Heaven’s Design Team seems like a manga that was custom designed to make me happy. Written by Hebi-Zou & Tsuta Suzuki and drawn by Tarako, this educational series presents information about animals, and all of the fascinating ways in which they are tailored to their environment, through the format of an entertaining workplace procedural.
Shimoda is a rookie angel who’s been assigned to act as a liaison between God and the Design Team, a group of angels who create designs for new animals based on God’s requests. But simply designing an animal is just the start of the complex process of getting a new lifeform approved. The team also needs to create prototypes and test out how their creations function in order to make sure that the animals will be able to survive on earth. Sometimes their designs work perfectly, but other times they’re complete disasters and the team needs to puzzle over how the potential creature will find food, avoid predators and reproduce, all-the-while tweaking the design until they’ve succeeded in crafting the perfect animal to fulfill their client’s request.
As a person who loves animals and learning interesting facts about them, I was enthralled by this manga!
Each chapter focuses on a different design request, such as: “Design an animal that eats leaves from the tops of the trees”, and then shows the team members brainstorming ideas, testing out their designs and then working out the flaws.
The chapters then end with some supplemental information and a few real-life photos of the animals that appeared or were discussed in that section. I loved learning about the many obscure animals that the manga covers and discovering new information about the ones that I was already familiar with. For example, I never knew that elk have four stomachs! Apparently, this allows them to absorb more nutrients from their food, which in turn enables them to grow their impressive antlers. Neat!
I hope my going on about elk digestive systems isn’t giving anyone the wrong impression. Heaven’s Design Team is educational, but it isn’t some dry encyclopedia of animal facts. Not only are the tidbits we learn frequently bizarre and diverting in their own right, but the quirky members of the design team, with their many foibles and rivalries, are also extremely amusing. The team members play off of each other well and have great camaraderie, even when they’re being competitive or throwing shade on each other’s design choices. Shimoda is the only character who’s a little flat, but he acts as a good audience point-of-view character through which we are introduced to the eccentric design team members and their creative process.
Each team member has their own specialty and preferences when it comes to designs and they frequently try to shoehorn in qualities that match up with their own individual tastes. Pluto enjoys grotesque and creepy animals and she’s most proud of her poisonous frog design. Jupiter just wants to eat the animals and see what they taste like and his greatest creation is the cow (go figure). Mr. Saturn is head of the team and he’s famous for having designed the horse, but he’s been unable to move on from this success and constantly tries to make every animal some kind of variation on the horse.
The funniest chapter in this volume centers around his many failed attempts to design a unicorn. He’s dead set on the idea, but the impracticality of the horn is an insurmountable hurdle and his poor unicorn prototypes suffer from osteoporosis, regularly collapse from exhaustion and keep getting that dang horn stuck in trees! Alas, it seems that unicorns just weren’t meant to exist in this world, but Mr. Saturn’s stubborn refusal to give up on the idea, or compromise on aesthetics, is hilarious.
Heaven’s Design Team is equal parts informative and fun. With it’s wacky and loveable cast of characters, the attractive art and genuinely captivating facts about the biology of various animals, all conveyed in an engaging way, this manga is a must read.
Final Score: 10 out of 10.
Wow. I think this is the first 10 out of 10 I’ve ever given! But Heaven’s Design Team deserves it, this was the most enjoyable manga I’ve read all year.
For more information on this series, visit Kodansha Comic’s website.
Now that I’ve finished gushing, let me know what you thought of this series in the comments! Also let me know what your favourite animal is. Mine is cats. They’re so cute and fluffy!