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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created light, water, plants, and animals to inhabit the earth... Well, at least, that was the intention, before he got too lazy to design the animals and decides to delegate this task to the Heavenly Creative Agency's Design Department.

Thus begins Heaven's Design Team, or Tenchi Sōzō Dezain-bu (天地創造デザイン部) in Japanese, a comedic Edutainment manga that offers hilarious explanations on how certain animals got their unique features. Hint: it is almost always a result of the team's wacky attempts to fulfill their client's equally wacky requests, often resulting in chaos.

The manga is written by Hebi-Zou and Tsuta Suzuki and illustrated by Tarako, and serialised in the Seinen magazine Monthly Morning Two from 2017, with six tankoubon volumes having been released to date. Kodansha USA began releasing an English translation of the manga in October 2020. It received an anime adaptation by Asahi Production that started airing on January 7, 2021.

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This series provides examples of the following:

  • Accidental Discovery: A lot of the animals' more useful functions comes from the designers tacking on random features on their projects that somehow manages to work.
    • A lot of the unique behaviours of the sea otter (such as swimming on their backs, wrapping themselves in kelp while sleeping to keep from drifting away (and holding hands with each other when there are no kelp), using rocks to break shells to eat their food, etc.) aren't actually added by the designers, but springs from the creature's own adaptive capabilities as a poor swimmer that has developed a taste for seafood thanks to Jupiter feeding it urchins, lobster and the like during lunch.
    • When Jupiter and Neptune get into a design battle to develop the penguin, many of Jupiter's suggestion are just him doing the exact opposite of Neptune, but a lot of the features he comes up with (such as the penguin's barbed tongue, its ability to thermoregulate, and using snot to excrete salt water after swimming) proves to be more feasible than Neptune's suggestions. Even Jupiter himself is surprised at how so many of his ideas get picked despite his lack of forethought in suggesting them.
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    • After receiving a request for "an animal that ages in reverse", and discussing the effects of aging on the sustainability of the species as a whole in Chapter 28, Saturn uses Mars's reverse-time accelerator on a horse and reverts it into its cell division phase to see if it can grow back into a horse. The organism becomes a jellyfish-like blob instead because the cell's division is unable to replicate the horse's complex design. The team decides to use the jellyfish base to fulfill the client's order instead, since it's easy to form and has a lot of predators that would prevent its population from spiraling out of control. The result is the Turritopsis nutricula.
    • In Chapter 35, Pluto is helping the Plant Department to design a "carnivorous plant that eats something other than insects". She gets stuck with the project until Mercury and Jupiter's own "useless animal" project uses her plant prototype as a toilet, inspiring the trio to create a symbiotic relationship where the "useless" animal is beneficial to a poop-eating plant by being so lazy it simply craps into the plant it's eating off of.
  • The Ageless:
    • Angels are Born as an Adult from God and never age, popping into existence with the same appearance they'll have for the rest of eternity. Something that comes in handy when the aging device malfunctions, as Shimoda is the only present member of the design team that is unaffected by it.
    • Chapter 28 discusses how agelessness, despite seeming like a good idea on paper, isn't all that great in practice. Unless they have a way of circumventing the problems that come from being genetically homogeneous as a result of the young dying from predators due to being easier to eat than adults, the entire race would end up going extinct when they get infected with a disease that affects all of them. Only species like naked mole-rats, which control the population by only having the queen reproduce and are heavily resistant to disease through both biology and their diet, can actually properly manage living an ageless existence.
  • Ambiguously Human: The various designers in the Heavenly Creative Agency, alongside all of their relatives, are quite obviously not angels, but the fact they work and live in Heaven strongly implies they aren't human either, even though biologically they're pretty similar.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Given that the story takes place somewhere in Heaven, the premise probably stands outside of time, and the animal designs do not appear in accordance to their geological time scale. For example, the design for Hallucigenia, believed to have gone extinct over 400 million years ago, was drawn and approved much later than the modern-day horses, cows, snakes, birds, etc.
  • Animal Jingoism: It turns out the famed animosity between giant squids and sperm whales was the result of Pluto and Neptune trying to one-up each other.
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: In Episode 1, the team's newly-created giraffe ends up eating a dove due to not getting enough protein. This is Truth in Television.
  • Beach Episode: Chapter 6/Episode 2 Segment 3 is all about the crew visiting the beachside of Galapagos Island, which naturally means both swimsuit fanservice and the animal focus being marine life. The plot of the chapter primarily involves Neptune and Pluto having a competition on seeing how they can one-up each other with their respective dolphin/whale and squid designs.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Meganeura, the 70-cm-long dragonfly from the Carboniferous period, appears in episode 2, where it scares Venus before being captured by Ueda. She and Shimoda take it back to the insect department, where the workers there are planning to downsize it to one-tenth of its size.
