The God of High School is not known for its sentimental side. But in “close/friend,” its eighth episode, that is exactly what we see. “close/friend” begins with a brief opening where we’re formally introduced to the Park siblings, brother Ilpyo and sister Seungah. We see both win a match at the front of this episode, setting them (the South Chungcheong team) up as worthy rivals for our protagonists.
Where much of “close/friend’s” attention lies, though, is in exposition. Something that is, at the best of times, hard to make interesting in almost any genre. This episode is about as good as such attempts get, in that it manages to flesh out a character who badly needed it (Jin) and answer a few of our burning questions. A big chunk of “close/friend” revolves around Jin Taejin, Jin Mori’s (our Jin) grandfather, as previously established. Taejin has gone missing as of last week’s episode, and Jin is informed of such here by a third Park, Park Mujin (no relation? It’s not clear yet.) The GOH tournament’s morally ambiguous organizer.
Mujin’s motivations are laid plain here, as well. He (and his Commissioners) are searching for someone called a “Key.” Nox, the group of assassins we saw cause a scene last week, are the armed wing of the mysterious cult-like organization we first saw a number of episodes back, finally laying that lingering question to rest. They, in turn, want to destroy the Key.
And who is the Key? Well, The God of High School has yet to outright pin the title on anyone. But all signs point to it being none other than our protagonist, Jin Mori. No real surprise there, given how common “chosen one” narratives are in this sort of thing. What’s more interesting is Jin’s relationship to his grandfather, and the way that they’re both related, unexpectedly, to Ilpyo. Jin notices that Ilpyo’s hoodie has a white tiger emblem– the same as that of Taejin’s former military unit– on the back.
The two meet and talk (and fight, The God of High School being what it is). Jin learns that Ilpyo, while not a student of his grandfather, met him as a young boy. Taejin gave Ilpyo a book of taekkyon techniques, originally intended for Ilpyo’s own grandfather. (Taekkyon being a traditional Korean martial art. Generally considered the oldest practiced in the country. This is why everyone gawks at Ilpyo’s use of such an old style.) Jin and Ilpyo actually seem to hit it off quite well, and Ilpyo’s not the only one.
Jin, Mira and Han can sometimes feel like they’re mostly on the same team because the plot wants them to be. “close/friend” does not totally remedy this, but it does make some progress. After the remainder of the episode’s plot comes to an end, there’s a short scene where the three celebrate Jin’s birthday. Now, do they actually know about his birthday beforehand? No, the magic bracelet things have to tell them about it, but still, it’s something. It’s also genuinely sweet, something that The God of High School has rarely been before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it rarely was again.
Our final twist of the week is an image of Taejin tied up and bloodied, sent to Jin. Alive, but clearly in danger. There are only four episodes of The God of High School left, and it’s hard not to wonder where it goes from here. Taejin mentions briefly, in Ilpyo’s flashback, that Ilpyo’s grandfather died while fighting alongside him “while trying to save the world.” Might The God of High School‘s tournament take a backseat to more pressing matters? It’s hard to say, but it’s far from unlikely.
Until next time, The God of High School fans.
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