In Defense of Rachel (Tower of God)

Warning: Spoilers for Tower of God season 1

Tower of God is interesting. It’s simple but very engaging. One thing that’s not so simple is the character of Rachel or Rahel. The show does a good job presenting her side of things and not completely vilifying her. Perhaps a defense post is not truly needed, but it’s what I wanted to write, so I’m sticking to it. Anyway, the main thing with Rahel is that she betrayed Yoru and attempted to kill him to take his place. To begin with, let’s stop and put ourselves in Rahel’s shoes for a moment.

Imagine that for your whole life, you’ve had just one dream — one goal — more important to you than anything else. Your world is dark and the best you can do is dream. Somewhere along the way, you made a friend that you enjoyed teaching. Although you did care about him, you never considered him as any sort of special existence; he was a lost soul, and you were the one taking care of him.

Finally, it seemed like you had been summoned to have a chance at going after your dream. But you weren’t. It was actually that little friend of yours who was summoned. You watched as he began the path that you had wished for. He excelled in every area and everything went well for him, while you were left behind. This was what Rahel had to deal with. I think it’s easy enough to understand why, when given the chance, she betrayed Yoru to pursue her dreams.

Since Tower of God is framed mostly from the perspectives of Yoru and his friends, it’s much easier to grasp Yoru’s love and faith than it is to understand Rahel’s side. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a great many fans who despise this girl. It’s not as if she had a selfless goal like saving the world; her wish is to reach greatness and be the brightest. There’s no getting around the fact that this is selfish.

So what if it’s selfish? If you think about it, though, all the characters are similar in this sense. They are all pursuing their own goals, and none of them are particularly noble. (And they don’t need to be.) Is Rahel really any more selfish than the others? Well, you think, the others didn’t betray and try to kill someone. Hold up right there. Plenty of the others are willing to kill to climb the tower, and some of them have done so, and yet these characters don’t garner as much judgment and dislike.

Perhaps you’ll insist it’s different because Rahel’s incident was a personal betrayal. There are issues with that mindset too. This is another case where things are framed to make audiences connect and relate to the protagonist, Yoru. If we hadn’t grown to like and understand him over the course of 12 episodes, we would not have this bias toward him. Also, Rahel made it clear many times that she wanted to part ways with Yoru, and she gave him hints to her betrayal. Yoru is the one more at fault here for being so naive and clueless. You could even argue that it’s extremely selfish and wrong of him to keep obsessively pursuing her in the way he does.

So, my first main point is that Rahel isn’t any more selfish than the next person climbing the Tower. Continuing from here, remember how I mentioned that many of the other characters are willing to kill or have killed to pursue their goals? Theoretically, if one of these characters had to kill their ally or acquaintance, how much do you suppose they would agonize over it? There’s no way to know. But I believe that for Rahel’s part she struggled with the decision more than anyone else would have in her place.

Episode 13 clearly shows viewers how much the task of killing Yoru is destroying Rahel’s mind. Though she resented Yoru for being the one chosen by the Tower, Rahel certainly never wanted to kill the boy. But Headon’s absurd condition is the only way for her to have a chance in the Tower. For most of the series, Rahel is fighting herself. She’s experiencing severe confusion and indecision because on the one hand she wants more than anything to reach the top, but on the other hand her personal integrity is telling her not to betray the sweet, naive Yoru.

For so long, she avoided him, and even when she had chances to kill him, she hesitated until the chance was gone. In episode 10, Rahel told Yoru to abandon her. Episode 13 revealed that at that moment, she was thinking, “Run! Run! Run!” Because she still didn’t want to kill Yoru. I think Rahel probably hates herself. Even in the Shinsu bubble, up to the last moment, Rahel was thinking maybe it would be possible to climb the tower with Yoru. But that wasn’t her agreement with the Rankers. She still had to follow through. And what helped push her along was resentment.

What resentment Rahel has toward Yoru is, in my opinion, justified. Everything really does go easily for him. He was summoned to the Tower despite wanting nothing but the simple existence with Rahel which he already had. It’s almost as if the Tower pulled Rahel in first just to bait Yoru. The boy gets an amazing weapon right away and conquers an astronomically hard test. Also, the wave of Shinsu in episode 3 has no effect on him, so he was guaranteed to pass. As he goes through the challenges of the Tower, Yoru easily makes friends, quickly learns Shinsu, and even gets accepted as an applicant to be a test administrator.

(Of all those things, I think what Rahel envied most was Yoru’s ability to make friends and allies with very little effort. Rahel is lonely. We don’t know about her background in that underground world, but it’s likely she had no friends. Then she’s pulled into the world of the Tower and still can’t connect with anybody. Imagine how wretched and isolated she must have felt.)

My final point to add is that the maddening effect of the Tower may be partly to blame. It’s suggested that there’s some magical quality to the Tower that draws people to it and makes them mad to reach the top. We don’t know exactly how powerful this effect is or how much it influences an individual’s psyche. It’s just another possibility to consider. And that’s about it for today. I hope this post made you think a little better of Rachel. Thanks for reading!

(If you enjoy Anime Rants, please consider supporting this site. At the bottom of the page, in the footer on the right, there is an option to make a $3 donation with Paypal. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’d appreciate it.)

4 comments

  1. Nice post, but I still disagree, and quite strongly.

    Morally speaking, it matters little to me how much Rachel wrestled with the decision to kill Yoru, how many oblique hints she gave to a boy she knows to be incredibly dense, or how much she hates herself for even considering Headon’s offer. Actions speak louder than words — all the more so when we have a dichotomy here of muted words & attempted murder.

    Any resentment she feels at Yoru’s ability to connect with others I find unjustified — he puts himself out there & she doesn’t. As for the great power Yoru was gifted with, what can I say? Life is unfortunately unfair. But that’s something you try to compensate for by working with others, and if not possible you come to terms with your lack of luck & move on. You don’t murder someone deeply devoted to you, and for what? To be a rock star? What kind of motivation is that?

    Finally, perhaps other contestants have equally silly goals, and have done equally evil things in service of those goals. However, that doesn’t make Rachel’s act more palatable — it simply means the other contestants are equally depraved & just as worthy of vilification.

    (All that being said, I would still say she’s the character I enjoyed watching the most, in a show I found of little interest.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an interesting take on it. I don’t really understand how one can approach anime — or media in general — with that idea of judging all the characters based on your moral standards. Seems like it would be very difficult to connect to any character. But to each their own! 🙂

      Like

      1. Well, I would quibble that I do connect with characters. In fact, I have mentioned that Rachel was my favorite character, simply because I found myself moved by her odd mixture of personal weakness & brazen ambition.

        However, one can empathize with characters (or people) without excusing their acts. My comment was merely a reply to your post, the purpose of which seemed to be the defense of the morally indefensible.

        I still think it’s a great post. You managed to put us in her headspace very well.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s