I tend to read a lot of serious, emotionally charged manga. I like stories that make me feel strongly, whether through joy or sadness. With that said, I also enjoy reading humor manga on occasion. It’s always nice to take a break from high drama to just laugh at something silly and unexpected. Luckily for me, Kodansha recently released the first volume of such a series. Heaven’s Design Team is written by Hebi-Zou and Tsuta Suzuki and illustrated by Tarako. The series’ debut volume contains its first seven chapters, which establish the premise: God outsources animal creation to a team of designers who struggle to come up with species that both fit God’s whims and are capable of surviving on Earth. This volume’s ideas are unique, but are they well-executed?
My favorite thing about this series’ premise is how it makes you think of animals in a different light. The designers’ decisions reflect evolution and advantageous adaptations, so they prompt the reader to think about why certain animals are the way they are. This series is downright educational, and it conveys biological information with a sense of humor that makes the learning process fun. It’s also delightful when the protagonists design animals you’re sure can’t be real, but are. The ping pong tree sponge, for example, sounds and looks like a joke, but it actually exists. Props to Hebi-Zou, Suzuki, Tarako for deepening my knowledge of the animal kingdom! Each chapter also features a few pages at the end with more detailed information about the animals, which is a neat added touch.
While the majority of this volume’s fun comes from its animals, a lot of its success is also due to the designers themselves. Each designer has a distinct personality, and their varying affinities match the types of animals they create. My favorite designer is Pluto, the mastermind behind poisonous frogs and other sorts of ugly-cute creatures. Her design is fantastic, as is most of Tarako’s artwork. The characters are full of life, and their squabbles make for good entertainment. Another part of the series’ charm comes from just admiring how well Tarako draws the animals. Even the snakes in this series are adorable.
I don’t have very many qualms with this volume. Art-wise, my only complaint is with occasional wonky anatomy and perspective. This usually only happens in small transitional panels, so it’s barely even an issue. Plot-wise, I wish there was a little more clarity regarding the hierarchy of angels and humans in this series’ Heaven. With that said, such small details aren’t exactly pivotal; they’re more narrative excuses for the series’ comedy than anything else.
Overall, Heaven’s Design Team Vol. 1 is a great read. A unique premise, charming art, and enjoyable learning experiences combine to make a fun time. There are a few cons to this volume, but they’re all so small that they’re barely worth mentioning. If you’re looking for a silly, feel-good read, then check this series out.