The God of High School had the potential to stand out amid a Summer anime season of delayed releases and otherwise unnoteworthy competition. And for what it's worth, the series generally succeeded -- becoming one of the most discussed anime of the past few months. However, not all of the discourse surrounding the webtoon adaptation has been positive. While viewers were initially intrigued by the premise and pristine animation of its start, the universal admiration began to wane as many took issue with the direction and pacing of later episodes.
As far as those last few episodes go, the main issue that arose was not the vast increase in scale. Many of anime's most beloved battle series, such as Dragon Ball and Naruto, developed far beyond their simple roots and remained loved by fans. But the mistake that The God of High School commits is making this leap over such a shorter period of time.
At only 13 episodes, its debut season is rather short. When given such a limited runtime, anime with even the simplest of premises can sometimes struggle to tell a solid story and form a connection between audiences and the characters. Even slice of life anime run into this issue, often receiving OVAs to cover what a single short season could not. Now consider The God of High School, which in its first season, covers the material of over 100 webtoon chapters. Admittedly, the anime attempts to compensate for this by altering and shortening storylines, but this only furthers the point of its over-ambition.
The end result of this corner-cutting is a series that is incredibly confusing for anime-only viewers. Not only does the scale leap dramatically from episode to episode but the sheer amount of information and plot points that are simply brushed over is incredibly jarring. This is best encapsulated by the antagonists of the final few episodes who enact cataclysmic, world-threatening plans that simply had little to no build-up. This is particularly true for Sang Mandeok, the puppet master behind Nox's grand scheme, who received hardly any screen time before trying to destroy humanity. Taek Jegal was a bit of an improvement as he was a menacing force in the anime from relatively early on. But there was never any indication that he would be the final antagonist in a climactic battle on the level of gods.
This lack of set up and development was not just limited to the villains, either. While it wasn't nearly as severe in their case, the main heroes also suffered from the blistering pace. As well as key pieces of backstory outright, the time spent with them simply was not enough to foster a genuine connection. From switching perspectives between the Seoul team and the judges to the shoehorned-in final battle build-up, these characters feel generally disconnected from the story at large and can, at times, feel abandoned by the story. Which is strange considering how tightly focused the first few episodes were on the trio.
As for those initial entries, their success was founded on the steady pace that they set for the show. Comparatively, the webtoon was still rushed but it allowed for character moments to play out in good time and interesting world-building to keep audiences engaged. Even the charyeok powers, which many consider the beginning of the show's downfall, compliment the world quite nicely and are easy to integrate into the over-the-top story, despite how quickly they're introduced.
In its current state, the single season feels like it had enough material to split into multiple ones of similar length. For these first 13 episodes, The God of High School would have benefited exponentially from slowing down and focusing on the tournament that bears its name. Not only would more time with the main cast create more of an attachment for viewers but it would also make the more tenderhearted moments, like Mori's birthday, have more emotional weight.
While it would have made for a less climatic and wild ending, extended fights and more focus on characters would have allowed for viewers to grow more invested and want a second season. As things stand now, the anime is more confusing than it is intriguing, leading most viewers to likely only continue out of good faith toward the source material. If it wants to find more success with the large audience it has garnered, The God of High School would benefit from slowing down and giving its story more time to breathe.