What’s it about? The God of High School tournament is a mixed martial arts tournament whose specially chosen competitors are vying to have their wish granted by the tournament organizers. But unbeknownst to them—except maybe our protagonist, Jin Mori—there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes.
What are your feelings about shows that operate 75% on The Aesthetic? Because that’s going to be a big factor in how much God of High School works for you. This first episode is so bare bones that it named itself “set up,” with the majority of the runtime showcasing an attempted purse-snatching before closing out with the beginning of the tournament’s opening battle royale.
Which makes a certain sense, as director Park Sung Hoo is primarily a powerhouse of the key animation department, and series composer Yoshimura Kiyoko has considerable experience working on an interesting array of action titles from toy-fronted battlers to yuri assassin anime Akuma no Riddle.
The result is that the thin material in this opener is executed with an impressive amount of skill. The purse-snatching sequence is a truly impressive short film all on its own, ramping up its small stakes into absurdity while also maintaining utter sincerity.
We learn roughly one trait each about our main trio of heroes—Mori is a classic all-heart-no-brains hero, Mira is an equally earnest swordfighter with a Velma-like reliance on her glasses (which obviously get broken immediately), and Daewi is chill and responsible—but over the course of one chase scene the show manages to sell their future dynamic so effectively that it became a hook in its own right.
It’s particularly exciting that Mira is not only competent (though I expect her to get sidelined eventually, like in any male-dominated tournament series) but also goofy—lady lunkheads aren’t nearly as prominent as their male counterparts, as the well-meaning sexist aphorism about “girls maturing faster” often puts these characters in the role of scolding mother-figure to their male peers. The premiere also avoids any panty shots despite Mira doing plenty of acrobatics in a skirt.
The designs overall do lean in the direction of a D-cup minimum and boob-cup shirt aesthetics, but it’s a background element more than active fanservice. And while, as Caitlin recently discussed, equal-opportunity fanservice isn’t really a thing when every woman we see is subject to a sexualized gaze when every man is not, there are some glamour shots of glistening pecs here, too.
What concerns me is the fact that the actual tournament part of this tournament series is just soul-crushingly dull. It’s a battle royale rather than what I assume will eventually be one-on-one matches, but the tension crumbled almost immediately as the chaos onscreen became so much undifferentiated noise for me as a viewer.
Little of the characters’ individual fighting styles, which communicated their characters so well during the comedy segment, came through once the allegedly serious stakes took off. And that does not speak well for the show as a whole (nor does the fact that I’ve seen no need to discuss the show’s political thriller cold open, which is likewise full of stock lines but in a much more boring way).
The ratio of comedy-to-action-to-character will be key on whether this turns out to be a fun-but-shallow ride or an interminable, samey slog. And while my soul withers at the thought of trying to keep up with something that’s been going for almost a decade and 500 chapters in the long run, I definitely liked the good parts of this episode enough to give it a few more episodes.