I think me watching a show about the human body and all the things that can go wrong with it while in the middle of a global pandemic probably wasn’t the smartest thing but I don’t think it really matters too much. I was looking forward to this series regardless since it essentially was the darker version of Cells at Work and Cells at Work season one was a solid anime back in 2018. But let’s not talk about its parent series and focus on the one right in front of us. A series that doesn’t require you to watch its parent series to jump in as it is essentially a new body with new characters and new and bad problems. Many, many, many bad problems.
Sit back, relax and make sure you manage your drinking and smoking habits as you get plenty of exercise as I present to you the anime review for Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! Let’s begin.
Our story follows rookie blood cell Sekkekkyuu AA2153 (for the sake of this review, we will nickname him “Specs”) as he has just completed his training to help deliver Oxygen around the body. Enthusiastic and ready to go to deliver Oxygen, he soon realises that something is not right. There is built up plaque along the hallways, loads of cells are in a foul mood, the Platelets are back-talking and they are all being overworked. After seeing red blood cells die so easily and being saved from germs by white blood cell Hakkekkyuu U-1196 (Nickname: “Cleavage”), he realises that something is very wrong with this body. Drinking, smoking and lack of exercise has caused this body to deteriorate; making it a harsh environment to work in. The cells must work hard to maintain this body or the consequences could be catastrophic.
What I liked about Code Black’s story was this underlying sense of inevitable doom but the determination to prevent it from happening. With each episode, there is a new problem that has to be prevented, often times just by avoiding death due to the harsh conditions. Whether it would be Kidney Stones or sexually transmitted diseases, they all culminate to this underlying sense that these cells, as well as the body itself, are going to die and it won’t be pretty in the slightest. But the show does a great job of showing that determination through its characters and wanting to see if they break through the wall and persevere. It makes you want to hope that these cells make it through to the end despite showing how easily cells die by the hundreds at a time.
Much like its parent series, Code Black is as much as an educational show as it is a gripping Seinen series. Teaching us about the different cells, body parts and the many dangers that can happen to our body. Your learning as much as you are watching, which does help when some things need explaining to give better context to the situation. But it also tackles the stress of work and how you manage it. Throughout the series, we see our characters get stressed about the job and how they manage to wind down or sometimes the inability to wind down and having to feel that you must carry the burden. I’ve certainly been there when working so I can relate. The show does a good job to show that it is important to not only make sure you are determined and motivated to do your job, but also how to pace yourself to make sure that you aren’t overloaded and overstressed from work, regardless of the work environment. As well as doing a good job of iterating that you need to take care of your body.
The characters in this series definitely have their own quirks to make their role, no matter how small, pretty enjoyable to watch as they all have to work together to keep this body alive by fulfilling each of their roles. But it is mainly the main three trio that carry the cast of characters, Specs, Cleavage and Specs’ best friend and fellow red blood cell, Sekkekkyuu AC1677 (Nickname: Slacker) as they all carry their own burdens and need each other to persevere. Specs is the motivator, the cell that won’t give up and fulfil his task to the end to make sure the body stays afloat, but doing so causes him to carry the workload and overpush himself. Cleavage has to constantly deal with germs and bacteria but also cover ground more as the body deteriorates, more white blood cells are killed off and to be everyone’s shield. Slacker will help Specs when he needs him but struggles to muster the courage for himself and tries to avoid danger. Throughout the series though, we see them try to overcome their flaws by helping each other out to persevere and keep maintaining the body despite the overwhelming odds out of their control. It what makes them such likeable characters because they are rather inspiring and you want to see them succeed due to how the show conveys it, even if it’s practically suicide at times. You want them succeed and survive this, making each scene that has near death experiences more nerve-wracking as one slip up can kill you.
While David Production worked on the second season of Cells at Work, LINDENFILMS worked on Code Black which was alright. The animation itself really isn’t anything to write home about as it does contain quite a lot of still images, especially when the white blood cells are fighting the germs. There are moments where the animation is alright but again, there isn’t anything to write home about here. But what this show does have a very strong art direction. The grittiness and dark tone is well represented here with rust and grit, cracks along the walls and plaque just being everywhere. It goes along well with the very industrial look this show has which helps establish the setting that this isn’t some bright, happy to work here work environment, but rather a gritty, depressing work environment which enhances the message of being overworked and how you handle it. The character designs as well do a good job representing each cell and the black lines used on the characters to capture the dark tone and the fear in the characters is a nice touch.
For a show like this, you expect the ost to be moody, bleak and dramatic to strengthen the idea that this is a bad working environment and that is the case here. It does sound moody. It does sound bleak and it does sound dramatic. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. A good ost will always enhance a scene even if you don’t acknowledge it and Code Black does have a good ost. It was solid enough for it to stand out, especially the more slower pieces because of that ominous feel to it that makes the scene rather foreboding for what is to come.
The opening, "Hashire! with Seiya Yamasaki" by Hiroyuki Hayashi is a rather lacklustre opening. I honestly don’t think it matches the tone of the show at all and is more akin to the tone of its parent series, in both song and visuals, barring a couple of scenes. Same goes with the ED as well "Ue wo Muite Hakobou with Sekkekkyuu & Hakkekkyuu" by Hiroyuki Hayashi. I’m no stranger to relaxing EDs but here, it’s more jarring than usual. With the show usually ending on a dark cliffhanger after each episode, the ED’s tone of it being all happy and upbeat doesn’t mesh with the show at all. I would’ve preferred a more calm ED than this because it can at least keep the vibe of the show after watching the episode.
Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! was a show that slowly grew on me over the course of the season to become one of my absolute favourites this season. The show’s message of managing stress at work and keeping healthy are only enhanced by the bleak and hostile conditions the cells have to work in. It even made me on the edge of my seat at times with each problem our cells have to face and if they are going to survive it. And in the meantime, it is also teaching us about the human body as well to make us learn some new things. But the best part about this is that it’s not a requirement for you to watch the original Cells at Work! You can watch this stand-alone and you will still get the same enjoyment out of it.
The show is a well told, thematic story that can keep you on the edge of your seat, with likeable characters and a good, atmospheric ost to back it up. It’s ability to teach about the body while also having a gripping narrative just makes it even better. Again, you don’t need to watch the parent series to watch this one. Which is great because I do recommend that you check this one out for yourself if you haven’t seen it yet.
My Personal Enjoyment: 9/10
Overall Score: 7.6/10 Recommendation: Watch It