A long time ago, I came across a Korean manhwa by the name of Tower of God. I started reading it online until it became officially licensed as a part of WEBTOONS and, soon, I couldn’t any place that was scanlating it. Sadly, I dropped the series because I didn’t know that WEBTOONS existed and just thought that it disappeared for good. Either that or I was just too dumb to use Google to find another place that was hosting it.
When I heard that it was getting an anime adaptation, a sense of nostalgia hit me and I was very excited! Now that everything has wrapped up, how much of the manhwa did I remember and how much did I enjoy the anime adaptation?
Tower of God centers around a boy named Twenty-Fifth Bam. Due to Japanese translation, his name is actually Yoru in the anime, but since I know him as Bam, that will be what I call him. He was discovered by a girl named Rachel and he became captivated with her. One day, Rachel wants to climb the tower and abandons Bam, telling him not to follow her.
So, he follows her anyway like a lost puppy searching for his master.
Once inside, he meets Headon, who tells him that he will have to pass a test in order to climb the tower. This captures the attention of Yuri, a Princess of Jahad. She gives him her sword, The Black March, and he uses it to pass the preliminary test. The anime now takes us on Bam’s journey to climb the tower… or that’s what you are lead to believe. Instead, we are introduced to the world Bam has been brought into along with our cast of characters as they all take various tests just for the right to climb the tower!
The tests are what you would expect them to be… various challenges that you need to overcome either individually or as a team (mostly as a team). The first individual test is a battle royale-style survival game where half of the test candidates were to be eliminated. At the end of that, they were to form a three-man team. This is where we meet Khun, a boy with white hair and a blue ribbon in it and Rak, a loud-mouthed humanoid reptile who refers to everyone he comes across as a turtle.
The story is really simple and straight-forward for most of the series. In fact, if it weren’t for the various tests and other characters that we meet along the way, it would be quite a boring show. Things don’t really start branching off until the middle of the season when Rachel makes her appearance. Those who watched the whole season knows how that ends up!
While basic, it’s a solid enough story but nothing that is revolutionary that we haven’t seen before. Even though it is quite average, it is still an enjoyable story all thanks to its characters.
Let’s just get this one out of the way because I am going to gripe about this character something fierce. I hated Bam. Flat out, I did not like him one bit and when certain events happened at the end of the series, I actually cheered. Bam is no different than any other passive, meek, timid main character in whatever anime series you want to pick out to reference. Spineless… the whole “I’d rather be friends” attitude… the whole nine yards. I do not know what the obsession is in Japan (or even in Asian culture) to constantly recycle this character archetype but I’ve seen enough of it to the point where I’m just sick and tired of seeing it. The fact that he has this tremendous power inside of him that saves him over and over again like a cheap plot device is also annoying. Luck can carry a character only so far before they need to take matters into their own hands and Bam never does. He wants to. He wants to fight and protect Rachel and bring her to the top of the tower but he lacks the spine to do so. He’s one of those all-talk characters that can only get somewhere by relying on others to hold his hand. It’s annoying and I’m just done with this archetype.
Yeah… hard to touch upon this one without spoiling the whole show. She’s Bam’s friend and wants to climb the tower. There you go. Anything further and I’ll be wasting your time watching 13 episodes of anime. Although, I did cheer for her in the end!
Khun is a strategist and ends up befriending Bam at the end of the elimination round, along with Rak. He carries a handbag with him that can act as a defense but it also has a special property about it: the ability to clone anything placed inside of it. This becomes a running joke as Rak falls in love with chocolate bars and depends on Kkun for an endless supply of them. Khun prefers to stay in the shadows during tests and battles while using an information network to survey the battlefield. His plans have carried Bam and Rak pretty far; however, there is a certain aura about him to where he may or may not be able to be trusted.
I actually enjoy Khun as a character. He always kept you guessing as to whether or not he was on Bam’s side the entire time. Still, his schemes are deeply-laid and well thought out. It’s obvious that Khun wants to climb the tower for his own personal reasons and, quite possibly, only see Bam and Rak as pawns in his grand scheme but there are also moments where it seems as if he genuinely cares about the two of them. He is a mixed bag but that’s what’s great about him. He has many dimensions to his character that make you want to learn more about him!
The symbol of loud-mouthed overconfidence, Rak is a Spear-bearer which is perfect for his primitive mindset. Rak resembles a humanoid alligator or crocodile and is constantly boasting how he is the strongest. He serves as the comedic relief for the show and while someone could find him annoying right out of the gate, Rak is a character that grows on you. There are even moments of brilliance during the show where you want to root for Rak and get behind him. Tower of God actually makes you care about a character that would, otherwise, but just an annoying hindrance in any other anime series. For this, Rak actually ended up as my favorite character as he kept things entertaining.
