Tower of God
Series Name: Tower of God
Year of Serialization: Released in 2010
Author(s): SIU (Slave In Utero. It's just one person, not a group.)
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Psychological, Shounen, Supernatural, Webtoons
Current Status: Ongoing
Moment of Reviewing: Season 2 Chapter 65 (144 chapters)
Other Formats: N/A
What do you desire? Fortune? Glory? Power? Revenge? Or something that surpasses all others? What ever you desire, 'that is here'. Tower of God.
Tower of God is a Manhwa that focuses around the protagonist; Baam. Baam was lonely as a child, but soon found solace and comfort in his own personal star, Rachel. Rachel became Baam's one and only friend, they talked, played and Rachel ultimately taught him about the world. However one day Rachel decided to enter The Tower. Naturally Baam had grown attached to Rachel, and followed in pursuit of Rachel, attempting to prevent her from going into the tower. However his attempts proved futile, as Rachel vanished into the tower. Baam however refused to let it be, and decided that since he couldn't stop her, he would follow her, and thus he also entered into The Tower.
The Tower is extensively huge, massive, world like. Not only is it huge, but there is also civilization within the Tower. Not just a few wanderers, but rather billions, possibly trillions of people. Every being within the tower is aware that at the top, at the very crest of this huge tower, awaits everything and anything. Everything that you want exists at the top of the tower, anything you desire. Or at least that's what we're told. With such a promise lies masses of people yearning to reach the top, the true top. Many have tried, none have truly succeeded. Not even the king of the empire that rules the tower has managed to do so. For to reach the top, you must surmount each floor, and to do so you must pass the test of the Guardians. A task which can prove to be perilous even to the most veteran of climbers.
Thus our protagonist Baam embarks on his journey to find Rachel; who wishes to reach the top, no matter what, no matter how. His story is one that features friends, enemies, and nefarious organizations, and most interestingly of all, Baam isn't always its focus.
Tower of God is amazing. It's both a story driven and character driven Manhwa, to such an extent that Baam isn't always the plots focus, yet he always remains to be the main protagonist, or perhaps antagonist? As of now I'm 144 chapters in, and currently it seems that this manhwa could easily reach 500+ chapters. However the best thing is, that ToG is simply a part of a universe in which the author is trying to build, so fear not, even should ToG end, another would soon be on the way. Now before I start I'll just say that I'm unfortunately not all that great at alluding to things, nor am I that great at circumventing information that may be considered spoiler. So please do read this at your own risk. To be honest I'm not sure where to start. But I'll give it a shot nonetheless.
I didn't sleep when I first started on Tower of God. I tried my very best to do it all in one sitting. But I eventually ended up succumbing to fatigue, at 7am in the morning that is. When I awoke I resumed my reading with intense vigor, in my bodacious attempt to make up for lost time. During my read, I often found myself empathizing with the characters on a level that only a few Anime's and Manga's had allowed me to do so before, for instance Code Geass. I was often shocked, amazed and gobsmacked by some of the events and plot-twists that occurred. I was also in awe at the amount of foreshadowing that the author used. Some of which were so painstakingly obvious, such as blatantly displayed symbols. Yet their true meanings remained to be quite elusive, as the world that the author has managed to build is truly immense. To date I've read Tower of God three times, yet I first read it only a few months ago. I'm not sure if that counts for anything, but in my opinion it does. Rarely do I ever re-read or re-watch things, the few exceptions being One Piece, FMA and Code Geass. But I have re-read ToG, and I will probably continue to do so on several more occasions. Anyway, I've decided to split this review up into sections, and I think I'll start with art.
I'm not going to lie, the art is pretty horrible at first. It's not unbearable, and it's still pretty clean, but it's not all that aesthetically pleasing either. However within the first 25 chapters, it manages to step up to a level that rivals other well drawn Manhwa, such as Noblesse and GoH. This is probably the first obvious display of the writers dedication, which I wholeheartedly admire. Not only does he give us chapters that are generally longer than they should be, but he even writes a weekly blog with additional information. Although perhaps the Blog is a bit of a cheat on the world building, but hey. Anyway, I can't fault the art as of now. Yes, it is different from a Manga's art, but that's because it's a Manhwa Webtoon. That means it's coloured, rather than inked in black and white. As aforementioned the Art remains to be exceptionally clean, as is probably a generic trait of many Manhwa's due to their separated panel style. So even with its originally bad art, character actions remain to be pretty clear and well defined. I also have to say that the author is pretty good at expressing emotions through body language and facial positioning. His character designs are also pretty original, and the characters don't just wear one set of clothing, so that's a plus.