  • Bishōnen: The designers from the Plant Department, Yo and Ko, are a pair of identical twins who look and dress like typical Prince Charmings. Their appearance is enough to make both Venus and Shimoda blush.
  • Body Horror: Chapter 23 reveals it's actually possible for the animal designers to apply their "design modification" abilities on their own bodies. The specific demonstration involves Jupiter repeatedly altering his bone structure, something he points out is incredibly painful.
  • Chuunibyou: Alongside the case for Yokota, the end of Chapter 15 reveals that this is actually the aesthetic for every employee in Hell, with it being mandatory to create a Custom Uniform based on their (at the time) personal interpretation of "edgy and cool". However, budget constraints make it where, even if they come to view their initial design as an Old Shameinvoked, they're stuck with the look for the rest of their career.
  • Cool Horse: Saturn insists upon this trope, believing that the horse is the most magnificent of all animals, and frequently tries to submit "new" designs that are basically just horses with "mythical" features tacked on such as wings and horns.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: In order to make sure that the team doesn't see the surprise early, Shimoda decides to fashion a note this way because his handwriting is illegible. Unsurprisingly however, the team immediately perceives it as a threat due to the nature of the note and its ambiguous wording.
  • Cuteness Overload: When faced with the sea otter's cuteness and precociousness, both Shimoda and Neptune can't help but Squee! for practically the whole chapter.
  • Death as Comedy: Oftentimes, an animal's design flaw causes it to immediately die after being created, to their creator's dismay. Furthermore, Jupiter creates animals for the sole purpose of turning them into food sources. Of course, this being a Gag Series, the animals' deaths are played completely for laughs.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The anime's ending theme, "Designed by Heaven!", is sung by the main cast, with Jun'ya Enoki and Yumi Hara taking lead vocals while the rest provide backing vocals.
  • Dreadful Dragonfly: Chapter 3 opens with a 70-cm-long dragonfly escaping the Insect Department before it can be shrunken to a more insect-appropriate size, briefly terrifying the designers before Ueda catches it. This is a reference to Meganeura, the real-life ancestor to modern dragonflies and damselflies, that indeed could reach up to 70 centimeters in length.
  • Dub Name Change: The official English translation changes the names for the Ambiguously Human characters a bit, specifically by taking the connection the kanji in their names had to their respective planets, already giving them a decent Stellar Name theme, and just naming them the planets explicitly note . See the character page for examples.
  • Edutainment: Despite its wackiness, the manga does provide an accurate depiction of the animals it features, with a more detailed description of each species being added on each chapter's end notes.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • In chapter 7, each of the 5 designers try to combine their previously approved works (Mercury's snake, Venus's secretary bird, Neptune's anteater, Jupiter's sea cucumber and Pluto's squid) to create a horrifying Cthulhu-like creature. Ueda immediately deletes it, then reprimands the designers for recklessly creating something that could be dangerous.
    • Likewise, Kenta accidentally passes a doodle as a design submission, which somehow gets approved. The result is a 30 m long serpentine animal with multiple legs and spikes, and a face like a demon. They manage to work it into a more manageable design by reducing its size into 3 cm, creating a Hallucigenia.
  • Ensemble Cast: The series' primary cast consist of 6 animal designers, 1 production engineer, 2 angels and 1 client. Not a single one of them can be regarded as a main protagonist, and they all have almost equal importance in the story.
  • Fallen Angel: An angel becoming a demon A.K.A. a fallen angel is portrayed in this story as more like getting demoted to a lower position in a company, either as a result of upsetting the boss (God) or feeling you work better in that position. Just like any other company, though, becoming a fallen angel against your will due to a mistake or accident that angered God can still be rather upsetting. Shimoda and the team end up freaking out and worrying after they think their screw-up which forced Ueda to use a curse resulted in her being demoted to a demon, only for her to show back up and explain she simply went to Hell for a business trip, while God and the other angels were actually quite understanding of her reasoning for using the curse.
  • Fountain of Youth: The end of Chapter 28, which involves the crew using an age-altering device to analyze the process and effects of aging, has Jupiter carelessly putting the device on its highest setting, which causes it to explode, de-aging the Ambiguously Human members.
