Tower of God - Reviews

Alt title: Kami no Tou: Tower of God

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ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Jun 29, 2020

Tower of God was heavily marketed as the first Korean webcomic adaptation as well as the beginning of a new era for anime. It wasn’t, but we were constantly told that we HAD to support it, so they can make even more Korean webcomic adaptations. Consume product and be excited for next products. Aside from being from Korea there is nothing special about it, and as an adaptation it is below average in general, so it was just another case of hyping the source material and that spreading onto its subpar adaptation. Although it managed to be the most popular show during the season it aired in, it was only thanks to all the famous competitors (Sword Art Online, Oregairu, and ReZero) getting postponed because of the pandemic and leaving only Kaguya Sama as the only actual threat. Basically, it wouldn’t have made such a splash if Covid-19 did not sabotage the competition. Not many care about Korean webcomics, and the tv airings in both Japan and Korea were fairly low.

As much as the fans of the webcomic were saying it’s not another shonen, at the same time they were calling it the Korean One Piece, Sword Art Online, Bleach, Hunter X Hunter, and whatever other titles they could think of. Double standards aside, it really plays out like a shonen and does a crappy job at being one. Let’s go over the 8 elements of a perfect shonen for explaining what I mean.

1) The protagonist is a victimized fake underdog. The world is being unfair to him, he lost the love of his life, and he appears to be weak when in reality he’s super special, gets more powerful in an instant, everyone around him loves him right away, and he is constantly being plot armored. The wonderful double standards show as soon as the first episode begins, where he gets saved a dozen times, just because he’s the main character, and is given hax powers he did not earn, just because he is cute. Is it lazy writing that makes the hero not being worthy of his victories? Yes, but it’s a shonen, people watch it for illusion of deserving to win even if they cheat all the way to the top. And it would be fine if it maintained that illusion, but it couldn’t. The protagonist has no personality; he’s just a boy scout. Hell, he doesn’t even have a backdrop because he has amnesia. He’s left blank so anyone can self insert easier. He can also defeat anyone without putting in any actual effort. There is nothing interesting about him; he is a piece of white toast and easily the weakest in characterization character.

2) The set up of the plot plays out like a coming of age sport story. Starting from the bottom and gradually improving as he gets to the top and slowly turning into a god (he doesn’t say he becomes one, but that is the name of the show as well as the endgame). He also has a love interest (he doesn’t say it, but we all know she is one), he has mentors (although they are closer to indirect guides so far), and he has rivals who are after the same thing he wants. You have the perfect formula of Karate Kid right here and all the show has to do is not to stray off. Which it did. In a few episodes it became apparent that all you need is broken powers and to betray everyone. There is not sportsmanship whatsoever, the mentors have no life lessons to provide besides extra abilities, and the love interest just doesn’t exist.

3) There have to be dozens of peers who are training along with the protagonist. There is a large number of support characters, all of which seem to contribute something to the world and the plot at first. But they soon end up sucking as rivals. They are not posing any threat, because he can easily overpower them. They were all instantly surpassed because he instantly learns every special attack. In effect, the secondary cast became obsolete in a few episodes and doesn’t matter in the longrun.

4) Tournament arcs! We always need those and the whole show happens to be one. Too bad the rules mean nothing, since they are constantly ignored or are broken all the time. Anyone who gets some spotlight during a duel (which is what makes this sort of thing great) is instantly overshadowed by someone else jumping in and stealing the attention.

5) The pilot of the series must have something shocking for hooking the audience right away. It did, albeit by jumping around like crazy and by having a lot of weird shit happening. It manages to attract shonen fans with a mysterious world, but messes up along the way by being confusing as hell. One moment the characters are killing each other, the immediate next they act friendly to each other, and then they are shocked for being betrayed when they were killing each other not long ago. The infodumps and the explanation of the rules and how the powers work are also a complete mess, since it’s impossible to follow what is going on with the way it is cryptic and eventually not followed through since everyone either lies or cheats.

