This recap contains spoilers for the The God of High School episode “ronde/hound.”
The popular line on The God of High School since its premiere has been that it’s solid, but very typical. It’s a battle shonen series, and if you like them, you’ll like this. If not, you won’t. “ronde/hound,” the show’s fifth episode, will probably not change the minds of those who simply don’t like the genre. However, for undecided shonen heads, it might be the tipping point that puts the show in their good graces. The God of High School does one thing very well, and that’s fights. Accordingly, “ronde/hound,” which is a nearly continuous fight intercut with some flashbacks for emotional color, is probably its best episode so far.
Fists Don’t Lie
After a brief intro where we see Jin qualifying for the Seoul Preliminaries, “ronde/hound” opens on a flashback. This provides some background for the relationship between Han and his hospitalized friend, Seungtae. Over the course of the episode we see them go from pummeling each other to being friends.
We don’t ever get any word on what Seungtae has, but it’s bad enough that Han makes a “contract” with the shady tournament president to get him a nano-treatment if Han can deliver two “overwhelming victories” in the preliminaries. This contextualizes Han’s actions from last week’s episode and makes them seem a bit less wildly counter-tonal in hindsight. Much of “ronde/hound,” then, is a slugfest between Han and Jin. It’s well animated, of course, but more importantly this kind of “fisticuffs storytelling” is what battle shonen tend to be best at.
Han initially tries to hide his motivations. Jin and Mira don’t know anything about Seungtae, so this isn’t difficult to do. He viciously insists, when Jin tries to insult him, that he’s never considered any of them his friends. This is blatantly untrue of course, as we see over the rest of the course of the episode, but the sense that Han is putting aside his more recent friends– sacrificing those relationships, even– to save Seungtae really comes through.
The Black Tortoise & The Blue Dragon
What breaks Han’s heel moment here is the news, delivered mid-match by the tournament president, that Seungtae has passed away, and their contract is effectively null. Han stumbles, devastated at the news, until he comes to the realization that he’s friends with Jin and Mira and Seungtae for the same reasons. It might seem strange to an outside observer, then, that they continue fighting. But the fact that fighting can convey joy as much as any other emotion is another core tenet of this genre. The God of High School may not exactly be innovating here, but this is as good a turn for that particular narrative beat as any I’ve seen in recent memory.
After a wonderful finish to their fight– complete with a fairly drastic art style shift for effect– Han and Jin reconcile. The tournament ticks on. Up in the rafters, a mysterious figure expresses disappointment that this is “all” Seoul has to offer. Then, finally, a cut to another watching television in their home smirking. Cue credits.
“ronde/hound” is a surprisingly economical episode, too, in light of all this. Which is itself to be commended. After all, The God of High School has only 12 episodes to develop its characters, as opposed to the several-hour runs of many battle shonen.
The last two episodes of The God of High School have, in general, been a real step up for a show that felt like it might tread water for much of its run. We can only hope it continues.
You can watch The God of High School on Crunchyroll here.
Until next time, anime fans!