The God of High School – 05 – Punch Pals

Mori’s semifinal fight with Mr. Brazilian Jujitsu is as short as Daewi’s against Mira, if not quite as violent. While Mira has no hard feelings—the stronger fighter won—and is on the mend, how Daewi beat Mira doesn’t sit right with Mori, and believes there’s a score to settle with their mututal friend.

Neither Mori nor Daewi pull any punches, as the latter is just as ferocious against Mori as he was against Mira, and also makes it clear hes never thought of either of them as his friends, which begs the question: why’d he crash Mira’s wedding? I guess he just doesn’t consider them friends compared to his one and only BFF, Woo Seungtae, who had his back at school and was a willing and enthusiastic brawling partner.

Daewi made a deal with Park to win the semis and the finals “overwhelmingly” so Seungtae could be treated with nanomachines, but it’s too late. Park informs Daewi his friend is dead in the middle of the match and Daewi shuts down…until Mira arrives, delivers a goodbye letter Seungtae wrote, and tells him to get back into the match.

He does so, but after some very spirited brawling replete with stylized ink brushstrokes, Mori ends up besting him, but gives him a hand up once the match is over. Both Mori and Mira end up helping Daewi back to the locker room.

While nowhere near as bad as the last episode, Daewi’s great epic friendship felt both rushed and simplistic, with way too much emphasis on hollow machismo. GoHS also continues to insist that the three leads are best buds without evidence beyond the fact they all love fighting (and getting beaten up). This episode didn’t do enough to convince me to keep watching.

The God of High School – 04 – Wedding Bashers

We’re already down to the regional semifinals as Mori, Mira, and Daewi have all advanced and Mira and Daewi will face off against each other next. I for one thought we’d see another fight or two, but I guess GoHS is eager to get to the higher-stakes nationals. However, the tournament is put on hold when Mira is suddenly approached by sports entertainment tycoon Seongjin, who asks for her hand in marriage.

The suddenness of this development is matched only by the sloppiness with which its fallout unfolds. Mori makes it his mission to stop the wedding, as Mira is still in high school and doesn’t want her to lose her dream of winning the tournament and resurrecting her father’s sword style. But Mira is marrying Seongjin as a shortcut to putting that style on the map.

While I can understand Mori’s objections to the marriage, it’s not as if he’s Mira’s childhood friend. Despite jumps forward in time, it still feels like they’re more casual acquaintances brought together by the tournament, which makes it seem way out of line for him to dictate how he thinks Mira should run her own life. He didn’t even know where she lived for Chrissake!

I mean, let’s get real here: Mira, Mori and Daewi had a couple of brief chats about their goals and shared one little moment fishing her sword out of the water (which was Mori’s fault in the first place). THEY ARE NOT BEST FRIENDS. The show can’t just proceed as if they are, or that they have some kind of unbreakable bond. And yet that’s exactly what this episode does.

I also find it problematic that the only main female lead is portrayed at the start as shortsighted and even stupid for accepting Seongjin’s proposal, and has to be “set straight” by three men: Mori, Daewi, and her uncle, who was a terrible custodian of his late brother’s school. More than that, it’s problematic that Mira considers her life to be so tied to her father’s legacy that she’s given up on living a normal high school life in order to keep the style alive.

Even so, that’s a tall enough task that if a rich and powerful figure in the martial arts world offered a strategic alliance in the form of a marriage, and that she could be as blatant as she wanted in exploiting his prestige to promote her style seems…reasonable? The only reason it isn’t is because all the other characters and the episode itself think it’s a bad idea.

And, oh yeah, because Seongjin is an evil dark shadow clan member just following orders from his grand wizard to obtain the Moon Light Sword style for the organization. So see? See? Mira was a fool for thinking his intentions were honorable!

Everything conspires to put Mira in a box where she looks weak and misguided no matter what she does, because on one path she’s being played by the evil guy, and in the other she’s deferring to her “friends” who Know What’s Right for her. And again, there just hasn’t been enough evidence Mori and Daewi are her good friends.

The jump from “we’ll help you fish out the sword we threw in the drink” to “we’re going to crash your wedding and save you from both yourself and the bad guy” is ludicrously steep and ultimately untenable. Her sudden change of heart just doesn’t work, narratively or emotionally.

To me, the fact Seongjin turned out to be evil is irrelevant; the fact is, Mira’s agency was negated by both Seongjin and her so-called friends. Even more ridiculous is how easily she’s able to defeat Seongjin. Surely, if he’s as big a deal as he says, both publicly and in the shadows, she’d have had a bit more trouble with him? To me, making him look so toothless just underscores how Mira could have potentially gained the upper hand in their strategic marriage.

