The God of High School – Mid Season Anime Review
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Synopsis: Jin Mori has proclaimed himself the strongest high schooler. His life changes when he’s invited to participate in “God of High School,” a tournament to determine the strongest high schooler of all. He’s told that if he wins, any wish he makes will be granted… All the participants are powerful contenders who fight their hardest for their own wishes. What awaits them at the end of the tournament? A chaotic battle between unbelievably strong high school students is about to begin! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: The God of High School undoubtedly offers some of the most well-animated action sequences of any Battle Shonen type anime. Thanks to incredible direction by Sunghoo Park, it always feels like there’s real weight behind the attacks, making the action feel explosive every second it’s on the screen. It’s in this way that The God of High School secures itself as one of the Summer’s better offerings. Though, because of a hefty use of tropes, few new ideas, and a propensity for speed-running the adaptation of its source material, the series ends up feeling like little more than a well-oiled, typical Shonen, underneath all that visual flair.
Linny: When viewed primarily as a Shonen Battle series, The God of High School comes off competent, containing plenty of impressive battles and over the top abilities and skills. Every showdown is greatly exaggerated and that’s what gives the series the flair needed to win devoted fans. However Crunchyroll, as well as the Manhwa’s original fan base, have heavily promoted The God of High School as offering grounded and realistic action, with martial arts techniques and fighting styles as the basis for its fighting content. That however isn’t quite true. The show literally starts with a giant hand squashing an island and then continues onto people with such insane abilities that it is nigh impossible to call any of it grounded or realistic. The concept of their abilities may have roots in actual martial arts but the depiction and execution is anything but that. So, don’t go into The God of High School expecting anything close to grounded, but at the same time don’t expect Dragon Ball levels of absurd either where people are shooting out energy beams. As stated earlier, going into this show expecting and excited for Shonen Battle staples is the way to go as even the main male MC, Jin Mori, is chock-full of your standard lead tropes from similar shows. He’s a little bit of an airhead with a shining heart of gold. He’s able to go from serious combatant to comical tantrum chibified teenager in a flash as and when the show needs him to. He’s in this tournament not because he has some selfish materialistic desire but simply because he loves to fight and wants to be the best of the best. Mori may not be overflowing with originality but what tropes he is made of, he bears them well enough to woo anyone prone to becoming a fan of such characters.
Tom: Jin Mori isn’t the exception either. The entire cast is a collection of traditional Shonen tropes, making everything beneath the high quality animation and expert visual direction feel a tad stale. The God of High School primarily follows Jin Mori and two other tournament contestants; Han Daewi and Yoo Mira. While Mori is the classic “loves to fight lead,” Yoo Mari feels like the typical solo female member of the trio, whose main struggle consists of trying to maintain equal strength with the boys or more simply accepting herself as capable of carrying on her grandfather’s fighting style. Han Daewi is a variation on the delinquent with a heart of gold, though perhaps stands as the most original of the trio, thanks to a tragic back story/motivation for entering the tournament. Even still, what we learn of him doesn’t venture far from your typical delinquent fighter expectations. To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these characters. They’re likable, amusing, and easy to root for. It’s just they don’t feel all that original, outside of their designs, and for any viewer well versed in the pantheon of fighting anime/battle shonen, these character types won’t wow like they once did.
Linny: It doesn’t help matters that much of who our three main characters are is often crammed in between segments of an already crowded episode. So much info is delivered and so many developments happen in a single episode that viewers might end struggling to get invested or even keep up. Poignant moments and reveals rarely ever get the time to be soaked up by the audience and instead we’re constantly zipping from one major plot point to another. For eg; Yoo Mira goes from meeting a guy for the first time to their wedding day within one episode itself. This rushed pace further hampers the chances of the cast members coming off as much more than a collection of familiar stereotypes as you never learn enough or spend enough time with them individually to connect with them on a deeper level.
Tom: And that crammed feeling brings up The God of High School’s biggest weakness; the rapid pace. Not only do characters suffer, but so does much of the more incidental action. Tournament anime often feature fights beyond the primary characters, offering a bevy of side characters going head to head. But this first leg of The God of High School tournament skips over many of the other fights, giving away that it’s a forgone conclusion our trio are going to be the top contenders and the only ones to advance. Part of the struggle is an adaptation cutting content from the original Manhwa in order to get to a certain stopping point by the end of its season long run. The other half of the trouble stems from the manga’s laser focus on our trio during this leg of the story. To be fair, with the way the world of The God of High School expands with Episode 6, and the way the tournament is structured, this does make some sense, and perhaps the anime’s more rushed approach is to get through this part of the story, where the outcome is obvious, and onto the next section where things are a bit more hectic and uncertain for our heroes. Whatever the justification, the rapid pace unfortunately doesn’t help and feels so much more so like a mark against the series.
Linny: It’s hard not to hammer home just how rushed the storytelling in The God of High School is. While the show had vaguely teased mythical powers and the tournament being more significant than just a random competition of power and skill in earlier episodes, things really jump up several notches in episode 6. Episode 6 is when the series really starts to expand its narrative beyond just the tournament itself. In fact, we get introduced to 5 new characters within that one single episode alone and that doesn’t even include all the new villainous characters that get screen time in the episode as well. It also throws in some extremely over the top elements such as a giant magical sword that appears out of nowhere with some vague sentences inscribed on it without any context. These rushed and cramped developments feel random and disjointed and instead of piquing interest, make the show itself feel erratic in a manner that makes it hard to get invested or impressed. Because of the lack of steady groundwork and build up, what could have been shocking or unique additions to the story end up as random nonsense.
Tom: Overall though, despite rapid pacing and trope ridden leads, The God of High School remains a competent, and often enjoyable Battle Shonen-esque anime. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, nor do I think it’s attempting to, but much like how I view My Hero Academia, The God of High School is a series that knows how to use classic shonen expectations and nail them, making best use of worn and tired elements. It’s bolstered by top notch direction that I think carries the title much farther than if a director of less talent had taken on the production, as well as a soundtrack that strengthens each and every fight. The God of High School might not be the most original title this Summer, but it’s still a satisfying watch.
Linny: Despite all the criticisms we’ve laid out about The God of High School, I would still say it is worth checking out for anyone who enjoys the staples of Shonen Battle anime. If you are intrigued by the idea of watching individuals with unusually powerful abilities and skills taking down each other while also engaging in themes of friendship and camaraderie, all served alongside a vague plot of bigger and more sinister powers and elements in play, you could be the perfect viewer for this show. There are definitely a lot of caveats you may have to overlook such as the rushed pace, disjointed storytelling and it’s not exactly the most progressive with its female cast either. But if you’ve got the time and the curiosity, Jin Mori and his crew might just win you over all the same.
The God of High School is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.