  • Funny Background Event: Near the end of Chapter 29, following the resolution of the debacle started in the previous chapter, in the background one can see Mercury offering Jupiter some raw cassava, which has recently been established as being poisonous. The final page of the chapter has Jupiter sprawled on the floor, trying to write a message in what can be assumed to be blood, with Mercury laughing himself to tears and Pluto expressing shock at the sight.
  • Gag Series: The manga is pretty low on plot, and focuses more on the wacky—er, "creative"—process of designing and creating animals to fill the world, and all the possible mishaps that can happen, when the designers' overly wild ideas clashes with the practical functions of the animals' physiology. None of these are ever played seriously.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Wanting to give birds a chance against snakes that want to eat their eggs, Venus upgrades them to make nests that hang upside down from branches, keeping the eggs out of reach of snakes (in essence, she created the weaver birds). However, this doesn't stop the snakes completely, which forces some of the weaver birds to evolve into social groups that create large complex nests that look more like dungeons than the beautiful nests she wanted. Fortunately for her, this inspires her to make a bird that can fight and eat snakes while still fitting her sense of beauty (the secretary bird), much to Mercury's horror.
  • Giant Squid: Created by Pluto in Chapter 6 as an attempt to prevent Neptune's cetaceans from eating it. It fails when Neptune creates its natural predator, the sperm whale.
  • The Greys: In Chapter 19, Mr. Saturn tries to recreate his grandson's crush based on a doodle the child drew. The basic prototype model is a grey humanoid creature with a bulbous head, humongous eyes and tiny ears. Then they start adding increasingly weird features, such as the ability to rotate its head 180 degrees and having two tongues. As it turns out, Kenta's "first crush" was Pluto's project prototype, which eventually became a tarsier. Later, Saturn uses the same grey creature for another design, which eventually becomes an owl.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Chapters 12 and 13 in the manga and Episode 6 of the anime are all about the design team taking a small break from work for a vacation, albeit of the Busman's Holiday kind since even while on break they still have to work somewhat. They all decide to make a trip to the newly built hot springs on Galapagos Island, where they all enjoy the soothing warm water and steam. Though it leads into being a Mystery Episode when a threatening letter arrives and Mercury gets attacked.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Said word-for-word in Chapter 29, where Pluto filled the Amazon river with piranhas as a testing environment for her new species, and Mercury put in a few caimans to serve as predators for the piranhas. This bites them in the ass when a freak accident de-ages all of the designers and blows four of them (including Pluto and Mercury) straight into the river.
    Venus: What on earth?! Of all the things to put in here!
    Mercury: It seemed like a good idea at the time!
  • King of the Dinosaurs: T. rex is one of the team's earliest approved creations, featured in Chapter 22. It tries to eat Shimoda, as Saturn describes its strengths.
  • Moth Menace: Episode 5 of the anime has a brief original scene where a giant death's head hawkmoth escapes from the insect department before being shrunk to a less terrifying size, freaking out the designers before Ueda can catch it.
  • Multiple Head Case: Chapter 15, Yokota's introduction, involves him requesting the design team to make a mascot for Hell, specifically asking for a 15-meter tall three-headed creature. With things like gravity and oxygen-density covered by fine-tuned control in the place, the main difficulties for making the creature is how the three heads interact through the body, with the team splitting into two groups to think of something. They settle on a wolf-based design and a draconic crocodile-based design, with the wolf constantly disagreeing on things and needing high-maintenance, and the dragon being mostly united and low-maintenance. Since Yokota hadn't settled on the hours for when Hell will stay open, he decides to just approve both designs.
  • Mystery Episode: In Chapter 13, Jupiter plays the role of an Amateur Sleuth to identify a mysterious brigand who sent them a threatening note and later attacked Mercury while the whole group are on a vacation on the Galapagos island. However, this is just for show. Mercury collapsed from a hangover. Shimoda placed an ashtray on him to protect his head from being bitten by animals, and the "blood" on him is actually flamingo milk. The threatening letter was sent by Shimoda, who wanted to keep the party from seeing the vacation villa he's preparing for them, while Jupiter came up with the "investigation" to distract the others from that secret.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The angels we see in the series, Ueda and Shimoda, look nothing like the typical media depictions of the heavenly host - given their conspicuous lack of wings or "divine" attributes, and looking like regular humans with wing-patterned shirt collars. This is actually Truer to the Text, as in the earliest Jewish and Christian art and literature, angels appear either fully human or fully Eldritch Abomination.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Regular demons in this story are technically Fallen Angels, but all that means is that they've been transferred to a different department, specifically the recently formed Hell Division. All of them are major cases of Chuunibyou, but that's also simply because it's an outright requirement that their looks and attitude have an "edgy and cool" aesthetic to fit in with the "darker" atmosphere of Hell. All other demons, the ones that look genuinely demonic, are actually familiars created by the design team to act as mascots and workers.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: The way the story portrays the evolutionary process of Earth-based life is through the various members of the Heavenly Creative Agency, including the six-man Animal Department, the five-man (really one-man) Insect Department, and two-man Plant Department, performing trial-and-error to see what designs work best in various environments, with Mars being in charge of prototyping things and demonstrating why each species of animal or plant evolved in specific ways that better helped them survive. Incredibly niche, pointless, or even detrimental aspects of biology are also portrayed as the designers screwing around a bit, sometimes for fun and sometimes due to team rivalries, and God approving the designs before they can change or fix those little details.