Still, there isn’t much to him outside of his comedy. Rak is simple-minded, is always up for a fight, is loud and boastful, but ends up remaining loyal to Bam and Khun. In the beginning, he only tagged along because he was promised that he could hunt the two of them later. As the show goes on, Rak gains respect for them and wants to be their protector. It’s a subtle transformation but one you can instantly notice.
There a lot of supporting characters such as the other two Princesses of Jahad, Endorsi, and Anaak… each with their own personal backstories that tie into a bigger lore story about the Jahad family and what they have to do with the tower. You also get to meet other team members such as Hatz, an honorable swordsman, Hoh, a uni-horned humanoid who has some personal issues (to say the least), Laure who ends up sleeping through most of the tests in a very sloth-like fashion, and many others. There is a HUGE cast here but each side character feels important as they add to the overall lore and world that the show takes place in. Plus, their backstories actually get you to care about them and they’re not just there to add a line or two in certain scenes!
Art, Animation, & Soundtrack
One of the things that will stick out immediately is the art style. It’s a rather rough-looking art style that takes some getting used to but it does grow on you after a while. Some of the character outlines don’t look solid, they look really rough and sketched all while the color palette uses simple solid colors and little shading. It may be a style that some may find jarring but, again, it’s a style that will eventually grow on you over time. Personally, I think it gives the show a unique look and that’s a good thing because uniqueness helps a show stand out amongst the dozens upon dozens of other shows airing at the same time. It helps makes the show memorable.
The animation is pretty basic as well. It’s not really bad animation but it’s not amazing animation, either. It’s just pretty average. Still, it’s nothing that’s jarring or would take you out of the action. Everything seems to fit with the art style and direction of the show so you’re not going to sit there and really question what you’re watching. It has a natural feel to it but it’s nothing that’s going to blow you away.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is something that will mesmerize you. That is to be expected as Kevin Penkin, who has been making a name for himself as of late, lent his talents to produce Tower of God’s OST. If you’ve heard the OSTs for Made in Abyss and The Rising of the Shield Hero, then you know what this man is capable of. One of his specialties is creating an ambiance which just fits any situation perfectly and Kevin Penkin does exactly that for Tower of God. This is a soundtrack that I would highly recommend going out and buying either physically or digitally as it is definitely worth a good listen!
Also, the opening themes from Stray Kids (“Top” – OP, “Slump” – ED) are FANTASTIC! Get their single and listen to them on repeat multiple times! My only complaint about the full versions of the songs? They’re REALLY short. “Slump” is under three minutes. Oof! Give us more of the good stuff, please!
Tower of God was an interesting show. There are parts from the manhwa that I remembered so it was nice seeing those come to life on the screen. Then there were parts I had completely forgotten about so it was a nice reminder of what I had previously read. Still, the manhwa is LONG… like… really long so there is plenty of material to adapt should Crunchyroll decide to go ahead and green light a second season. From the way the first season ended, there was enough of a tease there to give you hope.
Overall, I enjoyed Tower of God. I feel that the show was mainly driven by its characters and their individual backstories but that’s not a bad thing. It helps build the world and makes you realize that there is more to it than just Bam. With all of the lore, it makes you question more about the world, and if the tower is everything or if there is more to the world than just the tower. It seems so as you learn that there are different factions with their own hierarchies, each with similar titles. For example, Jahad and the Tower have their own Rankers… people who can control the power of Shinsu to masterful levels. It was also stated that there are different tests for different groups of people so that adds to the mystery on whether or not different factions have their own ways to climb the tower.
When Rachel enters the scene, you begin to see the main story progress and take shape. The show builds the world, then progresses the main story once you are familiar with that world. It’s proper storytelling and because as such, the pacing felt just right. Nothing felt rushed or contrived (outside of Bam’s brief power-up moments) and that made everything rather enjoyable.
While it is a show that presents a lot of stuff to you upfront, it is also a show that makes you think and wonder. I don’t know if it will win any awards but it was good enough to warrant a watch if you’ve been on the fence about it!
Tower of God
Tower of God leans heavily on its characters and lore for the first half all while building up the main storyline to a crescendo in the second half. While the art and animation is simplistic, it gives the show a unique look and is, all around, an enjoyable experience