“Renewal/Soul” fleshes out the main characters, ups the brutality, and continues to impress.
This recap of God of High School season 1, episode 2, “Renewal/Soul”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
If you had any concerns about Crunchyroll’s original anime God of High School, then today’s second episode, “Renewal/Soul”, should have hopefully addressed them. It’s pretty difficult to argue that this is anything other than a very good adaptation of Yongje Park’s WEBTOON-published comic series, and an excellent fighting anime in its own right, some little nitpicks notwithstanding. It might not be wholly original, and its borrowed elements are very obvious here and there, but the overall slickness and quality of the production help to tap into what makes this such an enduring genre in the first place.
God of High School episode 2 very much continues in the same vein as the opener, with part of the runtime devoted to characterization and worldbuilding, and the rest to a flashy, stylish punch-up between two of the tournament’s contestants – including the enigmatic and vicious Gang Manseok. That viciousness is one of the big takeaways from “Renewal/Soul”; the brutality inflicted on Gang Manseok’s opponent, Go Gamdo, is a wince-inducing beatdown. I guess that’s what you get for taking Tai Chi to a fighting tournament.
But it serves a purpose, especially in establishing Gang Manseok as a credible opponent for Jin, whom we get a little more of here, along with Daewi and Mira. It’s hard not to be amused when these three lay out their respective motivations for proving themselves the best high-school fighter in Seoul. Mira wants to rebuild the family dojo by passing on her late father’s Moon Light Sword Style to a strong man; continuing some kind of familial legacy is always a motivator in shows like this, after all. Daewi wants money. Jin wants to get stronger because of course he does – he even looks a bit like Goku.
These are thin, borrowed ideas, make no mistake, but they’re really just excuses to show off a range of fighting styles during the titular tournament, and animation studio MAPPA delights in showing these off. The fights are clear stand-outs in God of High School episode 2. Each combatant moves distinctly, fights uniquely, and cuts a striking silhouette. It’s all designed for clarity and keeps outlandish affectation to a minimum (by anime standards, anyway). Scraps are easy to follow and kinetic and rich with characterization. They’re great fun.
It’s hard to quibble about the visuals at all, actually, except for perhaps the Rudolph noses, and I’m not keen on the meta flourish of having Crunchyroll branding adorn the ring when the show is exclusive to Crunchyroll anyway. But that’s a minor nitpick in what is otherwise a very strong episode, and while it has plenty of moment-to-moment pleasures, the wider worldbuilding potential of God of High School is, I think, the most interesting thing about it.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.