Heaven's Design Team
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Heaven's Design Team ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Heaven's Design Team ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Heaven's Design Team ?
“It's so majestic, but it's full of farts!”
How often have you looked at an animal and had that thought? Okay, maybe that's just my family and our dog Barry, who is in fact a perfect combination of majesty and flatulence, but that's still a pretty good idea of the kind of humor Heaven's Design Team goes in for – cute animals, weird trivia, and plenty of potty humor. It works surprisingly well, too, sort of like a grosser version of any number of science shows you may have indulged in as a child.
Not that this is, strictly speaking, a children's show, although an argument can probably be made for it being a family one. The premise of the story is pretty tongue-in-cheek: after God finished up making the heavens and the earth and all that jazz, he got tired of creating stuff and so decided to outsource all of the animals to a random team of designers. Now he comes up with annoyingly vague directions for animals he wants someone else to create, and then approves or rejects them on what often appears to be a whim. This gets everyone in a lot of trouble in episode three, when he randomly approves a doodle a small child came up with that basically looks like a nightmare on legs. (It's a hallucigenia, an extinct species thought by some scientists to be an ancestor of velvet worms, which are much less terrifying.) Of course, God can't be bothered to rescind his approval (wouldn't want to upset the little tyke), so it's up to the rest of the design team to fix the issue.
The fact that they created both an extinct species and an elephant in the same half-episode segment does give sort of a weird idea of exactly when all of this creating is taking place in a way that previous episodes didn't touch on. While all three so far do spend time with mythological creatures, this feels like the first time fossils have really come into play, and that's both very interesting from a world-building standpoint (everything was made up at the same time, just implemented later!) but also could be a sticking point if you think too much about it. On the other hand, Heaven's Design Team already has a group of Japanese people (or Greco-Roman ones if you read the English-language version of the manga, which localizes names) and angels in business suits in charge of things, so it feels safe to say that the show really doesn't care about that kind of detail.
The details it does care about are frankly much more fun. God's requests are basically a combination of the worst client a design firm could have and Samuel Johnson's 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language, wherein “horse” is defined as “A neighing quadruped, used in war, and draught and carriage.” Translated into modern English, that means “something on four feet that goes ‘neigh’ and can pull stuff.” Nothing about that at all conjures up the image of what we call a horse, but it certainly does fit a horse. So when the Design Team gets an order for something “cute but dangerous and it has to eat eucalyptus leaves,” nothing immediately screams “koala.” It's a neat way of approaching the subject because it manages not only to present an impressive variety of animals, but also makes you think about those animals in different ways…and sometimes about just how weird a lot of animals really are.
But what would a science show about animals, even a silly one, be if it didn't debunk some myths? That's another piece of the story in every episode thus far: why don't we have unicorns, Pegasi, and dragons? Or, for that matter, giant blue apes with shoulder spikes and a He-Man diaper? There are plenty of good answers given (and really, would you ever go outside if giant angry horses were flying overhead firing out poop to stay aloft?), and it manages to be funny instead of crushing your eight-year-old self's dreams.
The format works better in episode one than in episodes two and three, mostly because the balance of the length of the segments is better, but there's enough interesting bits and pieces to make it work better than it might have. The mix of personalities – and the fact that when they all work together they accidentally create an Elder God – keeps things moving as well, and overall these first three episodes are a good time. I could see it dragging later on, but right now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the deal is with all of those pastel-colored dolphins in the preview for episode four.
Heaven's Design Team is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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