This Spring season of anime already seems like a weird one. With big chunks of it either getting pushed back or shelved indefinitely. I haven’t delved too far into what’s been affected, but the COVID-19 pandemic that’s affecting the entire world right now has pushed back a lot of anime production. Which means the future of this season really is up in the air as of the time I’m writing this.
A consistence of this being; I’m not sure how much new anime I’m going to be watching this season. I’m not saying there isn’t anything out there, but the takings are light to say the very least. There is some stuff out there, so I guess I best get cracking and take a look at the main series Crunchyroll are pushing this season: Tower of God.
I went into this one pretty much blind, knowing nothing about it, just having a sneaking suspicion that it was an isekai. Having watched the first three episodes, I can’t say that it’s not an Isekai, strictly speaking. But it’s not in the way you’re thinking.
Based on a South Korean webtoon, the anime feels like something of an old school battle shonen in a lot of respects. One that takes some pretty liberal chunks of inspiration from other anime in the genre, which I’ll come to. But for now:
The story begins with a boy by the name of Bam chasing a girl called Rachel. He cries to her not to leave him, but she seems determined, vanishing from within his grasp. Distraught, Bam follows her into the tower, beginning his long journey to reunite with her. (Or maybe not as long as you’d assume based on the ending of third episode.)
Thus this boy finds himself before some rabbit creature and is told that he needs to prove himself in order to gain the right to climb the tower. At this early stage, I was very curious as to what was actually happening in this series. Everything seemed so dreamlike, with no anchor to reality for me to ground myself in.
At first it felt like there was some deeper meaning to the series, almost as if the journey up the tower was one giant metaphor for life after death, how climbing the tower was a metaphor for ascending into heaven and getting tested along the way. With Rachel’s melancholy lamentations before vanishing about wanting to see the stars an analogue for finding God.
But then Bam passes his test and is whisked away into the world of the show and it starts to feel a lot more grounded, my metaphysical ponderings seeming to fall completely flat and leave me feeling red in the face.
Bam seems like a peaceful, but determined boy who knows next to nothing of the world or people thanks to growing up alone in some kind of underground. His only connection being with the girl called Rachel. Yet, despite this, as soon as he gets into the tower we learn he possesses some kind of terrifying “chosen one” powers that attract others towards him right from the get go. Despite him being passive in pretty much everything he’s doing.
Once in the tower proper, Bam finds himself in a wide open field. A small drone floats above, informing him and the 399 other individuals in this space that the first test is about to begin, and will conclude when there are only 200 souls remaining. Thus chaos ensues as we get the first anime adaptation of a battle royal video game. (Don’t correct this)
From here, the show started to feel far less dreamlike and more shonen-esque. The task of climbing this tower being given a tournament-like structure, what with the ongoing series of challenges for its heroes that eliminate some number of them little by little. It hit me like a train when I realised it, but in so many ways watching it this show made me think of Hunter x Hunter.
It was specifically when Khun showed up, who was as off-brand Killua as you could possibly get based on his appearance and attitude in the first arc of HxH. From here, we’re introduced to a bunch of standout “regulars”, humans and beast people with a range of powers that make them stand out as power combatants with a range of abilitites.
Once the number has been whittled down to 200, the remaining entrants are informed that they need to create three person teams, ones they’ll remain in for the rest of the tower ascension. Through some tomfoolery, Bam and Khun manage to team up with the large, lizardman spearman named Rak. A boisterous, hunt obsessed meathead who quickly became my favourite character in the series, being just about as irreverent to everything going on around him as everyone else was taking it way too seriously.
The structure of the show begins to solidify from here, as the characters are brought into a break room of sorts and we’re given an establishment of the rules of the tests that they’ll be subjected to as the ascend the tower, complete with a handy introduction of the liquid based power system that’ll no doubt become a factor in the future. Y’know, like Nen.
All explained by the “Ranker” Lero Roi, who just looks like Hisoka. Between “Regulars”, “Rankers” and “Irregulars”, there are a lot of proper nouns being thrown around here, more than I care to explain, but for the most part, the remaining episodes throw some more tests at the characters, while also fleshing out Khun’s backstory and already giving him some resolution to his major character malfunction; that he can’t trust others. This is just 13 episodes though, guess we can’t dwell on these things like weekly Shone like to.
Verdict: Diet Hunter x Hunter? Sign me up!
This show seems to be going at a lightning pace, all the drawn out shonen tropes of these stories are being crammed into the show, at only 13 episodes, they need to get it out there fast, but I’m conditioned to see these kinds of shonen battle anime being streched out over weekly anime or at least over 20something episodes.
This one is barrelling through and has already taken a lot of weird turns since my expectation off the back of the first episode.
Bam is a piece of cardboard though, thus far he’s been hardly present after the events of the first episode. Except having this chosen one vibe to him in how the characters regard him. The supporting characters are where my interest lies right now and I’m kind of interested in the nature of the “world outside” that Bam comes from in comparison to the world of the tower that seems to encompass the entire world to everyone inside it.
I’m interested in what I’ve seen so far now that the show seems to have established some kind of grounding and am looking forward to seeing which shonen trope tick boxes it gets to first, because I’m almost certain this show is just going to go by the book. And I’m happy with that.
And from what I’ve seen, this series has already finished production, so the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting the world right now shouldn’t affect the release schedule of this series too drastically, so it’ll be one of the series this season that I will be able to finish.