Crunchyroll’s The God of High School is an original anime from the anime streaming platform and lifestyle brand that is an adaptation of the fan-favorite WEBTOON of the same name by Yongje Park. The series follows Jin Mori and his friends and teammates Han Daewi and Yoo Mira as they compete in the titular tournament “The God of High School.” Representing Seoul in the regional preliminaries the three are getting closer to the finals. Last episode, as much as we got to see the fighting power of an opposing team, we also got to see more of Mori’s background, the relationship with his grandfather, Jin Taejin,. But from his relationship, we also got to see the impact that Jin Taejin, had on others, and Mori’s importance to the world, his family’s importance, began to come into the frame. Now, in The God of High School Episode 9, “curse/cornered,” we get to go deeper into Mori’s strength as he goes up against those who kidnapped his grandfather.
With Mori rushing to set Taejin free, the future of team Seoul is uncertain. With the best of three matches continuing, and Daewi left on the sidelines serving his suspension, success falls on Mira. But it isn’t only the push that she needs to win against a team that shows up wearing the same hoods as Nox, but she has to take her time as Daewi searches for their missing friend. With no clue to his whereabouts, they keep the fight going, hoping he’ll make it in time for the second bout.
But going slowly isn’t hard as Mira struggles against her opponent, Marin Lee, who evades her attacks and counters with her own sword, the one stolen from her in episode 4. Adding insult to very physical injury, the sword reveals its true form as it glows white when Marin calls it a National Treasure. In brutal fight, we finally get to see Mira’s strength that we’ve only seen hinted at before. As she uses her bladeless style, the wind animations add weight to the action sequences. But the best part of this episode is Mori’s action.
The animation of Mori’s one versus many fight scene as he attempts to save Taejin is wonderful and blends the WEBTOON art with what we’ve seen from MAPPA so far. It’s a standout that will get fans of the source material talking in a beyond positive way. We also get to see Mori flip a switch, turning from excited and eager fighter to someone beyond the point of rage and pushing past insurmountable pain.
But. The God of High School Episode 9 has a big problem: Marin Lee. Just once, I would like to enjoy a new anime series and not be hit with anti-Blackness. But Marin is a dark-skinned character made such by tanning oil. As someone who grew up having people tell her to not go outside because my already brown skin would darken, seeing the color of his skin and the reason played for laughs those old memories came back. Anime, has a long history of colorism steeped in anti-Blackness that arises in how brown and Black characters are animated.
Truthfully, I don’t feel comfortable rating The God of High School Episode 9. It offers up some of the most beautiful animated sequences akin to episode 5, it also sees Mira get a phenomenal moment of strength. But for all that it does right, it also perpetuates anti-Blackness in a way that will alienate Black and brown viewers. While it is worse in the webtoon, MAPPA’s animation of Marin, is still bad. Yes, MAPPA lightened Marin’s skin and adjusted his lip color so that is not as reminiscent of racist caricatures of Black people. But Marin is still the only person on the series thus far to have such an exaggerated muscular build which reinforces stereotypes of Black masculinity, something absent in the source material – or rather handled in a less exaggerated way. Couple that in with the fact his existence is to nearly kill Mira and the anti-Blackness this show him makes every seen in the arena uncomfortable to watch, regardless of how good the animation of Mira’s fighting is.
What could have been a perfect episode is cut by its inclusion of a character that alienates brown and Black fans, making it one I can’t rate. As more Crunchyroll Originals come out from MAPPA, I hope with all my heart as a fan and a critic, that they will be more careful in how they portray darker-skinned characters. But I’ve been hoping this since I began my anime journey and again, I’m let down.