Presentation isn’t everything.
I know that seems like an obvious statement. If your story or show or whatever is entirely style over substance, then what do you have? Polish a turd all you like. In the end, all you’ll have is a shiny turd. It’s when the presentation works in tandem with good storytelling that you get something truly remarkable.
And then you’ve got something like God of Highschool.
At the beginning of last year, I had pretty high hopes for Webtoon anime. Tower of God was awesome, after all! If the others were at least around that good, then surely we were in for a good time! This could have ushered in a new age of anime!
It still could! Cause that new age has not started yet!
Now, let’s talk about the positives first and foremost. For one: the art and animation is rock solid. The character designs are unique, with big red noses and ears (not like in a clown way but in a semi-realistic way that’s still cartoony) and round features. It’s all bright and colorful. It’s just nice to look at.
Plus, the action choreography is pretty fucking sick. The narrative behind these fights was lackluster at best (we’ll get to it, trust me) but the battles themselves were pretty hype. At least at first. Each one featured some sick martial arts with plenty of weight and impact between every blow.
I liked the music, too. It had a techno/dubsteb vibe to it. It was different from most shows of this genre. It wasn’t especially incredible, mind you. But I enjoyed it for being something new.
If the writing behind this story were better, this could’ve been another hype train pulling out of the Webtoon station. And for all I know, the writing of the source material isn’t bad! I still need to check it out! But I can safely say that this show did not carry it over if it did.
This is a textbook adaptation of how not to do an adaptation. It so thoroughly bungles the pacing of the story that it completely ruins any potential it could’ve had. It turns a somewhat simple story into a convoluted and sloppy mess.
Things in God of Highschool don’t happen for established reasons. Point a doesn’t lead into point b. Instead, things just jump around in a jumbled mess, one after the other. Not just events, either. Character development will either fast forward or rewind depending on the episode. That, or it will just go far too quickly to allow any of it to have any impact.
Take, for example, the wedding episode. This whole storyline is a complete disaster. It feels like someone tried to condense a five-to-ten episode arc into a single episode. It begins out of nowhere, the conflict is so wildly rushed that it’s hard to keep track or get invested. Then the whole thing just… ends. There’s supposed to be an emotional impact at the end, a grand character moment. But it all comes across as empty.
And then there’s Han Daewi. This whole character is a complete disaster. He spends the entire beginning of the series being chummy-chummy with everyone, acting like a super nice guy. Then it’s revealed that no, he’s actually a super violent asshole that nobody likes. Surprise, he’s never been friends with the other two main characters, even though they’ve totally been friends since episode god-damn one! So, when Jin and Han have their big climactic battle where they get over their issues and properly become friends, it rings completely hollow.
In a normal story, you’d build up to this over the course of the whole thing. Han would be an asshole and Jin would be the nice guy that manages to make him do things he wouldn’t normally do. He’d never consider them friends, though Jin would. Then, when he lost his only real friend, he’d snap and go berserk. In fighting Jin, he’d get over his issues, open up to him, and they’d end up being friends. You know, like a character arc!
This issue in structure and pacing purveys the entire show. Every single episode, every single arc, jumps all around and skips over important details. All seemingly to rush to the action scenes. The whole thing is a big unfocused mess.
It’s such a shame. This could’ve been an incredibly fun and engaging show. It certainly had the animation chops behind it. But the writing behind it was a total disaster. It shot itself in the foot and tried to run a marathon. During which it kept shooting itself in the foot. Right up until it dropped dead.
All while only completing the first leg of the marathon. What a shame.