Tower of God

3 out of 5

Directed by: Takashi Sano

covers season 1

A plot almost wholely centered around MacGuffins.  Poorly explained “rules” to its world.  Too many characters.  Anime (and movies, and shows) have sunk under far less hindrances than those just mentioned; Tower of God manages to still be a fun week-to-week watch despite them, thanks to a lot of those too-many characters being instantly appealing, the “rules” at least filtered through constantly changing backdrops, and MacGuffins that, owing to the essentially video-gamey structure of the show, have a nice sense of progression built into them.  So it works.  But because there’s source material (a web manwha) and a webtoon preceding this particular adaptation of the title, there’s the sense that a lot of things are being cut out to fit into a bite-sized show, and those potential-lot-of-things are so intriguing that’s it’s rather a shame that studio Telecom and director Takashi Sano couldn’t more effectively bring them into play.

The setup: get to the top of the Tower and get your wish granted.  Bing bang boom.  Scattered around this concept are those fascinating world-building tidbits: of those who live in the Tower and are chosen for the game; those who come from outside of the Tower – Irregulars, like our protagonist Bam – and are allowed to compete; the class hierarchy in the Tower; those who wield a “Shinsu” power source found amongst the Tower; and then the strange, competitive (and potentially deadly) games that are set before those trying to climb to the higher levels.

A lot of this is plopped on a viewer right away, which is rather standard for fantasy anime, but the show fails at building on it in a way that helps define the actual space of the Tower.  During our “games,” in which Bam finds himself falling onto a team which includes a mysterious, sprightly fellow and a giant, warlike alligator, the location of characters in relation to one another and in relation to the game is generally poorly defined, as are the nitty gritty details of each game, beyond a gist of “get to the exit,” or “capture the crown.”  And yet Bam – and those who end up becoming his friends – are so instantly endearing (and enigmatically animated) and often laugh out loud funny in their interactions with one another that you become glued to these relationships.  Action sequences similarly dazzle in their fluidity, despite the lack of grounding mentioned, and those damned story tidbits keep getting rolled out in a way that’s definitely ineffective – we never stick with a point for long enough to really get going on it – but doesn’t feel random; again, the show benefits from seemingly having a good setup in the manwha / webtoon.  So each new detail is frustratingly interesting, as it speeds on by and exposes yet another detail in its wake.

Eventually, I found myself watching the first season of Tower just to watch, and not really to pay much attention to those details.  But this wasn’t a hate watch – I looked forward to it, I just wasn’t really absorbing it.  That’s rather effective entertainment, I suppose, but I do wish it amounted to more.