The God of High School dominated internet discussions over the summer due to its focus on character-driven fight scenes. At least, that is what fans told me before I checked out the series for myself. While the fights were spectacular, I was surprised to find out that there was not a whole lot else going for this shonen series.
Based on the webtoon of the same name by Yongje Park, The God of High School follows Mori Jin, a martial artist from Seoul, South Korea who has decided to participate in “The God of High School,” a tournament to seemingly decide who is the strongest fighter in South Korea. On his way to the first day of the tournament, he runs into fellow martial artist Daewi Han and swordswoman Mira Yoo, who are competing in the competition as well. Together the three strive to take the title of God of Highschool, which will allow one wish of their choosing to be granted by the corporation hosting the event.
While each one has an interesting reason for participating in the tournament, it becomes obvious that Mori is tied to tournament’s true purpose for existence. His past with his grandfather gives him some emotional depth, but the execution of that depth is lackluster, making Mori just another boring overpowered protagonist.
Mira suffers from something similar, getting most of her development frontloaded into a single episode at the beginning of the season. She receives little focus on her background and drive during the rest of the season, feeling like a side character despite being a strong fighter in her own right.
Daewi receives almost the same amount of attention as Mira, but his story is spread throughout multiple episodes. This allows for his character’s emotional climax in episode five to feel earned, creating the only emotional payoff that actually landed for me. Sadly, the rest of the show was unable to capture that emotional high for me, making it feel boring and forgettable by the time I finished the last episode.
Despite the many failings of The God of High School‘s writing, the animation by MAPPA (Hajime no Ippo: Rising, Dororo) is top notch, on par with Ufotable’s work on Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. The obvious stand out is the fight between Mori and Daewi in episode five, which utilized multiple different art styles, such as ink work. The emotional beats presented before the fight allowed the combatants’ emotions to come out through their fighting style. The moment when Daewi finally calms down and begins putting his all into the fight is spectacular. The art style is quite unique and lends itself wonderfully to the characters. Luckily, MAPPA is bringing this same energy to Jujutsu Kaisen, so hopefully it will turn out better than The God of High School.
Somehow, even with the bland writing, the English dub was quite good for the most part. The shortcomings mainly came from the lack of strong emotion during most of the show, especially the finale. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) director Michael Sorich and the entire cast did exceptional considering the lack of material they had to work with. Robbie Deymond (Mori), Sean Chiplock (Daewi) and Veronica Taylor (Mira) were all excellent. The voices for all of the commissioners stood out as well, but, sadly, most of them are left uncredited currently.
The God of High School was able to gain popularity due to the amazing fight animation and its simple base premise. Sadly, it seems the story ended up being a little too ambitious to be contained within 13 episodes. If the anime did anything, it was convince me to read the webtoon, as at least it likely won’t have the same issues with pacing as the anime did. If you want to revel in the amazing fight scenes, you can find the series on Crunchyroll.