MAPPA’s highly anticipated adaptation of the smash-hit Korean webcomic The God of High School certainly made its mark on the anime world with its face-melting sakuga moments and non-stop action, but it also had one very noticeable flaw – it tried to compress over 100 webcomic chapters into just 13 anime episodes.
As a result, important plot elements came up far too suddenly, characters were introduced just to be thrown away an episode or two later, and big climactic fights felt hollow because they lacked the proper build-up to get the viewers invested in what was going on. It’s still a great show for animation nerds and anyone who loves hot-blooded shounen action, but the lightning-fast pacing left audience members completely unable to understand what was going on for large portions of the finale. So how could they have fixed this? Let’s take a look at several short adaptations of much longer source material to see how they handled this problem.
Focus on One Major Arc
One way to make a concise, self-contained anime adaptation out of a much larger story is to focus on one major arc that works well by itself. The 1997 Berserk anime famously stuck to just the Golden Age arc, which is technically a flashback for the main story, but encompasses Guts and Griffith’s changing relationship so well that it became a classic all on its own. Vinland Saga does something similar – even if it never gets a second season to explore Thorfinn’s adult life, his childhood journey through violence and revenge is a work of art (and certainly got more people to read the manga). And the original JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure OVAs started with Part 3, since its style is much more consistent with what the franchise would become than the oddball Parts 1 and 2.
If The God of High School wanted to go this route, it could’ve started with the national tournament rather than the regional qualifiers so that it could develop important characters like Jegal and Ilpyo early on. This would still allow the anime to end at the big impressive reveal that it was obviously trying its hardest to reach in just 13 episodes, but we would be more invested in villain and side characters, rather than just the three leads. Perhaps a few flashbacks to the regionals could fill in the gaps?
Make Changes to the Source Material
Another option is to make drastic changes to the source material, as can be seen most prominently in the classic anime film Akira. The director (who also wrote the original manga) compressed the six-volume story into a two-hour movie by cutting out many subplots and shortening the timeframe of events down to just a few days. It worked so well that most people don’t even know that there was a manga in the first place!
The 2006 live-action Death Note movies also did a great job compressing the manga and anime’s somewhat convoluted plot down to four total hours, most notably by letting L stay the main villain the entire time instead of replacing him with Near and Mello. It doesn’t capture the exact same frenetic magic that the source material exuded from its every pore, but the rivalry between Light and L carries through both movies in a way that feels much more cohesive and emotionally satisfying than it was before.
The God of High School’s strategy would be similar here, except that it would completely remove the regional tournament and introduce charyeok in the first few battles. Getting rid of some supporting characters as well (particularly those involved with the shadowy dealings surrounding the tournament) would make the plot much easier to follow, and extra foreshadowing could be put in place for the final twist. If Akira can make it work, so can they!
If you loved The God of High School exactly as it was, then we’re happy that you enjoyed it. But we think that if it’s only going to get 13 episodes, it should use them wisely. Let us know what you think of our suggestions in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!