Early Impressions: Hataraku Saibou

cells at work 3

Three episodes in, I prefer Osmosis Jones.

Stated above was a half-truth. The entirety of Osmosis Jones probably doesn’t compare to this series, but the animated segments of the inner-body-focused half-animated film from my childhood is definitely more expressive and witty than this anime. Part of the reason I avoided watching this series until now is that I felt I’d mentally compare it to Osmosis Jones, because I may sort of, kind of, a wee bit think this series is ripping it off.

Though watching the series for the first time, it’s far more different than I would’ve expected going into it, with many details outright surprising me. It shows nothing of the outside world, the series is strangely gory, and the characters don’t really have their own identity… kind of. That last point is kind of a complex situation here. What it definitely is, for better or worse, is anime. What it may also pass for is a Saturday-morning cartoon.

This series really enjoys episodic structures that showcase different characters dependent on the episode. Almost like a monster-of-the-week formula, except not only with monsters, but with the different organisms living in the human body. With that being the case, the show becomes incredibly predictable and gets repetitive quickly, something that may somewhat be alleviated by strong character performances… something Hataraku Saibou doesn’t really have.

cells at work 1

So, these characters are both individual organisms and not. Their names are the names of their personified being. So, technically, they are all the same thing, but not the same thing, as some look and behave somewhat differently. It’s almost like if I cloned myself five-billion times and named all of my clones after myself. All of them are myself, but they are not all the same person or entity. See, it’s complex. My point is that it’s hard to look at these “characters” as characters, despite how they try to staple anime archetypal behavior to some. Thus, it makes it hard for me to empathize, to relate, or to care. I don’t care about these characters. Perhaps this doesn’t matter, and it likely doesn’t to some. It may prove less of an issue if the characters were likable or expressive, but as I said before, their personalities are pretty archetypal. “Haha, I am the focal red blood cell of this story and I get lost all the time! Gosh, I’m so inadequate!” Like the episodic structure of the series, it gets old pretty fast. And why expect anything more? It’s not like these characters have much sense of individualism. It wouldn’t make sense in the context of the setting.

All this series has going for it is that it’s super upbeat and cute. Hell, all I ever see with this show outside the show itself is “Awwwwwwww! Look how cute the platelets are!” Fan art and screen caps and whatever else. That may be what shocked me so much about how violent this series is. The white blood cells are here cutting up germs and bacteria like a serial killer! Blood gushing everywhere and sticking onto the clean, white canvas of the white blood cell’s body. Such contrasting tones, this anime has. Cute little platelets with their wholesome outlook on their jobs to white blood cells bloodying the battlefield with little daggers. It’s interesting, to say the least.

cells at work 2

Though in the end, this series is ultimately a victim of an incredibly simplistic writing style that has gotten old to me by the fourth episode. I fully assume the rest of the series will play out similarly, with perhaps the last few episodes turning it into more of a bigger conflict that will eventually be solved in the end. Because anime. I think I’ve counted three or four really, really, really, really painfully obvious deus ex machina sequences up through the fourth episode, and with how the series seems barely concerned with attempting to differentiate itself in any way narratively, I may go on half-paying attention. At least the information about the body is mildly interesting, but even that seems really forced in there, what with how it reads out an entire paragraph of textbook info while stopping all animation.

Should I endure and finish this (definitely not a sure thing), I doubt I’ll make a follow-up post to this, seeing as what I’ve been shown up to now it what I’ll see for the entire series. C’mon, Hataraku Saibou. Prove me wrong! Make me eat my pompous words! Show me something that’ll make my own innards defend my body with honor! Until then, I’m backing the viruses.

2 thoughts on “Early Impressions: Hataraku Saibou

  1. I was worried about this getting repetitive as well but for me the Red and White Blood Cell at the centre of most episodes are enough because I actually do enjoy their characters and two episodes later on that focus on them are fantastic. I also really liked this show’s take on cancer (wow, words I didn’t think I’d ever type). That said, last episode shifted the focus to the T Cells again and I was genuinely finding it a bit dull which made it clear that it isn’t the ‘gripping’ narrative holding my attention here.
    That and the platelets are cute. They so need more screen time and I would happily watch them forever (much the same reaction I had to Mii-Kun earlier in the year).

  2. Enjoyed your review, though I’m also enjoying the show (and not just for the platelets!).

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