You know, if God really did ask for even half of Earth’s creatures to be made just on the whims of really vague requests, I’d believe it. Because nature is often times really fucking bizarre and the things that’re considered as ‘evolutionary advantages’ really test the limits of how ‘life finds a way’ no matter the situation. Fun, but also really…really weird.
Putting it simply, God got too bored or busy to make all of the animals on Earth, so he did as all corporations do and outsourced his work to a group of designers that have God himself be the main client to fulfill any vague animal requests that he thinks should exist. And so we follow our group of nine designers and administrative staff on their day to day life of designing all of God’s creatures for him. Hoping that not only does their client give them his stamp of approval, but that hopefully he’ll be a little more specific in his requests because vagueness really doesn’t help a creative’s mindset whenever they’re trying to fill out the whims of someone else.
And that’s about it for the synopsis. An episodic series by nature, Heaven’s Design Team is a show that devotes all of its time and effort into the client’s various requests and fulfills a small handful of them each episode. The general storyline starts out with a vague set of parameters from God, to which various members of the design team work to create something that fits within those parameters before the final reveal is shown when God himself gives the animals its stamp of approval to just simply exist. A pretty generic formula for sure, but one that somehow never feels old or unfulfilling to watch. This I believe is because part of the fun in the show is just kind of guessing what animal the team ends up making or what facts the audience ends up learning as a result of being introduced to a new species that they’ve never seen before.
And this educational guessing game is why I think the show succeeds. At no point does the show try to be anything more than an educational anime with quirky characters, and everything always leads back to the various ‘projects’ that the design team is working on. The animals at the end of the day are always, always the stars of the show. This, combined with the various talking points on the logistical and evolutionary factors that animals have developed in order to survive contribute the bulk of the show to a degree that almost seems like a documentary, yet never feels like a lecture because of how the material is presented. Now, do they also introduce some really weird and oddly hilarious facts about some of the more well-known species in the world? Absolutely, and I love the show all the more for diving into the weird and the obscure to balance out the more common species that everyone learns about when they’re a kid.
The cast of characters that we have here mostly consist of Shimoda, a new administrative angel, and the design team, each of whom are named after one of the nine planets in the Solar System. (Yes, Pluto is actually the name of a character in this show.) While they certainly aren’t deep characters with much to them, the show gives the designers in particular surprisingly memorable personalities nonetheless. This is mostly because each of the six designers have a specific ‘niche’ of animal that they each specialize in/create. Neptune mostly builds the cute-looking animals like otters and pandas, Saturn made the horse (and he will remind you of that every day), Venus specializes in bird design, and Pluto makes all of the weird or dangerous shit. Each member of the main cast stands on surprisingly even footing with everyone else, and their interactions and varying design philosophies are part of the reason why the animal creation process just ends up being so damn interesting and fun to watch.
There’re a number of side characters like the insect team, Ueda, Shimoda’s senior, and God himself, but they mostly exist on the sidelines and in a sense, just expand the show a little bit more beyond just the main design room and the Galapagos Island testing grounds that’re featured as the series’ main setpieces. I’d mention the animals here again due to how vital they are to the show, but they’re more plot points or relevant story bits rather than important characters that mean much on the cast side of things.
Asahi Production being a production studio I haven’t really heard of really surprised me with how pleasing this show looks. Everything is very bright and colorful, being reminiscent of kids anime with the kind of popped out pastel colors that the show has going on. It’s consistent if nothing else and definitely gives a friendly and fun vibe to the show if nothing else. And while the show definitely has only a handful of setpieces, the general comedy and flair that the show manages to muster out of both its characters and the various species that get featured is honestly a lot more fun than it has any right to be. Especially when the series always does a shot of the final design of the animal followed by God’s stamp of approval for the design. Again, enjoyable, with few complaints due to how well it fits the mold at the end of the day.
96neko’s “Give it up?” is probably the only autotuned anime OP that I’d give a full pass for. It’s a really fun song that has a lot of charm to it despite being a really poppy song that has little else to provide aside from the ear-pleasing upbeat tone that it has going for it. Would highly recommend a listen because I think it really sets the mood and the tone that Heaven’s Design Team has throughout its entire run. By contrast, “Designed by Heaven“, sung by the voice actors of the two administrative angels is a song that I would describe as being ok, but is vastly overshadowed by its OP sister. A nice palette cleanser that gives the show a nice ending note to close off the episode, but little else I feel beyond that.
Given how absolutely inoffensive the synopsis of the show was when I first saw this, I had a hard time believing that this could be fucked up in any way and threw all of my chips in the middle betting on the fact that this show would end up being just an absolute marvel by the end of the day. And it was just that. And I have absolutely no complaints about it other than the fact that it ended. And I want more.
Heaven’s Design Team taps into that bit of childlike joy I have with just discovering more things about the natural world. The mystery and vagueness of each of God’s requests really give each episode the hooks it needs in order to draw the audience in, and the way that the characters interact with each whether they be collaborating on various assignments or competing against one another give each animal created just the right amount of added flavor in order to keep the runtime interesting. Not to mention the science to explain why every animal is the way it is. Even the unexplainable shit that gets approved by God anyway cause it looks fun to have on Earth.
At the end of the day, while there really isn’t much to talk about due to the show’s simplicity, I’d argue that’s the reason to watch the show in the first place. It doesn’t try to do anything beyond its means, and the thing that it’s good at, it’s REALLY good at. And this show ended up being way more fun than I had ever expected it to be. Personally I would recommend everyone to give this show a whirl and see where it leads you. Because if there’s anything that this show has taught me, it’s that nature really is a lot fucking weirder than it should be. And I am inclined to believe that that is a good thing because, as always, life always finds a way.