Miss my review last week? You can find it here!
After an otherwise odd episode last week seemed to take us on a detour, episode 5 of God of High School blends raw emotional power with a stunning fight scene, resulting in the best episode of the season by far.
Last week I was a little…confused. While I understood the series attempts to paint Yoo Mira’s backstory, using a rushed marriage proposal and the ensuing antics just seemed out of place more than anything. It felt like I was watching a filler episode at times, which was disappointing given how much I’d been enjoying it up to that point.
Even more head-scratching was the breakneck pace that the episode launched into during its final few minutes: pitting Han Daewi against the young woman he had just gone through all that trouble to save and mercilessly beating her into the ground. Thoroughout the GoH fandom, there was a collective “Huh?”
But then…this week’s episode landed. And I just want to apologize to God of High School for ever doubting it’s awesomeness.
We start by seeing Han dealing with the emotional aftermath of what he just did to Mira, fresh blood still on his hands as he empties his stomach into a toilet. While we had a general understanding of his motivation (sick friend), knowing that he was actively agonizing over what he had to do to one friend in order to try and save another starts the viewer off on a journey of empathizing and understanding with a character that seemingly became a villain in the span of 60 seconds last week.
Jin Mori is pitted against a fighter specializing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but seems more annoyed than anything as he takes down his semi-final opponent in a flash. While it was brief, it was cool to see Jin in a more serious mode, obviously unbothered by another stepping stone on his way to a real challenge.
Overall, the episode largely focuses on two things: Han’s backstory with his ill friend, and the God of High School (Seoul) final round between Jin and Han.
The backstory is constructed in a familiar, but powerful way. We learn that despite his current soft spoken nature, we see that Han used to be quite a troublemaker – a delinquent that often got into fights. This was tempered somewhat when he met Woo Seungtae, who didn’t mind trading blows with the otherwise intimidating Daewi. After coming to his aid in order to save a close friend of his, Han and Woo became good friends.
The contrast between Woo and Han’s budding friendship and the tension between Jin and Han was not lost on me as the episode progressed. You begin to wonder if Han is really willing to risk losing two friends in trying to save the one.
We learn that Han made an agreement with Park Mujin in order to accelerate getting his friend on advanced medical treatment, which just makes me want to talk about the socio-economic ramifications of that. Nanomachines that can heal major injuries easily, but only available in bloodsports like the God of High School tournament? What the heck?
Anyways, Han was supposed to secure “overwhelming” victory in the final rounds in order to secure continued treatment for his friend, and as he and Jin clash, it seems as though that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
While Jin and Han duke it out, Yoo Mira is on her way out of the hospital when she realizes that someone else in the hospital was being treated with nano machines. Entering the ICU, she discovers a young man that had just died, and makes the connection to Han Daewi.
Back in the ring, Han delivers a successful combo of his 4 stances, ending with the dragon-themed Azure Strike, which seems to put Jin down for the count.
The fight scene between Jin and Han is essentially broken into two parts, and in the first half I really enjoyed seeing Han’s stances more fleshed out. The various full-screen shots of the stances were very cool.
As Han stands, seemingly victorious, over Jin, Park Mujin approaches the side of the ring to tell Han that his friend had died.
The countdown nearly finished, of course Jin stands, and launches a fresh assault on a now stunned Han. It seemed like an interesting experiment in disappointment and grief to tell Han about his friend’s death just after he had finished beating the ever-loving crap out of Jin. Now he assumed he had lost his friend, as well as burnt bridges with both Jin and Mira.
Mira, however, arrives to disrupt the pity party and give Han a letter from his longtime friend. Jin stops fighting so he can read it, much to the announcer’s annoyance. It was entertaining watching him threaten a Yellow Card as Jin covered his ears and pretended to ignore him.
Rejuvenated, Jin and Han clash again, this time with a very different spirit and energy. The animation, in a spectacular shift, reflects this in a beautiful calligraphy-style:
This was seriously stunning to watch. There have already been some glimpses into the possibilities that MAPPA brought to the table with God of High School, but like with so many other elements of the show, it really hit a new high in the closing minutes of the episode.
There’s also something to be said for the music in those closing moments as well – it was extremely poignant. The entire scene was just crafted with considerable care from top to bottom.
Overall, God of High School has won me over entirely with this weeks episode. I may not be able to see around the corner or understand why certain narrative choices are being made, but this episode taught me that I don’t need to.
What’s that saying?
Let go and let God of High School?