Hello! The following is a very spoiler heavy discussion on some character aspects and morality of the anime form of Tower of God for what is available now, season 1. Irina seems to be the one we all go to when talking about Tower of God around this blogosphere, so I enlisted her help in some important topics. She’s in bold!
Once again, massive spoiler warnings!
Hi Everyone. How has everyone been doing? It’s been a decade in internet time since Tower of God has come out. Still, considering that it was the first of many “original” Webtoon animations on Crunchyroll’s platform, I think the show is still as relevant now as it was when it just ended. Today, I am joined by the ever wonderful Irina to discuss a certain character by the name of Rachel which a lot of people have some opinions about. Not necessarily good ones.
Hi Irina, hope you’ve been well. Before we start, I know you’ve stated your opinions on Tower of God in a lot of places, but what are your general feelings towards the show itself just as a baseline to start this off.
I’m probably one of the very few who not only liked it a lot but preferred it to the source material (as far as season 1 is concerned). Without it being revolutionary I thought it was a very well paced and beautifully produced series with some really nice framing that managed to take a very familiar setting and make it exciting. At least for me.
And I know I already mentioned it but I really think the pacing was really the magic of the show. The speedup and slowdown of events was just so incredibly well done that it made everything seem more interesting or exciting to me. I would happily watch another season and I bet it’s even better as a binge.
I haven’t checked out the source material myself, but I agree. This season of Tower of God was pretty good. Not perfect, but very well executed with some very memorable characters and cool concepts. I’m happy that I did enjoy it because I have been struggling with liking some shonen jump adaptations because there was something off about them. I kind of felt a little frustrated because shonen action series are still a demographic/genre that I still watch a lot of.
Tower of God really has a pretty memorable and wonderful cast, but I think Bam and Rachel are ones that have a lot more going on in regards to the story of this anime.
I think I have to disagree with you on that one. Khun seems to have a pretty heavy backstory and I would argue is the most developed character in the season. I certainly got more motivation and character nuance out of him than out of most. As for narrative importance, then sure, Bam is the protagonist and Rachel has a plot device role which makes them both very important but the princesses and administrators also pull the story along and are the characters most responsible for world building I think. So I figure it’s a mixed bag.
This said, as far as season 1 goes, Rachel is both the inciting element that gets the whole story going and the ultimate conflict so she gets top billing for plot importance in my book. Sure there is no story without Bam since it’s his story, but this particular story doesn’t exist without Rachel the way I see it.
Ok, I think you kind of found what I was going for. I agree that Khun is the most developed character in the season itself. I would dare say, in a somewhat controversial statement, that Endorsi should also be put into that list. Khun has a small arc in this season and Endorsi has a somewhat relevant arc as well because she’s changed a little bit from beginning to end. But in a very shonen jump sort of sense, the show wouldn’t work without Bam pulling people into his cause and gaining friends as those characters usually do.
I think that’s an interesting place to start this. Bam’s motivation in breaking into the tower in the first place could have been changed and the story wouldn’t have changed too much. It seems a pretty deliberate choice to make that motivation be Rachel escaping from him, but not too far so she’s right underneath his nose pretty much, while also making her as flawed as she is. It really sets the tone of the story and looking back at it, makes me much more endured to the story a little more than I was when Tower of God season one ended. I also really like what SIU was going and Rachel is a highlight of the show for me.
You know what I find really interesting. You just characterized Rachel choosing to climb the Tower as “Rachel escaping from Bam”. And I see that. Rachel was obviously deeply unhappy and from the little we saw, she sort of got saddled with Bam. She found him by accident and then he just stuck to her like a small child. It’s sweet and all but it’s also a huge responsibility to just put on someone out of the blue and with no warning.
Again, we really don’t see much of their life before and it is from the point of view of an unreliable narrator but it did look like Bam was depending on Rachel for company, emotional support and just generally being taken care of by her, while she didn’t ask for anything in return.
