Tower of God (神之塔), directed by Takashi Sano in 2020, is an animated series that is considered a “breakthrough” in the genre of Japanese anime. But what exactly is so special about Tower of God? The plotline, soundtrack, characters, and art are definitely factors that contribute to Tower of God’s popularity, but is that all there is to it?
Tower of God is the first Japanese anime series adapted from Webtoon, a collection of digital comics originating from South Korea. Before this, most Japanese anime were adapted from Japanese Manga. Unlike Japanese manga creators, who are professional, Webtoon creators are mostly made up of amateur writers submitting their work online as a hobby. When amateur work has a chance of becoming popularized and turned into an official TV show, this gives everybody a chance to write their own story and create their own content. Most anime today are adapted from professional Japanese manga.
A characteristic of Webtoons that separates it from manga other than the language difference is the way it is presented. Generally, Japanese manga are printed and sold as a hard copy. On the other hand, comics from Webtoons are designed to be read on a mobile device, so each volume is presented in a continuous vertical strip. They are also more likely to contain color, which most manga lacks, and some Webtoon comics contain music and bits of animation.
Tower of God was created in collaboration with Crunchyroll. Many recent streaming sites such as Netflix have been releasing “originals”, which is content funded by the streaming service. Most Netflix originals, such as Stranger Things, are only available on the platform they were released on. Similar to Netflix, Crunchyroll is a streaming service containing mostly animated content. Tower of God is one of Crunchyroll’s first “originals”, a project that launched recently in the year of 2020.
As stated previously, another factor that contributes to Tower of God’s popularity is the main storyline. The plot revolves around a boy named Bam, who lives his entire life in a small cave under the tower. One day, a girl named Rachel finds Bam in the cave, and teaches him about the outside world. When she leaves Bam alone in the cave to enter the tower, Bam decides to do whatever it takes to meet her once again.
When Bam eventually enters the tower, it becomes clear that his motives are very different from all the other characters. All of the characters are climbing the tower because doing so will allow them to have a wish or desire granted. For instance, a humanoid crocodile named Rak Wraithraiser, aspires to reach the top of the tower in order to find something that “transcends all things”. In contrast, the protagonist Bam simply wants to be reunited with Rachel, the only person who was with him during his time of loneliness in a dark cave. Rachel herself entered the tower in order to see real stars, which were rumored to be visible at the top of the tower. Unlike the others, Bam does not wish to reach the top of the tower.
Each layer of the tower is filled with tests and danger. A powerful administrator who has reached the top manages the trials of each layer. There are many hopeful contestants who want to make it to the top, but only those who have the sheer willpower to do so will be able to make it.
Along with an alluring storyline, Tower of God also boasts a masterful soundtrack. The director of sound, Kevin Penkin, became well known after composing music for the award winning anime Made in Abyss (Masayuki Kojima, 2019).
Tower of God’s success has also been an influential aspect in the production of other anime adapting the Korean Digital Comics. More content similar to Tower of God, such as Noblesse (2020) or The God of Highschool (2021) will be released within the next couple seasons of anime.
Overall, the joined efforts of production companies collaborating with Crunchyroll have created a one of a kind series displaying its ability to compete with traditional Japanese anime. With a powerful plotline, an immersive soundtrack, a set of interesting characters, and a unique origin, the anime Tower of God has the ability to push the entire genre of anime to a new level.