6) Constant emotional reminders of what every character aspires to do. The protagonist can’t speak two sentences without yelling he wants to find his waifu. Is it annoying and makes him one-dimensional? Yes, but it’s a shonen, people watch it to see guys chasing after their dreams and not thinking of anything else. Everybody wants to go to the top for various reasons and they don’t shy away from mentioning them. If anything, their willingness to betray each other for achieving what they want only made their resolve more distinct as the episodes go by, so well done there.

7) The power system. Big oopsie there. Everyone is using superpowers, but they don’t seem to be following any specific rules. They bend however it suits the plot and they are completely imbalanced. They literally summon wish granting spirits and teleport around like crazy in the first episode alone. And in every next episode new powers pop into existence with no explanation or foreshadowing, or when they are explained and foreshadowed, it’s very confusing to understand how they work. Anaak can use healing magic all of a sudden, although it was never established that she could do it. The dolphins, which are not dolphins, are nowhere to be seen as soon as the bull, which is not a bull, appears. The wild boars that are mentioned in the briefing never appear in general. And the guy who was chewed alive by the bull, which is not a bull, he appears in the last episode completely fine, like it had never happened. That makes every fight to be completely random.

8) A feel of adventure and discovery. It’s about going up a tower that has many different levels, each one with its own culture and environment. It seems to have a lot of room for the awe of discovery, but does very little with it. Everyone is busy passing tests without ever interacting with the society they are in. Whenever something new is brought up, it’s only because it’s part of a test, and it loses its importance as soon as the test is over.

Elements aside, directing and cinematography are terrible in general. Here is a list of all the major problems I can think off, although there are many more minor ones.

1) The pacing is super fast. The plot speeds through every event with confusing explanations and no time to allow you to get to like anyone or anything before it’s over. It is impossible to understand what is going on, because the director removed 50% of the explanations and there are many translation errors in the official English subtitles that change completely the context of various scenes. No, it’s not becoming an administrator; it’s having the administrator’s approval. No, that animal is not a dolphin; it’s a seal. No, that weapon is not a needle; it’s a sword. And that is why most web readers hate the anime and recommend anime onlys to read the webcomic instead. That’s right people, this show that is supposed to be the beginning of a new era of anime is disapproved by its very fans. They only made a badly adapted infomercial for promoting the webcomic.

2) But this does not mean it’s the studio’s fault alone. The source material is 70% people explaining what is going on instead of showing it. 20% more comes from blog posts that SIU, the creator of the webcomic, wrote outside of the webcomic for adding details he couldn’t fit somewhere in the actual plot. You are mostly reading about the characters and the rules instead of actually seeing a damn thing. The director of the anime basically chose not to double the amount of episodes by keeping most of the talking, because he knew the viewers would be bored out of their minds. He chose to remove them for the sake of keeping the audience entertained with the action. If they want explanations, they can always read the source, which was the intention all along. It basically comes down to SIU being completely incompetent at delivering exposition by showing things instead of having a character saying it, or even worse, writing blogs that you read outside of the webcomic. And since everybody keeps saying he’s a genius for continuing to throw in more and more convoluted nonsense that are told instead of shown, he is given no incentive for improving his writing. Which is why he made the alligator character small, just because he would be funnier that way and he wouldn’t have to draw him. What a great in-story reason for doing it. Being bored to draw your own characters, so just have them being chibi comic reliefs, and fill your pages with huge speech bubbles that infodump the story instead of having to actually show a damn thing.

3) The use of cliffhangers is fake tension. A lot of episodes end in a way that makes it seem like something crazy is going to happen in the beginning of the next episode, and nothing happens. It’s just lazy hooks for making you click on the next episode only for disappointing you. No, character X is never going to die when the episode ends by implying he will, and there is not going to be an amazing battle right around the corner.

4) Friendship and teamwork make little sense, because none of the characters actively chooses to make friends or allies. It’s always something imposed by a test. One moment they say ‘kill each other’, the immediate next they say ‘befriend each other’, and the characters do so in an instant, and in a way that feels like they don’t have free will and act however it suits the plot. Basically, they are all plot devices and whatever they do feels artificial. Nobody is a friend or an ally. They are brainwashed to act as if they are. Evident in episode 2 for the first time when ‘befriending’ someone means jumping onto him and claiming they are now friends, even if the other guy doesn’t want to be your friend. That’s not how teamwork works. Funnily enough there is no actual betraying going on in later episodes because of that. In order to betray someone you first need to be a friend or a teammate. And the characters are neither; they just call each other friends because a previous test told them to. And it’s hard to call them teammates when it’s a one-time thing where you pass the test by literally making everybody else fail.

