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This Week in Anime
Is Tower of God Living Up to Expectations?

by Michelle Liu & Nicholas Dupree,

Crunchyroll's action-packed original Tower of God is hitting the right spot with viewers according to the streaming company, but Nick and Micchy have a much different take on the show and Bam and Rachel's "relationship."

You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of Tower of God here!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Nick, it's been a pretty momentous year. Big things are happening both positive and not, and six months in I'm reaching the point where every news update got me like:

Please, can 2020 please let me sleep.
Ah don't be that way Micchy. We've got lots to look forward to in 2020! Why today we're even covering the Crunchyroll Original show Tower of God! Did I mention it's a Crunchyroll Original? I feel like I need to make that clear for the sake of my own safety.
As if the dreaded "A Netflix Original Series" screens weren't enough, we now have a new brand to be reminded of every episode! Isn't that great.
I swear to god the CR app on my phone once sent me a notification about this show at 3am. I realize folks gotta promote their show but can you chill, y'all?
At least it's not the radio silence we get from Amazon about their "originals", amirite?
If there's one show you have heard about this season, regardless of if you're watching it, it's probably Tower of God, and with the season winding down it seems like a good a time as any to finally talk about it.
Omnipresent marketing aside, I've been hearing about the Tower of God webtoon since way before the anime was ever announced. Like, this was always the thing that people brought up when the topic turned to Korean webcomics. Having seen twelve episodes of it though, my takeaway is gee I hope it actually gets better like everyone says it does because uhhhhhhh.
Yeah ToGgers is a pretty mixed bag for me. I'm not familiar with the webtoon series, or even that general fandom circle, but considering how much hype it got from its existing fanbase leading up to this adaptation I was kind of expecting something besides "Hunter x Hunter, but like, not as good."
Now, I'm told that the series takes a while to find its legs and that early parts of the story pale in comparison to what comes later, but it's still not a fantastic first impression to make. I'm sure as hell not excited to sit through however many episodes of shruggo before it gets good.
I can only take "it gets better later" so far. I can handle watching a few episodes before a series really steps on the gas, but we're nearly a full season into this thing and we aren't even at the titular Tower of God. We're in the Waiting Room of God while all the characters take the SAT Prep Class of God before they can fill out their applications to Tower of God Community College.
That wouldn't be so tiring if we had any idea of what the Tower is or why the characters want to climb it so badly. Maintaining suspense demands some level of mystery around the Tower's function and makeup, but this far in we barely know what it looks like, not to mention the rest of the world around it. We're told most of the applicants were born and raised in the Tower, but it's hard to know what that means or how it shaped the characters when the setting is so little fleshed out.
Yeah that's one of the major roadblocks I ran into with this one. There's tons of implications and scheming side characters that suggest a sprawling fantasy world is out there, somewhere, but it's so vaguely defined that I can't really get a grasp on it. Like the show has a bad habit of just dropping names and titles on us for new characters and expecting us to roll with it without any context.
We know there's a king at the top of the Tower who (deliberately?) keeps its inhabitants ignorant of the outside world, as well as that Potato-kun Bam somehow found his way in anyway, but the show hasn't done much to suggest, for instance, what the boundary might look like. It's hard to get a grasp of the scale of the setting when almost everything occurs indoors or in caves and we have no idea what else is at play outside of the Tower Climbing DMV.
Oh right, Bam. You'll have to forgive me for forgetting him, since the narrative does for half the runtime.
I'm sure his "Irregular" status is important and all but seriously why is he even here? Like his entire motivation is to follow someone else who, by all indications, is way more interesting and complex a character than a dude with paste for a personality.
Bam really is the albatross hanging around the show's neck. I can take inconsistent storytelling if the characters are interesting, but Bam is possibly the most passive protagonist I've ever seen. His only real act of agency is to follow Rachel into the Tower, and from there everything important or unique about him is just stuff that's attached to him. Like he apparently has super special powers, but those seem to be something he's born with. He has a cool sword that was just given to him by someone else. He skates through like 6 episodes of Tower Tests by letting his teammates do all the work and literally just sitting pretty.
You could argue that the real hero of this whole shebang is Khun or possibly the Princesses of Jahad, but Bam does happen to be the one with the designated Main Character Powers (TM) so we can't just pretend he's not there. As much as I wish this were the Anaak Show, the milquetoast boy has to be there for ~story reasons~
Well the show seems willing to try anyway. From about episode 2 til basically this final arc Bam just fades into the background for other characters to have their own tragic backstories, and while not all of them land they are definitely more active, and therefore less boring. You mention Khun, and he has an equally simplistic backstory about betrayal and abandonment, but unlike Bam we actually see him contemplating it like a person would instead of staring into the middle distance like a lost duckling.
Khun's got years of emotional turmoil to deal with while Bam's just over here wondering what conflict is.

