Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!

Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!

Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! anime series cover art
Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!

Series Overview

Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! (Hataraku Saibou Black / はたらく細胞BLACK), which I’ll be referring to simply as Code Black from now on, is a spin-off of the Cells at Work! series. And, yes, this is a spin-off, not the third season of the anime.

The Cells at Work! anime already covered the entire manga. It’s over; there’s no more to adapt. Code Black even aired alongside Cells at Work!! (the second season of the main series), which further illustrates that it’s not the third season.

It’s also written by a different author (Shigemitsu Harada), animated by a different studio (LIDENFILMS), has entirely new characters, and most importantly, is the gritty version. Code Black is all about what it’s like inside a severely unhealthy body rather than the average body.

As for the new characters, every type of cell in Code Black is a bit different from their main series counterparts. For example, in the main series, all of the Red Blood Cells are female and all the White Blood Cells are male. In Code Black, it’s the opposite.

The fact that the series takes place in an unhealthy body, though, is the defining characteristic of Code Black. The cells in this body have to contend with smoking, binge drinking, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, stress, and more.

What you’ll notice is that all of these aspects of the unhealthy body are primarily lifestyle choices. The series isn’t about someone with an illness like cancer. Instead, it’s purposefully showing viewers the kind of damage they can do to their own body if they don’t take care of it.

And, I kind of like that Code Black went down that path because it serves as a PSA rather than pure entertainment.

Does Darker Mean Better?

The short answer is: No, darker does not mean better. But it also doesn’t mean worse. I enjoyed both seasons of the main Cells at Work! series, but I didn’t think they were anything special. The same is true for Code Black. It’s enjoyable enough, but that’s about it.

It’s definitely darker due to the stories it tells. Things are going wrong in this body, cells die, etc. However, it still has the same structure as the main series. It’s largely episodic, though the characters do reference past events. And despite being darker, that doesn’t mean it has any more action.

I think some people might see this spin-off and expect that it’s going to be more shounen battle series-like. That’s not the case. When the White Blood Cells fight germs, it’s exactly the same in both series. It’s not like Code Black has more of that or better action animation.

Red Blood Cell AA2153 from the anime series Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!
Red Blood Cell AA2153

One thing I will admit to is that Code Black airing at the same time as Cells at Work!! probably didn’t improve my opinion of it. Watching one season of Cells at Work! at a time is enough for me. Watching two seasons of what’s effectively the same show at the same time is rough.

Cells at Work! isn’t a series that I ever looked forward to watching the latest episode of — Code Black or otherwise. And I have to say, both episodes airing on the same day didn’t help either. I definitely never wanted to sit down and watch both episodes back to back.

Basically, if Cells at Work!! wasn’t airing too, then I probably would have enjoyed Code Black more. Though, I don’t really see that having much of an effect on the score I’m going to give it at the end of this review. At the end of the day, it’s still Cells at Work!

Will there be a Second Season?

Now, in this section, I’m going to be spoiling the end of the series and explaining whether or not I think there’s going to be another season of Code Black. If you don’t want to be spoiled, skip on down to the conclusion for the final rating.

With the warning out of the way, I don’t feel like there’s going to be a second season despite the fact that the series ended by setting it up perfectly. But, I also haven’t checked how far into the Code Black manga the anime finished, so maybe there’s more content left to adapt.

However, the way I saw the ending was simply that it was being left open for the main characters to go on “other adventures.” This is a common trope in shows, movies, games, books, manga, etc. And, it’s a trope that I actually like most of the time.

White Blood Cell U-1196 from the anime series Cells at Work! CODE BLACK!
White Blood Cell U-1196

At the end of Code Black, Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell could have lived out the rest of their days in the body they fought to save. That would have been a very generic ending, in my opinion. Or, the body could have died. But, I think that’s a bit too dark for a series that’s, at the end of the day, promoting healthy living.

So in my mind, having them sucked out of the body by a syringe and donated to another body in need was a great ending. They’re now veterans who have helped one body come back from the brink of death. They can lead the charge within this new body.

But, I know that a lot of people don’t like open-ended endings. And to that, I say that leaving a series’ ending open is often good because it lets you theorize and discuss what comes next. I don’t need to see every last thing the characters do up until their deaths — I already saw them accomplish their main goal.


Overall, Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! is a 6/10 for me just like the two seasons of the main Cells at Work! anime. I enjoyed it at times. But I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone — even if they liked the main series.

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