WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 3 and 4 of Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, "Excitement, Swelling, and Emptiness," and "Forefront, Gonococci, and Conflict," now streaming on Funimation.
Cells at Work! CODE BLACK just released two back-to-back episodes, focused on... sex. More specifically, the two-parter involves the host body engaging in sexual activities and the consequences of doing so when he's not the most healthy. CODE BLACK is categorized as an R-rated show, citing that it will have more body horror than the main series, Cells At Work!, and this recent batch of episodes proves the spinoff is unafraid to explore other 'taboo' subjects, like sex, STDs and the problem of erectile dysfunction.
In fact, it might be hard for some people to think of sex in the same way after they watch CODE BLACK Episodes 3 and 4, especially with sperm cells being characterized as actual babies. But just like the anime's other episodes, the subject matter is treated with the same balance of education and entertainment that Cells at Work! is known for, and Episode 3 just might be the cherry on top of it all.
The Cells' Important Copulation Mission Misfires
The Red Blood Cells are gathered for one purpose in Episode 3: to help the body get an erection. At the signal, the Red Blood Cells have to rush into the penis, engulf the corpora cavernosa and produce an erection. It's hard not to giggle, especially when you see all of the Red Blood Cells treating this like it's the mission of their lifetime and AA2153 admitting that he's "never experienced an erection."
Cyclic GMP is secreted once arousal is reached and it's up to the Red Blood Cells to push the walls open and to maintain pressure. While in-line to deliver oxygen to the testes, U-1196 saves AA2153 from a couple of Red Blood Cell bullies. She and her friends take AA2153 to the nursery (testes) where the spermatogonia, anthropomorphized as babies, are stored in the epididymis. When he hears that these babies will later mature into sperm, it fills him with hope. This isn't as simple as just an erection -- this is about making sure that new lives are being born.
But things get... hard. Or, at least, they're supposed to get hard. The Red Blood Cells rush to the corpora cavernosa veins and push them apart. One by one, they crawl through the tunnels, pushing the erection level close to 80 percent. But things go wrong when they find that the levels start dipping, expelling the Red Blood Cells, and leaving many of them caught in the veins as a result of erectile dysfunction. AA2153 refuses to retreat, determined to give the opportunity of new life to the sperm cells. Fortunately for them, the host body takes some Viagra and the erection is a success.
The White Blood Cells' Jobs
Episode 4 takes on a decidedly more serious tone with gonococci, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, invading the body. They're a gruesome group, baring fanged smiles and wearing armor -- making them impossible for the White Blood Cells to defeat. Every gonococcus that they slay, two more pop up. With the gonococci making the rest of the cells' lives more challenging, especially in the dire pre-existing conditions, doubt fills their minds over the White Blood Cells' capabilities. All except AA2153.
The White Blood Cells wage battle against the gonococci, but gonorrhea can't be healed naturally so it's pointless: There's nothing that they can do on the inside of the body. Despite knowing that, they have to continue fighting because that's all they've ever known. Even the White Blood Cell who was on the brink of death instinctively flies into battle to protect the Red Blood Cells when they encounter the gonococci. It's their jobs, but it's also the very make-up of who they are.
It's depressing, to say the least, for CODE BLACK's characters to be trapped in a neverending, pointless cycle of trying to keep a failing body from dying. No matter how unhealthy a body they're in, the Red Blood Cells have to deliver the oxygen while the White Blood Cells have to kill the germs.
What's even more disheartening is the ending of Episode 4 when, in a deus ex machina move, the cells are saved when the host body takes penicillin, breaking down the gonococci's cell walls and allowing the White Blood Cells to wipe them out. It's similar to what happened in Episode 3 -- the erection wasn't a result of AA2153's hard work; it was because the host boy took Viagra. This reveals that if the cells have any hope in improving their work lives, they'll have to rely on their host body to take better care of themselves, and right now, as the situation stands, how likely is that to happen?