Cells at Work! volume 2

I had no idea the topics inside the human body were going to be as varied as they are in Cells at Work! volume 2 by Akane Shimizu. The first book was mostly respiratory related, with allergies and flu and such. In this volume, though, we get food poisoning, heat stress, and a two-part battle against creepy-looking cancer cells.

The various types of white blood cells continue to be personified with different character quirks. The chapter on food poisoning focuses on an eosinophil, a type of white blood cell useful during allergic reactions and parasitic infections. She wears a pink uniform with pigtails, and her struggle is to be taken seriously.

She tries hard to fight the invading germ, but she’s called puny and weak and has to be saved by the brawnier neutrophil (our pal the white blood cell seen on the cover and in the previous book). even other cells question her abilities, although she’s determined to keep fighting regardless. The white blood cell knows she has other abilities that make her valuable, but it’s not until we see the stomach lining attacked by a parasite that we see her true worth.

It’s a very manga-typical story — keep trying your best and your skills will be demonstrated! — in a bizarre setting with plenty of violence against exaggerated monsters. The parasite, in particular, is drawn as a substantial amoeba-snake-thing. Plus, the explanatory captions keep reminding us of the dangers of eating contaminated seafood, so I won’t be going out for sushi any time soon.

Red blood cell returns in the second chapter, as part of a march through the capillaries in an attempt to better regulate the body’s heat. The area is drawn as a scorched desert, with references to global warming, a timely approach. It’s too humid, and the body isn’t cooling as it should, plus there’s an attack (of course) by a bacterium.

There are a few tips on how to protect oneself in the heat scattered throughout, as well as the usual high drama as the invading germ rants about plans for domination and the white blood cell expresses his determination to never give up, regardless of how futile his struggles (although not really). That’s what’s so amusing about this series, how manga conventions are recast in this new, unusual setting.

That’s seen in a chapter which flashes back to the red blood cell’s early life, showing how blood cells are created in bone marrow. In addition to fleshing out the scientific information, there are a ton of cute kids and babies here and the typical “fated meeting” that’s so common in manga background stories.

The final story ramps up the monsters as cancer cells are drawn as a kind of zombie, but with random limbs exaggerated in ropy, bulbous fashion. various additional body defenders appear, with the NK cell in particular reminding me of a Lara Croft type. Unlike the guy cells in their full-body uniforms, she’s running around in tank top and shorts, although she’s tough and fierce.

The crowds of cancer cells are packed and ready to move, symbolizing metastasis, when cancer spreads throughout the body. These particular ones keep complaining about why they have to die, just because they were born different. It’s a troubling concept that has no real resolution, other than for the immune cells to do their job and wipe them out to keep the body healthy. His last threat, to return if you “keep on being careless with your health!”, is a good reminder to take away from the series.

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