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: In chapter 14/episode 4, Neptune creates the giant panda, which is instantly approved by God. However, the panda's design is accidentally mixed up with a starfish, turning it brainless and making it act like a zombie, along with having a bunch of tiny bouncing panda-balls be formed from its easily plucked fur.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Since the story is a Slice of Life Gag Series with only the lightest hints of continuity, the anime adaptation changes around the placement of some design discussions and outright omits others based on what would best fit in while sticking to a 22 minute runtime, such as Pluto's disturbingly detailed description of an acorn barnacle's penis being a bit much for the first episode, or moving the Hot Springs Episode-slash-Mystery Episode after the Hell visit in order to introduce Yokota a little earlier.
  • Reality Ensues: The reason why many of the designs are rejected is because of the various factors needed for an animal to survive on Earth. It's a large part of why mythical creatures aren't feasible as actual animals - their base biology simply cannot make the extra factors (such as wings or horns on horses) possible without major tweaks, and even then they come with various drawbacks.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Discussed as the reasons why mythical creatures like pegasi, unicorns and dragons can't exist in real life, since the animals' biology can't support the required "mythical" attributes of their physiques. Even if the designs are somehow tweaked to make the extra features work, it would not be as magnificent as they are in myths.
    • The horse's body is too large and heavy to be supported on wings. For a pegasus' wings to function, they need to have about 50 more times the upper body strength, and would need to have their discharge frequency increased so as to not be weighed down by their excrement. In other words, it would have to be a super ripped, muscular horse that poops constantly—which would really inconvenience any creature living below.
    • The unicorn can't survive in a natural environment because it would require a lot of calcium to sustain its horn, which it is unable to sufficiently obtain from its grass-based diet and having only one stomach. The team tries to mitigate this issue by modifying the horn (making it hollow to reduce the calcium requirement, increasing the springiness to prevent breakage, etc.), but it still takes too much energy to sustain, so the creatures have next to no strength to do anything else, and dies very easily. The only possible way to make this design work is to either give the horse multiple stomachs (which will make it fat like a cow) or reducing its intelligence (which also reduces their chances of survival for a completely different reason).
    • Similar to the pegasus, the dragon is too large and bulky to feasibly fly, especially without wings. Jupiter and Venus's idea to make the dragon light enough to float is to internally fill it with hydrogen via intestinal fermentation (i.e. farts). However, not only is the concept uncool, the animal would have to eat far more food than would be available to produce enough hydrogen to make it float. And without wings, it wouldn't be able to control its flight, but be tossed around by the wind like a balloon. Not to mention, having it filled with unstable hydrogen causes it to explode easily due to exposure to atmospheric oxygen.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The sea otters, with their fluffy coat, button nose and big round eyes, are so cute that Neptune and Shimoda can't stop fawning over them.
  • Running Gag: Whenever the design team deals with an animal with leg-based locomotion and tries to apply some changes to it, which always includes Mars as an inspector of the differences, one of the first things that will happen is said animal collapsing to the ground because of biological problems, occasionally even making an Overly Long Gag out of it, like the case of the unicorn. It happens so often that Shimoda eventually starts referring to it as the series' personal "trope".
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Several obscure animals get featured throughout the series:
    • Pluto is typically seen carrying a plushie of an Anomalocaris, an extinct species of giant arthropod with shrimp-like appendages.
    • In the very first chapter, Mercury's proposal for "an animal that can eat leaves high off the ground" is a "ping pong tree." It gets rejected in favor of the animal that later becomes the giraffe, but it's later accepted with several adjustments, becoming the ping pong tree sponge.
    • At the end of Chapter 3, Venus makes a brightly-colored bird inspired by Pluto's poison dart frog. Pluto tempts Venus to the idea of making it poisonous in order to make it stronger than a snake, producing the Pitohui, one of the only toxic birds in the world.
    • Venus' ultimate solution to the problem of snakes eating birds' eggs is the secretary bird, which eats snakes and is known for using its powerful legs to kick its prey to death.
    • In Chapter 4 Mars reveals that Neptune's armadillo was inspired by the Glyptodont, a now-extinct mammal that was indeed the real-life ancestor of modern day armadillos.
    • In order to make a "combo animal" for Kenta, Mercury ends up coming up with the giant siphonophore, a massive colonial hydrozoan in the same phylum as the jellyfish.
    • Later, God accidentally approves a doodle made by Kenta, resulting in a terrifying giant serpentine animal. The designers eventually get God to shrink it from 30 meters to three centimeters, producing a Hallucigenia.
    • There's a whole segment dedicated to naked mole rats, specifically exploring their social structure and how long-lived they are.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: The story provides an interestingly rare aversion of the Fountain of Youth variant. When the Ambiguously Human members of the design team get de-aged, not only do their bodies get younger, but their outfits are changed into the kind of clothing they used to wear at that age.
  • Ship Tease: Subverted for laughs in Chapter 16, when Venus offers Mercury to pick a gemstone from her collection to give to his "special someone", and he immediately gives it to Mars. Venus is shocked and delighted at the apparent scandal, but as it turns out, Mercury is simply helping out Mars by giving her something "with a high refractive index" to use as a lens.
    Venus: This office must be where romance comes to die.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In an extra of the dragon chapter, the artist makes fanart of the dragons that appear in Drifting Dragons and Witch Hat Atelier, with a thank you to their respective authors.
    • Chapter 12/Episode 6 introduces a rejected "animal" design by Jupiter that is basically just a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo of a xenomorph.
    • In the same chapter/episode, Mars creates a tornado to remove sharks from the water and they rain down on the characters.
    • In chapter 30, when trying to create a "nightmare-inducing creature", Jupiter tries to frighten Shimoda by putting on clown make-up, and acting like Pennywise.
    • Venus' idea for "a mating ritual that makes your heart throb" is taken straight from the playbook of the Takarazuka Revue. She dresses up as an otokoyaku actress, wears the revue's famous "finale feathers", and descends down a staircase while singing.
    • Jupiter's idea for how parent penguins will differ their children from each other is to have each children with different facial marks, cue penguins with their faces like KISS.
    • When Mars and Mushi-bu explain how beans "scream" for help when being eaten, the demonstration of mites eating bean-loving herbivores is ended on the bean plant exclaiming "just as planned", with it said in a way that brings to mind its use as the Catchphrase of Light Yagami.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Downplayed. Snakes aren't depicted as evil, but they do serve as an antagonist to the helpless birds' eggs, and chapter 2 focuses on how the birds can be modified to protect their eggs from being eaten by snakes. Additionally, the Secretary Bird is created to counter against snakes thanks to the kicking force.
  • Square-Cube Law: Discussed when the team try to design an animal to deal with a loose creation by modifying a gorilla to twice its size. It near immediately collapses from heat stroke, with Mars explaining the principle of why it overheated. When they make adjustments for the heat, one of its legs breaks, because now its bones aren't strong enough to support its weight. Further modifications for cooling and mobility eventually ends up making an elephant.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Downplayed when God sends his mount to check up on the eponymous team while they are partying in Hell, where there is no reception to Heaven. Even though Ueda says that he can't see or hear what's going on, he somehow knows that Neptune is present, and is able to approve the animal the latter had just created.
  • Theme Naming: Whereas the members of the Animal Design Team have planet-based names, the angels' names contain directions-based kanji that also reflects their relative position in the workplace: “under/down” (下) for Shimoda, “above/up” (上) for Ueda, and “horizontal” (横) for Yokota.
  • Too Much Information: Pluto gets a little too excited whenever she gets to talk about a creature's reproductive functions. Shimoda freaks out when she goes into a detailed ramble about the acorn barnacle's penis.
  • Vague Age: Unlike the angels, who are Born as an Adult The Ageless immortals, the Ambiguously Human design team members do indeed age, and are able to have children through regular reproduction. However, none of the members' ages are actually known, with the Mystery Episode having all of those present simply given the age of "?". Even when they're de-aged by a malfunctioning age-shifting device, the most it provides as an answer is that the majority of them are very likely around 20-60, while Mr Saturn is possibly somewhere around 60-100, since Saturn reverted to a youthful adult man, while the others became children.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: A good majority of Chapter 33 deals with how the Insect Department was first formed, both by detailing the invention of the concept for metamorphosis, and showing how the initial member used Self-Duplication to provide the numbers for them to be a large group of Inexplicably Identical Individuals.

 
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