity of their job when they’re supposed to take out all foreign threats, but doesn’t in favor of giving alternate parties the benefit of the doubt.

By contrast, we have Ordinary Cell, a normal cell that lives in the throat who wishes to be something more than just someone who gets free deliveries and is meant to just proliferate so the body can grow. His character arc feels a lot more fulfilling by comparison because he kind of has his own hero’s journey that has both a sense of pacing and closure that’s well contained within the span of his time in the show. While also contributing to the greater scope of the series by essentially being the gateway for the larger span of the show without intruding on things too much. All around probably the best aspect of the show that was also one of its most surprising aspects too.

As for the rest of the character cast, the most that the various immunity or bodily function cells get are a few important scenes or an entire half episode to explain a process or function they have. And what happens if that function isn’t done or executed. All the while Mamiko Noto is in the background narrating everything that’s happening as if she’s reading off of a college grade biology textbook. They’re certainly characters that get their time of day when it happens, but serve less plot prominence beyond that.

Aesthetics:

David Production taking the reins for Cells at Work again wasn’t something that I thought wasn’t going to happen, and I’m glad they kept the license for it even if Black is being handled by a different production studio. Compared to the first season, the vibrancy and amount of hue we get with the color palette in the show is a lot more intense than I remember it being. It’s not all that different from Season 1, but there’s enough of one that I feel like it’s worth mentioning. This also works in tandem with the darker areas of the show where the characters appear a lot more…sinister than I feel like they should. Which creates some incredible contrast where we have bright and cheerful clashing with dark and edgy. There’s also some CGI used but it’s not that big a deal considering how rare it is.

But that’s not all. Now, when I talked about the fact that Cells at Work was made by the ‘Jojo people’ in my first review, I said it really only in reference to David Production’s most popular work currently so people kinda knew who they were. I didn’t expect to have actual jojo references in this godforsaken show. This is by no means a bad thing, but it’s clear that the animators working on this wanted to do something stupid or fun, so while I’m not sure that this was their ultimate intention, I feel like someone definitely wanted to throw in a few references in there. (The lactic acid bacterium literally did the Oraoraoraora. You cannot tell me that someone didn’t want to make a jojo reference here.)

“Go! Go! Saibou Festa” sung by a greater majority of the ‘important’ cells in the series is not exactly the kind of song I thought would be featured in this series, but hey, I’m not against it. Personally I think the first season OP is a lot better because that one sounded like it had the urgency of working to it whereas this one kinda just has everyone sing about their jobs. With occasional ‘Nyus’ for obvious reasons when watching the show. ClariS’s “Fight” by comparison is a song that’s much more lax and personally not one I’m too thrilled about personally. A good feel good song, but nothing that’s noteworthy enough to get an individual listen to on its own. Good tracks, but nothing immensely worthwhile.

Final Thoughts:

Cells at Work 2 was a show that surprised me in many ways, mostly because I didn’t really think that’d we actually get a sequel to the series, and we would only have the one season to show off the novelty of the concept. But because season 2 is actually a thing, I guess we have more of that novelty given form.

Truth be told, the novelty is what I think gives Cells at Work a greater majority of its intrigue. It’s a very non-committal show, focusing primarily on education and the imagining of what the human body would look like if it was actually a sprawling society. Beyond that and the body’s relationship to various pathogens that attempt to infiltrate it, there wasn’t really a lot to say about the show when it first came out and the same holds true here. Cells at Work to me is one of those really good novelty shows that works to its strengths and offers what’s on the box, but does little else beyond that. A show that’s worthy of recommendation, but mostly because it’s good, non-offensive fluff that you can learn something from.

Also the show is only eight episodes. So if you got a busy schedule but want to finish a decent show, it’s here for you.

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