“WHO LET THAT THING OUT?!”
Young angel Shimoda has been assigned to Heaven’s Design Team, the elite squad of designers and engineers tasked with fulfilling God’s wishes in creating the creatures that will populate the Earth. And as the newest team member, he’s really keen to do his job to the best of his ability – except that, given the chaotic atmosphere in the Design Department (so many creatives being creative!) it’s hard to keep track of all the projects, let alone discover if any of them have true potential. If anything, the Divine Instructions have become even harder to interpret. One team effort eventually results in the birth of the elephant (but who would have thought an overpowered gorilla would have ended up with a trunk?) And then there’s the first-ever dragon, an early but rejected project of Saturn’s that with much modification ends up as… well, you’ll have to read that chapter to find out the result there and whether it is granted Divine Approval.
After so much exhausting brainstorming, the team go off to the Galapagos Islands for a three-day beach vacation. But, given the ‘unique’ personalities of the designers, nothing goes quite according to plan and the holiday turns into a murder mystery! Who’s died – and who is the perpetrator of the appalling crime? Jupiter steps forward to investigate the case, stating confidently, “The culprit is among us!” and the game’s afoot.
The volume’s final chapter is possibly the craziest so far, riffing on the theme of black-and-white stripes as camouflage (leading eventually to zebras, pandas etc.) but as things get out of hand, angel Ueda does something that she really shouldn’t have done – with dire consequences, that leave us, once again on a cliff-hanger – as her fate hangs in the balance.
The second volume of Heaven’s Design Team is just as much fun as the first, with authors Tsuta Suzuki and Hebi-Zou (ably abetted by artist Tarako) enjoying their murder mystery chapters far too much – and ensuring that there’s never a dull moment for the readers. The series is still played for laughs – although there’s plenty of excitement too to balance out the more learned sections about the new creatures which include the Greater Horseshoe Bat, the Northern Pacific Seastar, the Californian Ground Squirrel, oh and even ‘The Designer’. And we get to know the members of the design team a little better, as much by their attitude to their failed projects as their successes (and yes, Mr. Saturn is still obsessed with horses).
Four glossy colour pages are included but not at the beginning, as usual, instead at the opening of Chapter 9, the dragon chapter.
Keeping to the successful format of the first volume, Heaven’s Design Team includes more entries in The Encyclopedia of Real Animals which follows each chapter with helpful, scientific facts (courtesy of Hebi-Zou), diagrams and photographs.
Praise again to translator/letterer JM Iitomi Crandall for delivering such an entertaining translation, capturing the fevered, over-competitive atmosphere of the design studio while also switching to non-fiction mode to cover the factual encyclopedia entries. (There’s also a page of translation notes.) And a special word of praise also for the Kodansha Comics edition cover design by My Truong (based on the original by SAVA DESIGN) with sparkling embossed rays emanating from the title.
The anime TV series is now streaming on Crunchyroll (January 2021) and from the trailers looks to be as much fun as the manga itself which, given its dynamic energy, lends itself naturally to animation. But it’s still well worth reading the original manga, especially for all the extra information.
If, like me, you enjoyed the first volume of Heaven’s Design Team, I’m happy to report that there’s no falling-off of quality in the second; the level of craziness is ramped up and there’s some fascinating information about why fire-breathing, flying dragons wouldn’t actually work.