Miss my review last week? You can find it here!
We’re gonna go ahead and skip the summaries from now on and just get to the review!
Episode 3 is when I started to get a bit nervous about the direction that God of High School was headed. While episode 2 spotlighted Go Gamdo’s technique and provided Mori an opportunity to showcase his promising ability, episode 3 had a lot of flash, but failed to land when it came to substance.
Mira’s bout with Mah Miseon is a great example. While we get to see some cool new techniques from the swordswoman, Miseon’s motivations are laughably shallow.
While it’s a fairly common strategy to have the heroes motivations and goals be more inherently noble than the secondary characters, Miseon’s monologue about striving for the top spot to basically have a reverse harem allows the viewer to effectively write off her desire as comic relief and completely disconnect from investing in the character. Not surprisingly, Mira does triumph over Miseon after revealing a handful (haha) of new techniques that don’t require her blade.
Again, I was disappointed at this development because there were some really cool directions that this could have gone. Miseon could have been striving to make the Women’s Wrestling movement more legitimate, or some other equally noble cause that might have you actually rooting for a solidly competitive match. Instead it just feels like a throwaway bit of exposition.
Jin Mori’s arc also gets a bit more…complicated as the episode progresses. Park Mujin determines that Mori will have a sparring match with one of the commissioners to determine if he can re-secure his spot in the competition. He also happens upon a devil’s fruit of some kind (sorry Luffy), which seems to have some drastic effects on him as he collapses and the narrative shifts to Han Daewi’s bout against Baek Seungchul.
From an animation standpoint, the Han fight is definitely the centerpiece…though it once again comes in a predictable package. Seungchul is an academic of sorts, who has thoroughly studied karate and therefore can predict Han’s movements, landing multiple damaging attacks all over his body. Han then begins to demonstrate the true depth of his martial expertise as he cycles through 3 distinct “stances”, demolishing Seungchul in a stunningly smooth and devastating animation sequence.
While I was definitely engrossed in terms of overall shock and awe when it came to the animation, after reflecting on the episode a bit, I once again found the clash to be anti-climactic.
Then as the episode came to its conclusion, it basically went full Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, when the commissioner is promptly knocked over by Mori – who seems to have obtained some newfound power thanks to the mysterious fruit he ate. I knew there was going to be some power-scaling eventually, but the abrupt incline took away some of the magic of those early episodes.
So, episode 3 put me on guard. Episode 4…well…it’s pretty well characterized by a random character pulling up to ask Mira for her hand in marriage in the first 60 seconds of the episode.
If it sounds like a bit of narrative whiplash, well, that’s pretty much episode 4 in a nutshell. The episode is mainly about Mori and Han doing their best to disrupt the wedding, with the suspicious Seongjin seemingly promising everything Mira ever hoped for: a prominent reputation for the Moon Light Sword Style and a lavish lifestyle to boot!
Still, Mori’s far from convinced it’s actually what she wants.
We get a bit more explanation on Mira’s tragic backstory, including the fact that her uncle did his best to take on the Moon Light Sword dojo, but his lack of martial ability led to students eventually outgrowing the dojo and seeing the style as weak.
The exposition was a nice little nugget, for sure.
We also are treated to an awesome shot of Han and Mori crashing the wedding – the dynamic duo showing up to cause some trouble:
Mori ultimately convinces Mira that she should make her own decisions and live her own life, with the help of her uncle and cousin. Confronting Seongjin and cancelling the wedding, he reveals that his intention was to secure the successor for the style, and summons a large spirit similar to the one the commissioner used at the end of episode 3. After taking a slice out of Mira’s stomach, Seongjin finds himself on the wrong side of her sword style as she takes him out with a single technique.
Some say the arc went by way too quickly, and while I agree there could have been a bit more time taken up by it, if it were to stretch to 2 full episodes, chances are fans would be frustrated.
Where the episode really turns the genre on its head is in the final ~2-3 minutes.
Han’s friend, seemingly the motivation for his participation, seemingly dies (or at least is in dire straits), and as a result, the typically mild-mannered giant brutally assaults the trio of bullies that typically harass him, and then goes into the ring with Mira and repeatedly attacks her recent wound. She’s knocked down promptly, bleeding heavily as he passes Mori in the darkened hall, promising to see him in the finals.
I actually couldn’t really process what happened in those final few minutes – as the show literally transitions from the trio walking down the street laughing, to Han beating the ever-loving crap out of Mira without mercy. The transition from a happy, laughing Mira with her friends…having just dismissed a sketchy marriage to pursue her dream and grasp it with her own hands…only to be beaten into the dust by someone who was supposed to be her friend.
God of High School continues to rush towards a narrative payoff, and at episode 4 and nearing the finals, it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s the tournament. What is this framing leading to? Will it make sense once we get there?
It’s hard to tell at this point…but it still has a grasp on my attention – if for no other reason to see where the story is headed.