The God of High School is the latest manhwa-turned-anime to grace our screens this year – only the second Korean comic to be adapted into animated form after Tower of God in Spring 2020. We follow taekwondo practitioner Jin Mori and his friends as they fight their way through a nationwide martial arts tournament that gets cranked up a notch when it’s discovered that certain participants possess unique superpowers called “charyeok”.
This high-octane action anime has been brought to life by top-tier studio MAPPA (known for their work on Dororo, Garo: Vanishing Line, Kakegurui, and others) and was heavily promoted on streaming sites as the next big shounen anime. But does The God of High School live up to its lofty expectations? Let’s take a closer look and find out!
A Spectacle for the Ages
The first thing you need to know about this anime is that the animation kicks all kinds of ass. MAPPA spared no expense with the fight scenes, even hiring real martial artists as motion capture actors to get the complex movements just right. Every punch, kick, and sword strike feels weighty and solid, and it’s easy to tell different characters’ fighting styles apart based on their stances alone. Some of the best sakuga moments are reused in the OP, drenched in neon and synced to the thumping dubstep beat of “Contradiction” by KSUKE.
Once charyeok powers are introduced, the fight scenes get even more hype-tastic with things like shark teeth appearing out of nowhere to gouge some poor sap in the stomach or the tournament’s judges tearing apart hordes of monsters with giant scythes and fire-breathing dragons. If you’re a fan of intense shounen battles or are just an animation nerd, you’ll definitely want to go over every episode with a fine-toothed comb to appreciate all of the passion the studio put into this project.
What on Earth is Going On?
The second thing you need to know about this anime is that, while the animation does kick all kinds of ass, the story doesn’t do enough to make it meaningful. After all, one cannot live on hype alone, so the best anime fight scenes draw on emotion and relationships to fuel the action. Think about Deku vs Todoroki in My Hero Academia or even Hyakkimaru vs Tahoumaru in MAPPA’s own Dororo – the reason those scenes were so memorable wasn’t just because of the animation or music, but because the characters had such clear motivations and feelings attached to each attack they threw at their opponent. In The God of High School, though, we just don’t get enough setup to make most fight scenes seem like anything more than empty spectacle.
This anime’s fatal flaw is that it introduces so many concepts and characters so quickly that the viewer doesn’t have time to understand or care about any of them. It actually compresses over 100 webcomic chapters into only 13 episodes, so while the manhwa could take time to develop its characters and explain its more high-concept ideas, the anime feels like one of those parody YouTube videos that compress an entire show’s plot down to a few minutes. Who is this vaguely racist-looking character who stole Mira’s sword? Why does Mori have a beef with the shark guy whose actual rival is another character who Mori only met a handful of episodes ago? When did this simple martial arts tournament turn into The End of Evangelion??
Overall, The God of High School is a gorgeously animated show that has a ton of potential but sacrificed any sense of comprehensibility or emotional engagement so it could get to the big reveal about Mori by the end of its runtime. If it does get a second season, we’d love to see the pace slow down so we can follow what’s going on without having to check the wiki every five seconds. Let us know what you think about The God of High School in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading!