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Review: The God of High School Episode 3 – wisdom/kingdom – Is the Punishment Worth the Reward?

God of High School's Episode 3 wisdom/kingdom stands as not only the best episode of the series thus far, but also one of the best displays of fight scene animation seen in contemporary anime.

Last week’s explosive match between Jin, Gang, and Go left no one unscathed, and the three combatants are left to deal with the fallout. Go has been left comatose from Gang’s beating, Gang cowers in a state of traumatic shock over Jin’s abilities, and Jin faces disciplinary action from the tournament committee.

The only fighter left capable of re-entering the tournament, the Commissioners present Jin with an offer: If he can defeat the bespectacled, green-haired Judge Q in a fight, he will be allowed to continue competing.

Following a short tantrum and demand to fight his previously seen blonde-haired, Committee member rival, Jin accepts the challenge, enthusiastically looking forward to his special match.

Meanwhile, The God of High School tournament continues, with the next round in the Regional Tournament pitting the wooden-katana wielding Yoo and the full-bodied wrestling champion Ma Miseo.

After Yu is quickly taken off guard by her opponents swift wrestling techniques, being thrown to the ground without even so much as touching Ma, the young swordswoman voices her confusion as to why a pro wrestling champion would have any desire to enter the tournament.

This leads to one of the funniest moments in the series thus far. Noting that the victor of the tournament would have “any wish granted”, Ma reveals that her dream is to build her own harem, filled with men of all bodies, looks, and personalities.

As she proceeds to disarm an angry and confused Yoo, knocking the swordswoman’s wooden katana out of her hands, Ma appears to have Yoo on the ropes, both figuratively and literally.

However, this lack of a weapon turns out to be a non-issue, as Yoo reveals that her constant training and dedication to the art of swordsmanship has allowed her to utilize a ‘no sword’ style of fighting, which allows her arms themselves to be used as the blades.

Ma blocks Yoo’s long-range assault, but the unexpected fighting style proves to much for her, leading to an end for Ma and a decisive victory for Yoo.

The second match of the episode pits Han against Baek, the baseball bat wielding intellectual. This fight is a dazzling display of fluid animation and impact frames that combines scattered moments of traditional shonen-elements, such as colorful auras and special attacks, with the heavy weight of a drag-down, bare-knuckle brawl, resulting in one of the best fights scenes seen in a shonen series in recent memory and a victory for the mild-mannered Han.

Yet, despite this high praise, the entire premise of Baek’s fighting style pushes viewers’ suspension of disbelief to unearned levels.

At no point has the audience been led to believe that any of the entrants in this tournament are superhuman beings or possess any supernatural defenses. Yet, Han takes numerous, powerful, and intentional blows to his body from Baek’s primary weapon, a metal baseball bat, with it even being explicitly stated during one of Baek’s attacks that Han is struck directly in the temple.

The fact that this should be brutally damaging to Han, yet results in damage and reactions equivalent to regular, hand-to-hand strikes, is hard to reconcile with any of the established rules seen in this setting so far.

As Yoo and Han continue to advance, Jin, however, runs into an unexpected issue: after eating fruit given to him by the mysterious Mujin Park, alluded to the viewer to possess some sort of supernatural trait, the young fighter vomits blood and passes out on his apartment floor the night before his reentry match.

Arriving late to the fight, much to the annoyance of Judge Q and the audience, Jin is given a simple objective: force Judge Q down to the mat only once. But, before the match can even begin in earnest, Jin takes Judge Q by surprise, appearing before him in a sudden burst of surprise speed, and taking him to the floor with a gentle push. As the arena falls silent in disbelief, Jin is declared the winner.

Unsurprisingly, this result does not sit well with Judge Q, who enters a state of berserker rage, unleashing a demonic, ethereal ally from his body. Dodging the strikes from the newly emerged monster while attempting to find a way to fight back, Jin is soon rescued by the other Committee members who quickly take down Judge Q and restrain him. As a smile flashes across his face, an exhausted Jin is declared the winner.

Though only three episodes into the season, one would feel safe in declaring that this is the best episode thus far.

The highlight of this episode is, most obviously, the gorgeous and plentiful fight scenes. The team at Crunchyroll was able to one-up the rule violating match between Jin and Gang from the last episode, presenting three exciting and well-crafted fights this week.

The animations are smooth, actions feel appropriately weighted and swift, and the viewer is given a distinct sense of spatiality, never getting lost in the action. If this is the level of quality seen in only the second round of the tournament, future matches stand to offer some of the best action in the medium.

As with the first two episodes, and Crunchyroll’s previous original series Tower of God, the art direction remains one of the most appealing aspects of the series. Shonen-style auras and effects are used sparingly, allowing their bright and CGI-assisted appearances to stand out during matches.

Soft blending replaces traditional flat colors, leading to a warmer, more human feel to many of the characters. Though it is admittedly a bit hard to get past the slight ‘tumblr nose’ effect seen in Park Yong-Je’s art style, the art direction is best compared to that of the Persona series, particularly in the aforementioned blending style of coloring.

Plot wise, this episode’s primary focus is Han’s motivations for entering the tournament, shown to be a desire for money to pay for his best friend’s continued cancer treatment.

These moments, such as Han having his friend’s illness mocked by customers at one of his part-time or his quiet visit with him at the hospital, give Han a realistic and sympathetic reason for entering the tournament that resonates in the fighting spirit he displays during his fight with Baek.

The overarching plot likewise continues to push forward as the protagonists advance further up the ladder and Jin’s survival after eating the ‘super fruits’ is revealed to have a direct relation to his blood line, but given that this is still the very beginnings of a tournament-focused storyline, this style of slow-burn exposition and plot progression should come as no surprise to audiences.

The Verdict

wisdom/kingdom stands as not only the best episode of the series thus far, but also one of the best displays of fight scene animation seen in contemporary anime. Viewers will no doubt fight excitement and enjoyment in watching three different matches, all featuring distinctly different fighting styles, even if surviving a metal baseball bat to the head is one of the most unbelievable events ever proposed. Following in the foot steps of Tower of God, Crunchyroll continues to prove that it’s aiming to be a serious contender in the field of anime production.

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