This recap contains spoilers for the The God of High School episode “oath/meaning.”
The God of High School is a series of juxtapositions. On the one hand, it very much wants to tell a serious narrative and be taken seriously. On the other, it’s increasingly apparent that The God of High School‘s real strengths are in flash, not substance. Accordingly, “oath/meaning” is another episode of ups and downs, though thankfully far more of the former.
We’ve only really known Ilpyo, Jin’s rival, for a single episode. “oath/meaning” starts with his backstory, which, to be frank, feels a little vestigial. It’s also quite similar to Han’s. Ilpyo’s motive for fighting in the tournament is to fix his sister, Seungyon’s, leg after it was broken by Jegal, ending her martial arts career. (Jegal is the shark-summoning misogynist first introduced a few episodes ago, if you need a refresher.) The general beats being so similar to a backstory we’ve already seen and the short length of the flashback make it a little hard to care. While it certainly sucks that Seungyon can’t do martial arts anymore, this sequence is the first we ever see of her. Since we have no prior connection to this character, it mostly feels flat. Almost obligatory, as though a character couldn’t simply be allowed to exist in the tournament without a sad backstory.
Interestingly this isn’t the case with Seungah. This is Han’s opponent, and the first member of Ilpyo’s team that the Seoul Team actually fights. She gets no flashback, but in the few short minutes she’s on screen her determination against Han, whom she knows she can’t beat after he shows off his newly-found charyeok, gives her a lot more character in a shorter amount of time than Ilpyo’s flashback sequence does. As effective as some of the flashbacks have admittedly been, Seungah’s brief time in the spotlight makes one wonder if The God of High School would be better off with fewer of them.
Elsewhere, President Park Mujin confronts the leader of the Nox. The Nox are rather mysterious to us, even still. We know they want to gain control of someone called a “Key” whom they believe can end the world. They’re vaguely implied to be some sort of Christian-adjacent cult. Other than that, they’re kind of a cipher. Perfect bad guys for something like The God of High School, honestly, so there’s nothing wrong with that. We see the Nox leader with his hood off for the first time here, and like many anime villains before him, he has spiky white hair. He also summons a giant sword with the sentences “I know not whose child it is. It existed before God.” engraved on it out of the sky. Not the first time we’ve seen him do that! But it remains an impressive spectacle nonetheless.
The most clever thing that “oath/meaning” does is to intercut all this with Jin and Ilpyo’s fight. When one ramps up, so does the other. Ilpyo and Jin have only been “rivals” (or something like them anyway) for about an episode, but the fight here does more to establish their relationship than any further flashback scenes possibly could. The fight cleanly pirouettes from traditional, lavishly-referenced taekwondo, to the more supernatural charyeok aspect not far in. Ilpyo’s trash talk is some of the most effective in a The God of High School episode so far, and for the first time in the whole series I wondered if Jin might actually lose.
When it seems like he might, he pivots, pulling out Mira’s Moonlight Sword style and then one of Han’s techniques. It’s admittedly both something that’s been done before and a very literal take on the “my strength is my friends” trope, but it’s a lot of fun in the moment. The God of High School is at its best when embracing high spectacle.
Meanwhile, Park and The Nox Leader square off, too. Their fight is much closer to a high magic face-off, almost like what one might see in a fantasy series. It goes from “ridiculous” to “ridiculously cool” around the time that the Nox Leader summons a shadowy being that B-character Judge Q identifies only as “God.” A man in a hat and a band of drummers join in(!) and help defeat the thing, summoning their own giant being which takes a huge bite out of the sword. It’s perhaps a bit much, but in a very good way.
The White Fox
“oath/meaning” ends on a cliffhanger. Ilpyo is seemingly defeated, only to revive back from his near-KO with the apparent help of a fox spirit. Emerging from a column of mystic fire, his hair is shocked white and he gains fox ears. How will The God of High School conclude all this in the few episodes it has left? Who knows, but we can safely say that despite its occasional rockiness, The God of High School has been a fun ride so far. All we can ask for is that it sticks the landing.
Until next time, The God of High School fans.