Sunday, February 11, 2024

REVIEW: Cells at Work! Baby (manga, vol. 1) by Yasuhiro Fukuda, based on Cells at Work! by Akane Shimizu, translated by Dean Leininger

Cells at Work! Baby is an edutainment manga. I bought my copy new.


As with the original Cells at Work! series, this stars anthropomorphized cells. This time we're inside the body of a baby. The volume begins shortly before its birth - its red blood cells receive oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. The main protagonist is a regular red blood cell (we'll call her RBC). A red blood cell bearing hemoglobin-f (called F from here on out) watches out for RBC - while the fetus is still in the womb, F is better at carrying oxygen, and he's presented as RBC's older, more competent brother/coworker. One of the mother's cells is represented by a nice lady wearing gloves and a mask, who only interacts with the fetus's cells via the placenta and never touches them.

After the baby's birth, we get the start of pulmonary circulation, baby's first meal (breast milk), and baby's first risk of infection.

I need to start off by saying that I don't have the knowledge to say how accurate the information presented in this series is. The original Japanese version had a medical editor, but there was no mention of whether someone with similar medical knowledge was involved in the English translation.

This was super cute. As part of introducing readers to the functions of the various cells, the baby's cells were depicted as kids trying their best but with only a vague understanding of what they were supposed to be doing. As a result, you get a manga about a bunch of kids doing factory work while the kids in Control (the brain) tap away at their computers and look through books trying to figure out how best to respond to yet another brand new potentially worrisome situation.

I was just as confused about where RBC was supposed to go after the start of pulmonary circulation as she was. I tried, but I couldn't really wrap my brain around the "before and after birth" routes of the red blood cells.

As much as I enjoyed the overall volume, I had some thoughts/concerns about a couple things. First, the portion of the volume about what happens when the fetus is still in the womb - there are details given about the strain the fetus puts on the mother's body, but they're presented in terms of the needs of the fetus and advice about supplements pregnant people should be taking (calcium, for example). Getting to see the mother's body's side of things would be fascinating, but that's not the focus of this series. (Maybe Cells at Work! Lady deals with it, but I've heard that's one of the weaker Cells at Work! series.)

Second, baby's first meal. The interview with the Dr. Hashimoto, the medical editor, at the end of the volume indicates that one of the goals of this series is to reassure parents and give them a better understanding of their baby's body. While we know there are antibodies in breast milk that help babies develop strong immune systems, it would have been nice if one of the informational boxes had made it clearer that formula feeding, while less ideal, won't leave babies defenseless. Formula feeding doesn't even come up in this baby's experience.

All in all, I enjoyed this and thought it was a good new entry in the Cells at Work! franchise.


Four pages of full-color artwork at the start, as well as a 2-page interview with Dr. Hashimoto, the medical editor of the original Japanese edition.

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