“Tower of God”
This is sort of a tough piece to write, because I do so under the assumption that at least some of you are going to read the manhwa after the anime left things where it did. There are things I really should talk about in interpreting this finale, but really can’t without coloring one’s view of the chapters to come. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to spoilers (and I implore commenters to do the same), but there are conclusions that can safely be drawn here, so I’ll concentrate on those.
This was certainly a finale that had some ‘splaining to do – and it did that in spades. I think it did a pretty good job of placing the events of the season in context – in fact, offering more information than the manhwa did at this point in the story to help it do so. Is that an implication that there’s no second season of the anime to follow? I’ve always been skeptical that Tower of God would run more than one cour – it’s popular by web manhwa standards but that’s not a medium that offers a lot of moneymaking potential for a production committee. Still, there was a part of me that was quixotically hopeful we’d see an announcement at the close of this episode.
First, Rachel. The anime spent more time this week showing us these events from her perspective than the source material did (though it skimmed over a few interesting passages that cast her in a slightly different light). I would say, on balance, Rachel comes off looking better – well, less worse – here than she does in the manhwa. But while it’s hard to be objective I still think she comes off looking pretty awful. Is she manipulated by Yu and Hwaryun to suit their purposes? Sure – but she was a perfectly willing tool in their hands. She had a choice – it’s not as though her life was threatened, only her ambition.
This, to me, is the hard truth about Rachel. She lacks the ability to do what she wants to do (this is obvious in her humiliating conversation with Headon), and she’s willing so sell out a much more deserving and honorable person to make up the difference. Not only that, but she hopes someone else will come along and kill Bam before she has to do it herself. Of course we can’t talk about why Yu and Hwaryun did what they did – why they needed Bam’s friends and the Jahad princesses to think he was dead. But when you hear the word “savior” tossed around, it’s obviously something they consider pretty important.
Jealous, a coward, ruthless – Rachel is a bad apple to be sure. And you can add “shameless” to the list, as she now accepts the help of Bam’s friends to climb the tower. There’s plenty of resentment from Khun and grief from all (most demonstrably Rak), but no obvious indication that any of them suspects what really happened. They think this is what Bam would have wanted, and they’re going to honor his wishes. There’s fallout beyond that too – Lero-ro walks out on his job as a ranker, and Quant is jettisoned along with him. He may not know exactly what went down and why, but Lero-ro can certainly recognize the stench of treachery when he smells it.
As for Bam, he is indeed alive – though his fate has now been commandeered by those who see him as a powerful weapon to serve their ends. As much as we learned about Bam this season, he remains mostly a mystery – even to himself. Being exploited by others is clearly the one constant in his life, so this new turn is nothing especially surprising. The only thing new was finding friends who valued Bam for who he was, and those have been taken away from him now.
It’s hard to overstate the extent to which this season only scratched the surface of SIU’s story. Basically this was the prologue, and only takes us up to the start of the main story. An anime that does that and stops there seems rather pointless, but the prologue happens to be some of the best material of the entire series. There are a lot of peaks and valleys ahead to say the least – Kami no Tou is an incredibly unfocused and meandering series at times. But there’s some great stuff – and some great characters – out there too, and I would genuinely love to see the anime continue. The problem, as always, is money – and how a production committee could be convinced that might make any off a continuation.
On balance I think Telecom did quite a nice job with this adaptation. Frankly it was much more well-produced than I expected, the cast was excellent, and getting Kevin Penkin to contribute the music was a major coup. There was no genius on display here – Tower of God was a pretty linear take on the manhwa, without a lot of huge changes or stylistic flourishes. But with any anime and especially one giving only a small taste of the source material, I think the first priority has to be to give viewers a sense of why people like that source material. And I think Kami no Tou accomplished that goal quite well.