When arranging an all-styles-allowed fighting tournament, one must abide by certain rules; without them, chaos would reign. The key is focusing the near-mortal combat to a well-lit arena—one where the whole family can watch the violence. Without production value, a tournament becomes nothing more than brawl, and that doesn’t line anybody’s pockets—with money or wishes that are potentially from actual gods. The arena also probably has to meet certain building codes; wouldn’t want a fighter accidentally hurting themselves when suplexing an opponent, with the intent to render them unconscious or worse. No, the violence has to be intentional; otherwise, what’s the point?
It’s a trap! That’s what that guy from Star Wars says, right? Well, nobody in The God of High School says that…like, ever. Most events that have surrounded our main cast have, indeed, been traps; you think someone would’ve caught on by now. Regardless, Mori rushes to save his grandfather—who has been captured by the evil church—and discovers that his grandfather was actually a bomb…and also not his grandfather. Luckily—for both Mori and the series—point-blank explosions are not fatal and only cause people to bleed slightly from their head, as if they has struck a low-hanging branch. What follows is a rather rapid exchange wherein exposition—or whatever the character’s actual name is—lays out how the church is killing of GOH teams in order to speed up the awakening of the Key. It doesn’t really change anything now that we’ve heard that…but I guess we’ve heard that now. I feel like I should care about, well, any of what happens between Mori and the guy who killed some GOH fighters…but I really don’t. All that interaction conveyed was that the church that has done nothing but commit evil acts thus far is, in fact, evil. It reminds me of when Daewi’s friend passed away right before Daewi and Mori fought: a plot point resolved itself for the sake of another plot point. The story didn’t give reason for said plot point to resolve, it simply did because it was convenient for the story as a whole. Mori leaving to fight Bad Guy #Who Cares only happened to manufacture drama regarding Team Seoul’s GOH bout—the same reason Daewi was suspended after preventing an actual murder. With her teammates out, Mira had to both stall for Mori to arrive and not lose her fight. Would she do it? Obviously, because we need Team Seoul to progress in the tournament. Look, I know all stories are manufactured to elicit one emotional response or another, but a lot of them hide the mechanics better.
Speaking of mechanics, I still don’t have a grasp on how charyeok works. During her fight with the most lotioned character we’ve seen thus far, Mira awakens her own charyeok: manifesting in the form of a neat, glowing feathered hat. Though the ability is gained from a mental conversation with a historical warrior—who is not a god—the bulk of my confusion comes from the reappearance of Mira’s sword. Thrown to her opponent in the middle of their fight—which seems like an illegal move—the sword transforms into a cool yin-yang blade and is revealed to be a National Treasure. I don’t know what that is. Based on context clues—and a little dialogue—it is an object that can harness the power of the gods…and it might also be the key to everything? I understand a series wanting to expand its lore, but most usually wait until its first batch of lore is thoroughly explored…or at least explored. Despite the word “charyeok” being thrown around like it’s going out of style, this episode is the first time we’ve seen how any of the mechanics work. Mira conversing with Lu Bu Fengxian is our first glimmer that their is a back and forth between both sides of this whole “borrowed power” thing. And just when you think you can use that knowledge as a foothold, Mira’s opponent releases the kraken. Did he talk with the monster? Did it question his resolve? What about Taek? He summons a shark. Blue-haired Commissioner has a dragon. I feel like I rant about the same thing every week…probably because I do. I’m fine with charyeok being a crap shoot—it makes for some interesting fight scenes—but we need some clarification. I honestly can’t believe that I still can’t tell if everybody can see charyeok; the GOH audience is not easy to read. Case in point: why are they always so shocked when fights turn brutal? Not only has that happened every fight in this tournament, but there have been other tournaments. If they’re so opposed to watching people use actual swords to stab high school girls, then maybe find another event to attend.
