Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Heaven’s Design Team, v. 1–4 by Hebi-zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako

Heaven’s Design Team, v. 1–4 by Hebi-zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako
Kodansha Comics / Kodansha USA
Publication Date: October 20, 2020; December 9, 2020; February 23, 2021; March
30, 2021
ISBN: 9781645611136, 9781646511297, 9781646511303, 9781646511310

Instead of creating every individual animal, God decided to outsource the work to a design team. The team of angels consists of six designers, an engineer who tests if the animals will function in the real world, and two liaisons who act as project managers. Volume one opens on new liaison Shimoda’s first day, and we follow along as he meets the team and learns how the designers work to create animals that fit God’s often vague specifications. Each chapter closes with a few short encyclopedia entries on the real animals that are featured.

This episodic manga is a multifaceted delight. There’s a lot of humor, interesting—and often gross—animal facts, and an element of mystery as readers try to guess what animal will emerge from the early drafts. There’s also an office comedy aspect as the characters interact with each other in their workplace setting. From the very beginning, the characters (all named after planets or cities in Japan) are easy to distinguish from each other with unique looks and well-defined, sometimes over-the-top, personality traits. For example, Pluto is short and dresses in kawaii goth clothing, and she often designs the animals that are poisonous, parasitic, or have strange genitalia. Chapters and volumes often end on overly dramatic cliffhangers just for the fun of it, and even after four volumes, the manga continues to feel fresh and engaging.

Heaven’s Design Team blends comedy and likeable characters with nonfiction information about zoology in a similar way Cells at Work used anthropomorphized cells and biology in an action story. Fans of @lonnieiiv’s “God & Gabriel” videos on TikTok or the various “god creating animals” memes in existence will enjoy the humor and premise of this series.

—Kacy Helwick

Other Nominated Titles

  • Whisper Me a Love Song, v.1 by Eku Takeshima (October 20, 2020)
  • Rainbow Bridge by Steve Orlando, Steve Foxe, and Valentina Bianconi (August 17, 2021)
  • The Apothecary Diaries, v.2 by Natsu Hyuuga and Nekokurage (February 9, 2021)
  • Friends Forever by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (August 31, 2021)
  • Kageki Shojo!!, v.1 by Kumiko Saiki (July 6, 2021)
  • The Golden Hour by Niki Smith (November 23, 2021)
  • Life of Melody by Mari Costa (September 28, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.