In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. Then he outsourced the animal stuff.
That’s the Pratchett-esque premise of Heaven’s Design Team, an anime series based on a popular manga. The story centers around Shimoda, a young angel assigned to relay God’s instructions to the titular Design Team. Playing Metatron to a group of creative personalities ensnares our bean-bun loving protagonist in both office hijinks and hard-science explorations of how animals work.
It’s also a show that worldbuilders and writers should at least check out.
Creation Is A Double-Edged Comedy
The series episodes have a mostly familiar arc, but one that is varied enough to stay fresh. Shimoda comes to the team with a vague request from God. This request is relayed to a colorful group of beings named after the planets, each with their own specialties, obsessions, and neuroses.
The result is a fun, broad office comedy with some real-world teeth. If you’ve ever worked on a complex creative project it will be more than familiar. Prototypes fail, creative bickering ensure, and bright ideas burn out fast in the light of reality. The likeable cast of characters is enjoyable, and the humor is refreshingly free from jokes about genders, sexual preferences, etc.
This office comedy part fuses seamlessly with hard biology. The Design Team has to temper their enthusiasm as ideas run into real science issues and the advice of their engineering expert, Mars. Brilliant ideas wither in the harsh light of reality, and when that reality is designing a surviving being, mistakes become painfully obvious.
This is where the show becomes something more than just a wacky comedy – and something for worldbuilders.
Weird Science, Weird People
Heaven’s Design Team’s first season is packed with many bits of great ideas falling apart due to biological truths, but the most illustrative is the team’s attempt to make a unicorn. “Horse that fights with a horn” sounds good, but the various metabolic, psychological, and physical tradeoffs produce problems. The final result is an aggressive idiotic beast with navigation problems – though it is salvaged to create the Narwhal, so cuddly-animal loving Neptune is thrilled.
The show is thus a spiritual cousin to Cells At Work, being both educational, funny, and using a given genre to explore science. The continual theme of “how animals work” and “why some ideas are good and some not” takes it to another level – and it’s why any worldbuilder needs to give it a look.
Heaven’s Design Team covers many kinds of animals and animal traits, and manages to keep it fresh and interesting. One episode explores reproductive habits, another is about dolphins, and a third sees goth queen of grossness Pluto creating a surprising animal from her requirements. Though the show has a pattern it usually hews to, it’s an educational one that often surprises.
If you’re a worldbuilder, you’ll quickly get ideas of what to think about what to do, and what not to do. Because the show is about trial, error, and prototypes, it’ll help you think about animal biology. It’s not hard to imagine how the Design Team might respond to you playing God – and how your requests might go awry.
The Whole (Earth) Package
I can heap praise upon Heaven’s Design Team, but the end result is “if you like worldbuilding and office comedy, you’ll probably like this.”
Can I say it’s “good?” To that, I would say “yes” for two reasons.
First, the show knows exactly what it wants to be – an office comedy about biology with a bit of supernatural humor. The show reaches the goal it sets for itself. One might say it’s “well designed.”
Secondly, the show has a sweet, genial nature, much like the angelic protagonist. Characters may argue and snipe, characters have flaws and quirks, but there’s no bullying or cruelty. Even when bird-loving Venus and snake-creating Mercury square off for obvious reasons, it’s rivalry not meanness. It’s a pleasant watch.
If you like worldbuilding (or indeed just science, but I know my audience) check it out on Crunchyroll. It might be a creation you appreciate.