Heaven's Design Team
Episode 8

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Heaven's Design Team ?

So I don't know about you, but I'm officially kind of freaked out by hooded seals. This may be in part because the dominant seal species in my part of the ocean is the harbor seal, which is almost as stereotypical a seal as you can get. (The famous Andre the Seal was a harbor seal, for reference.) But the hooded seal lives farther north and the male has what is described as an “unusual sexual ornament,” which translates to “area of skin above and inside its nose that it can inflate to impress lady seals.” According to Heaven's Design Team, Neptune came up with it sort of by accident – the request he was attempting to fulfill was “mating ritual that makes you throb,” and as it turns out, God wasn't feeling picky about what throbs, and apparently, sympathy pains in the nose count. Even Neptune seems a little creeped out, and that's figuring in the fact that he just witnessed a truly weird rap battle between Mercury and Jupiter meant to simulate frog mating rituals and Venus' showy stage performance mimicking birds who show off – through physical augmentation or movement – for their potential mates.

This episode definitely takes the cake as far as coming up with new ways to show the creative process. There's a performative aspect to almost everything (“almost” because some of the talk of growing and inflating could have gotten NSFW in a different series), from Venus' actual performance to Jupiter deciding to tinker with his own body to get a feel for the bones-as-weapons animal he's trying to design in the first half of the episode. It's a good link between the two halves, something that we don't always get in this series, and it also helps to illustrate the apparent absurdity of how some animals function, or at least how we as humans perceive them to be absurd. The rap battle is the best indicator of this – not because rap battles are inherently absurd, but because of the way Neptune reacts to it. While Jupiter and Mercury are rapping their little hearts out for an apparently unimpressed Pluto (as it turns out, she just can't hear them), Shimoda is quietly geeking out and Neptune is completely confused by the entire spectacle…and possibly a little embarrassed for his coworkers, as demonstrated by the way he covers his seal pup's eyes. (He probably should have covered his ears instead.) He not only doesn't really understand the point of the rapping, he also clearly finds it more than a little ridiculous, and that's how a lot of mating rituals look from the outside – human ones included. As Neptune says, heart-throbbing can just be another way to say embarrassing when it comes to these things.

“Embarrassing” could also describe Jupiter's decision to make the physical changes on himself before attempting them on an animal, although really people look more confused and bewildered than anything. As Shimoda points out, it's a good way to revisit some of the show's own tropes – falling over, osteoporosis – but without rehashing them on the creature being developed; instead Jupiter gets to experience them firsthand. There's a real aspect of giddy little kid-ness to his methods that makes it a lot of fun to watch, though, as he tries for bigger and thicker ribs that are outside the body or can poke through the skin for defense (he eventually gets that in the Iberian ribbed newt, albeit on a much smaller scale), or his desperate attempts to justify these things by reconfiguring other bones and organs to make the animal still able to breathe. The biggest surprise, though, is what the end result is – I was thinking something like a rhino or an elephant, but it turns out that Jupiter comes up with turtles: their shells are those exposed ribs he was so keen on. And lest you go down the same Road of Pickiness that I did, yes, turtles are aquatic while tortoises are on land, however all tortoises are turtles (general species name), but not all turtles are tortoises.

In any event, the increased cohesion between the two halves of the episode this week really work to make this feel less disjointed than usual. It's fun, silly, and still informative – what more could we ask for?


Heaven's Design Team is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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