Cells at Work! Volume 5
Now that the premise has become a bit repetitive, Akane Shimizu is changing things up a bit by creating a through plot in Cells at Work! volume 5. An ordinary cell is bored and resentful of the attention immune cells get. He rescues four baby germs and hides them, but they turn out to be lactic acid bacteria, a kind of bacteria that live in the digestive system and aid the body. Although they’re helpful, they’re still outsiders, so they have to be protected from cells that won’t recognize their value.
The white blood cell ends up helping him return them to their families, as they venture in these chapters through different parts of the body and find out how these bacteria contribute in varied ways. The germs are adorable, as if baby penguins and cows and Totoro were mixed with a shmoo.
Because we’re spending so much time in the stomach and intestines, we don’t get to see the red blood cell who was our original introduction to the body. But we learn about the danger of too many purines breaking down into uric acid, which can cause kidney stones and gout. And we see how an influenza virus can mutate, making it more difficult for the body to fight it off, but different kinds of cells help boost immunity. (That’s a natural killer attack cell on the cover, dressed like Lara Croft.) Finally, the cancer cell returns (from book 2) and gets involved in a battle between harmful and good bacteria in the gut.
This two-part extravaganza with the cancer arguing for his right to exist wraps up the volume with philosophy about who deserves to survive. What responsibility do they owe to the body? (This debate takes on new context when one thinks about the differences between American and Japanese society, which is more community-focused.) It’s even more exaggerated and over-the-top than the rest of the series, with plenty of cells getting involved in the ultimate battle over who belongs in the body.