Tfw you're so empty a character that you need someone else to supply a reason for you to even be in the story.
It really is weird what the story does with Bam. Going by the first episode I assumed he and Rachel were like, peers? Or friends? But she's literally the only person he has ever met prior to the story starting and also some weird mix of his mom and girlfriend???
I guess he grew up in a cave somewhere? And she was just there too? Is it normal for non-Tower people to live in total isolation or is it just him? What was Rachel doing there? The show obviously doesn't have to answer all our questions just yet, but a little information would be nice, especially surrounding Rachel and how she sees the relationship.
More pressingly it's just too abstract of a backstory to relate to. The story wants me to sympathize with Bam's pursuit of Rachel, but it's not borne out of anything remotely human. The animals in Homeward Bound have more understandable motivation.
Maybe Bam's utter lack of recognizable human emotions is deliberate and the show's building up to some amnesia plot point where it turns out he remembered everything wrong, but at the moment it's pretty baffling.
I somehow doubt it is, but either way it's a real bad way to characterize your protagonist. I'm with you on just dumping this boy and making it The Anaak and Endō.rsi Half-Hour Variety Hour.
Finally, characters with actual goals and motivations that they act on!
Though I have to call out Endō.rsi's terrible little Oni horn. It's so tiny and deliberately designed to be cutesy that I can't see it as anything but an in-grown Moe Fang.
On the other hand, she knows what it's like to be saddled with medical debt, so imo she's pretty good.
Girl got off pretty light with just a broken ankle. Poor Anaak literally busted her tail.
Really though, of ToG's very sizable cast those two have the most immediately compelling dynamic and story. It's tied into the larger world in a way that's actually parsable, and Anaak's quest for vengeance is a concrete goal with easily understood consequences.
It's still a little murky what the higher powers in the ToG world actually do or how they govern, but there are hints of something sinister going on for sure. Anaak's up against whatever cultish loyalties are at play behind the scenes and it ain't gonna be pretty.
Even if the particulars are hazy, the dynamic at play - a "forbidden" child trying to avenge her mother against the powers that be - is easy to grab onto, and when added to Endō.rsi's own complicated feelings about it all, they make for a a really engaging duo. Also the lizard girl roasts her "aunt" a lot and that's just adorable.
Throw in a third "sister" Yuri and you have a gang of colorful personalities who, although they're not exactly allied, all know not to trust the sketchy talking rice ball.

It's just too bad Yuri spends most of the season walking through a cave and not doing anything, appearing just often enough that her return lacks the oomph it deserves.
It almost works as a brick joke? Like clearly the most powerful character in this battle tournament show spends the whole time taking the wrong turn at Albuquerque until the next-to-last episode. But it does definitely take away any surprise when she shows up and cleans house.
It's less "hell yeah, Yuri's here to kick some ass!" than "oh FINALLY you show up, took you long enough." You know she has to be relevant at some point if the show keeps cutting to her, so putting off her reintroduction this long just feels like stalling. Which is just another example of the show's problems with structure.
That's kind of a running issue with ToG. The ideas are good but the execution or presentation feels lacking in some respect. It also has a weird problem of having like 5 separate comic relief characters who never. shut. up.
AND it got rid of the best one. Shame on you, give me more of this goofy loser woman.
Sorry she got her sad backstory and then got out of dodge. We're stuck with Dollar Store Subaru Natsuki, an alligator, and this extra from The Thief & The Cobbler:

I guess Lauroe counts but honestly he's too much of a Mood to be pure comedy.
I too would like to burrito blanket my way through a battle royale death match, yes.
There's also this dude, who's such a non-entity that all I remember about him is his Nintendo Switch katanas.
I'd rather have Super Inferno Punch Man over Sasuke 2.0 over there tbh.
OK so there's a LOT of characters here, and not all are created equal. If you want some emotional punch there's Anaak, Endō.rsi, and Khun. You want goofy shenanigans you have everyone else. You want...uh...freckles(?) you got Rachel.
Oh hey, it's the other half of the storyline I barely care about! Though all things considered her refusal to see Bam or admit her identity is way more interesting than Bam's puppylike devotion to her. She also does the single best thing anyone could do in this show: delete Bam, at least temporarily. Yeah it's a dick move but at least she probably has reasons for doing it, unlike Mr. "I'm gonna follow my not-girlfriend to the ends of the earth even if she says not to."
Hahahaaaa yeah about that. So the only thing I knew about Tower of God going in was that, when the anime was announced, somebody in the ANN forums felt the need to very loudly announce how much they and the fanbase at large HATE Rachel. And I spent the whole show waiting to figure out why since her only actions in the series were eating apples and getting stabbed.

Turns out her Ultimate Villain Of Manwha level crime was to yeet the worst character in the show down a hole.
Speaking of, I'm very amused by how Bam plays the main character card to get the underwater hunting test to happen, only to stand in a bubble staring at fish while everybody else does the heavy lifting. Really encapsulates his role in the show!
I especially love that he gets a speech about how he's changed and grown across his adventures when like...no you haven't. The only things about you that are different are your clothes and you can shoot magic water now.
Rachel keeps telling him he's amazing but as far as I can tell all he's done is stand there not reacting to anything?
Bam's whole thing is that he's so pure-hearted he refuses to betray or trick people to get ahead. This is all well and good but it defines him entirely by in-action in the story, and is undercut by how he routinely gets ahead thanks to other people being underhanded for his benefit. I'm pretty sure Khun pulls like 4 different schemes to keep him in the test.
Yeah, killing with kindness doesn't really work when everybody else just kills with knives for you. Bam's pacifism isn't a strength; it's just an excuse for him not to do anything.
And that's the major failing that cuts ToG's legs out from under it for me. The narrative and characters insist on making its least interesting characters as the key to everything, and it drags down any interesting ideas it could otherwise play with. Fans can tell me it comes into its own eventually, but I do not possess the patience to watch multiple seasons waiting for a story to get good.
Pretty much. I wish I liked it more, but as it is right now I don't have much more than

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