It's the action-packed anime of the summer but is amazing battle choreography enough to carry an entire show? Micchy and Nick adjust their halos for God of High School!
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of The God of High School here.
Nick, I know we've driven the covid/quarantine jokes into the ground already, but as I watch anime these days I can't help but grimace a little at every crowd shot. Never mind how hard they are to draw, just think about the outbreak that's gonna happen after every martial arts tournament they have in animeland! Worry not though, God of Highschool has exactly one (1) guy wearing an appropriate facial covering. Truly the hero of this whole thing.
It's a serious problem! Just look at all the runny noses in this show. Clearly people aren't taking their health seriously.
Seriously, does everyone in GoH
just have a really bad pollen allergy or what?
They say this big international martial arts tournament is for the chance to grant any wish but if you told me it was for the world's last bottle of Nyquil I'd believe you. Just look at this poor bastard.
-ass announcer man walked out of a Fukumoto manga into a world with not nearly enough tissues. RIP dude, you had a good run.
Okay, there is a little more to The God of High School
than just absurd schnozzes. For one it's the latest in the line of productions brought to us by that rising force in anime: Tiddy.
Wait, sorry, I mean Crunchyroll
Rising force? Oh, you mean
While I roll my eyes a little at the blatant Crunchyroll
/Webtoon presence in GoH
, it's pretty neat to see productions embrace anime as a global phenomenon! Bonus points for getting a talented director to helm the thing at a studio as well-respected as MAPPA
. But importance to the industry aside, the question remains: well, is it any good? I say nothing where President Robert Downey Jr. floats King Kong conspiracy theories can be all bad, but your mileage may vary.
My expectations for GoH
were pretty low, honestly. Coming off of last season's CR/Webtoon copro with "God" in the title that managed to be both tedious and rushed to hell I was just hoping this one wouldn't end with me feeling like I'd wasted 4 hours of my life. Thankfully, if nothing else this show is worth watching for the action.
, coming off of the last Garo
anime, is definitely a director to look out for. He's a spectacular animator with a real knack for action scenes, whether it's tokusatsu-inspired or the stuff of Marvel movies. Dude himself admits to being huge into action movies in the neat documentary special CR put up with the show, and boy is he not subtle about it.
And that shows. While the series still utilizes a lot of expressive, exaggerated animation there's also a real sense of weight behind much of it that recreates the energy of live-action martial arts.
Thought that doesn't mean GoH
is anything approaching realistic. Any semblance of real life martial arts kinda goes out the window after the first 20 seconds of any given fight.
action definitely has the DNA of kung-fu movies or Hollywood stunts rather than actual combat, but it's obvious that a lot of care was put into making each fighter's style distinct and relatively accurate to their real-life disciplines. Like even an outsider to martial arts like me can immediately recognize Gamdo's tai chi, for instance (if only because I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender
too many times in middle school). The action is the lifeblood of the show, for better or for worse.
I'm far from an expert on martial arts either, but the attention to Gamdo's physicality is pretty neat. Though I guess we are getting ahead of ourselves a bit because there IS a story happening in between all the asskickings.
Like, not MUCH of a story, but a story nonetheless.
Who are we kidding, the prize of the tournament could be anything, it's really just an excuse to get a bunch of characters beating the piss out of each other in ridiculous fashion. Sure, there are hints of conspiracy around the tournament's organizers and purpose, but the draw of GoH is the fights more than any character drama or plot. Not that it doesn't try for drama!
The paper-thin plot is actually part of the charm for me, especially in what I've read of the manhwa
which has this mix of rule-of-cool shonen logic and a self-aware sense of humor that almost makes it feel parodic at points. Like, this is how we're introduced to our main character in the comic:
A spiky-haired goggle(sort of)-wearing dumbass literally singing about being the best fighter. He makes Goku look positively nuanced.
It's not super concerned with telling a compelling story, but that's fine. You can get plenty of mileage out of the antics of dumbass and co., like when Mira loses her shit over some buff dudes right before getting run over by an airborne bike.
It's also important to have a little insight into the character's motivations and histories once their characters are established, just a smidge of drama to keep the fights rooted in relatable emotions, but that doesn't have to come right away.
That stuff actually comes first in the manhwa
, while the anime rearranges things so our introduction to the main trio is them going on a Looney Tunes
bike chase against a motorcycle thief.
Huh, interesting! So the comic opens straight up with the melodrama while the anime takes a wholly different tone from the get-go. That would explain the disconnect between the first episode's goofy shenanigans and the subsequent do-or-die fights.
Granted the melodrama is still kind of inconsistent. Daewi's is played straight, while Mira's search for a suitable heir to her family's kendo dojo is more played for laughs. And then there's the walking Fight Puppy Mori who just...wants to wrassle.
Like I'm sure there's something more to Mori somewhere down the line but at this point he has 2 thoughts: Fight and Friendship, either consecutive or concurrent.
Three thoughts! Fight, Friendship, and Food, particularly that of the Free variety.
You can tell he's not very bright because he takes food from this dude, the most objectively evil person in the show even before you know he's some kind of evil (Demi?)God.
Hey, with all the major developments that happen every 5 minutes in this show, you gotta give him a bit of a pass for failing to notice a thing or two. Like there's an honest-to-god cult here.
Please don't ask me to explain the worldbuilding of this show. Stuff just kinda happens because we need something to do between fights, and most of it varies between Fun Dumb and Insulting Dumb. Fights are still cool though!