Like I said, Bam is an unreliable narrator in this case. I’m more than happy to believe that Rachel is a weak and selfish girl that was more concerned with her own comfort and wellbeing than that of others. Which frankly describes just about every character in Tower of God except Bam so I can’t really fault her that much. And making your damsel in distress tropes unlikable is a brilliant move in my opinion. Such a wonderful subversion of the trope but one that works so well. People are rarely their best selves when they are in trouble.
Generally when we’re depressed, stressed out and dealing with completely unfair circumstances that we cannot overcome (you know in distress) we also tend to be short tempered, meaner and more selfish than we are normally. We lash out, we don’t think things through. I mean there might be some angels out there who get more virtuous in those circumstances but it’s not the majority. So making all the Damsels in distress sort of irreproachable paragons of goodness was always a bit weird to me.z
You are absolutely right about Bam being an unreliable narrator and how narratives treat the damsel in distress as such pure beings. I’ve had this viewpoint of Bam being like the younger brother who the parents want to press on the older sister who’s about to have the night on the town with friends. At least in that case, there is a familial bond between that pair that I just created. This one, I think there is a moral grey area to talk about. Is one responsible for a person they just wander upon? Maybe in real life we would judge more, but in this fictional realm possibly not as much. People really did get attached to Bam’s pure point of view here though.
I’m going to go ahead and blame Disney and their movies for pussing the concept of purity on the Damsel in distress. Now that I think about it, a lot of anime do that too but it has to come from somewhere and I agree with you on this too. I can only imagine the damsel in question getting angrier and wanting to put their energy into something else like an infinite amount of ways to escape or something like Sarah Connor where they work out in their cell to the point where the escape is feasible when the right time comes. The childness of the pure black and white Disney movies really puts a damper on reality and probably the fairy tails they borrowed from. Seeing Rachel do what she does is what makes her compelling. How does a weaker person become a “villain”? Like what she did probably and plotting her own course from that point on.
The villain status is sort of arbitrary. It’s all about how the anime chooses to present the story and who the point of view character is, isn’t it? We know for a fact that as a small child Endrosi murdered all her peers that were in a similar situation because she was hungry and wanted what they had. Although she changes her mind along the way she was also happy to kill her “niece”, Anak, who she knew very well was a young girl traumatized by having witnessed the murder of her own mother for no particular reason. And Endrosi might have killed her and not thought about it twice had the girl been a bit weaker.
On a purely objective view, she fits the villain persona even better than Rachel. She also betrayed people who trusted her but in a much more direct and gruesome way. And she did it repeatedly. She seems to be a lot more comfortable with violence and causing death and has a lot less regrets about it as well.
But Endrosi is fun and for the time being her interests align with Bam’s. Her actions are causing the plot to progress in a way the audience would enjoy. As such, Endrosi may not be a hero but she is at least a protagonist.
I could make similar points for Anak who has the excuse of being traumatized but was happy to throw her teammates to the wolves and kill everyone who stands in her way. Rak tried to kill both Bam and Khun numerous times and only stopped cause it’s in his interest. It wouldn’t be crazy for him to get bored and pick up the hunt again.
And we have had numerous hints that Khun may have done some very bad things in his past and not be trustworthy.
Like I said, besides Bam, no one is a particularly moral character in this show. Well maybe Lesoo and Hatsu. They seem like pretty decent guys. Yet, only one character really got the villain edit. Technically Sung was the main antagonist yet I’m not sure any of us were left with that impression after season 1.
You are absolutely correct on the moral questions here. You know, as you usually are. The show itself has such an interesting cast of characters with a mixed past of all sorts of things. It’s interesting that people sided more with the very powerful Endorsi and absolutely terrifying who can easily do morally horrible things vs Rachel who isn’t as strong and had her mind yelling at Bam to stay away from her. Once again, the question of a person doing their first morally questionable act vs those that can easily do those acts for their own reasons and selfishness.
