Heaven's Design Team
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Heaven's Design Team ?
Well, that was an episode for the nightmares. I'm not quite sure which is more disturbing – Jupiter's long-legged penguin or the mere idea of Pluto being in charge of an animal that encourages motherly instincts. The latter definitely has more room for horror: Pluto's schtick is that she finds creepy things cute, and this week shows that the concept of “love” isn't exactly one she's all that comfortable with. How, then, is she supposed to create a design for an animal that's more or less based on the idea of motherly love?
Fortunately for Pluto, love as humans describe it isn't necessarily a major factor of life in the animal kingdom. We certainly like to see it where it isn't – one of the most basic forms anthropomorphizing can take is in attributing human emotions to animals. Sometimes that's very easy; a wildlife rescue near me took in an injured Canada goose and her mate showed up as soon as she was moved outside and has been there ever since. But is that “love” the same way that we'd use the term if the couple were humans rather than geese? The examples used in the first half of the episode would suggest not – a lot of the behaviors and actions we like to chalk up to love are actually just calculated survival tactics, like the way sparrows will, as Venus shows, call over their buddies when there's a lot of food on offer…because the initial sparrow has a better chance of not becoming lunch when he's eating with a group. Smart? Yes. Heartwarming? Eh, not so much.
What all of this does is give Pluto a lot of interpretive room as Neptune and Venus fall all over themselves trying to show her what real love looks like. (Jupiter holds up what I will now always think of as the Creeper Crab, where the male traps the female to ensure that she procreates with him. He's…not a good example.) She comes up with a parasite that uses its fluffy egg sac to engender warm and fuzzy feelings in the being its parasitizing, which technically follows God's orders to the letter while still incorporating her coworkers' well-meaning suggestions, just not done in the way that most of us would have while adding in a nice dollop of “ew, gross” to the end result. But hey, she did come up with an animal that stimulates the maternal instincts of someone else – can't argue with that.
Pluto's terrifying answer to the problem is what prompts the game show format of the second half, which still has its creepy moments but also nicely references several of the earlier episodes while highlighting Neptune's and Jupiter's personalities in the same way the first half of the episode worked with Pluto's. Their task is to come up with a bird that can live on the ice, so we know instantly that “penguin” is going to be the answer, and that once again creates a lot of wiggle room because there are a fair amount of different types of penguin. That means that both guys can come up with similar but different birds that work, even if Jupiter's entire plan is “do the opposite of what Neptune does.” (Hey, at least it isn't “the tastiest penguin.”) There is something a little exhausting about this section, because Shimoda is almost ridiculously energetic about the whole thing, but that contrasts nicely with Mars' “why am I here” attitude and the way that Saturn basically checks out and lets Venus handle judge duties. And you know, after that thing with the parasite, Shimoda deserves to have a silly break – especially since it looks like “demon goats” are on the menu for next week.
Heaven's Design Team is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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