Even though the cast of the mainline Cells at Work series has to contend with some scary scenarios like cancer and heat stroke, the body itself is in good shape and everything seems to work out in the end. In Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, however, the body’s biggest enemy is its own host – constant drinking, smoking, sleep deprivation, stress, and more have been pushing the cells to their absolute limit for years now, in the same manner that a Japanese “black company” exploits its workers. And in episode 10, our plucky protagonist Red Blood Cell experiences something so devastating that he finally just breaks. How did this happen, and where can he possibly go from here?
The Lead-Up and the Breakdown
Almost all of this particular body’s issues stem not from outside sources, but from its host not taking care of himself. Red Blood Cell works himself to the bone every single day, witnessing countless colleagues suffer or die from preventable issues like spot balding and kidney stones, and yet he keeps delivering oxygen with a smile on his face. For his tenacity, he’s awarded the Top Rookie award – something that annoys his slacker red blood cell friend, who doesn’t see what’s so noble about running yourself ragged when it won’t even make a difference. Just when they’ve started to patch up their relationship, though, the friend falls into a pit of stomach acid during an ulcer emergency and Red Blood Cell can’t reach out in time to save him. The most important person in his life has just died right in front of him.
After this, Red Blood Cell locks himself in his room and refuses to answer any calls for days. Eventually, he turns up at the spleen, barefoot and with bags under his eyes, insisting that the red pulp judge dispose of him as a defective cell. We never thought we’d see this earnest, heroic protagonist having a public breakdown and begging for death, but the loss of his friend really was the straw that broke his back. The judge tells him that he’s perfectly healthy and has to work until he dies like everyone else, which later causes Red Blood Cell to attack the body itself in a desperate appeal to get the host to make healthier choices. But can the anguished cries of one cell change what is fundamentally a broken foundation?
Where Can He Go from Here?
It’s implied that the body the cells inhabit belongs to someone who works for a “black company” himself, and so the stress of working long hours for little pay causes him to take solace in the vices that are slowly killing him. If this is true, it’s a bit unreasonable to blame him completely for the body’s sorry state – the real fault lies with the culture that allows such companies to exist.
As for what will become of Red Blood Cell, we have a few ideas: he could die along with the rest of the body in a massive downer ending, narrowly survive a near-fatal medical emergency that forces the body’s host to change his ways or find joy in his remaining friends (like White Blood Cell) instead of worrying about problems he can’t solve. We can only hope that it’s the second or third option, if only so that Red Blood Cell can live a fulfilling life and this anime can end on a hopeful note. After all, the world can be cruel, but that doesn’t mean that we have to let despair rule our lives forever.
Red Blood Cell is such a positive, sweet-natured protagonist that we hate to see him suffer like this. Let’s just hope that he gets some form of a happy ending!
What did you think of our analysis? Have you been watching Cells at Work! CODE BLACK this season? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!