Tower of God
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Tower of God ?
When people talk about the top 10 anime betrayals, I didn't think they were talking about just one episode of Tower of God! This week gave us enough backstabbing (including a literal stab in the back!) to power an entire season of Game of Thrones. In “The One-Horned Ogre,” things suddenly turn dark for our hero as everyone around him shows their true colors. It's a flattering portrayal of Bam's character that he sticks to his values no matter what happens, but the same can't be said for the others. This episode marks a tonal shift for Tower of God. As the competition grows fiercer, I doubt many of these cutthroat contestants are going to live to reach a happy ending.
So I guess Team B stands for “Betrayal.” As soon as the round begins, Endō.rsi turns heel. Unlike Khun, who hid his ulterior motives until the very end, this Princess of Jahad comes out swinging as her team collapses into chaos and confusion. Endō.rsi defends her selfish choice with an upsetting anecdote from her clearly abusive childhood. We've seen before that Endō.rsi loves to eat and has high standards for what she'll dine on, even when she's at the mercy of her friends' handouts. Now we know that she will—and has—literally killed people in order to get decent food. Like most self-interested people, Endō.rsi believes that everyone else is also looking out for number one. She explains to Bam that Fisherman infighting is the “true” objective of the exam and laughs at his naivete for taking the administrators at their word. Endō.rsi still doesn't realize that Bam isn't just putting on a good guy act, even when he moves to protect her without thinking. Bam's mindset has the potential to transform Endō.rsi's mindset, because right now her views about power are still confined. She's still angry at the other would-be princesses from her childhood, rather than the captors that forced them to fight to the death over food.
Bam isn't the only one to get a rude awakening. Hatz recruits two Spear Bearers to help him trap Quant, but they sneak off, chuckling cruely at the deadly predicament they've left him in. Meanwhile, Hoh finally decides to act on the contents of the mysterious letter he received before the exam, which means going after Rachel. As Hoh enacts his deadly scheme, the TV screen that Team A is watching the second match on suddenly goes blank with a cheerful scene of the Alps—extremely reminiscent of the School Days “Nice boat” filler famously used to replace violent content with harmless footage. But the test must go on for some reason, and even Lero-ro is powerless to shift that decision. This is ultimately what makes Hoh's attempted murder-suicide feel so hopeless. Even though people have been hurt climbing the Tower before, deaths have occurred off screen and it seemed like test administrators had a modicum of pity—for example, the way Anaak and Endō.rsi were simply injured, not killed, when they fell during the previous exam. Plus, there's no triumph of good over evil here—Hoh and Rachel are both complex characters with good and bad elements (at least I think so from the anime so far; I keep hearing how much webtoon fans hate Rachel). Hoh's tragedy is particularly devastating as a parable of injustice. Serena's words to his corpse reflect that: “They looked the other way when things were taken from us, and got in our way when we tried to take it.”
Somehow, this dark story of betrayal ends on a light note when Endō.rsi cleverly misdirects Quant into stealing her panties when he thinks he's gotten her badge. I'm not sure the comedy lands for me considering the life-or-death stakes that surround it. There are times that Tower of God's exams feel almost like a school environment, and then there's this episode in which the contestants themselves are more dangerous than any exam the administrators could possibly set up. I hope that Bam grows a bit from this, as his continued fresh-faced optimism feels less and less realistic the more battle-hardened he becomes. This episode proved that the Tower can bring out anyone's ruthless side. I wouldn't be surprised if Bam has one, too.
Tower of God is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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