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.
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.