Tower of God
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Tower of God ?
This week, Tower of God answered the question on everyone's mind: just what is that little blue triangle in Khun's hair? But seriously, “The Crown's Fate” was an episode about answers. From the truth of Khun's ability to the game's literally-explosive conclusion, this marked a satisfying note in the story. Ignoring the art (it is what it is and it isn't getting better), this episode encapsulates everything I like about the shonen battle genre. From fascinating contestants and instantly-engaging rivalries to suspense that never lets up, it's clear that Tower of God hasn't even shown a fraction of its hand for what comes next.
Did anyone else get Hunter x Hunter flashbacks when Rak started his battle version of Rock, Paper, Scissors? There's no way that webtoon author SIU isn't a fan. But small nudges like that one aside, what's particularly impressive is how Tower of God manages to be like Hunter x Hunter in concept while remaining fascinately original in its story and plotlines. I loved how the Crown Game was less about outcomes than it was about showcasing a diverse cast of battlers and making us care about what happened to them. In the A part of the episode, it's Khun who steals the show. He ties up his hair, ostensibly to kick back on the throne (and right into Bam's lap in a way that made me think, “wait, didn't y'all just meet?”)… but later reveals that this is his signal to the pseudo-team of rescued battlers he's been toting in his briefcase. Khun's briefcase is the kind of overpowered superability that I don't want to think too hard about, but in the moment it's just plain neat. Contrasted against Rak's brute strength, it's a demonstration on Khun's potential as the team's strategist. When he uses it as an accessory to his high IQ, it's clear that the Crown Game can be gamed just like any other test.
However, the B part of the episode is all about Bam. The test administrators have been giving him lots of attention, but until now it wasn't sure why this naive ray of sunshine was worthy of notice. Cue him transforming into pure Shinsu at a pivotal moment. Moments before this happens, we realize that there are some dueling motivations at play among the teams in the fifth round, and not everyone is targeting the crown. A female ninja in a bejeweled mask has set her sights on Bam, and it's an unlucky moment for the cocky girl on Rachel's team to realize why you shouldn't wear high-heeled shoes to a fight. But it's not Bam the ninja is targeting after all, but the hooded girl who turns out to be Rachel. Once Bam confirms her identity, he prepares to take the killing blow in her place… but instead unleashes so much power that the Black March decides to put things on pause and puts Bam to sleep.
While everyone convalesces, Lero-ro and Hansung Yu drink out-of-place instant coffee and provide some much-needed context: apparently these tests are not to prove worthiness, but to determine whether entrants pose a threat to the tower itself. Perhaps the structure of the tower (both physically and politically) is more fragile than we know. You'd think that Bam's ability to “become” Shinsu without a “contract” (I'm a little lost after the administrators' discussion) would be a flight risk, but in the grand tradition of all shonen battle anime, we're going to just not think about the main character's potentially world-breaking power level. Tower of God is such a sincere love letter to the shonen battle genre, that it nails all of the classic tropes beautifully.
Tower of God is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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