I feel like I am getting more and more upset because of this dichotomy going on. I suppose we are shown one way Tower of God corrupts people while corrupt people get a little less corrupt by knowing one + pure person or actually deciding to care for someone then killing them selfishly??
What I feel like the show is doing is attempting to give those characters some sort of redemption by siding with Bam, a boy of light, because it supposedly gives them a sense of redemption too? Perhaps for the audience and such while Rachel took that light away from them to remind them that redemption is not simple? Maybe that’s digging too far into this thematic reading for my own good, but that is an interpretation that could be read into Rachel’s push and story. She “won out” over Bam so each other’s character have to soak in their own darkness for now because their light is gone. Or maybe not.
Yet that also puts Rachel in an interesting situation that I kind of like though. She’s still relishing in her supposed victory against the Tower (we know it’s not, but you know…) and somehow needs to maintain that so she has tricked people (besides Khun) that are actual villains to get her to where she wants.
One of the issues that we have, I think, is that we are imposing our own sense of morality, right and wrong, on a universe where it just might not apply. It doesn’t seem like murder is treated as much of bad thing in Tower of God. Sure characters are sad to see their friends die or are scared of getting killed, but it does look like murder is a fairly common and mundane event. When Yuri came in towards the end of the series and just brutally squashed some guy, no one even batted an eye. The event itself had no effect on the people around, including the mild mannered Leesoo. It’s just something that happens in this world and I’m not sure these characters think of it as either good or bad any more than most people think about the morality of taking the bus to school or buying a new shirt…
In that sense, I’m not sure if Tower of God is setting up redemption arcs because from the in universe perspective, I’m not sure who needs to be redeemed. You know?
I think that Tower of God is setting up a story with no bad guy, at least so far. Everyone has their reasons and those reasons are all pretty much equivalent and fairly similar. Instead of a classic good vs evil thing, it’s more of a us vs them, or Bam and those who oppose him.
I think of it a bit like a sports anime more than a classic fighter in that regard. In sports animes the other teams aren’t evil or anything, but we still want them to lose because we are rooting for our team. It’s sentimental attachment not righteousness. Deep down, if the series had been showing us the other team practice and struggle all this time, that’s who we would be rooting for. I think that’s the dynamic at the core of the Tower of God conflict. And that’s what makes it more visceral. For the story to progress, normal average people are going to be killed or eliminated for no particular reason. It’s unfair and a little sad and that’s the point. The Tower isn’t fair and doesn’t have a concept of fairness.
Here is the thing, I am not completely sure I can be behind us pushing our morality behind us when watching the series. I do understand that these people just live with whatever lives they lived beforehand and such, but watching and being shocked by what is going on is a part of the story telling of Tower God along with most stories too. Watching morally questionable people and things is a part of anime and manga especially when looking at Death Note, Hunter X Hunter, or others in regards to their series and questionable things. The audience itself has a part to play as well in this story where we see how flawed and messed up these characters are. That question still has a part to play in terms of Tower of God too because the author is pushing us around with how their storytelling is hitting us.
That might be a me thing though because I can’t get into an anime unless I can mentally characterize the series by getting into it on an emotional level. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to care about anything and what is going on is just plot happening and that’s it. Once again, that’s a me thing and people can just watch something for different reasons. That’s fine. Tower of God connected with me, so it’s really hard to separate myself from it sometimes.
I do have to point out that I do think there are some bad guys in this series in a normal sense if you think about it. A lot of Tower officials made movements against the Anak and Endorsi while also attacking the irregular Bam as well for ruining a lot of their things or being too unusual. With me, that’s pretty conventional for bad things running a tournament who just want their usual people apart of it. That even happens in kid’s anime too like Gundam Build Fighters or with other shonen like Yu Yu Hakusho during the dark tournament which also got one interested in the stories of other teams as well.
Irina, I think I’ve watched too much anime. Please help me, I can’t stop watching it.