5) Rachel, the protagonist’s main waifu, is universally hated for betraying him, when in effect she is doing the exact same thing everybody else does all the time. Hers was the fourth betrayal in 3 episodes and nobody’s complaining about the previous three, although they were equally vile. It’s almost as if they hate her because she’s the main waifu in Bam’s harem, and the only one who hurt the empty husk of the self insert that is the main character, and that ruined the power fantasy they were getting up to this point.

6) As an extension to the above contradiction, the tone of the series is all over the place. One moment the tower is a maze of death traps where everybody constantly kills each other, and the immediate next it’s a cheerful high school where everybody is having friendly chats at the cafeteria. Characters help out or feel sorry for people who backstabbed them, before forgetting it even happened in the first place. A character who was ruthless enough to murder all the people she grew up with just so she would have better meals, for no reason risks her life to save a girl that hates her throughout the whole show.

7) The tests are pathetically simple and nowhere near as sophisticated as they make them seem to be when they explain the rules (poorly). The show is constantly trying to sound smart in order to fool the audience into thinking they are watching something smart, but down to it, it’s a run of the mill fighting shonen with a lot of needless complications. There was no point in Khun creating a fake crown for fooling the others, when Rak instantly defeats them all a few seconds later. There was no point in stalking the goblins and running around like idiots when all it took was Khun sabotaging the underwater canals. There was no point in fighting a monster that was holding back the whole time and which could easily defeat them whenever it felt like it. There is no skill or tactics in passing through a water barrier, or opening a door. It’s luck, latent powers, and overpowering the enemy with raw force. Since the protagonist has a truckload of that, he effortlessly passes all tests; sometimes by not doing anything at all. I am not joking; he passed half the tests by standing still and doing absolutely nothing. As for the other half of the tests, he just uses a new superpower that he either pulls out of his ass, or copies it in a second by looking at someone else using it. In effect, there is no tension regarding him surviving or not. Also, the tests are eventually not overcome by being good at whatever they require, but rather by making everyone else besides the traitor to fail. And since there is no penalty for cheating or backstabbing your ‘friends’ the tests are not even rewarding talent or skill. They reward ruthlessness and mean-spirited people. This is why every test is ultimately a waste of time and by extension the entire series is a waste of time. They could simply have a typical battle royale on the first level and nothing would change. The strongest and most ruthless would be the last remaining ones, they would become rankers, and that would be the end of the show.

8) There is a lot of videogame logic in the way magic and superpowers work, which can be very immersion breaking. Having character classes and earning points by passing challenges is like a low tier RPG. Using different words for describing classic videogame lingo is not saving face. Calling them positions instead of character classes, and light bearers instead of mages is not creative. And, as stated above, the videogame logic is useless, since down to it, it doesn’t matter what character class you are. As long as you are the strongest, nothing else matters. Which is the case with the white toast that is the main character, who for a millionth time passes every school test without trying, while everybody else exhaust themselves, break several bones of their bodies, and still do not perform as well as that piece of white toast. No wonder later on in the webcomic the positions become irrelevant.

9) The production values are mostly mediocre. For a show that is supposed to be unlike all other shonen and the beginning of a new era for anime, it received a subpar director, clucky animation, overall unappealing artstyle, and is in general way worse than a run of the mill shonen such as Demon Slayer, which does not try to reinvent the wheel. And on top of all that, when some episodes get outsourced to a different studio, which means they are made by a lesser team doing a sloppier job, they end up having better directing and animation. What does that say about the beginning of a new era for anime when the main director and the prime animation studio do a worse job than the guys who are supposed to fill in the blanks?

So as a whole, it’s a show that does not live up to its hype, looks bad, is very hard to follow, has no tension, no logic, and nothing to look forward to. A perfect summary of modern anime that are nothing beyond zero personality self insert OP protagonists forming a harem inside videogames.