Oh, just in case you weren’t already thinking it, this episode reveals that Taek’s team is also crazy. As boredom has apparently overtaken her, the female member of Taek’s team takes it upon herself to take out Pum Kwang. Daewi proceeds to interrupt—as is his wont—and fights her for a bit, before striking her leg and putting it to sleep…or something. Then she kisses him, you know, to establish that she’s a little out there. I’m not sure why we had to establish this now, but I feel like it was to distract Daewi long enough for Mori to turn up on his own. See, Daewi told Mira that he wouldn’t return without Mori—on account of them needing to find him to stay in the tournament. He failed. It’s like the series refuses to let us forget that Mori and Daewi help people in trouble, even at the cost of their own goals. Like, it really refuses to let us forget. Like, helping people is Mori and Daewi’s only character trait. This leaves Mira as the voice of…practicality? See, Mira’s dream is the only one that truly benefits from winning GOH; so, she has to tether Mori and Daewi to it. This leaves us with two thirds of a trio who seem to completely disregard the main premise of the series, which makes me care very little for GOH. Heck, when you get right down to it, even Mira’s dream doesn’t require GOH. The tournament is somehow both an afterthought and the most crucial aspect of the plot. The tournament is supposed to gather potential charyeok wielders together, pitting them against one another to awaken their abilities…except most of them already have charyeok. There is an evil church attempting to destroy the world (or something) and that is somehow not the main priority. Why doesn’t Mujin just enlist all of the fighters? What’s the point in proceeding? Why did he summon The Six? Why haven’t The Six done anything? Why does he keep docking Q’s pay? Every week I feel like I have more and more questions, with precious few answers in return.
Mori also maybe killed a guy. I mean, probably not, but the episode really wants you to think that. As if it should be a surprise to any of us, Mori gets mad when bad guys reveal that they brutally murdered teenagers for the sake of their evil ambitions. It’s not a bad thing, per se, but it hardly deepens our understanding of Mori. I don’t presume to know better than the creator of the series, but a more serious version of Mori’s tendency to create his own backstories for people—as he did with the old woman whose bag was stolen in the first episode—would’ve done well here. Something to show a cohesive character, to show a personality. As it stands, Mori is a guy who dislikes injustice. That is only the first step in building a character, but it’s the only leg Mori has to stand on. Hell, it wasn’t until last week—episode eight—that we learnt about his reason for fighting. It’s not like he was trying to hide it; the guy filled out his application honestly, including his well-known grandfather’s name. Even Mori’s rough past with friendship is represented sparsely. The first episode shows that a woman near his house knows him, implying a social nature, yet we are sporadically told that he doesn’t have any friends. Of course, we are told this after he befriends Daewi and Mira, rendering the whole thing pointless. Maybe if we had seen even a glimpse of Mori in school, which I think he goes to, we could’ve established a clearer picture of the guy. It’s just that, like with charyeok, we’re all playing catch up; trying to reach a place we should’ve arrived at much earlier.
All in all…some stuff happened this week. I think most of it was important, but I honestly can’t tell anymore. In any other series, a character awakening their power would be a massive moment; here it was overshadowed and muddled by a faux kidnapping, a triple homicide, a locker room tussle, and the return/reveal of a magic sword. Even Mira didn’t seem too fazed by awakening her charyeok—though that could be due to shock and stress. Mori also successfully used his pressure-point technique but considering that we’ve only seen him fail once—and have no idea how long he trained to learn it—it wasn’t a particularly triumphant moment. I will, however, give credit to the delivery of the line, “For the next hour, I will feel nothing.” Not only does it tout the strength of his pressure-point technique, but the choice to use “nothing” instead of “pain” hints at how badly he is going to pummel his opponent. Those’re the kinds of moments I want from this series. The reveal of said beatdown is also pretty unique, presenting it side by side with Mori beating down yet another opponent. I will continue said praise if the eventual layering of these two fights is meant to indicate a pattern in Mori’s fighting style; perhaps he defaults to a certain combo when pushed to fury? Still, that glimmer of ingenuity and character has yet to permeate the series as a whole. I hope that it eventually does; but, with every week that passes, my hope grows dimmer.