Never mind, as Mira walks away from the venue smiling and laughing with her bandaged abdomen, taking both Mori and Daewi’s arms. She’s smiling! She’s happy! From the look of their noses, everyone clearly still has bad colds, but all’s well that ends well! Only no; Mira can’t even have a whole episode dedicated to her hastily planned and just-as-hastily cancelled wedding.

Instead we cut to Daewi standing by as his buddy is on death’s door. It’s not clear whether he actually dies, but Daewi takes it out on the bullies who hound him at work, then takes it out on Mira in their semifinal match by exploiting her abdomen wound and beating her to a bloody pulp.

After we’d just dealt with Mori nearly being disqualified for breaking the rules, all three of them ended up assaulting people outside of the tournament this week. While in Mira’s case it was self-defense, both Mori and Daewi should have gotten in trouble for crashing the wedding, and Daewi should have been arrested for assaulting the bullies. But no; everyone was allowed to break the rules and continue the tournament. Interesting.

But yeah, after that whole song-and-dance with Mori, Mira and Daewi being the three best goshdarn friends there ever were, and that the guys support Mira chasing her dream with her own hands, Daewi puts an end to her GoHS run the very next day. I told you they weren’t friends! What a horrific mess. With three straight weeks of decline from the promising first episode, I think I’m done here.

The God of High School – 03 – Life Is a Battle…Do What You Want

After a quick check-in on a cult consisting of members with black pointy hoods (the third such anime to feature this after Misfit/Demon Academy and Food Wars 5—not sure what’s up with that) Mira faces off against Ma Miseon, an American pro-wrestler built like a brick house who assures Mira her wooden sword will be useless.

Miseon indeed exhibits incredible speed, agility and power and Mira looks not only overmatched but like she has no business fighting in the ring…until she loses her wooden sword and Miseon thinks she’s got this in the bag. That’s when Mira demonstrates that she doesn’t actually need a physical blade; her entire body is a sword, and she uses it to quickly eviserate Miseon and claim victory.

Daewi and Mori are happy their new friend has advanced, with the latter itching to fight her himself, but he must face punishment for interference in Gambo/Manseok match (both of whom are out of the tournament). Park Mujin sees that Mori is the grandson of Jin Taejin, and decides to test him by pitting him against a Commissioner. Mujin also gives Mori some suspicious produce, which causes Mori to cough up blood and pass out when after eating it.

We know Daewi wants to win the tournament for money, but now we know what that money is for: his ill friend/brother Seungtae, cut down at the height of his powers by cancer (or something like it). Thugs Daewi used to tangle with think Daewi is vulnerable without Seungtae to back him up, but they might not be thinking that if they saw Daewi dismantle the cerebral Baek Seungchul in the GoHS ring, which he does after taking one hell of a metal bat beating.

With Mira and Daewi both advancing, Mori recovers and arrives for his match with the commissioner, albiet a bit late. It’s a handicap match, and all Mori has to do is knock the guy down. He does that so quickly and both “Green Four-Eyes” and the crowd are insulted, and the former loses his temper and unleashes a summoned jester-like demon-beast.

Park has the other commissioners tackle their colleague and ends the match, naming Mori the winner since he knocked his opponent down. Now he knows he’s dealing with Jin Taejin’s “Tiger Cub” and apparently has big plans for someone of his power and potential.

The God of High School – 02 – Gotta Have a Code

Interestingly, the second GoHS doesn’t pick up where the first ended, but after the battle royale. Mori, Mira and Daewi all advanced, but Mori’s fight with the “slipper jerk” was interrupted by Mira. Turns out all three share the same route home, much to Mira’s consternation. During their walk we learn the basics of their being in the tournament. For Mori, it’s to become stronger. For Daewi, it’s for money.

Mira is fighting for honor and family; namely to save her late father’s dojo. When Mori snatches her sword again and she moves to snatch it back, it ends up in the drink. Mira slaps Mori and tell the other two to scram, but it’s not long before the lads are helping her search the water. They actually find the blade off-screen, but the point is the three bonded over the activity.

The next day the preliminary brackets are set, and the last person standing will move on to the national tournament. When Slipper Jerk (AKA Gang Manseok) attacks his opponent Go Gamdo in the locker room, Mori steps up to defend him, earning Gamdo’s gratitude and respect.

Mori, Mira and Daewi end up winning their respective matches easily, while other faces like Ma Miseon and Baek Seungchul get brief moments in the ring; I’m sure we’ll see more of them as the brackets narrow. But the main fight of the episode is between Manseok and Gamdo.