3/10 story
6/10 animation
7/10 sound
2/10 characters
4/10 overall
NightTonight's avatar
Jun 24, 2020

The soundtrack is amazing, love it. 

The story is really good, haven't seen one like this in a while.

Pro Tip: Don't read the comments when you're watching this, under any circumstance. People are pathetic and terrible lmao.

The 1 season ends in around chapter 74 of the web novel.

9/10 story
8/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
apoc9's avatar
Aug 13, 2020

After watching the Tower of God, I still don't understand what it's about and what the heck is the Tower supposed to be. While most of the characters have potential and are somewhat interesting. Something which cannot be said about the blank protagonist, who is the chosen one. Why and what for that hasn't been properly established yet. I can only speculate. Among his hidden super powers is luck. Good luck to make any meaningful non-comical story with that.
The point is no matter how your characters seem intriguing if you don’t establish story and world for them, they are going to just hang in the air. Where the Tower of God is lacking most is the world building. It does not establish proper context for the story veiling itself in false sense of mystery. We have some scheming factions, organizational structures, races, series of haphazardly selected environments and tests … and Yes, the Tower itself. How does the Tower fits into this world? What role plays Jahad king in context to this world? Are there other “kings”? How about Jahad princesses? Even the whole deal with irregulars has not been explained properly. Yes, you may read the source and wiki, but then what is the point to making anime. It’s a defect, if anime fails to deliver without depending on external info even once. More so if it’s multiple times.
The show tries to imitate Hunter x Hunter, but falls very short in every regard. Hunter x Hunter had a storyline, proper world building, meaningful goals established. In the Tower of God initial goal of main protagonist … how to put it without spoilers … does some story-line stunt, but in this stunt it’s completely crippled forever. So, now what to do? Whoever made this did mess up the story line in attempt to be original. It’s like people who can’t cook start by making something original and mixing things together. Usually things, which don’t go really well together to begin with. Adding insult to the injury or salt to an open wound the last episode pushes the story over a cliff. Making effectively any further storylines pointless as far as the main protagonist is concerned.
What is goal of Khun the boy, who got kicked out of clan or wherever, who knows. I don’t know. Antagonists if one can speak of them in such term are not that all impressive either. In fact, there is just one truly bad guy and one interesting monster. Others are either kind of confused tragic characters, trolls or tacitly support the main protagonist. In the end victory is assured by plot convenience.
The crocodile-man character is primarily for the comic relief. He is basically playing role of Leorio. The thing he has with eating chocolate is overused to the death.

In a story, where a side character, who sleeps through most of the episodes and has more charisma than main protagonist, greatness is something you won’t find. It makes more sense to rewatch Hunter x Hunter. Overall impression is subpar. The only thing you are going to care about is which Jahad princess is the best.

3/10 story
6/10 animation
5/10 sound
3/10 characters
3/10 overall
SpiritOfCoffeeMug's avatar
Jun 25, 2020

I've been hearing about Tower of God for a long time now, but didn't check it out till this anime dropped out. Apparently this webtoon/manhwa had a great artstyle, interesting story and well-done characters. And when I heard it was receiveing anime adaptation I decided to approach it a bit differently. I read and watched the first season of ToG side-by-side comparing how well the adaptation fared compared to it's source material.

Sadly I have to say that this was a rushed adaptation, that left out some scenes from the manhwa that would've helped explaining the games/trials more in-depth and made them more interesting to follow, altered some of them and made some characters more your basic anime stereotypes than they were in the source material. First season of the source material isn't a masterpiece by any means either, but it did a lot better job at introducing the concept, characters, basics of the world and all the important stuff to the readers.

THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR BOTH ANIME AND THE FIRST SEASON OF THE WEBTOON!

If you want to get a spoiler-free experience skip to the overall-section of the review.

STORY:

Story centers around a kid named Bam, who follows the only person he ever knew to the Tower of God. It is rumored that when you reach the top of this tower you will attain everything you could ever want. Usually people and creatures who get the chance to try to climb on top of this Tower are choosen by the caretaker of the tower, but our Bam here did something special, since he opened the door to get to this tower by himself without being chosen. This makes him what they call Irregular. A person that is destined to bring chaos into the tower. This marks the beginningof the journey where Bam tries to climb up to the tower to follow the person who left him behind.

