Hataraku Saibou, also known as Cells at Work, has taken over the anime fandom by storm. The series, based on the manga by Akane Shimizu, tells the story of the Immune and Circulatory System in an unnamed person and how they fight the different infections and health troubles a human body can suffer. While the series takes some liberties regarding biology, doctors have praised Hataraku Saibou for the way in which the series explains some of the complex processes that the human body uses to survive.
One of the things that have made this manga and anime so popular is the character design. Despite having many cells of the same kind, everyone has a distinct personality, color, and look and there are some who exude cuteness. Which is why we couldn’t let pass the chance to make a list of the ten cutest characters in the series.
Because we’re talking about the anime, the characters that so far are manga-only won’t appear on this list. So, sorry, we can’t include the lactic acid bacterium despite their cuddly and adorable appearance. But other than them, here are the cutest microorganisms you will ever meet.
10. Cancer Cell
We know it sounds really strange to call one of mankind’s most hated illnesses “cute”, but it’s hard to look at the young form of a Cancer Cell and not think that they deserve a second chance. He looks mostly like a normal cell and, as an adult, can pass like one for long periods of time and fool part of the immune system, but he has a huge right eye, scars, and abnormal tissue all over his face and arms.
The problem is that we only see his true form after he has spent some time with White Cell U1146, and we get to know him. And later we find out that he only wanted to live instead of being chased like a monster to be killed from the moment he was born. Unlike the other dangers to the body, Cancer Cell didn't have the drive to kill the body until after the immune system started hunting him and thus, it's hard to see him as anything but a victim, especially during the flashbacks when he sees his friends die.
9. Young Killer T Cell Squad Leader.
No one could see the adult T-Cell Squad Leader and call him cute. After all, he’s a muscular blond man, dressed all in black with a cap that reads KILL and is in charge of killing any infected or damaged cell that appears in the body. However, when we get to see him before he was promoted and activated, he is a young child who wants nothing more than to prove himself to his superiors and show that he can help protect the body with his life.
As a child, he and his trainee friends were pushed to the limit. It was then when he met Helper T Cell and Regulatory T Cell. He was prone to crying, even if he tried hard to hide it and suffered some bullying from other future T Cells and even Helper T Cell with whom he'd later form a somewhat tense friendship. Because of this, it’s hard not to see the flashbacks of his youth and want to cover him and protect him from all harm.
8. Memory B Cell
It’s hard not to have some pity for the poor suffering Memory B Cell. He looks like a tall, thin human dressed in a nice vest and tie, reminiscing of every young professor in their first day of school. So yes, he is very cute and you want to just look at his smile. The problem is that his job is to remember what has happened each time the body has been exposed to allergens and other illnesses and that has made him a bit paranoid as he doesn’t really remember anything and just has vague prophecies that were given to him by other Memory Cells that lived before him.
The end result is that Memory B Cell is a cute little ball of angst and nerves. It is impossible not to see him and want to hug him and tell him to take a big breath before claiming the world is ending. Especially as it’s probably not ending since, if he has a prophecy about what’s going on, then he knows that it happened before and the body survived so he just needs to relax.
7. Naïve T Cell
Just as the T Cell Squad Leader used to be quite cute before he was activated, the Naïve T Cell is equally adorable. He has been through all the training needed and is now a member of the T Cell Squad, but as he hasn’t been activated yet, he is a lot weaker than all his squad-mates, to the point that he can’t even fight a small virus on his own. He’s a scared teen surrounded by more adult-looking cells, with huge eyes and a tiny blonde curl that peeks from below his black cap that clearly indicates he’s a Naïve, not an active cell.
This makes everyone else in his squad be doubly hard on him. They all yell at him and act as if he was a burden, given that they have to save him as much as they have to save other normal cells from viruses, so it’s no wonder he cries a lot and at times feels useless. That’s when we, the viewers, want to hug him and protect him and the reason why he is among the cutest cells—that is until he activates and becomes a muscular character that would feel at home in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures, but that’s a subject to discuss in a different list.
Every cell in the human body has a duty and they aren't good for anything else. This is usually not a problem since they are only called on when they are needed: no one expects a White Cell to deliver oxygen or a Macrophage to fix a wound. But Eosinophil is a very different kind of cell. She's part of the immune system, like the White Cells and T Cells, but she's only good against parasites. Against common virus or bacteria, she’s as useless as a normal cell. Unfortunately, other cells only see her as a white cell so they are quite rude to her when she fails to protect them against bacteria.
That makes her very sympathetic and we feel bad for her just like we feel bad for all the other characters that are treated badly for trying to do their job. But what makes her cuter is that she hates being praised when she does a good job because she blushes and feels very happy and thinks that’s very unprofessional. That, added to her ponytails and pink uniform, makes her one of the cutest killers in the show.