Whatever happens between fights sure feels hella abbreviated tho! Like the show barely establishes Daewi, Mira and Mori as characters before plopping them into a Bonding Moment when they search for Mira's missing sword. We barely have time to get a handle on their rival dynamic before they're suddenly chummy! Now I'm sure the snappy timing works if you're already familiar with the characters, but to a newcomer it's a little jarring that by episode 4 they're ready to crash Mira's wedding like they're old buddies.
Yeah, that's one of those decisions I'm of two minds on. In the manhwa
they each basically get an introductory chapter ala Soul Eater's
first volume, and that gives us a better idea of their personalities before they're smooshed together. But also their personalities are dirt simple and are just as effectively explained in 15 second flashbacks as they were with a whole chapter. So if you've got to cover a lot of ground in 1 cour
it makes sense to condense that stuff. Like we don't really need a whole episode to explain something as cliched as "Sick friend who needs medical expenses" right?
I don't think the backstory needs much fleshing out, but I would've liked to know more than one thing about each character's current self before launching into their pasts. For the flashbacks to hold any weight, we need to have a sense of who the characters are right now, how they act and respond to things on a regular basis. In its abbreviated form we get very little of that. Perhaps that's because the characters don't have a whole lot to them anyway?
I'd agree if there were much to any of their interactions, but as-is they basically just become a friend group by being in each other's proximity. In terms of emotional connection, Mori gets more of a relationship with Gamdo than either of his co-leads.
So things were gonna feel more awkward and manufacture regardless, so might as well skip to the fireworks factory. And by fireworks I mean supreme ass-kicking.
I can't decide if I wanted each fight to last longer or if I wanted to get the tournament's preliminary rounds over with. Like on one hand, it would've been nice if pro wrestler lady or the egghead were relevant for more than 2 minutes each, but on the other hand we might as well skip to the only fights that actually matter.
How dare you imply this Queen doesn't matter?
Thank of how much dedication it takes to keep those hairdrills intact during fighting tournaments? Truly she is the Goddess of High School.
It's an absolute crime that she got eliminated to make room for the leads to throw down in the finals. Miseon was robbed, I tell you!
Granted the most meaningful fight so far wasn't even sanctioned. Like Mori gets away with it because he's got Special Protag privilege but this tournament is really failing to deliver when its best bouts are against the rules.
I do find it strange that Mansuk gets almost as much fleshing out as the three leads only to withdraw from the tournament right after his thrashing. The anime definitely has trouble balancing its large cast without losing focus on the protagonists, as if the writers know Mansuk has the most compelling story but feel obligated to keep the main trio around anyway when deciding what to cut.
Oh for sure, but his bit is also the closest we get to a compelling motivation. He's a sadistic asshole who's taking out his feelings of inferiority on others by utilizing a ruthless form of Taekwondo (which he still failed to master) and that's a surprisingly complex bit of characterization for this show's standards.
Granted that's like a C-tier Baki
antagonist but it's more than this nerd gets.
I can just hear him gearing up to say "well, actually,"
So yeah, God of High School is mostly a vehicle for cool fight scenes and not much else, but I think in a season this sparse that's enough to make it a decent diversion. It's not amazing, but sometimes just sharp presentation can carry you.
...is what I would have said if we wrote this TWIA last week. Instead, well:
Yeah, what on earth is episode 4? Random guy shows up like "I'll solve your life problems", she agrees with almost no deliberation, but aha! the guy's evil so it's no big if her boyfriends crash the wedding. It all happens so quickly for vague ~plot reasons~ yet to be explained? I came out of the episode wishing we could dig more into the sword cult stuff rather than wasting energy on the non-drama that happened this week. Like oooookayyy, am I supposed to feel betrayed by this sketchy af dude we met 10 minutes ago?
It's a total trainwreck. Like sorry guys, only one franchise is powerful enough to make a nonsensical, impromptu wedding out of nowhere work, and it's called Macross
And even they get divorced after 20-some years of disagreement over the military-industrial complex!
Sure, but they manage to birth 2 future saviors of the universe in that time, which is more than I can say for this bizarre child bride nonsense. Also it's really funny that Mori's paens about helping his friend has to get by with flashing back to the one (1) time they were actually friendly with each other in the whole show.
It really lays bare how little the show has done to flesh out the 3 leads' dynamic. The boys' fashionably late arrival to the ceremony should be an affirmation of the three kids' friendship, but said friendship barely exists!
My favorite part is the resolution. After easily beating Billionaire dude's Stand (oh yeah episode 3 introduced Persona/Jojo's
powers for some reason???), the dude just drives off with Mira's apparently legendary sword like he's a cutrate Team Rocket.
Like that shot right there is a Simpsons
The episode's such a bizarre misstep in an otherwise perfectly entertaining series. I can only hope it's a one-off thing and not indicative of the show's overall direction. Was this the only way to get the legendary sword into enemy hands or what?
I'm totally the opposite. This episode showed me GoH almost certainly can't be good, so by god I want it to become the biggest trash fire it can aspire to be. I hope every single plot twist from hereon is as dumb and pointless as the sword cult wedding.
But then we wouldn't get nearly enough face-bashing to make this all worthwhile!
Oh they can keep the fights, but for the rest of it? Fuck it, go crazy. Reveal Mori to ACTUALLY be the reincarnation of Legally Distinct Goku. Have Mira literally turn her hands into swords to fight. Have Daewi murder somebo-
Ah hell yeah.
So yeah, I have no faith God of High School will be a good story, but if it can at least provide some balls to the wall action I'm plenty happy watching it kick itself in the teeth.
I'm with you on that at least. Though I would like pro wrestler lady to come back and achieve her dreams.
She deserves it! Chase your truth, Mah!