Tower of God Review: What You Need to Know Right Now
April 1, 2020, was a big day for anime fans. Crunchyroll rolled out Tower of God in a much-hyped collaboration with Webtoon. This latest offering—from the brain of writer and artist extraordinaire Lee Jong-hui—started life as a comin in 2010. It has pulled in almost 5 billion views since its inception. It has also been translated into eight languages.
Scratch that. Unofficially, the fan favorite has been translated into more than twenty languages, and has amassed a following of loyal readers across the globe. Also unofficially, Lee Jong-hui—also known as SIU—has no plans to retire the anime passion project. In fact, he’s still putting out fresh chapters every Monday.
So has the jump from comic to animation helped the Tower of God title engage a new fan following? In a nutshell: yes. In this review, we’re unpacking the backstory of Tower of God, and a full-length review of the series so far.
Here’s what Webtoon followers and anime aficionados worldwide can expect from Tower of God.
Tower of God Review: What You Need to Know Right Now
The Origin Story
Tower of God is written and drawn by SIU—Slave In Utero. The writer and artist may be a skilled comic developer in his own right, but he once went under a very different name: as a mandatory military soldier in the South Korean army. After his mandatory conscription to military service, Lee Jong-hui took up drawing cartoons at the suggestion of one of his commanding officers.
Leading up to its 2010 release, SIU immersed himself in Tower of God world-building. He sketched and conceptualized ten books’ worth of material, and then unleashed his creation on the world. The series, currently in its second season, has 4.5 billion views so far.
Who We’re Following
Tower of God follows Twenty-Fifth Bam—which translates to Twenty-Fifth Night in SIU’s native language. Twenty-Fifth Bam, a young boy, has spent his life in the underground annals of a mysterious tower. He has no memory of his past. His best friend and tutor, Rachel, is his only companion.
One day, Rachel mysteriously vanishes. She has found her way into the tower above, determined to see the stars, even if it means she pays for the privilege with her life.
Bam’s search for Rachel starts with the tower’s gatekeeper. Here, he learns that in order to find his beloved friend, he’ll need to pass a series of dangerous and life-threatening tests (let’s be real—the tests are usually monsters).
The Tower of God itself is made up of hundreds of levels. As Bam battles fantastical beasts and psychopathic “residents”, we learn—along with Bam—that the tower is controlled by a magical element called Shinsu. Shinsu is controlled by the residents of the upper levels of the tower.
Still with us? Good. Because with billions of loyal fans, this is a storyline you’re going to get hooked on pretty fast.
What We Thought
The series starts off strong.
When it comes to large-scale anime fantasy, developers and storytellers often get caught up in a 30 minute backstory set-up. Often, these amount to a complex info dump that is way too complicated for the scale of the episodes themselves.
Tower of God avoids this entirely—whether intentionally or not—by giving us a protagonist with no memory of his past. It’s almost a relief not to be submerged in exposition at the outset. With the exception of a quick illustrated walk-through of the tale so far, mainly focused on Rachel, there is very little build-up.
We say ‘almost’ a relief…but more on that in a few minutes.
Tower of God uses a storytelling structure that seems to be in line with a video game than with fantasy anime. You’ve got the peripheral characters offering up small but vital information to push Bam in the right direction. You’ve got levels that pose various challenges and adventures. Tower of God offers up enough information to keep viewers hooked, but never quite offers up enough to allow all the puzzle pieces to fall into place.
Where the animated series really performs, though, is in the character building. Even for friends and colleagues who are new to the Tower of God franchise, Bam is a character we get emotionally invested in.
We start off with a blank canvas with this character—bar his devastation over Rachel’s disappearance. Gradually, though, his personality comes to the fore. As the series has progressed, small flashbacks build out their relationship and help newbies and Day-1 fans get to know our lead character.
The Graphic Style
Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of binge watching the Tower of God comics, you’ll appreciate the series for its beauty. The animation style is eye-catching, hypnotic, and delightfully artful. It stays true to artist SUI’s style, but adds pop art influence and soft lines for something uniquely original.
Tower of God combines 2D characters and 3D backgrounds for extra depth and a kind of mythical vibe. To take that surreal feeling to the next level, the storyboarders have boosted image saturation, too.
It all comes together to create a quirky, dreamlike feel.
For viewers who haven’t been following the comics, we can sum up the series’ backstory in two words: Frustratingly vague. If you need to know what you’re walking in to, it may pay to catch up with the comics first. Earlier in this review we said that the minimal intro was ‘almost a relief,’—and this is why. Without the exposition, viewers might easily feel that they’d missed out on some major plot points.
Similarly, the lack of information offered up throughout the first few episodes doesn’t do much to assuage that feeling of, ‘huh?’
On the upside, there are several quirky—and non-essential—characters that pop up along Bam’s journey, offering just enough to keep the story ticking over.
The Last Word
Just when you think Bam is going to do the predictable, the script gets flipped. Tower of God might be one of the most unpredictable anime fantasy series of 2020. With its compelling storyline and addictive desire to uncover the powers behind the Tower, the show toys with our emotions and keeps us obsessing over where Bam’s adventure will take us next.
Curious? We don’t blame you. Watch the first episode of Tower of God now on Crunchyroll.