Now onto the unique world that is Tog, which falls hand in hand with the intricately well crafted story. I can only liken Tower of God's world to One Piece. As not only is it vast, but it's also portrayed in a wonderful in depth manner. It can be said that there are three main divisions or factions within ToG. The light, which is the government. The shadow, which is of course your good old evil organization. And then your third power that doesn't really care about the ways of the tower, as they have their own agenda. However there remains to be an immense power within ambiguity, as there's a lurking chance that all may not be as it seems. The perception of light and dark, and just and evil may be skewed. The views of the masses could potentially be wrong, but they could also just as easily be right. Thus there exists a thin mirror like wall, that when broken could effectively turn the whole story topsy turvy. The answer to the questions of what faction is right and which is wrong lie in the past. However they also exist in the present, as the passage of time within the tower isn't that of the norm. But despite the political powers of the rivaling factions, even should they disappear, the tower would continue to function. As the true rulers of the tower are the Guardians. To put it simply, Guardians administer tests, and those who pass the test shall proceed to the next floor. Those who don't, can't, and in many cases die sour vain deaths. The thought of climbing a perilous tower should of course seem absurd, but the promise of whatever you wish provided you reach the top allures the masses. Tempts them to such an extent that they would be willing to risk their lives, and everything else, both tangible and intangible, that they own. Thus we're bombarded with both positive and negative thoughts and views of those who're trying to get to the top. Whether it be sheer determination; an overwhelming belief in oneself to achieve; or the edge needed to mow down all competition, even friends, to achieve your goal. Of course the darker views, such as the gall and perhaps insanity needed to stab away at your bonds to fulfill greed, are heavily explored within ToG. Despite being an action shounen, ToG does manage to deliver on the subject of morality. Perhaps not as much as epics like FMA, but it manages to do so ever so cleverly, in its own little way.
Being an Action Manhwa, Tower of God has its own set of powers which are utilized to fight. I must say that the ability system of ToG is exceptionally unique and showcases the authors ingenuity. Shinsoo, roughly translated as Deity Water is an amazing idea. It's incredibly simple, yet complex to a certain degree. Not to mention that the fighting styles are somewhat reminiscent of an RPG, with the fighting positions and etcetera. In fact, a few things in Tog are RPG like, however it's kept to its own unique genre as it also contains technology and other aspects, all blended to create a unique world. If I attempted to explain ToG's fighting styles I'd be here for ages, but it's very, very, very unique. I have to say that Naruto has an exceptionally original fighting system of it's own, Chakra, Clans, Kekkai Genkai, Hidden Abilities, Bijuu, Summons and so on. However ToG definitely holds a candle to Naruto's fighting system, perhaps even overshadows it. The best thing with ToG however, is that powers and the like never feel forced, as power-ups aren't the driving force behind this Manhwa. Even the physically weak can ascend, should they be underhanded enough.
As for characters; every now and again something comes along that manages to do so many things right. It manages to change tropes so as to adapt them to its own style. It realises that more can often be less, and manages to erase thoughts of every disgustingly made, appallingly cliche character from your mind, even if only for a little while. You don't end up comparing its characters to those from another series every few seconds, rather it remains to be quite difficult to recall other characters for comparison. Every now and again you may stumble upon a Manga or Manhwa which animates the characters within your mind, their personalities almost coming to life. A few panels may seem like a whole chapter, or a chapter may seem like several chapters, not because its boringly dragging, but rather the areas in between the lines are projected forth unto us. Every character in ToG has a past, cause and purpose. Their pasts also generally tend to seem well fleshed out despite the rather small screen time, so don't expect any suffocatingly long 3 chapter + flashbacks, as ToG doesn't do that. Every character adds something, whether it be to the overall ambiance, or plot wise. You have characters who served the purpose of highlighting the fact that betrayal runs rampant throughout the story. And will continue to do so for various reasons, whether it be out of jealousy, or selfish personal advancement. You have characters who are mysterious and at times seemingly unimportant, however their very presence defines some of the most audacious plot twists of the series.
