We’re three weeks into The God of High School. It is perhaps no longer a surprise that the show’s third episode, “wisdom/kingdom,” is a bit of a mixed bag. I might go so far as to call certain parts of the episode actually a bit off-putting. On the other hand, elsewhere, the show demonstrates new promise. Where will we go from here? It’s a little hard to say. But we can learn a lot by breaking down what we already know.
There is a cold open loaded with mysterious and cryptic imagery. Mostly, that of a dark church (implying the title “The God of High School” might be a bit more literal than previously thought). There’s evil chanting and brief flashes of characters who might become more important toward the end of the season. “Wisdom/kingdom’s” first major misstep is here in crass and unwelcome elements in one of these characters’ designs. My hope is that it is not a sign of things to come.
“Wisdom/kingdom” opens properly with a fight between Yoo and women’s wrestling champion Mah Miseon. One might think this would be a good opportunity for The God of High School to get in some development for Yoo, or indeed, her opponent. Instead, the fight lasts all of two minutes. It’s interesting to learn that Yoo can use her style even without actually having her sword, but her opponent gets essentially no characterization and the show treats her as a joke. Her wish if she wins the titular tournament? To get a bunch of hot guys. Yawn.
There’s a way to play this that would make it funny or interesting, but “wisdom/kingdom” doesn’t do that, the joke (such as it is) just kinda sits there. Yoo eventually wins, and “wisdom/kingdom” rolls on without skipping much of a beat. Aside from a few cool cuts, this segment largely feels like it doesn’t matter at all, which is a real shame.
Blue Collar Karate
While Jin’s b-plot ticks along (more on that in a bit), the strongest parts of “wisdom/kingdom” focus on Han. Han is quickly establishing himself as The God of High School‘s most well-rounded character. As hinted at last episode, we meet Han’s gravely ill friend Seungtae here. (It’s not totally clear what Seungtae has, but anime tends to keep illnesses vague in general.) Han’s desire to win money in the tournament suddenly makes total and perfect sense; he just wants to pay for his friend’s treatment. Moreover, there are scenes of Han enduring casual abuse from some old acquaintances while working one of his several jobs.
The combination of a strong motive, a generally likable personality (he just seems like a stand up guy, honestly), and a relatable– if uncomfortable– living situation combine to make Han’s portions the strongest in “wisdom/kingdom.” It also means that when he gets to step into the ring a bit later in the episode, it actually feels like it matters.
Han’s opponent in the ring is Baek Seungchul. If you watched Crunchyroll’s trailer for The God of High School, you may recognize Baek. That’s him with the book and the metal bat. Indeed, both are brought to bear against our working-class hero Han in this part of “wisdom/kingdom.” Han does prevail, but this fight is both longer and a lot more intense than the first in this episode. He takes quite the beating, all while breaking Baek’s “knowledge and violence” philosophy in a very literal sense. It’s good to see Han advance. Frankly if it were my show, I’d end it with him winning, but Han isn’t the lead of The God of High School, so it’s hard to say where his storyline will end.
Speaking of the lead, Jin’s plot line here is interesting as well. After being sentenced to a “punishment” last week, we finally learn what that punishment actually was here in “wisdom/kingdom.” He has to fight one of the test’s administrators and win, or else be disbarred from the tournament permanently. Somewhere in here, there’s a brief, inconsequential (for now) sub-subplot where he gets free vegetables that turn out to be poisoned. It is as random and inessential as it sounds.
More interesting is Jin’s fight with the administrator. At first, he seems to win with almost no effort at all. The win condition is that he knock the admin down, which he does by taking him by surprise almost instantly. However, the administrator is not willing to take this loss lying down, and it’s here where things get a little… weird. Those familiar with the trailer might also recall a brief appearance by a summoned monster clown that looked like something out of the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! It makes its formal debut here, as a second form (or something of the sort) of the administrator. It’s a paradigm shift, and his brief scuffle with this monstrous creature is the first time we see Jin actually struggle with a fight in the whole show.
The tournament’s mysterious organizer seems to know of Jin by name, referring to him as the “tiger cub” of the man we saw back in episode one. This adds a further, interesting dimension to things.
All this to say “wisdom/kingdom” is an episode with some serious ups and downs. Going forward, we can hope to see more of the former than the latter.
Until next time, The God of High School fans.