WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 6 of Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, "Kidneys, Kidney Stones, and Tears," now streaming on Funimation.
Will this body in Cells at Work! CODE BLACK ever get a break? Shortly after the Killer T Cells were put out of commission due to the steroids that the host body took in Episode 5, another disaster has struck: blood in the urine. Kidney stones in the form of painful-looking crystals are wreaking havoc on the body in Episode 6.
Even after this is taken care of, it still leaves the body in a vulnerable position. The cells have to make a crucial decision: abandon the kidney or wait for a miracle to happen.
The Silent Workers
The liver was the body's nightlife district, but the kidneys are shrines where the Glomeruli, anthropomorphized as maidens, are responsible for filtering blood (cleaning the Red Blood Cells). Signs remind the Glomeruli to not speak, even to defend themselves. The show's overworked cells were already an allegory for the horrible work culture in Japan, but this episode really hits home how under-appreciated the women cells in particular are.
Today in Japan (and many societies around the world), women are consistently paid lower wages compared to their male counterparts and face serious sexism in the workplace. It's sad but unsurprising to see the Glomeruli get verbally abused and not feel empowered to defend themselves. It truly is a code black environment, both in the body and in reality.
AA2153 being the rare nice cell in this body tells the Glomerulus Cell who's washing him that it's because of the Glomeruli that the Red Blood Cells are able to continue delivering oxygen cleanly. But Glomerulus Cell warns him that the body is still under dire conditions -- in particular, to be cautious when passing the ureter.
The Agony of a Kidney Stone
Just as they're passing the ureter, an enormous crystallized stone ruptures it -- a kidney stone. The stone starts dragging along the ureter, with the force of it pulling Red Blood Cells down into the urine, making for an awful sight. In yet another deus ex machina, the kidney stone gets blown apart by a laser shot by an endoscope inserted into the urethra. We can't expect the cells to help much in situations like this. The host body's condition is so weak that the only way to save it is to use as much outside help as possible: drugs, pills, and surgeries.
They're not out of the woods yet. Because the endoscope was inserted through the urethra, germs are making their way into the body, heading straight for the kidneys -- an extremely rare case that had to happen to this body. If the bacteria aren't stopped soon it may mean the loss of a kidney.
The Loss of a Mentor
U-1146, having now recovered from the gonococci battle, fights the bacteria along with her fellow White Blood Cells. The fight isn't easy. Many of the White Blood Cells are defeated, known as pyuria where the urine turns cloudy. Meanwhile, AA2153 and his friend head to the kidneys to check on the Glomeruli, shouting at them to hide. The head Glomerulus, known as Gran, isn't having it: they have to keep working, without a word.
AA2153 yells at her for overworking the Glomeruli and asks her to allow them to complain once in a while. One of the bacteria appears in the kidney, striking at the Glomerulus Cell but instead slashes at Gran who jumped in front to protect the young maiden. In her dying moments, Gran asks them to forgive her for being so strict and, with her last breath, orders them to get back to work.
One of the possible reasons as to why the kidney cells were depicted in such a way in Code Black is because the body has two kidneys. If one were to fail, the body can still survive on the other. That's why the Glomeruli are seen as 'disposable.' Although the Glomeruli allow themselves to momentarily break their silence so they can cry for their mentor, it's implied that they'll continue to be overlooked as they work silently.