This is really abridged (and badly explained) version of the premise, which is pretty ok. It's your typical "zero-to-hero" type of story with pretty interesting world and mechanics built around it. Some examples of the concepts and ideas that made the story interesting are shinsu,which is a magical substance in the tower, different classes and roles for rankers (people who try to climb up the tower), ruling system and floor-system for example. It's nothing special, but it's a good starting point for a longer story and presents some questions and mysteries along the way. All these aspects makes it a fairly good proloque for a longer story.

Anime does mediocre job at conveying these ideas though. Usually the gist of everything is explained, but the added depth to many trials and central elements and concepts for example are completely left out or altered for the worst most of the time. These helped ToG manhwa to stand out from many of it's competitors in my opinion, but in anime adaptation the experience is left somewhat shallow and generic.

In short story feels like a recap with some altered scenes to those who started reading this many years ago. If you watch it standalone without touching the webtoon you get pretty mediocre experience. 

ANIMATION:

Animation is most of the time pretty good, but nothing special. It has it's own style and it stands out. Fight scenes are animated well and there isn't anything that sticked out to me in a bad way.

Artstyle is way better than in webtoon and it's one of those aspects where anime shines over it's source material. Currently ToG manhwa looks really good and you can see how the author has improved a lot since he started, but if we compare the first season of manhwa to the first season of anime then anime outshines it. Artstyle in anime version has a nice hand-drawn-like twist to it if you ask me and it blends the later style of the manhwa in it quite nicely. This makes it pop out in a good way to me.

SOUND:

Voice actors and actresses all did a good job and the choices were pretty spot-on if you ask me. Everyone did a good job, but like with animation there really wasn't anything outstanding about it.

Opening and ending songs are both really catchy and also one of the things that stood out to me in a good way. However visually they aren't that good. OST was pretty forgettable and there wasn't any track that stood out to me.

CHARACTERS:

All the characters that were left untouched ranged from generic to a good. I honestly can't say that any one of the characters were amazing, but Khun definitely is the most interesting one to follow with a pretty nice background story. His background story wasn't even cut that much, but webtoon adds that nice little punch to it.

All the characters that were changed were pretty unbearable to watch to someone who also simulread the first season. Most blatant example of this is Yuri Zahard. One of the princesess of the series and the person who at the beginning explains everything of importance to our main character. In the webtoon she is a little tsundere-ish type of person, but definitely has her own personality alongside with the tiny tsundere trait. However in the anime she is basically made to be a tsundere character. Some other personality alterations happened in a sense that some trait of the character was took and made it into their defining trait, which was kind of unnecessary and pointless. Why would you suck out the details that make characters unique and somewhat memorable out of them? It didn't benefit the story narrative or enhance the experience. So ultimately it was either to make them more appealing to the general audience, or just for shits and giggles. My bet is on the first option.

Gladly most of the characters were kept untouched and same as they were in the webtoon, but it's still an issue or bad design choice that is noticeable if you read the manhwa.

OVERALL:

Tower of God is pretty a mediocre experience, that goes through the first season of the webtoon in a rushed manner leaving some finer, but story- and world enhancing details out and altering a few of it's characters for the worse.

Do I recommend it? If you're absolutely against reading for some weird reason and want to experience it then I guess it's worth looking into. However if you are ok with reading then just go to read webtoon and forget this adaptation. However I would advice lowering expectations before going reading it. The first season of the webtoon is definitely better than the anime, but not 10/10 flawless work of art.

5/10 story
6/10 animation
6/10 sound
4/10 characters
5/10 overall
Qplayer's avatar
Aug 27, 2020

SPOILERS AHEAD

Really more like an “organized thoughts blog” rather than a formal review.

