「400分の3」 (400-bun no 3)
To stipulate up front, the second episode of Kami no Tou was certainly better than the first. But in fairness to Telecom Animation Film and the anime staff, the manhwa was the same – at least for me. The first couple of chapters were a walking start, but it was with the arrival of the major characters that really entered the story this week that things became genuinely compelling. While Bam is an excellent protagonist (as I think most new viewers will eventually come to agree) it’s in group dynamics that SIU really excels as a writer.
There’s a danger of input overload with Tower of God, that’s for damn sure. Fair warning – it becomes a major issue later in the manhwa, should you choose to read it. Even here one can get overwhelmed by the flood of characters and background information, but I thought the anime did an excellent job of navigating that this week. The presence of Lero-Ro (Tsuda Kenjirou – thank goodness he finally got some work) definitely helps. He’s the first ranker (a kaibutsu who’s climbed all the way to the top of the tower) we meet, and his rather serene and logical presence helps ease us (and Bam) into the next phase of the story without being too heavy-handed about it.
I was a bit skeptical of Kenjirou for this role, and he’s certainly not what I imagined when I was reading (not to mention being terribly overexposed at the moment) but his performance is kind of working for me. Casting is a huge deal in this sort of series where larger-than-life characters are everything, and none of them is larger than Rak Wraithaiser (Miyake Kenta). By contrast Miyake is spot-on what I imagined – Ohtsuka Akio is the only other name I considered. As for Khun Aguero Agnes (Named after a soccer player from Argentina who’s named after a manga character who plays soccer. Full circle.), Okamoto Nobuhiko is another odd choice – I was thinking someone like Ishida Akira – but so far he too is clicking pretty well for me.
These two are the Yin and Yang surround Bam at the moment. The Blue Turtle calm and calculating, taking an interest in this strange young boy wielding what’s clearly a legendary weapon in the Black March. Rak is pure hunting instinct – the Black Turtle interests him only as prey. But when the child-cube announces that the culling to 200 has been completed and that the next stage is for survivors to form groups of three within five minutes, Khun moves into manipulator mode and tries to make Gator see the logic in joining forces. Bam interests him enough to merit close observation, and Rak is obviously strong as all get out – a useful quality for a potential teammate.
It won’t be news to regulars (pun intended) that I generally despise exposition by explanation, but here it sort of made sense in context for Lero-Ro to explain a few things to both the group (Shinsu, and its importance) and to Bam (regulars, irregulars – like him – and such). Obviously Bam is here for a reason – if he weren’t strong, we’d have no story. He wasn’t even moved by Lero-Ro’s wall of Shinsu, and he spotted who the strongest of the ones on the other side of it was. But Bam is a child even above and beyond the fact that he physically remains one – he has no memories beyond being trapped in a pit and rescued by Rachel. His innocence is not a put-on – it’s who he is. Nothing in his memory has prepared him for what he’s currently facing.
As for the other climbers, a few certainly stand out. Anak (Sekine Akira), who both Bam and Lero-Ro recognize as a beast). Hatz (Fukamachi Toshinari) who fought her to a draw. Their eventual teammate Shibisu (Eguchi Takuya), who seems to be all bluster but does manage to will his way through the Shinsu. And this chap (Ono Daisuke), who can only be bothered to wake up when he needs to do something badass in about three seconds or snark at somebody for being too loud. But newsflash – Rak is the best character of the bunch. No one beats the Gator.
It surely isn’t going to escape the attention of anyone who knows the series that this setup bears a striking resemblance to the Hunter Exam arc in Hunter X Hunter. I don’t really consider that either a positive or negative, just a thing – but to the extent it matters I don’t personally feel Tower of God borrows too liberally from HxH, and I won’t hold it against any writer that they’re influenced by Togashi Yoshihiro (that’s just good taste). I just think at this point of the story Kami no Tou is insanely good fun, and to my relief I thought this episode really captured that. I described myself as “cautiously optimistic” after the premiere, but I’d definitely crank that optimism up a couple of levels now.