Akane Shimizu’s Cells at Work introduced manga readers to the marvelous truth of what happens inside the human body: each one of us is filled with millions of plucky blue-collar workers, wearing jumpsuits and working specialized tasks to keep the heart pumping, the lungs breathing, and every organ dealing with the challenges of multicellular life. Perhaps hardest working of all are the red blood cells, rushing around the entire body bearing oxygen and thus getting to meet all the other cell types. It’s a great concept for an educational manga, so great that there have been no fewer than four spinoff manga, of which the “adult” spinoff is Cells at Work: Code Black.
Not tremendously more violent or nudity-packed than the original Cells at Work (except for the cleavage-heavy white blood cell who’s one of the main characters, and one panel of a naked kuppfer cell), Code Black earns its 18+ rating by dealing with the problems of adult (specifically, adult male) bodies. “Lack of sleep, binge eating, binge drinking … this body is currently under extreme stress!” proclaims a cell in the first panel.
Though (as in all the Cells at Work manga) we never see the outside of the body, Code Black’s hapless cells seem to be inside some debauched salaryman, as in chapter after chapter they deal with the health problems of smoking, drinking, erectile dysfunction, sexually transmitted disease, and stress-based hair loss. And that’s just in the first volume! Going from crisis to crisis with helpful captions explaining the science, it’s increasingly over the top, though it’s hard to beat the, er, climax in Chapter 3, which is essentially a Woody-Allen-less version of the “what happens inside the penis” sequence in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. (“Hey rookies, is this your first time in the erectile tissue?”)
Like the original manga, but harder to talk about without cracking an immature smile, it’s an enjoyably straight-faced/ridiculous romp through cell science.
story: Shigemitsu Harada
Art: Issei Hatsuyoshiya
Created By: Akane Shimizu