This recap contains spoilers for Tower of God episode “The One-Horned Ogre”.
Disclaimer: Pre-release screening and screenshot materials for this recap were provided for GGA by Crunchyroll.
Content Warning: This recap contains discussion of self-harm and images of blood, reader discretion is advised.
“This is what you must do to climb the Tower.”
Pause for a moment and meditate on the fact that two episodes ago, we were covering “Lunch and Tag”. This week, it’s “The One-Horned Ogre”. This is Tower of God‘s messiest, darkest, and most game-changing episode yet. The complicated “tag” game finally ends here, but not without a hitch, and not without several twists along the way.
The episode begins with one of those twists. Endorsi abruptly kicks two of her teammates around, intending to flunk them out of the test. When called out, she relays a delightful little tale of her childhood, wherein she was forced to compete with several other girls for the Princess of Jahad title. That, and for food. One day, she had the bright idea that if she simply killed all of the others, she’d get to have all the food. Thus, the Endorsi we know was born. It says a lot that this little revelation and Endorsi absolutely thrashing her teammates are among the less dramatic things that happen here. Such is “The One-Horned Ogre” as an episode.
Hatz, the swordsman who is part of Shibisu’s group, is given some unexpected (albeit brief) limelight here. He has two of his teammates lurk in the shadows while luring Quant in for a fight. Unfortunately, they turn tail and abandon him. The last we see of Hatz is his one-sided bout with Quant. One-sided in Quant’s favor, that is. The Ranker pummels him into a wall and leaves him for dead. It may be that this is the last we see of Hatz, which would be a bit sad, but being the third such stomping in just “The One-Horned Ogre”‘s first half, it sets the tone for what’s to come rather well.
Meanwhile, Bam objects to Endorsi’s betrayal of their teammates. An objection the Jahad Princess rather casually brushes off, pointing out that Bam himself can’t reasonably expect to climb the Tower if he’s so unwilling to hurt others.
“The One-Horned Ogre”‘s second half is where things get, well, complicated.
Anyone who’s followed the last few episodes could deduce that Hoh was up to something. It felt especially telegraphed at the end of last week’s episode. Here, all of that comes to a head. Indeed, the “One-Horned Ogre” of the episode’s title may be a poetic reference to Hoh himself. (I briefly considered that it might refer to Endorsi too but Endorsi actually has two horns, though it’s not obvious.) He lures Rachel out of her lighthouse and holds her at knifepoint. The reason? To use her as leverage. His thought process is that if he can threaten Rachel he might be able to convince Bam (who, mind you, has been established by now as being abnormally powerful for a non-Ranker) to quit.
This doesn’t work. He succeeds in getting Bam to momentarily cow to his demands but it doesn’t work for long. Quant soon shows up, and Endorsi–now wielding a weapon she took off of one of the people defeated earlier–is there too. Hoh tries to leverage having Rachel hostage to turn Bam against them, but even as strong as the boy is he can’t quite measure up to a Ranker.
The One-Horned Ogre
….He can however, nearly-instantly learn one of said Ranker’s techniques by having it used on him. Quant paralyzes him with a Shinsu technique, and it takes next to no time at all for Bam to pick it up. Rachel, meanwhile, tries to struggle free, and ends up with Hoh’s knife plunged into her back. She collapses. Bam uses his newfound ability on Hoh, who promptly also collapses. Back in the room where the already-passed climbers are waiting, Rachel’s oni-like companion mysteriously vanishes in an instant. Hoh, delirious, protests that he had no choice, being a “weak” “have-not”. He’s suddenly struck with the revelation that the letter from a few episodes prior was likely a plot to lure him into this scenario. (He never connects the dots, but a brief cut to the red-headed woman implies it was her.)
As he lays on the ground, Hoh again flashes back to where he was raised. We learn next to nothing about these people, but the gist comes through loud and clear. Hoh was raised as a Shinsu user. His people were eventually attacked by enemies (giants of some kind, by the looks of it), and he was unable to defend them. They were killed to a one, seemingly leaving only Hoh himself alive. The scene is dark and tells us something very important. Those who have lost everything or would do anything to gain more, those are the sorts of people who willingly climb the Tower.
Defeated in mind, body, and spirit, Hoh promptly turns the knife he was holding Rachel hostage with on himself. With a single thrust, his character is written out of this story forever. If we take what he said at face value, it makes sense with the narrative lead here. It’s not his story, after all. He was a “weakling”. A “have-not”. If “The One-Horned Ogre” demonstrates anything, it’s the sheer engineered brutality of the Tower’s system. We’ve been able to guess before that the Tower is fundamentally unfair, but this is direct proof, in the worst way possible. “The system is rigged” isn’t new territory for shonen, but this is a particularly effective take on the concept.
It also, smartly, makes us sympathetic to the other Tower-climbers. What might Hoh have wanted to do when he reached the top? Restore his people to life, if the Tower can do such a thing? Who knows? We never will. Such is the fate of a shonen character who doesn’t get out of the first season alive.
It’s easy, this scene in mind, to forget that another one actually follows it. Endorsi gets an amusing showing here. After a fight scene (with an assist from Bam), she lets Quant think he’s stolen her “It” badge, walks over to him with a defeated look on her face, and then covertly swipes his as she casually reveals that what he stole was, in fact, a pair of her briefs folded up to look like a red spot. It’s honestly a little out of place, but even the tiniest bit of levity lets some light back into things after Rachel’s injury and Hoh’s suicide. Endorsi drops her motivation for siding with Bam in here, too. She wants to climb the Tower with someone else too; Anaak, her “niece”.
By contrast, Serena, who’s been watching the entire thing unfold, reflects, soliloquizing aloud to Hoh’s corpse that she doesn’t feel qualified to stand with these people and has never really put her life on the line for anything.
“The One-Horned Ogre” ends here, with Team B’s very much Pyrrhic victory. Tower of God tossing down that it knows how to not hold back, and with Rachel and Hatz’s fates uncertain, and Serena seemingly thinking about quitting before she gets killed. We’re left with a lot of uncertainty, and very few answers.
Until next time, Tower of God fans.