Cells at Work! Code Black Volume 1

Cells at Work! Code Black is a gender-swapped spin-off of the original Cells at Work! manga with a more adult approach. The red blood cell, who serves as the reader’s guide through the body, is here an uncertain young man who doesn’t like his job. The protective white blood cell is now a woman (with a ridiculously impractical costume that’s missing its front, so copious cleavage is always on display). And the topics covered are those happening in the body of an adult male who doesn’t take care of himself: smoking, drinking, hair loss, and erectile disfunction.

The body’s owner is under a lot of stress (although we don’t know why), and so are his cells. The red blood cell finds his way through the vessels blocked by cholesterol, works too hard, and wants to quit, although older cells keep encouraging him.

I thought the approach was a good idea, but the obvious fan service was a turnoff. The white blood cell, in one fighting scene, exerts herself so much that she loses her shirt altogether. Another type of cell is drawn as a topless, scarf-draped harem dancer.

Cells at Work! Code Black Volume 1

Also, the original creator, Akane Shimizu, wrote and drew the source series. This spin-off has a separate writer (Shigemitsu Harada) and artist (Issei Hatsuyoshiya), which may inadvertently contribute to the more perfunctory feeling. I wanted to find this more interesting than the previous series, but it felt shallower in content for more reasons than just the bare-breasted women. I found myself flipping pages instead of getting involved in or learning from the stories.

The second volume covers ulcers, gout, and a heart attack. There are two other spin-off series Kodansha is bringing over, but those two are digital-only: Cells at Work and Friends! is one volume, while the two volumes of Cells NOT at Work! are about lazy cells that haven’t yet become red blood cells. Given my mixed feelings about Code Black, I won’t bother seeking them out.

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