When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the human immune system. Just the idea of the body’s natural defense system warding off and destroying invaders was enough to fill pages of drawing books. I even imagined a video game where the player controlled cartoon white blood cells to fight disease! This is exactly why the manga Cells at Work feels like my childhood dream come true.
Cells at Work tells the story of the human body through its cells, personified into more typical-looking humanoid manga characters. From a hardworking red blood cell delivering nutrients to a stoic but diligent white blood cell fending off harmful bacteria, each representative cell is so entertaining to see that you almost don’t realize you’re learning.
While some series based on anthropomorphic characters prefer to keep their reality-based facts as subtext for character interaction, and others are essentially illustrated textbooks, Cells at Work strikes a more even balance. Each chapter involves the body having to deal with some crisis, such as allergies, the flu, and even cancer cells. The manga goes through the varied ways by which the immune system handles these threats, giving the cells highly entertaining personalities that encapsulate well their roles in defense. Platelets are adorable little children who act as construction workers. Killer T Cell is a lymphocyte with an appetite for destruction, and many of his fights are incredibly bloody (pun intended).
As long as there’s no worry about depictions of violence, I think this would be the perfect reading for a classroom biology class. Along the way, narration boxes explain their actual function in the body, with the actions of the characters making the information easier to remember.
I love this comic. The fact that it combines two of my favorite things ever (the immune system and manga) would be enough, but it’s also just very well written and drawn. The series is currently out in English both in print and digitally from Kodansha Comics, and I highly recommend it.
Now, time to watch Osmosis Jones.