Running is cool; it’s like walking, except you get places faster. Still, there is the little thing where you get tired way faster and you have to catch your breath—which is ironic considering that you were just running. Does that mean your breath runs faster than you? and if it does, then why do you have to slow down to catch it? That’s some backwards ass thinking if you ask me, but apparently it’s the way things work; so, whatever. In this vein, a series sometimes just needs a moment to chill, breathe easy, and calmly present the story it wishes to tell…then it can get back to throwing bodies into a meat grinder masquerading as a tournament.
For what seems like the first time since The God of High School started, this episode eases up on the titular tournament—and is all the stronger for it. Without barrelling towards the next match, the story actually had a chance to unfurl. I imagine it as akin to having a balled up piece of paper thrown at your head—we’ve all seen other anime where this is a trope. After being struck, characters tend to un-ball said paper and read whatever mean/secret message was contained within/on it. Message delivered and conveyed. Up until this point, however, The God of High School has been pelting us with ball after ball of paper—refusing to give us the time to read any. Boom. GOH. Boom. Marriage. Boom. Dead friend. Boom. Charyeok. Yes, technically we are now aware of these things but only on the surface. Heck, this episode is the first time we’ve ever seen a character’s opinion on charyeok. This is the eighth episode of the series. It’s just…look, I’m happy this episode is what it is, I really am; I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to happen.
On that previously mentioned charyeok opinion: Mori is not a fan. Though a person whose sole purpose is becoming stronger, Mori does not wish that to occur by anything but his own merit. As charyeok is, by definition, borrowed power, he views it as a false strength. Not an entirely unheard of train of thought in the world of anime, but our first real glimpse into the inner workings of Mori’s brain. Combine this with the knowledge that he seeks power to stand beside his grandfather who left to protect him from non-specific bad guys who would do them harm and you have the makings of a character. I mean, it still would’ve been nice to know this when Mori was actively crushing Daewi’s dream of saving his friend from death, but you can’t have everything. Mori’s overall lack of pep this episode is also tied into his desire to match his grandfather’s strength. Having been told by that jerk Mujin that his grandfather is missing and/or dead, Mori’s frustration at his lack of power is compounded by the abundance of charyeok at GOH. Mori thought he was a pretty tough cookie—we all did—but the world of combat has become a touch bigger than the cool kicks this series started with. There’s a guy who can summon Jaws now: a power he used to kill a guy. So flippy kicks just won’t cut it anymore.
Speaking of shark boy (which I will call Taek for as long as I deem funny), he really hates Ilpyo—the Mori/Mori’s grandfather fanboy we meet this episode. Naturally, this hatred manifests in the summoning of a shark spirit to assault anything or anyone close to Ilpyo. The target doesn’t even have to be intensely connected to Ilpyo, shark boy just seems to bank on the fact that Ilpyo is a decent person who doesn’t want to see a human eviscerated before his very eyes. Though we are given a brief flashback wherein Ilpyo is handing shark boy his ass, this apparent rivalry is still rather cartoonish. Yes, this is an anime but…come on. The dude turns up, shoots teeth at a guy, evil smirks, and walks away? How are we supposed to buy shark boy as anything but a cartoon villain? All he needs is a moustache to twirl and we’re golden. Hopefully, we’ll see another episode in the future that will explore character motivation, but I’m just going to relish the humour of the mystery. Sharks aside, Ilpyo furthers the legend of Jin Taejin (Mori’s grandfather). Through Ilpyo’s past, we are aware that Taejin was a soldier and the type of guy to honour his word to a comrade…okay, it’s not that much information but it’s more than we’ve had. Also, Taejin was apparently taking care of baby Mori during a time when he was still in uniform—and presumably service. Still, Taejin’s legendary skills apparently do not allow him to punch a titanic sword summoned by an evil cult. Normally, that would go without saying but Taejin seemed to think he could handle said god sword…on account of him not trying to dodge in the slightest. I have no idea what insight that gives us into his character, but I’m grasping at straws here. The dude’s strong…let’s leave it at that for now.
Rounding out this episode, Daewi decides to ask Q for assistance in awakening charyeok. Whether he decided this on his own or came up with the idea after stumbling upon Q fumbling for change under a vending machine—a side effect of his employers meeting every issue by withholding pay…which I’m not sure is legal—is up in the air, but he did ask…so it’s happening. Considering that Daewi and Q’s entire trainer/trainee relationship was not explored entirely in this single episode, there is some potential for actual story impact. Mira and Bongsa knew each other for all of ten minutes and we were supposed to buy and mourn a connection; Daewi and Q may have the benefit of time on their hands. It’s honestly fifty-fifty at this point. The God of High School hasn’t instilled confidence in me when it comes to narrative, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt at least one more time. After all, Q seems genuinely upset about the death of Bongsa and his family—who secretly survived—and has more personality than any other Commissioner. Hell, he has more personality than most other characters in this series…I sure hope he doesn’t die again.
Overall, this episode was a step in the right direction for the series. Though the fight sequences are cool, they tend to leave us with little in terms of plot. This episode alone confirmed that our main trio have not yet awakened charyeok, meaning that Daewi’s Azure Dragon is…for us? Damn, I though I had a concrete fact there. You know, it sure is hard to tell what’s what when some character’s powers are actually present and other’s are artistic representations. Whatever. At least we know that Mori is devoted to strengthening himself for a valid reason and actually does use his obliviousness to conceal his true thoughts—at least sometimes. Even Daewi’s new motivation to strengthen himself in order to become dependable enough to shoulder his friend’s burdens is well thought out. This is what I want to see from this series: cool fights interspersed with character and plot development. Even the simple act of Mira and Daewi spending time with Mori for his birthday was more impactful than anything we’ve seen between them thus far. No grand gesture of disrupting a cult-devised wedding, no borrowing industrial lights from work to search for a sword that fell in a river, just a believable moment of calm for three high schoolers who have found themselves as friends and a team. Also, an evil cult kidnapped Mori’s grandfather and are probably trying to make Team Seoul lose by forfeit because Daewi is suspended for attempting to save a guy who died from a shark attack so both Mori and Mira have to win to proceed to the next round…so we’ll see how that gentle character development stuff plays out next episode.