The first round of the tournament proper gets underway in “anima/force”, and with action aplenty, you can tell the show is upping the ante with new concepts and bloodier battles than ever.
This recap of The God of High School season 1, episode 7, “anima/force”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The God of High School episode 7 feels in many ways like a direct response to the previous episode having little to no action – “anima/force” is all action all the way through, on two different fronts. The first is the titular tournament, which has reached the national stage and, as we learned last week, is now a team sport, with the top three combatants from each region working together. The second is the nefarious backstage affairs of Nox, rich with religious symbology and fanciful otherworldly squabbling, as the secret society seems to be targeting staffers associated with the tournament.
This split narrative works really well, and I hope it continues going forwards. I also like that the fighting in the tournament seems much more evenly matched, given these are all regional winners, and “anima/force” immediately ups the ante for our heroes by having Mori try and show off a move he learned from Bongchim of The Six in his opening bout, succeeding only in paralyzing himself and losing.
The tournament format is a best of three affair, so it isn’t all over for Daewi and Mira, although the pressure’s on. Daewi’s fight is the most entertaining since he takes on an intriguing and sympathetic competitor in Jin Pum, the oldest high schooler at 38 who gets a little backstory and whose fighting style is a working man’s form of wrestling with special moves honed by a lifetime of menial physical labor. I must admit I was kind of rooting for him.
Mira’s match is less interesting since her opponent, while having a compelling friendship with Jin Pum, is basically a mirror of her. That fight, well animated though it is, passes by virtually unnoticed. It’s elsewhere that The God of High School episode 7 really flexes its animation and imagination muscles, with Drake’s attempted assassination of Commissioner Q backfiring considerably as the latter is able to remove his limiter, light a cigarette, and summon a kind of demonic clown trickster God to fight alongside him. I’ll be damned if the concept of charyeok, which is brought up a few times in “anima/force”, makes any sense whatsoever to me, but it certainly looks cool and makes for some fun fisticuffs.
There’s a case to be made that the show should be explaining this stuff better, but a part of me suspects that’s the point. As much as I enjoy The Misfit of Demon King Academy, writing about it is a nightmare since I have to pause every few minutes to note down all the expository dialogue and weird terminology. For now, The God of High School is content to allow this leveling-up of the action to speak for itself, and to be honest, if we’re getting more giant monster scraps as a result, I won’t be the one to complain.
This narrative split also helps the show’s pace, since it has always been liable to skip right through the tournament matches and waste time with other stuff. “anima/force” sees the smartest use of that downtime so far – it’s filled with either relevant backstory to make the fights more meaningful, or just more fights happening in a different place. The action never lets up as a result, but it still feels as if there’s a coherent story here – I just wish it’d drop the humor, which never seems to work.
Also weird in The God of High School season 1, episode 7 is a very conscious upping of the brutality and cursing and other typically “adult” content – it’s referenced explicitly in the Nox business, and the bleeped-out swearing lands with some impact since it feels so out of place, and a violent stomping in the tournament prompts another intervention. There’s an awful lot going on here – a lot of fighting, a lot of upping the ante, a lot of visual storytelling, and the fact “anima/force” hangs together at all is impressive. The fact it seems so confident in itself can only mean good things for the show’s future.