In Tog you have characters ranging from the highly intellectual, cunning, and unscrupulous *Insert filler name here*, to the intensely powerful, idolized and often violent Zahard Princesses. Which brings me to my next point, ToG has some amazing, interesting, useful and powerful female characters. Some of which are often utilized as marginally possible love interests, despite being shoes in a glass display case. Overall, the characters of Tower of God are amazing. I'd like nothing more than to talk about each and every one of them, but that would be too spoilerish.
Before I start to wrap this review up, I'll just say that Tower of God has an amazing plot, with many twists and a great lore. Tower of God's plot fully fleshes out the vicious betraying atmosphere of ToG. A prime example being that the Main Character becomes a victim of ambitions and political struggles within the tower. Tower of God isn't simple, it twists, loops, zigzags and double-crosses. You can't get through everything with fighting, unless you're monstrously strong, and by monster I mean a literal monster, not above average, more like average times a few light-years. So unless you're galaxies ahead, you will have to abide by the towers political system. You will be manipulated, controlled and crapped upon by friends and enemies alike. However even strength doesn't equate to invulnerability. The idea of survival of the fittest is heavily promoted throughout, by the view of 'to step or be stepped on', however the definition of the fittest can be warped and changed. Tower of God is quite dark, it's a shounen, or at least the Korean Shounen equivalent. So you can expect it not to contain rape or anything,(or at very least for it to only be implied, not shown), but it's definitely on the dark side. It's also very thought provoking. The challenges and trials within ToG are rather game like. Much like Hunter x Hunter, wits and tactics can be as powerful a tool as brute strength. In ToG, a single mistake can lead to death. Perhaps a fitting price to pay to reach the place in which all of your desires reside. But will you throw away something worth more than what's at the top? Perhaps that's the true question of ToG.
In conclusion; Tower of God is amazing. However it's also a bit of a victim of its own success. SIU is a bit of a troll, not a bad one like Kubo, but a huge troll nonetheless. I'll also take this opportunity to say that you absolutely should not fall for SIU's gender trap cards, ever. But anyway, SIU does some very unexpected things, which I can only call amazing plot trolling. However sometimes he takes the easy route out of a certain situation, removing the trolling and just leaving great storytelling. When he does that, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. I know I shouldn't as it's still amazing, but the quality of his work is so great that even small variations feel like a huge blow, especially at pivotal arc points. Tower of God is one of, if not my most anticipated Manga/Manhwa. Every week I expect excellence, something that I can at very very least say 4.5/5 to, and most of the time SIU delivers. But on the few occasions that he doesn't, I can't help but feel a bit downtrodden.
ToG, in a way, also falls prey to too many side characters, this can be particularly annoying should you not like a side character who's currently getting all the attention. However, personally, I end up forgetting any rage moments I might have had over character spotlights. Simply because, as previously aforementioned, every character has a purpose. If a character is suddenly getting huge amounts of attention, stuff will happen. Also, SIU has pretty amazing pacing, so honestly I don't find it that big of a deal. While it is noticeable, its also pretty great since he's managing to juggle so much characters in an epic way. It's also especially great if it's one of your favorites are currently in the limelight.
So while ToG does have a few faults, it also manages to steer clear of most, if not all of the annoying tropes that occur in anime and manga. Such as 'random bad guy of the week'. SIU also acknowledges that Drama can be an important aspect in a Shounen Manhwa, and he manages to utilize drama to great effect. Nearly every week I'm left craving more, each chapter seemingly ending on a high through one way or another, in fact the last 23 chapters have all ended on amazing highs. SIU seems to be doing an amazing job on building up and holding tension and suspense recently. Something that's possible as SIU is constantly striving to improve. You don't have to read his blog posts to see that he's trying hard, as the Manhwa's improvement is a testament in itself. Each time SIU improves on a different aspect, with his very first drastic improvement probably being the art. Overall, this would be a series which I'd give a 10/10 to, something that I rarely do, although if I judged harshly on the Art then perhaps a 9/10.
Credits to AR-UA @ DeviantArt
Credits to Ambibot @ DeviantArt
~ Reviewed by Scaze
PS. Could a Manhwa prefix possibly be added?