In a competition: everybody wants to win. I mean, it wouldn’t really be a competition if people weren’t competing. Still, that doesn’t mean that everybody is competing for the same reason. Sure the prize may be a singular goal, but what it means to the contestants may differ; when these ideals clash, things can get messy. This is especially true when said competition involves knock-down, drag-out rumblin’.
Okay…I’m not really sure where to start with this one. Though the drama of two friends clashing is always dramatic, it helps when said friends are…friends. Though it’s true that Daewi and Mori have been friendly with each other since they met, the two haven’t really spent that much time together—at least not that we’ve seen. They helped Mira find her sword and also helped Mira escape her ill-fated wedding…so, now that I think about it, their entire friendship has revolved around helping Mira. And in case that wasn’t clear, the memories that Daewi recalls about Mori and Mira—when told they’re friends—are those two moments…because they’re the only two moments. Though I am aware that this adaptation is speeding things up a little…this adaptation is speeding things up a lot. This should’ve been a fight set way later in the series, once we’ve gotten to know both Daewi and Mori much better. Not now. Oh, this episode has Daewi and Mori fighting each other—in case that wasn’t clear.
The main thrust of this fight is Mori’s fury regarding Daewi’s beatdown of Mira. True, it was brutal…but so is the rest of the tournament. As I mentioned last week, the raw violence of Daewi’s assault is sort of played up for drama. Is it sad to see Mira in hospital nursing her injuries? Yes, of course. But she also broke Mori’s neck in the second episode. Sure it’s played off for laughs, but that is a horrifying action regardless. Again, nobody is even remotely concerned about Gamdo—and he was pummelled into the ground. It’s not the fact that Daewi drew blood either; Mira cut Miseon in their fight. Don’t get me wrong, Mori should be upset; it’s the audience’s similar hesitation that baffles me. Those people want blood. Case in point: people were cheering all over the place when Mori was knocking Daewi around for a while. It’s just…I feel like the whole vibe of the situation was designed to force our emotions as an audience. In lieu of naturally coming to feel for each of these characters, the entire series pivots to pigeon hole us into a certain way of feeling. And that sort of undermines the impact of any given moment.
Though this may say more about me than the episode, I was honestly leaning more to Daewi’s side, motivation-wise. He’s fighting to save his friend’s life—that’s pretty important. Meanwhile, Mira wants to save her family’s dojo—a problem which she almost solved outside of the tournament—and Mori wants…to fight? Who knows, but no other reason really stands up to his own. Was he harsh in his methodology? You bet, but I can understand his anger. All we’ve seen of his life is hospital visits, monotonous jobs, and people telling him—to his face—that his friends deserves to die. I’m honestly pissed off just remembering that, I can only imagine how Daewi felt. So, to see his goal through, Daewi cast everything but victory aside…and his friend died anyway. Just in case you didn’t feel bad enough for the guy, all of his struggling was in vain. And do you know the worst thing? It’s all Mori’s fault.
Now, I don’t mean that Mori himself had anything to do with Daewi’s friend dying; but, Daewi’s friend had to die so that Mori could win the tournament. Think about it. Would any of us have been able to cheer for our protagonist knowing that his victory had come at the cost of another’s life? Even if Mori remained unaware of that fact, it just wouldn’t have worked. So, Daewi’s friend dies and now we can all smile as Mori works towards his petty rematch with a guy who beat him. Daewi’s friend even wrote him a farewell note that smoothed out all of the bumps between our lead trio—though I am still a little weirded out by Mira deciding to say that, “[his] friend asked me to give you this.” The sentiment is there, but the guy was already gone—it just unsettles me is all. Still, it is sweet that Daewi’s dying friend was mostly concerned with making sure that his friend carried on without him. Honestly, I feel more investment in their friendship than I do in that of our main trio.
Oh, on the topic of the magic that seems to permeate this series: something’s happening? Park Mujin—when not interrupting fights to tell competitors that their reason for fighting has just died—has taken to referring to Mori and Daewi as “tiger cubs”. Though he has used this term before, he’s really leaning into it now. This nickname seems to refer to their potential power, something he is keenly waiting for to awaken. As to why he fed Mori a magic, poison peach: I have no idea. Mujin seemed somewhat surprised that Daewi was also worthy of becoming a “tiger” and yet his motivation for shattering Daewi’s spirit (by informing him of his friend’s death) seems to have been a test. I don’t know; the dude’s creepy. Why does he want people to awaken their powers? How does he know that they have any? Where did his power come from? Is the world aware of magic? How can they not be? Mori kicked a goddamn crater in the ring when he fought Daewi—how does anybody think that’s normal? Anybody? Does anybody want to answer me?
Plot speed and unanswered questions aside, the fight between Daewi and Mori was a blast to watch. The animation was fluid, the techniques seemed purposeful, and a lot was said without being spoken aloud. Still…I would like for some stuff to be spoken aloud. The energy of this series is infectious and I want to meet it with the same passion it puts into its action…but I’m not sure if I can for much longer. Sure the fights look cool, but without the story behind them I may as well just watch clips of them online. I mean, what’s the point of watching the whole episode when it doesn’t really add much? If somebody showed me a clip of Daewi and Mori fighting and told me that they were airing out some friendship grievances, I would expect that said explanation was a summation of the plot—not the whole damn thing. Look, I’ve enjoyed The God of High School so far…it just needs a little more meat on its bones. That’s why people say a story needs to be “fleshed out”, because otherwise the story will be bare bones…and skeletons are scary.