OP Sequence

OP: 「TOP」 by (Stray Kids)

「BALL」
“BALL”

Tower of God is a tough one, from an analysis standpoint. I wouldn’t even know how to start trying to explain it to someone who hasn’t read the manhwa, or how to discuss it with those who have without spoiling the first group. It’s a long, convoluted and messy source material that somehow – especially in its early chapters – has a strongly compelling narrative. It’s also by far the most popular Korean comic (web comic in this instance) ever to be adapted to anime. As such, it’s one of the most interesting and probably important entries in an otherwise bland and safe season.

This story was first sold to me many years ago as being reminiscent of Hunter X Hunter, which was enough to get me to give it a try. I realized almost immediately that the resemblance was as skin-deep as its possible to be, but got hooked on the series just as quickly. I’ve had the curious experience of wading through Kami no Tou for years (I finally did drop the manhwa a couple of years ago for reasons better suited to discussion at a later time) without feeling like I ever fully understood what was happening.

On the basic level it’s easy – a tower, a girl, a boy chasing the girl. But there’s so much more here – way too much more, in my opinion. It always struck me that Tower of God was a RPG disguised as a comic, and I generally lose patience with RPGs pretty quickly. But it took a long time with this series, because you could dive as deep as you wished to, or you could stand on the beach and appreciate it from the surface – which was exactly what I did to good effect for much of its run. A one-cour anime adaptation is likely to just skim that surface, and while normally that would be cause for complaint, I’m not convinced that with ToG it won’t end up being for the best.

We’ll see. I won’t go into detail on the difference between the intro of the manhwa and the anime, because that’s not what I do – you can read it if you want, and any anime has to stand on its own power. Suffice to say there was a fair amount of skipped material here, and some of it probably would have been useful from a character exposition standpoint. What we see is a boy named Bam (Ichikawa Taichi) trying to climb a mysterious tower. He’s following a girl named Rachel (Hayami Saori) who seems to have rescued him when he was trapped in some sort of pit. She wants to see the stars, so she climbs the tower. He wants to see her (because for Bam, the stars are Rachel) and he follows.

As complex (and believe me, it gets way too complex) as Tower of God gets, that simple premise really is at the heart of everything. Climbing the tower is not a straightforward business. Normally it’s the privilege of “regulars” apparently, and Bam is a non-regular. The entrance is guarded by someone called Headon (Ohtsuka Houchu), who tells Bam that to get started he has to get past a “white steel eel” and break a black ball. A couple of regulars show up – Yuri Zahard (Honda Mariko) and Evan Edroch (Okitsu Kazuyuki). She’s a princess and quite incensed that Headon seems to be giving Bam an impossible challenge on the first level of the tower. He suggest she loan Bam her weapon called Black March (Itou Shizuka), and – to Evan’s horror – she agrees.

This is where the experienced/newbie problem really presents itself for me, but I think it’s best to just play it as it lies and pretend we’re all experiencing this for the first time. Once Bam manages to clear the level by getting the Black March to power him up (like Yuri it seems to like young boys) he wakes up in a field and a bunch of other characters show up, instructed by a cube with a child’s voice to start killing each other and whittle their numbers from 400 to 200 (this is obviously a moment where the early chapters of HxH spring to mind). We’ll talk about a couple of them in more detail next week, but to be sure, there are important figures among that group (follow the famous seiyuu to figure out which ones).

So how does all this work, as anime? The art and animation are going to be divisive. As is often the case it’s hard to tell how much is cost-cutting and how much artistic choice, but the style is pencil-sketch spartan at times, and there’s no sakuga to be seen yet (though we haven’t had any big fights). Kevin Penkin does the music and that, as you’d expect, is a strong point. The ToG phenomenon being what it is I suspect fans of the manhwa are going to complain over every change, but given that massive changes are inevitable I think it’s best to drown that out as much as possible. This wasn’t a stellar premiere, but it was workmanlike and competent – and frankly, the first couple chapters aren’t as good as the next batch anyway. Color me cautiously optimistic, but next week will tell us a lot.

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「SLUMP」 by (Stray Kids)

24 Comments

  1. Arguably a good story wins past terrible art/animation. Though they did skip a lot in the first episode. This will be one of those shows where people will have to force themselves to accept the anime style for what it is if they want to be it in for the long haul.

    Lyfe
      1. I couldn’t help notice the background art direction is missing in action or something. A few too many scenes are missing background art where there should be something other than textures.

        a0000000000
        1. Pretty much this, its questionable in terms of production values though people may view things differently. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer here as taste is subjective.

          Lyfe
  2. Guardian – Having read the first “season” of the manhwa, and dropping the second season about where it sounds like you did, I think your review does a great job of covering why a 12-episode cour of this will probably be ideal. I would love to see you expound somewhere on your reasons for ultimately dropping it just to see if you have some insight into how the problems I think it got itself into could be fixed. Thanks again for the write-up!

    NaweGR
    1. Obviously spoiler concerns make that hard to do here. In very broad terms? Massive, monumental plot drift. Arcs dragging on way too long. Too many characters, many of them not nearly as interesting as the core cast, who’re starved of oxygen because the massive supporting cast sucks it up. In short, I think the series needed a ton of editing that it doesn’t seem like it ever got.

      Ideally a single cour adaptation could work, because the first part of the series is by far the best. But even to get to a logical stopping point they’re going to have to trim a lot of material – some of which is quite likely to be rather good coming from this early in the story. And with presumably no plans for a sequel, they may go for some sort on self-contained whole with an original ending. Not saying that can’t work but it’s an uncertain path to say the least.

      1. > monumental plot drift. Arcs dragging on way too long. Too many characters, many of them not nearly as interesting as the core cast, who’re starved of oxygen because the massive supporting cast sucks it up. In short, I think the series needed a ton of editing that it doesn’t seem like it ever got.

        This.

        the story doesn’t end. the story doesn’t move forward after a while.

        the story poses questions and instead of answering, asks more questions. indefinitely. the author doesn’t know where hes going and it shows.

        Koreanguy
  3. Ok, they are going to skip some details, some random puns (although many of them are hilarious), fast forward of some “slow parts” of the story… But I think the scenes where you get to know more from the character exposition standpoint should not get skipped or change; in my opinion this is one of the key components that would get anyone hooked in this story.

    Just saying…

    Bertin
  4. This was kinda all over the place for me. I mean, obviously they’re just ignoring story and narrative and just aiming for quick paced series, but if that’s their goal, I felt like it was a little to slow at times. I can enjoy a series that just keeps giving us new things without really connecting them well, and I can enjoy a series that connects everything with a well thought out narrative, if they’re done well, but this felt like it was some strange combination of the two, and where they met was kinda clunky.

    It’s interesting enough for a second episode though, so I’ll see where they go with it.

    hjerry
        1. The manhwa has plenty of issues (especially later), but the thing is, it’s not a light novel. The characters don’t show up fully formed and everything isn’t explained in the first chapter. Some things take take to reveal themselves, and the characters actually develop. I really feel like the rise of LN dominance in anime adaptations has made viewers impatient to have everything presented on a silver platter in the first episode. Not the case with Tower of God. Now, we’ll see how well the anime does at being faithful to that developmental curve.

          1. True, that makes it difficult but just because the source doesn’t do it in the first few chapters it shouldn’t mean the anime should stick to this. It just doesn’t work out IMO. You only get an average anime that nobody cared to watch because the first few episodes have little to nothing to it. Would be better to just strech the first few eps and give more background to all characters, instead of skipping a lot of stuff just so they can jump right into action. If it stays like this, the anime will just fail.

            m4duk
  5. I liked the music. The animation was decent; the eel monster was well done, while the navigator was interesting looking.

    The character designs seemed very bland. The main character had no personality. The supporting characters seemed pretty random in their actions. There was no sense of place in terms of the background society or culture where everyone came from before reaching the tower. The hero being special and getting by due to determination/quest to find a girl and being conveniently handed a powerful magic item because another character was bored and thought he was cute seemed like very lazy plotting.

    The idea of the tower is okay, though something I’ve seen before in other fiction. I can see how climbing an endless and tower and getting into constant fights with randomly generated but imaginatively drawn monsters/NPCs might be appealing to the shonen crowd, but for me it just didn’t gel at all.

    As the 2nd test, with a wide-open area and lots of rival fighters getting massacred, had a different feel, I’ll see what episode 2 is like, but judging by episode 1 this was not encouraging…

    DP
    1. Yes, yes, yes. You’ve put all my thoughts about this into words. I’m going in blind without knowing a thing about the source material. I don’t care about these boring, bland characters. The protag doesn’t seem to have any emotion other than ‘I must follow the girl at all costs”. Boring.

      I was also confused about why the Princess who gave him the super weapon was even that invested in him. Like, why did she care so much? It felt really off, because even I the viewer didn’t care about him… Why does another total stranger character care so much?

      I’ll give it another episode or 2 because everyone is hyping it so much, but so far I’m really meh and wondering what all the fuss is about.

      Celi
      1. Why the total stranger princess cared so much was explained more properly in the webtoon. They skipped a bunch of dialogue from that scene.

        The first few tests are simple and it gets more interesting as they get more complex. The characters will start to take hold too. I don’t have a great feeling about the pacing about this adaption though. There’s a lot of moving parts and world building in this story and they’re already skipping through a lot of it. It sounds like they may try to cram 78 chapters into 13 episodes, which could get ugly.

        duron
  6. Indeed, the first episode felt like a generic (semi)isekai anime, with a generic protag, acquiring generic power using generic plot armor. I didn’t read the manga, but i know a lot of the material was skipped/rushed. And this is supposed to be the most “HYPED” anime of the season LMAO

    Atsu
  7. Funny enough, Baam is kinda fascinating in how selfish he is. And watching him go from traditional shonen protagonist trying to save everyone to realizing that schtick has no bearing in real life is kinda awesome. So him being generic ends up being deconstructed pretty hard. It is not Isekai simply because in Isekai the hero makes the world bend to his will, in Tower of God, the characters get bent constantly

    Helios
  8. I fell asleep like 4 times watching this and had to rewind some parts , (I watched 3 episodes of Haikyuu after that and never got sleepy so no, it wasn’t me XD)

    I found this episode kind of boring, with the protagonist just getting his powerup just because the other woman thought he was…cute?.. ok? He got that first floor really easy, The regulars were kind of meh . Specially the male lol, I have to admit it kind of got better the last 3 minutes in the second floor with all the character on that battle Royale.. still I’m gonna go give the series the rule of three episodes due to the hype

    D.

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