Heaven's Design Team
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Heaven's Design Team ?
Is anyone surprised that the superb lyrebird is native to Australia? I can't say that I am, although I do account myself impressed by how perfectly this final episode of Heaven's Design Team drew it – even for a show that has consistently done an excellent job depicting various animals, the superb lyrebird is exceedingly well done. Its creation also plays very nicely into the storyline for the episode, which is perhaps more important: it is designed in response to a request from God (a bird that can go between Earth and Hell) and is a reworking of an earlier, largely failed design, the garuda. Garuda are mythological birds or bird-like creatures in about three religions, so this also goes back to an earlier theme of explaining why some animals exist only in myths (unicorns, pegasus) or had their myths created because of a real-world animal, like the cyclops coming from the elephant. Venus, according to the show, created the garuda, but it had some serious flight issues because of its teeth, so it didn't get approved. But God really liked the look of it, so it became his mode of transportation, creating a link (in the show) between an Abrahamic god and, specifically, Vishnu, whose ride is Garuda in Hindu lore. It's a neat thing to have done and works very well with the hodgepodge of mythology and science that drives Heaven's Design Team.
This episode also looks a little bit at dinosaurs, which I have to admit I felt was lacking from the series as a whole. Entertainingly, the “real animals” section notes that the scaly T-Rex shown on-screen is but one of several competing theories of how the dinosaur really looked, which was a smart move because I know several dinosaur enthusiasts who would be quick to point out the feathered dinosaur theory. Mostly our pal T-Rex comes in as a means to scare Shimoda, since part of the order that results in the superb lyrebird is that it needs to surprise angels, and frankly Shimoda is easier to surprise or scare than Ueda. Saturn definitely has a little too much fun, revealing a more impish side to him than we've seen for most of the series' run.
Unsurprisingly, there isn't really a conclusive finale to be had here. The second half of the episode does attempt to bring some closure to the series as it goes into what led to Shimoda's creation, and that's equal parts sweetly corny and an attempt to throw in a few more animal facts and weird early designs. The plot device that kicks it off is Shimoda finding an adorable failed design for an unspecified creature – it looks like a combination of a pokemon and a care bear. The designers make him try to guess what it was meant to be, which leads to an explanation of the lion and the (white tailed?) deer, both of which are guesses Shimoda initially makes. The idea of a lion on wheels is definitely one of the better failed designs we've seen – apart from the fact that the idea of naturally-occurring wheels on an animal is somehow delightful, the pitfalls are especially good – and probably familiar to anyone who's been mudding or four-wheeling. The poor buck with the tree-branch antlers is also great, although I am forced to wonder if sticking with flimsy branches would have cut down on trophy hunters.
Heaven's Design Team has been a reliably fun series all season. Its combination of science and fantasy really works, and even when it doesn't do quite as well as it could – teasing God showing up in Hell was just okay, and parts of other storylines didn't quite pan out – it still maintained its place as the most consistent show I watched in winter of 2021. There's definitely something to be said for that, and if I'm sad that we didn't get the platypus or Venus ranting about one of her birds being hunted to extinction, or even more dinosaurs, I've still enjoyed this nearly every step of the way.
Heaven's Design Team is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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