Tower of God
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Tower of God ?
They're winning! No, they're losing....Unless? This week on Tower of God, the storyline was devoted to one of the most beloved of battle anime tropes: a competition so fierce, it isn't decided until the last second. Set in a shadowy, testing facility with potentially impossible architecture, there's no tension to be found in the abstract, bare bones visuals. Instead, it's the vibrant mental cartwheels of Khun versus Quant that transform this vague scenario into a nail-biting sequence of ever more gripping turnabouts.The art may be crude, but clever dialogue and intriguing plot twists keep the story engaging—and often surprising.
As someone coming in fresh to the anime, it's episodes like "Khun's Strategy” that make me realize I'm missing out on a lot of explanation. While it's true that adapting the exact lengthy exposition from the webtoon wouldn't work, it's evident that a great deal of this storyline wasn't designed to be told in 24-minute episodes. I'm not entirely sure why some people are guaranteed to pass the position selection test no matter the outcome. I'm a bit shaky on the rules of what Quant can and can't do. (Like, how does Khun know he's running out of Shinsu?) And while I don't need a detailed diagram of the testing facility, I would like a basic layout that would describe the stakes—how far does Anaak need to travel to reach an exit, for example? A glimpse at the webtoon (can you believe we're up to chapter 43 now?) verifies that the administrators offer a lot of additional info through handy diagrams and descriptions that work for the comic, but would turn this show into a yawnfest and remove the asset that makes it so interesting—its whirlwind pace. Urged forward by mesmerizing action and a dynamite soundtrack (I especially love that memorable jazzy piano number), Team A's valiant attempt against Ranker Quant goes by so quickly, I was surprised when the episode ended.
Khun quickly establishes himself as the brains of the operation, and through episode eight he continues to be this show's character to watch. He's always one step ahead of the game, positioning his teammates around the arena like chess pieces. He's so clued into Quant's psychology that he knows just how the Ranker will respond to Khun's taunt. But the real genius of his strategy is that he always intended to lose, but made the team's loss close enough to be believable. As the administrators confer amongst themselves, Khun's real team is scattered between A and B. Since everyone on A that he wants to pass is already a shoo-in, he wasn't playing to win. He was playing to create a blueprint for B, so Bam, Endorsi, and co. could use his example to find a way to defeat Quant for real. Khun's feigned disappointment after the exam, which readily wins over his losing team, shows just how formidable he is. He even got them to cheer him up over the loss he executed! It's chilling what Khun is willing to do in order to climb the tower with his chosen team. In this situation it turns out favorably for our protagonist, but what about in the case his own interests differ from Bam's?
Meanwhile in the waiting room, Bam and Endorsi have an interesting heart to heart. He's obviously still hooked on Rachel while Endorsi, who knows that Rachel is trying to extricate herself from Bam, is gently trying to redirect his attention. As Hoh directs his unsettling gaze to the pair, it's clear that while Khun is looking out for a team of his choosing, Bam is meanwhile surrounded by enemies. I have no idea how this naive-seeming protagonist, who stubbornly looks for everyone's good side, is going to pass this exam. Khun's team lost with everyone working together (even if they didn't realize they were actually working toward Khun's master plan). But on Bam's team there are a lot of different motives at play. The game is confusing and the setting is plain, but the story is fantastic. Webtoon author SIU continues to show his appreciation for the shonen battle genre through this thrilling iteration.
Tower of God is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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