This week’s The God of High School episodes shows the real potential this Battle anime is capable of, with a solid theme, brilliant characterization and an emotionally impactful but more importantly entertaining fight scene.
The episode begins with Haircut Employee coping with losing his potential friends and more realistically punching bags. It is a very tense moment as we see Haircut Employee throwing up into the toilet, intercut with flashbacks of the friends he beat like they stole something. We see blood and it isn’t clear if he’s acquired a condition similar to his dying friend, or if it is a manifestation of his guilt from beating a blood transfusion out of his other friend. The episode actually begins and we get a potentially amazing match. The Jiu jitsu user has a chance to showcase the different fighting styles of this universe and martial artists. Naturally this is just a way to show how awesome Mori is, and there is no legitimate Jiu jitsu moves, before the challenger is slammed into the floor anime style. Mori doesn’t use any Jiu jitsu, and instantly wins the match before the audience is given any genuine Brazilian fighting moves.
This is a great move in terms of pacing for the story, but quite frankly that fight could have been an efficient instrument to flesh out the world, display the cast’s diversity, and show off some cultural flare with traditional fighting moves.
It’s Haircut Employee Vs. Mori in one of the better fight scenes in this anime. In this fight we have each element of a fight scene represented. The character dynamics seemed so forced considering everyone had recently been introduced to each other. The God of High School manages to turn its main cast’s lack of authentic relationships into a strength. The audience doesn’t know if there will be a resolution, due to there being only a nascent bond. The entire fight is rooted in a heavy emotional weight. The conflicts parallel each other directly. Mori is fighting to avenge Glasses Girl and Haircut Employee is fighting to save his sick friend. The motives are clear and reasonable so we aren’t inclined to either character. The fight starts, and the crowd in the anime doesn’t even know who to cheer. The give and take is spectacular, and while we don’t get the feeling any of these fighters can be knocked down so easily, there is a definite anticipation over who will be overpowered. The pacing is powerful as we are able to see each strike increase with force, thanks to the crisp animation. We also see the fighters progressively wounded with each hit, it seems like each hit serves a purpose whether it’s fleshing out the character, or in service of the next action. The moves in this fight are made with intent. To add to the emotional weight, the fight is rooted in the characters’ respective traumas. We see Mori moving hyper aggressive and even risking his own safety to hurt Haircut Employee, and we can see Haircut Employee’s subtle hesitation as his bloodlust has abated during this particular bout. It’s important to note that grief has pushed Haircut Employee far from the character he originally presented. Haircut Employee was never someone who took advantage of openings much less weaknesses. This is what makes it so powerful when Mori gives Haircut Employee an entreaty to return to his former self. Mori uses almost the exact same technique that Haircut Employee used in a former match. Mori tosses Haircut Employee into the corner, he then offers his hand to help Haircut Employee up. The entreaty is denied because Mori has failed to bludgeon himself beforehand, and as a result not only disrespected turn-based fighting, but also has failed to bond with his side characters.
Mori is mortally wounded (as much as a MC can be.) when the match is interrupted. (No, not Mori style.) Haircut Employee gets the tragic news that his sick friend, Seungtae has passed. Immediately we get a flashback, that in a rare instance not only preserves the pacing, but adds even more depth to the fight. Shonen anime has a trope where characters usually speak on the importance of friendship, and their ordeals will usually show the strength of those bonds. The God of High School completely subverts this trope. Haircut Employee speaks on his personal value of friendship. This gives us more insight into who he is as a character, and why he really fights. The speech he gives contrasts Shonen adventure anime. He speaks of people who only use each other when they’re convenient for each other, with no underlying interest beyond convenience. (*cough* Naruto, Goku, Luffy)
A moment before Mori knocks the grief out of his face, the match is interrupted yet again. It’s Glasses Girl who allows Haircut Employee to drop his emotional weights, and reach his final form. Acceptance. In a heartwarming moment Mori pauses the match for Glasses Girl to give Haircut- no Han a new technique. Intrinsic motivation.
Mori and Han return to blows with renewed energy. The fight is no longer rooted in trauma but now has become almost a bonding exercise. The pacing is pretty awful, but it is more reminiscent of Battle Anime. The two allowing each other faults and missteps in order to allow their talents to truly shine, and experience the brunt of their rival’s abilities. It’s something truly masterful to take a psychological concept, and translate it into a fight. The animation style in this scene is brilliant, and the stylistic art choices, and phenomenal direction integrate seamlessly. The angles make it feel like you’re experiencing the fight with these characters as opposed to spectating in the crowd or behind a screen. This week’s episode was spectacular and highlighted the strengths of this anime. There was characterization through actions, a respectable pacing, genuine emotional weight, and it was cool as shit.