Heaven's Design Team
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Heaven's Design Team ?
I think we may be facing our second multi-episode arc in Heaven's Design Team, with many thanks (?) to Jupiter. The last time we had a two-episode storyline was when an angel got sent to Hell, but this time things are distinctly less fraught: while attempting to de-age a demon that got stuck partway through being sent to Hell, Jupiter pushed the button a few dozen times too many, and the resulting explosion of Mars' revolutionary device aged everyone caught in its beams backwards. Shimoda was thrown clear (and will have the bruises to prove it, assuming angels bruise), but everyone else has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty years…and then most of them, now children, escaped to Galapagos. I'm not always a fan of “older protagonist is forced to care for kids” as a plot point, but this definitely has some potential.
It isn't all that surprising that de-aging is a factor in the to-be-continued, actually, given that the first half of the episode is devoted to naked mole rats. Apart from being somewhere between “ugly” and “ugly cute,” naked mole rats also don't really age much, nor are they prone to many diseases; a feature, the show explains, of being naked and living underground. Their living arrangements also sound suspiciously like those of ants, at least if you just look at the surface; in fact, I was pretty sure that we were going to find out that Shimoda was visiting an anthill before the naked mole rat reveal. (Thinking back on it, there was no reason for the anthropomorphized ants to be pink.) Probably those apparent similarities are less due to actual similarities and more to the fact that for many people, naked mole rats simply aren't animals they often think about.
The whole fairy tale angle that the episode takes during Shimoda's visit to their den is interesting and works well. Apart from the fact that it allows viewers to make their own (possibly wrong) assumptions, it also allows the episode to avoid drawing naked mole rats for almost their entire storyline. Since most people find them somewhat unsettling to look at, that's a win; the episode takes a page out of Cells at Work's playbook by putting the rats into a form that isn't distracting. Their human designs are pleasantly bland blond-and-pink anime girls, so once you accept that these are animals being portrayed as humans, it's easier to understand the points being made about them. It might not alleviate any fears you may have about their apparent utopia being a dystopia in disguise, but that also works in the character designs' favor, keeping us focused on the information rather than the terror teeth.
Incidentally, there is a furry, non-naked mole rat, with the same alarming front teeth. I think it may actually be a little scarier looking.
God's orders this week are both decidedly utopian in scope, and just as impossible-sounding as always. The naked mole rats are meant as an answer to the request for “animals that have a perfect society,” and a later demand is for “an animal that can rejuvenate itself.” Naturally Saturn's first plan is to come up with an eternal horse, which the show uses to make the point that rejuvenation really doesn't work in complex animals. (Sorry, science fiction.) The end result is an immortal jellyfish, which isn't surprising; what's more fun about this request is the simulation boxes that are used to demonstrate the pitfalls of both aging and never aging. It's maybe not quite enough to give you second thoughts before going all Tuck Everlasting, but as a view of how either the old and weak or the children have to go in order for balance to be maintained, it's quite something – and it may make you think about blue squares in ways that you never have before.
Heaven's Design Team: always giving you something new to think way too hard about.
Heaven's Design Team is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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