While Gamdo practices a very pure and conservative tai chi style focused on balance, Manseok reveals a rare northern-style Taekwondo developed for survival in war, filled with all kinds of low blows. As such, this is a match between the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” fighters. We also learn through brief flashbacks that Manseok was once a groveling wretch and transformed himself thanks to a powerful teacher.

Gamdo’s best efforts to win the battle of wills results in his getting beaten to a pulp. Manseok unbinds both his hands and starts breaking Gamdo’s limbs one by one, but Gamdo still won’t yield. In the end, Mori enters the ring (breaking the rules and risking a DSQ) to protect his new friend, and shows that he’s a far more formidable opponent to Manseok—which is probably what he ultimately wants!

The chaos is then broken up by tournament administrators and the arrival of Korean Assembly member Park Mujin, fresh off a visit to the Pentagon where he waltzed right in without fear of getting harmed. He has Mori taken away for TBD punishment, then announces the tournament will resume.

Honestly despite the big central fight this GoHS was a bit of a step down from the premiere in pure manic craziness, mostly because any indoor fight is going to seem restrained compared to the dynamism of a motorcycle -bicycle race. It also wasn’t nearly as funny. It made up for it with a key bonding moment between the likable main trio—though I hope they get more fleshed out soon.

The ep also added more intrigue surrounding users of the superpower cheryeok, which we saw employed like the hand of god smashing out an island last week. I’m confident Mori’s road won’t end with his rule infraction, because the whole point of GoHS tournament seems to be to find exceptionally strong fighters like him.

The God of High School – 01 (First Impressions) – Stand Tall, Smile Big, Strike Hard

Fresh off the heels of Tower of God—which Hannah enjoyed, though admitted frustration that it was essentially just an extended prologue—comes The God of High School, another Korean webtoon-based anime with “God” in the title and an appealing blend of action, comedy and drama.

After a ominous, cryptic cold open that doesn’t even pretend to explain what’s going on (suffice it to say some guy on an island with designs on blackmailing the prime minister is literally wiped off the map), we dive straight into one of three main would-be Gods of High School, Jin Mori, resident of Seoul.

Waking up from a dream in which he was encouraged by his gramps, Mori realizes he smashed his alarm in his sleep, and must race to the GoHS preliminaries at KORG Arena. He takes a shortcut by riding his bike off a cliff, and immediately it’s apparent that these are no normal humans.

There’s a lot of influence from Durarara!! in the ensuing action, and not just because there’s a purse thief on a motorcycle whom Mori feels compelled to chase (he makes up a sob story about the elderly woman who needs the cash for her grandson’s surgery or some such). The mere fact Mori can keep up with a motorcycle on his bike, and the reasons for doing so, are great shorthand for the kind of character he is: as relentless as he is just.

His first encounter with fellow GoHS contestant Yu Mira is kinetic, to say the least: while she’s admiring the ample muscles of some martial artists who failed to make the cut, she’s absolutely obliterated by Mori (accidentally, of course). Mori attempts a quick apology, but Mira uses her trusty wooden sword to stop him in his tracks.

When she hears he’s chasing a thief, Mira tags along, and provides more offense against the biker as Mori keeps up. She’s about to deliver a decisive blow to the baddie when a road sign jumps out at her and her face is driven so deeply into the metal it creates a ghoulish mask.

The cartoonish amount of punishment these characters can take is matched by the utter hilarity of the way the violence and various acrobatics are rendered. I suddenly realized the episode was almost half-over, but things were so non-stop from the moment Mori jumps on his bike, events fly by effortlessly and breathlessly, evoking shades of Mad Max: Fury Road.

While Mira and Mori fall behind, the motorcyclist’s face ends up meeting the fist of a third GoHS contestant in part-time convenience store employee Han Daewi, and the impact of his punch is akin to the superhuman strikes of Durarara!!’s Shizuo. Daewi knows who to punch and why thanks to a roving rapper live-streaming the chase online.

With the chase finally complete, the three contestants head to the locker rooms of the arena and formally introduce each other, having already demonstrated from their actions in the streets that they’ll be tough competition in the prelims—and perhaps useful allies as well.

The preliminary is wonderfully simple: a battle royale of all the assembled fighters, and the last people standing move on to the tournament proper. There isn’t really any doubt that Mori, Mira, and Daewi will advance, but when a convict with the title “King” enters the battle late, the three seem to meet their match, with Mira giving her best shot and Mori answering the challenge.

This is a show that is deliciously simple in premise, wonderfully energetic with its trademark Studio Mappa action, and as moves along at a rapid clip without causing whiplash. The three main characters look poised to complement one another, while the way the episode ends in mid-fight guarantees I’ll be back for more rock-em, sock-em madness.

All that said, I do find it odd how red everyone’s noses and ears are in closeups…it’s like they’re all suffering from colds!