Original Run: January 10, 2021 - March 19, 2021 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Action, Drama Based on the Series Created By: Shigemitsu Harada and Issei Hatsuyoshiya
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!. Reader discretion is advised.***
Inside every one of us, there are trillions of cells working around the clock to keep our bodies running smoothly. To maintain such a massive operation, there need to be cells that can deliver energy to the system and cells that can defend it from harmful invaders.
And while, eventually, all bodies fail, some do so much faster than others.
Smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, terrible eating habits, these vices will eventually pile up and make the work of our cells break breaking.
Every day, without rest, Red Blood Cell AA2153 (voiced by Junya Enoki) refuses to give up on a Body that has seemingly given up on him and his friends. Death and destruction are everywhere, and everyone is severely overworked.
If the situation continues, the outlook can only be black.
There are several points I would like to make, but I’m not sure which one I should use to start. I guess I need to go with the first thought that popped into my head once Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! (Code Black) finished:
“Damn, I should really go eat a salad.”
That’s not me making light of this series. If you’ve enjoyed this franchise thus far, be careful. Code Black is a whole other beast.
For starters, this is the proper follow-up to the original Cells at Work. Season two was fine and all, but if you wanted things to go in a different direction, look no further.
Code Black is NOT a comedy; I cannot stress that enough.
With a quick surface glance, this series might look like the lighthearted and silly Cells at Work we all fell in love with. There was even the same sense of education-through-anime that made the original so unique. But that is where the similarities end.
I think it fair to consider biology as an emotionally neutral subject. Bodily functions are neither inherently humorous nor tragic; they simply are what they are. The first Cells at Work succeeded as a fun comedy because it centered around how a healthy body operates; the natural systems within us eliminate many harmful pathogens. Of course, even the fittest person in the world might suffer from a cold or an unexpected injury. Still, when they happen, those ailments are usually out of our control.
In Code Black, the “Body,” either intentional or not (I honestly don’t know which), was actively killing itself. Eating only greasy foods, sleep deprivation, constant psychological stress, no exercise, put all those together, and the result is not funny. It is not funny in the slightest.
I apologize. All I’ve been done is lay down warnings. The point of the matter is, Code Black was excellent. It is a perfect companion piece to the original Cells at Work. However, it would be irresponsible for me to suggest that if you like one, then you’ll surely like the other.
While both series are equally good and well worth watching, they convey two utterly different atmospheres.
Nevertheless, this utterly different atmosphere put Code Black on the same level as its predecessor. This show was dark, bleak, and depressing because what was happening to this Body and our characters was dark, bleak, and depressing.
Think of it. We all know someone who engages in unhealthy habits of some kind. Hell, that person can very well be you; I know I’ve grabbed a bag of chips while deliberately overlooking the apple sitting on the counter.
What I found to be the most brilliant aspect of this show was its escalation.
The original Cells at Work would usually tackle a single problem at a time. That problem would then get resolved by the end of the episode. This formula made sense for that show because it was highlighting how healthy systems are meant to function.
In Code Black, it wasn’t that our characters never fixed an issue; they couldn’t. Instead, they did all that was possible to prevent the absolute worst-case scenario. Unfortunately, the underlying ailment that set an episode in motion never went away. Thus, rather than having things get better, the Body only got progressively worse.
For example, this series (compared to what would happen later) started small – exploring the aftermath of chain-smoking. Even before this show began, we could see that the Body was already not doing well. It was filled with grime, rust, and muck.
According to our characters, the Body had avoided a cigarette for nearly a decade. Then, due to outside factors, the Body suddenly began the habit once again.
Every time there was an inhale, carbon monoxide would fill the veins, destroying any red blood cells in the way. This prevented the flow of oxygen from reaching essential organs and other cells. In turn, this made it easier for harmful viruses and bacteria to take hold.
Fortunately for the Body, our characters – barely – managed to keep all the invaders at bay. Unfortunately, though, this was only a temporary victory. The smoke still came in, and more and more red blood cells were killed. There was never a chance for our characters to heal their wounds.
As Code Black progressed, the situation only became direr.
Soon the Body was dealing with stomach ulcers, athlete’s foot, and gout, just to name a few. All the while, our protagonist, Red Blood Cell AA2153, and his comrades simply had to keep going. As long as there was life in the Body, the cells could not rest.
Like in Cells at Work, no one had the option to just quit (although something along those lines happened once for story purposes). Unlike Cells at Work, which occasionally framed this constant workload as a minor annoyance, it was downright torturous in Code Black.
So, if you go into this show thinking you’re going to get more of the same, you will be in for a rude – but ultimately fantastic – surprise.
As a heads up, this section is probably going to be short and sound highly nitpicky.
Firstly – and only – having Red Blood Cell AA213 have any romantic/lustful feelings towards White Blood Cell U-1196 (voiced by Youko Hikasa) was unnecessary. This had hardly any bearing on the show as a whole (again, nitpick), but it was always strange whenever it did come up.
Wasn’t it enough that every single White Blood Cell had their breast basically falling out of their shirts? I guess it just goes to show you – anything can be sexualized. I never thought I would ever have to hint at the idea of an attractive cell.
And when I started writing this section, I thought I would think of something more to say. However, I’m drawing a blank. Let me know if you have anything to add in the comments section down below.
I don’t know why I thought this series would continue the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the rest of the franchise. It wasn’t as though I didn’t know what this show was going cover.
Nixing the light and cheerful comedy for a bleak drama piece, this series was every bit as good as its predecessor. Or, rather, should I say, companion piece?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be beside yourself by how much you grow invested in this story and these characters. We already knew an anime could succeed within the human body. And yet, for one to hit as hard as this one did? Wow.
Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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