This is one webtoon I really think everyone should read. It’s just such a great ride: story, characters, philosophy, art, all around ability to fangirl over it… let’s just say I realy found a gem when I started reading this. It took me a while because the title really threw me off–and while I’m still confused why they felt the need to invoke the name of God in their title, I have fallen in love with the story.
Also, I really liked what I did last time for a philosophic review. It helped me keep my thoughts a bit straighter in my head, so I think we’re just gonna roll with it. So.
Tower of God: 5/5 on story, 5/5 on characters, 4/5 on philosophy.
I almost wanted to give it a 5/5 all around–I seriously love this webtoon. It comes out every Monday and I never miss it–sometimes I stay up super late just in case it’s up at midnight. I think it even made it into my top three.
Story So I totally don’t want to give away too much, because there are a few twists and turns in there that really blow your mind*. But the basic premise is this: A young boy named the 25th Bam (the 25th Night in Korean) grew up alone and in the dark. In some sort of underground terrible sketchy place. I dunno how he got food or whatever, it’s just the backstory. Shush. Don’t hate on my party. One day a girl named Rachel enters his life, and they become friends. She talks about this place–somewhere where she can see the stars. What are stars? Bam asks. She says they’re brilliant and shining and beautiful. She decides to leave one day to enter this place, leaving Bam behind. Distraught, he follows her in… and begins his journey up the Tower. Only the strongest survive, only the most ambitious reach the top. Whatever you desire can be yours, if only you can remember what you value by the end of your journey.
I absolutely love this premise. For me it’s the perfect blend of fantasy, action and philosophy. The story setup itself begs the question “What should you value? How highly do you value it? And how far is it ok to go to obtain it?” Big questions, man. But more on that later. The story itself is well paced, with fast actions scenes**, intense story development and few enough tropes it feels really fresh. 5/5, for sure.
Characters Aaaaaaaaah Bam! Khun! Rak! Isu Endorsi Bunny girl Sleeping bag guy Short guide Rachel! Raaaaachel. I don’t know how the author keeps them all straight and gives them all such amazing character. I’m amazed (and secretly totally pleased) that so many of my favorites have managed to stay alive for so long. And while not every character is a main character, they all play important parts in Bam’s life. Because Bam is amazing, and has realized something a few others haven’t: it’s not the end goal you need to focus on, it’s the people you’re with. Work towards something, yes, have ambitions–but never let them come before your people.***
Every character has depth. Every single stinking one. It almost makes my heart hurt, learning all of their backstories and discovering their individual reasons to go up the tower. Even so, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There are some backstories I still really want to learn, too****.
Philosophy. Ooooh yes. So much philosophy! So much happiness! A few of the major themes I mentioned above: our value system and the ethics of pursuing desire no matter the cost. There’s also another set of moral rules preseted–that of Bam himself. Although not always certain of how to act*****, he definitely knows what he values and what he perceives as right and wrong. In many ways it’s an ethics of relationship–the closer you are to someone, the more he will do and perceive morally right. It’s an interesting way of looking at life–and while I don’t totally agree*6, I do think there’s something to be said for giving special care to your friends and family.
I think my favorite part of the philosophy of this webtoon is just how effortlessly it weaves into the story*7. One of the hardest things to master in writing is the art of “show, don’t tell.” Too often the actions, thoughts and philosophies of a book are told to their audience, not shown. It’s a real treat to have a story that mixes them together so freely. Tower of God makes it look easy, using metaphors and backstories and all sorts of things to get their point across.
I also want to take just a moment to mention the absolutely gorgeous artwork of this webtoon. I constantly stand in awe of the ability of this artist. I love the way SIU makes each character distinct not only through hair and dress style and stature, but also through slight differences in the drawing style–particularly the eyes. The eyes of a webtoon generally follow a set form, whatever the style is. However this webtoon mixes eye styles to best match the character, and it’s used to great effect.
***WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS*** (Ooh, I’ve discovered text color changes. I think I’ll just put it all in white, highlight the section to find out what the spoiler is.)
*Twists and turns: so you really want to be careful before reading on, because there are some major twists. The biggest of which is probably that Rachel is a big fat liar liar pants on fire betrayer witch. Whew, that felt good. I know that might be a bit obvious if you’re a super smart reader, but I was like Bam, wanting to hope everything would end happily. Also, for a while there you think that Khun is dead. He’s not, don’t worry (I love him). They spoiled the first bit of that in the comments for me and I totally just took it at face value, so I over prepared myself. Looking back I’m glad that’s how it played out. I would’ve died otherwise.
**fast action scenes: so you know those really popular mangas or animes, the ones tht spend entire chapters and episodes just prepping for the fight? And then you spend the next five weeks just finishing up the one clash? Yes, Bleach and Dragonball, I’m looking at you. Well, this is not that story. They get right down to business, fighting and moving the fights and progressing the story in different areas while some of the other characters are fighting. It’s an impressive blend, to say the least. In particular the whole “Hell Train” arc was well done, giving out information on Hoaqin and Daniel and the rest while at the same time allowing the Bam’s teams to fight their way closer and catch up with the baddies.
***Don’t let it come before your people: I love the whole metaphor SIU’s started: Rachel’s after the stars, a bright shining place where she feels wonder and happiness and free. Bam’s realized that stars don’t have to live in the sky. They can be the people around you.
****backstories I want: I want the bunny guides backstory! Both her and another of the same race were so focused on getting money to “save their race.” Why? Why? Why? I also want Yuri and her guides. I want to know the background behind the creation of the Tower… and I really want to know if it’s really possible to leave.
*****not certain of how to act: I’m so glad SIU handled the crisis of character so well here. I don’t like it when the main characters spend twenty chapters wallowing and not acting. Bam didn’t know whether he ought to use his power or not–but he’s sure he wants to protect his friends. And he’s not afraid to keep moving in spite of doubts, willing to find out the answers as he goes.
*6 Bam’s tactics: so, I’m not totally sure I would just kill people to protect my friends. But I’ve never been in that situation, so I’m not gonna judge.
*7 Philosophy in the story: I mentioned how I really liked the metaphor of stars as people. Well, that might feel a little bit heavy handed for some, but SIU makes it so neatly a part of Bam’s and Rachel’s character you just stand in awe. Rachel and Bam represent such different philosophies: that of things bringing happiness and that of people bringing happiness. So much happiness for this webtoon.
Wow! That was almost as long as last time, with only one item to review! I guess I love it just that much.
Thanks for reading,