Heaven's Design Team
Episode 7

by Rebecca Silverman,

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This week on Heaven's Design Team, we learn why anime characters do not have a feasible facial structure for real life! Okay, not really, but just looking at the screencap you could be forgiven for assuming so. That's actually just one step in the terrifying path to designing the animal that would become the Philippine Tarsier, the world's smallest primate (they're only 3 to 6 inches in height), and they maintain a fine balance between “adorable” and “starring in your nightmares.” They're also come up with nearly simultaneously by both Saturn and Pluto, albeit for different reasons, which probably (in the context of the show) explains that fine line between cute and creepy.

Of course, they both have different reasons for designing the Philippine Tarsier – Pluto is participating in a design challenge, but Saturn is trying to give life to one of his grandson's drawings. Given how things went the last time someone decided to give Kenta free design reign, this is perhaps not a great plan, especially since kids Kenta's age aren't known for the gripping realism of their drawings. In fact, although Saturn does manage to somehow get the tarsier right, he completely misinterprets a different part of the picture, which might have clued everyone in a bit sooner as to what Kenta actually saw. But that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun as watching a doting grandpa do his best to bring his grandson's first love to life, or, if we're being honest, as watching Shimoda keep freaking out.

What's particularly interesting, though, is that both (Saturn's version of) the tarsier and later the barn owl are rooted in the standard alien design. Not E.T., of course, but the now-generic little green person with huge yellowish eyes that's become shorthand for Martians. That feels like it might be on purpose, because if you think about humans and their rampaging imaginations, doesn't it seem possible that someone finding the bones of what appears to be an unknown creature might come up with something similar based solely on what remains? All they'd see is a skull with enormous eye sockets and a tapering jawline, so why not come up with some sort of humanoid monster? It's sort of like a scarier version of the old saw that manatees were mistaken for mermaids by sailors. (Which implies a very different standard of female beauty, if you think about it.)

But both owls and tarsiers can look kind of frightening if you're in the right mood, and for the former you don't have to have been scarred by watching The Secret of NIMH too young, either. They can be genuinely unsettling birds – and those little saw-whet owls do look decidedly evil – especially if you've ever been surprised by one in the woods; a twilight stroll down an abandoned road near my parents' house sent me racing inside when a large owl silently swooped out of the trees on one side of the overgrown road right in front of me when I was a teenager. I am sorry the show didn't go into their digestive systems, because picking apart owl pellets is a neat activity that I feel they could have gotten a lot of mileage out of, although it wouldn't necessarily have worked with the horror theme this episode had going.

As far as themes go, this really is a good one, and it also completely had me thinking in the wrong direction for two out of the four animals presented. (I got the owls. We spent a lot of time on owls in elementary school.) The first segment, about creating something that gives you that horrible feeling that you're being stared at, does work best thematically, but it also felt the most difficult if you're trying to guess what animal they'll design based on God's terrible instructions. In part this is because it at first sounds like they're being tasked with creating something that stares at nothing, rather than a creature that gives you the feeling that “nothing” is staring at you. The crocodile icefish does fit the bill – it's got no hemoglobin in its blood, meaning, in a weird crossover with Cells at Work!, that its blood is colorless, rendering it more-or-less invisible in the water. Happily, it is an Arctic and Subarctic fish, so it isn't out there in your local body of water, waiting to prey on you.

Probably. I mean, if it was there, you wouldn't really know, would you?

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Heaven's Design Team is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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