Oh I wasn’t saying that the audience shouldn’t analyze or take in the story according to their morals. I’m not sure anyone can do otherwise anyways. I am just saying that expecting a narrative to work and flow according to what we think in our heads, instead of the internal logic set up by the story itself might not always be the most reasonable thing.
I often see fans get really mad because a character reacts perfectly in line with everything we know of that character but they don’t like it. Or because a story reaches the logical conclusion it was going for but not the one fans would have preferred.
Hunter x Hunter is a pretty good example of grey morality. Gon is not a good person in many ways. He’s selfish, short sighted and is not overly concerned with collateral damage or innocent bystanders. But he has no redemption arc and it’s not even hinted that he should or needs one. Kurapika is ravaged and ultimately destroyed by his need for vengeance to the point of becoming just like the monsters he despises. It’s sort of the tragedy of the character. But the story wants fans to still cheer for him, and I admit I did. I love Kiluah and he definitely changes a lot throughout the series, but he did straight up kill a guy because he was in a bad mood at the beginning of the show and there is no suggestion that that action was anything beyond kinda jerky of him. I think most fans still accepted these characters as “heroes” because the world they were operating in made such behaviour much more unremarkable.
I believe the same is true for Tower of God. We are accepting a lot of dubious characters because the story is shaped that way and vilifying the rest.
That’s my mistake then. I apologize Irina for taking that too far. I see that problem with a lot of things from anime fans doing their usual anime watching things to seeing how things that happen in anime aren’t physically possible in terms of logic for what anime that story is trying to tell. There is that constant problem of people inserting themselves too much into character and doing that “Well, I wouldn’t do that so obviously this character is written bad because I wouldn’t do that. Nuh uh.” Maybe that’s the reason why self insert or incredibly simple and morally easy to follow characters have made a stronger appearance recently. Maybe. I am not an expert on that sort of analysis.
I was trying to not open the HunterXHunter box for a long time, but I feel like that show handles the morally dubious character thing a little better by pushing the more moral one to the side so we can soak in the world a bit more and create a team heart with more interesting characteristics in their own right who isn’t used to anything going on. Somehow, that Togashi guy knows how to write things in interesting ways. That difference between the two is why I can’t disconnect the morality of Tower of God as well as I can with HxH or YYH because it’s encoded straight into the show where it has to be addressed. At least a little bit. I think that’s why I’m stuck on some things here as we’ve discussed more and more content about this show. Maybe that’s why people were so upset with Rachel as well so I am a good test subject for all of this.
Or not. As we’ve gone over a few times now, Rachel is like the rest of them. If RAchel can be considered a psycho then it can be definitely said that almost everyone else is too. Or some person of colorful character as well.
I completely agree with you. And I think most people would on a dispassionate level. However, fan reaction towards each character in Tower of God has been very different.
I think you know that I posted a bunch of screencaps I took of Tower of God on my Pinterest and got the usual bevy of comments mostly about who is hot or random weird jokes. But on a screencap of Rachel it was pure hate. Going as far as to call her expletives and for some reason insult her looks. How is she a fat pig exactly?
Oh and this is neither here nor there, but why do some people immediately call women they don’t like “fat” like that’s somehow the biggest insult? I’m just not sure what reaction they hope to get. Anyways, it was a random aside…
I never understood using “fat” as an insult either. Maybe that’s because I’ve always been a person with a larger frame and with some heft, but there are always so many worse things out there then being fat.
Yeah, those fan reactions are the worst. I will admit that seeing every single fan reaction I saw, on twitter and otherwise, really made me upset. I haven’t ever felt so upset about a fan reaction before. Maybe because I am mostly not as attached to them? Whatever the case, it’s all bad behavior
I would like to thank Irina for joining me on this little talk. I know that you probably all know who she is, but if you haven’t visited her site, then you should. Here’s a link. Get to it! She puts out a lot of great stuff every day.