Crunchyroll surprised everyone when it announced its full slate of new original co-productions coming in the future. This included the confirmation of long in the works projects like High Guardian Spice, but also came with the announcement that Crunchyroll was working together with Webtoon to bring honest to goodness Line webcomics from Korea (which have been colloquially coined as "manhwa" by fans in the West) such as Noblesse, The God of High School, and probably the biggest project, Tower of God to screens. While Crunchyroll has been airing originals for quite some time now, there's some palpable excitement behind this new wave.
Kicking things off as part of the Spring 2020 anime season is Tower of God. Originally created by Lee Jong-hwi (who publishes under the pen name of SIU) in 2010, and has been getting official translations in Japanese and English since 2014, this series follows a young boy named 25th Bam (named after the day he was born).
Bam's been living under a mysterious tower for most of his life, but when his only friend Rachel decides to head upward into the tower, Bam decides to follow and soon comes face to face with all kinds of dangerous and deadly new challenges to reunite with her. This deceptively simple premise has since morphed into a genuine saga over the course of the last decade.
Now that's it is coming to anime, this webcomic adaptation is setting up to be the best anime of 2020. Here are a few reasons as to why you should keep a look out for Tower of God.
There Are Over 500 Episodes to Adapt
Tower of God is the first story in the "Talse Uzer" universe, and while it's contained to its own adventures (and remains the only official story from SIU in this universe) it follows a set of rules for how the story can progress and tells fans right up front that there's a huge universe to explore already. Operating under the central idea that the past and future of each story is already set in stone, there can't be any sweeping changes to what's happened or will happen. This is far from as restricting as it seems, however, as Tower of God itself has over 10 years of story to potentially adapt.
There are currently no concrete details as to the nature of the new anime such as how long its first batch of episodes will last, but there are nearly 500 episodes of the original webtoon to draw material from. If it's a straight adaptation, there's no reason to rush through everything. And even if it does, there's still quite a bit to explore. It's even broken up into seasons should the anime decide to adapt it quite literally. Regardless of which route it takes with the adaptation, Tower of God has a huge and expanding story that fans can really dive into.
It's Tightly Contained to a Single Area
While the universe itself its large, the core of the story is relatively tight and condensed. The series is set entirely within its titular expansive tower that getting through successfully can grant all sorts of wishes for wealth, power, magic, or even immortality. Explorers who head through the tower are promised all of the truth and glory of the universe itself, but our main hero just wants to reunite with his friend Rachel. One day Rachel decides that she's had enough of not venturing into the tower herself, so Bam's search for her pushes the story forward.
The Tower has its own society and rules to follow as well. As Bam continues to rise up the floors, he finds that making it to the next one is all the more difficult thanks to tests administered by former explorers who have made it to higher floors. This has essentially started a ranking system with 10 "Great Families" who sit on the upper floors and make all the decisions for the Tower and a king who commands all of them.
Although each floor is massive on its own, the story itself never loses sight of Bam's search for Rachel and taking down this king. This constant upward trajectory is what makes it so compelling to readers even ten years later.
A Story of Star-Crossed Lovers
Although Bam comes cross various allies and enemies over the course of his climbing up through the tower, what he's mainly in search for the entire time is Rachel. Because of her fear of the dark and desire to see the night sky stars at any cost, she plunges through the Tower's entrance and sets off on her own journey. But Bam is sucked through this opening as well because of his desire to stay with her. Rachel is the one stable connection he's known for his entire life in the darkness under the tower, so he'll follow her by any means.
But as the series progresses, it soon becomes increasingly clear what this actually means. Bam puts himself through tons of terrible situations over the years, and in this single pursuit of Rachel he tends to...overlook things. These developments also result in some heart wrenching moments that fans will soon experience in the anime as they learn that finding Rachel comes with some major sacrifices.
Tackles Heavy Themes Like Classism and More
Following along with the upwards trajectory of its setting, Tower of God explores some heavier themes that are fairly aligned with that upwards trajectory. As mentioned earlier, the floors and the tests to advance are all designed by those who are closer to the top. Explores of the tower are divided into a ranking system (Bam is deemed as an "Irregular," for example), and those closer to the top have much better living conditions, etc.
Because while climbing to the top of the tower will make one's dreams come true, you'll have to combat with others who are out to keep new climbers down specifically. But even attempting to climb in the first place begins when someone is deemed "worthy" enough to do so. It's a surprisingly political Tower, and Bam soon finds himself in a complicated society separated by varying levels of class. This exploration of the classism is rare within stories such as this, so this should be a fun watch when it comes to the anime.
A Crunchyroll Co-Production
To put it bluntly, Tower of God being a Crunchyroll Original means it has a good chance of sticking out among many of the offerings for this year. For Crunchyroll to put their name and license behind a project like this is a huge gamble, and it has already paid off for series such as The Rising of the Shield Hero in the past. This means that it has a better chance of finding that audience too, and like Shield Hero, its success just might be rewarded with multiple seasons to tell its increasingly expansive story.
When it begins this Spring, it's already going to have a huge fanbase who never expected to see the Webtoon adapted into a full anime production and by the end of its first batch of episodes, it could be one of the most popular franchises of the year.
Opens Up a Whole New World for Anime
But at the end of the day, Tower of God could be the best anime of 2020 simply because it opens up the world of anime far beyond what we've seen thus far. In the last decade fans have seen anime morph into an all-inclusive term that now factors in kinds of projects you never would have expected to see before. CG animated projects, video game adaptations, anime produced exclusively in the West, and now Tower of God will kick open the doors for Korean stories.
It's a unique perspective that has managed to capture the imaginations of fans around the world over the last 10 years, and this perspective is what is going to separate it from the pack. With a tightly condensed setting, a strong emotional core, magical possibilities, and increased visibility of being a huge new undertaking for Crunchyroll, Tower of God just might become the best anime of the year.
But what do you think? Excited for Tower of God's anime? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or talk to me directly about all things anime and other cool things @Valdezology on Twitter!