5. Helper T Cell
Unlike other T Cells, the Helper T Cell rarely, if ever, sees action. His job is to point other T Cells towards the harmful pathogens that invade the body and serve as a control point. Thus, we usually see him sitting down in his office quietly drinking tea, looking quite dignified in his commander uniform and his glasses. Although he trained next to T Cell Squad Leader and NK Cell when he was younger, he didn’t follow their path to direct combat. He can still fight, but that’s not what’s expected of him.
Of the adult cells, he’s one of the cute-looking ones. As he’s not very muscular, and he’s not constantly covered in blood, one can easily believe he’s defenseless like a normal civilian cell. That makes it easy to consider him cuter than the other immune system cells, which is precisely why he landed on this list. Of course, the fact that he’s very attractive helps him a lot.
4. U1146 (Myelocyte form)
As one of the main characters of the story, White Blood Cell, or Neutrophil U1146 gets a lot of screen time as an adult, but right now we want to talk about how he was back when he was just a myelocyte and lived in the bone marrow. Back then, he wasn't as strong or agile as he is now, but he was still very brave and fierce despite his short stature and lack of training. He appears to be a child about 10 years old and his shading is a warmer gray than when he’s older, even though his skin, clothes, and hair were completely white even then.
Unfortunately, we only see him in this form for one episode and, even then, only for a few minutes when he proves the kind of White Cell he’ll become by protecting AE803 from a bacteria that managed to get all the way into the marrow and was ready to feed on the younger cells. Still, it’s impossible not to melt when you see U1146 tremble as he picks up his knife and is ready to do his duty, long before he’s mature enough to actually face a pathogen.
3. Erythrocyte (AE803)
The other main character of the series, she's an Erythrocyte or a Red Blood Cell tasked with the mission of delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. She is one of six billion cells but manages to stand out because she is one of the few who has red hair—in fact that was why she was chosen to become an Erythrocyte back in the bone marrow—and because she has the worst sense of direction possible for a Red Blood Cell and constantly gets lost in the circulatory system. And yet, she perseveres and tries her best even in the worst conditions. That is why it’s impossible not to love her.
Besides her clumsiness and determination, other traits that make her look cute are her optimistic personality and how, out of all the Red Cells, she's one of the very few who tries hard to make friends with all the other cells, from the White Cells that are usually feared due to their violent attitude and how they will kill anything that is identified as a pathogen, to the Platelets and Civilian Cells. There's no one in the whole body to whom she won't smile at and try to make friends with, and that is why she is so high in this list.
Macrophages are the last line of defense of the immune system. Once the neutrophils, the Killer T-Cells, and the NK Cells have been defeated, it's the Macrophages turn to shine. They’re the cells that take care of germs and viruses by eating them—hence their name—and everything about them terrifies every pathogen that we meet in the series except for their appearance. They all look like sweet blonde women wearing huge frilly dresses. It’s only when their giant meat cleavers make an appearance that we get to understand why they’re so feared by the viruses.
To other cells, however, they’re the kindest type of cells of the immune system. The leader in particular—who is voiced by Kikuko Inoue, the ultimate “Sweet and kind” seiyuu—is always smiling and never seems to lose her temper. In a way, they are like a mixture of a serial killer and the best Victorian babysitter you can find. And despite their gruesome eating habits, you can’t help but want to have tea with them all.
In real life, Platelets are the smallest cells in the circulatory system. Nevertheless, they're a very important part of the body as they have the task of repairing any injury that the body gets. The scabs you get in scratches and other wounds? That's the Platelets hard at work. And in the series, they're not only the hardest workers in the whole system, as every time we see them they are doing construction work, but they are also the cutest as they do this while looking like a group of kindergarteners, not older than 6 years old.
It is impossible not to love the Platelets. Everyone, both in-universe and out of it, wants to hug them the moment they enter the scene. Well, unless there's an emergency where one would think the Platelets should be as far away as possible from the danger zone but instead, these little kids swarm there in order to save the body and protect all the adult cells. They’re brave and dedicated which only makes them cuter and that is why they deserve to be the first place on our list.
Sometimes cuteness can be a bit subjective but, in general, we as a society agree on what is adorable and cuddly. It's not only about being small, weak, or pastel-colored even if that sometimes helps give the impression that something is fluffy and must be protected from all harm. Big eyes and soft voices also help but, in fiction, sometimes that can be subverted.
We really want to know what you consider cute! Do you agree with our list? Did we miss your favorite cell or pathogen and you want to correct us? Please let us know in the comments below!