Why atmosphere can be just as important as story
How far would you go to win everything the world has to offer? Would you put your life on the line to win it all? Tower of God’s titular tower is a physical embodiment of that question, symbolizing equal parts temptation and risk. But before we learn the details of the tower in episode two, Tower of God (aka Kami no Tou) draws us in with a different kind of pull: atmosphere. Even without knowing the exact mechanics of the tower, we can feel something of its nature from how it’s presented.
Right off the bat, Tower of God shows us Bam’s home and the floor where he undergoes his first test, both shrouded in darkness. The faint lighting combined with the anime’s thin, sketch-like linework, gives the entire area an otherworldly feeling. Just from that, you can tell that this is far from an ordinary tower. Like Bam, we don’t know how he ended up there, only that he’s there now and has to go along with it if he wants to find Rachel. It’s a place that runs on its own rules, and anyone trying to climb it has to play along.
But even with how little we know about how it works, there’s an undeniable draw to the tower. It promises nothing short of the world to those who can reach the top, and the mysteries only make it more believable. Anything can fill a void, and all of the hidden areas, strange rules, and slightly off layouts give the impression of a building full of mysteries. It becomes easy to imagine that there’s some great treasure or reward waiting to be found, and all you have to do to find it is climb the tower. Bam may only be looking for Rachel, but Tower of God tells us from the very beginning that he’s going to find far more than one person. Beneath all of the potential riches, there’s also a perpetual air of menace to the tower.
Just as the unknown has infinite potential gain, there’s also potential dangers hiding in the shadows. Tempting as it is, there’s something ever so slightly off about the tower. Headon makes the rules of Bam’s first challenge sound simple, but there’s a hint of menace to his tone. He almost sounds eager to have Bam climb the tower, and doesn’t seem to care too much for Bam’s well-being. He seems happy enough that Bam passed the test, but you get the sense that he wouldn’t have been bothered if Bam had died fighting the eel. His callous killing of the eel reinforces that he’s not particularly compassionate, and seems to be far more powerful than his small appearance would indicate. Like the tower itself, Headon is more than meets the eye.
Tower of God: More Than a Feeling
Taken together, all of this is why Tower of God’s first episode caught my interest. It was less about what the show told us (which was relatively little), and more about how it felt. Tower of God made me curious to see more of this world, to learn what’s actually going on. The way a story makes you feel can sometimes be just as important as what the story is actually about, a concept that Tower of God nailed. By using its atmosphere to draw the audience in at first, the first episode showed us what kind of story to expect while saving the details for later. With Kevin Penkin’s score adding a sense of solemnity, Tower of God’s first episode easily succeeded on atmosphere alone.
Although episode two does tell us more about Tower of God’s world, the eerie mysteries of the first episode remain. We still don’t know much at all about the tower’s nature or Bam’s past, and the hook that episode one’s atmosphere gave us is more than enough to keep me coming back for more. After all, a strong start like this can sometimes be just as tempting as climbing the tower.
How did Tower of God's first two episodes leave you feeling? Let us know in the comments below!
Skyler loves writing and chatting about anime, and is always ready to gush about the latest One Piece chapter. Read more of his work at his blog apieceofanime.com and follow him on Twitter at Videogamep3.
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