What I didn’t like:

  • Rachel: Ranked #193 on the Anime Planet most hated characters at the time of writing. I expect this ranking to climb as Rachel isn’t just an unlikable character. After her entire episode of exposition at the end, it’s revealed that she’s one of the most selfish, stupid, weak willed characters that I’ve ever seen in an anime. What’s worse is that she warps the entire story around herself, since she acts as the primary motivation for Bam which by extension drives the entire plot forward. Since Bam is spending literally the entire anime simping for Rachel, that bases the entire plot on sand, since Rachel will never reciprocate Bam’s feelings. Despite numerous opportunities for growth and development, even in a relatively short show, Rachel doesn’t show any sense of genuine remorse and continues to go ahead with her incomprehensible drive to climb the tower at all costs. And for what? Not even out of a sense of revenge or justice or betterment of herself or the world, but to “see the stars,” whatever that means. I would expect that if this show were to continue, Rachel would be subject to suffering (like most of the rest of the cast has had to endure), but so far she’s lucked out, and my inbuilt sense of justice was left unsatisfied by the fact that she essentially got away with betraying everyone for her own personal gain for no good reason. While there are other villains with similar character arcs, they usually have some level of justification, or at the very least serve as a good foil to the protagonist. Rachel does neither. She’s a weak character, a weak villain, and single handedly drags the story down.
  • Bam: A part of what makes Rachel a weak villain is that Bam is a weak protagonist. He’s just as strong willed as her, but for the side of good. I see that Rachel and Bam are two sides of the same coin, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I’d rather be watching the development of nearly every other character other than them, and that the author has decided to choose them as the main spotlight for this arc. I guess the reason is that it’s easiest to worldbuild a massive fantasy world with power levels off the charts through the lens of the weakest characters (e.g. the Lord of the Rings being told from the perspective of the hobbits), but generally you at least give those characters some likable qualities in order for the audience to sympathize with them. Neither Rachel nor Bam were likable characters overall, and it’s a disappointment that they were chosen as the centerpieces of the first arc. Literally any of the other characters would have made more interesting main characters, Kuhn, Rak, Anaak, EVEN TRACKSUIT GUY (Shibisu). 
  • Ending with what was essentially a clip show was really disappointing. I’m sure it was done for budgetary reasons, being able to sign a contract for 13 episodes while only producing 12, but it really killed any momentum the plot had. It was essentially an entire episode of character exposition for Rachel, a character universally reviled (for good reason, see below). Obviously since the show plans to have a second season, ending the first season on a cliffhanger would have been perfectly acceptable and generated tense hype for further adaptation. Tying up loose ends in exposition that could have been included at the start of the next arc makes the ending much less dramatic and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Even the above deficiencies might have been overlooked if this season had an ending that left a lasting impression on me rather than the disappointing monologue of exposition that we got.

What I liked:

  • Music: For an anime that’s stylistically distinct from its peers, it’s appropriate that the producers went above and beyond to make a soundtrack that supports the anime’s unique aesthetic. To me the soundtrack gave the atmosphere of the tower and almost religious feel, one where you hear sounds that you wouldn’t hear in ordinary life or even in typical cinematic orchestration. A full analysis of the music would be another blog in of itself, but I recommend watching the behind the scenes video with composer Kevin Penkin for some insight into the anime’s score. 
  • Worldbuilding: The sense of scale in Tower of God was immediately apparent, and yet the writers generally did a good job in focusing on the parts of the world relevant to the plot rather than developing tangential parts of the world. Since the anime is only 13 episodes, every second of plot development was critical to contributing to the massive world while also making sure the story progressed. The arc based structure of the story where each floor has its own challenge certainly helped keep the writing on track.
  • Animation: Tower of God’s animation style brings the sketchy style of Webtoons to life. I’m glad that the directors kept the distinct artistic style of the Webtoon and found a way to make it work in animation. It makes the anime unique.
  • Literally every other character besides the main ones: As mentioned above, many of these side characters were strong enough to be the focus of the anime, but I’m glad that they were able to get some proper character development in such a short season. Even the relatively minor side characters like Lauroe (sleepy guy) played an important role to play and left a lot of room for personal stories to be told.

Conclusion:

Tower of God is a unique experience that may issue in a new era for anime adaptations. It introduced an exciting new world that I anticipate following for several more seasons. I for one welcome our new Webtoon overlords.

6/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall