Heaven’s Design Team Mixes ‘Edutainment’ With… Creationism?

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Heaven's Design Team Episode 1, "Idea 1", now streaming on Crunchyroll. 

The Winter 2021 anime season is seeing a proliferation of "edutainment" anime that try to incorporate educational facts into their otherwise escapist content. In addition to two Cells At Work anime, and Dr. Stone Season 2, there's now Heaven’s Design Team, which aims to teach about the science of zoology through a very unusual lens in its premiere: creationism, two things that do not seem to blend very well.

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As set out by Episode 1, Heaven’s Design Team is about a God who creates everything on earth, but since there are too many species for God alone to design, God outsources this work to an angelic design team. The design team tries to fulfill whatever wishes that God comes up with on a whim. So when God wants to have an animal that can eat leaves from high places, the design they eventually come up with is a giraffe. The designers all have individual quirks and preferences about which animals to design, but it is up to God to make the final call about which creature can end up on earth.

The edutainment aspect of the show does a good job of explaining why certain animals are the way they are, in relation to how things work on Earth. For example, the giraffe’s neck can be five meters long but not 10 meters, because its heart can only pump up its blood this high due to gravity and the size of its heart. These facts are cleverly incorporated into the design ideas, making them easily accessible and educational.

While there are many fun and useful facts presented about animals, the comedic creationist framework prevents an accurate educational experience, because evolution does not exist in this world. For example, the first episode presents the fact that giraffes have coat patterns on its body simply because one of the designers likes beautiful patterns. In reality, these patterns are a result of the giraffe adapting to its natural environment, and adaptation is the most important aspect of evolutionary theories of biology.

The anime tries to incorporate some ideas about adaptation indirectly. A character mentions in passing that earth is about the survival of the fittest. There is also a storyline about how the introduction of the new species of snake now puts other species of birds and frogs in danger, so the designers of these threatened species try to tweak their designs to help their animals survive the snake. The designer of the tree frog comes up with the idea of letting tadpoles escape their eggs as soon as a snake bites down on the eggs, which is an accurate fact. Of course, the show also proposes that the design for a snake is based on that of a horse, which is a funny gag but nowhere near the actual course of evolution.

To mostly secular Japanese audiences, the creationist framework of Heaven's Design Team isn't a big deal at all. Edutainment series often use fantasy elements; kids can learn about science from The Magic School Bus without believing magic school buses actually exist. If there was a country where magic school buses were a common religious belief, however, that show would probably play differently.

Heaven's Design Team is a fun way to learn about animals while also having some laughs along the way, but for more religious viewers who seriously believe in creationism, it is hard to tell how they will interpret this series.

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