“…there is certainly a lot more going on in this show thematically than I was expecting.”
After its spectacular premier, Mob Psycho tones the second episode down to focus on developing its main character and fleshing out its world. Luckily this doesn’t bother me at all, since the shows charms manage to bleed through despite the more mundane approach. Furthermore, the fact that we’re getting an episode like this so early on builds my confidence that it will be more than just a gag anime, hinting at some themes to support its wonderful production.
Last we joined Mob he was hunting ghouls with his manipulative-but-caring boss Reigen Arataka, but his partner is somewhat shafted this time in order to give some much needed attention to Mob himself. I hadn’t made much mention on Mob as a character in my previous impressions since there really wasn’t much to comment on: he seemed like a flat, boring kind of guy, and while that might not have been a deal breaker in a series like this I’m happy to see ONE deliver in creating a relatable protagonist to keep me invested in the conflicts of the show.
This episode also introduces Mob’s high school, the context of his struggles, and it does so rather effectively. Instead of establishing it through the eyes of Mob himself, we’re shown an entirely different group of weirdos in the telepathy club as they attempt to save their less-than-legitimate brigade from being shut down for good. This leads to my favorite scene in the episode, where club president Kurata Tome and her lackeys attempt to find someone willing to join their circle so they can have enough members to be accepted by the student council. Desperate, they resort to stalking the school grounds asking every person they see if they would be interested, which leads to some hilarious encounters with both the high and low classes found at their academy. From the preppy girl throwing out insults with glazed-over eyes to the disgruntled young busybody afraid for her status and safety, it’s surprising how much you can gleam from the rapid fire caricatures. Even better is the telepathy club’s increasing desperation and eventual despair, conveyed by a series of shots that remind me a lot of the Cromartie High walk as they slowly degrade into a group of zombies. They seem like a lot of fun and I’m hoping we’ll see more of them as the show goes on.
In the latter half of the episode we are treated to Mob and Arataka cross-dressing in an attempt to infiltrate an all-girls school to complete a job, and while again Arataka is only present in the beginning due to his shoddy disguise his voice actor does a lovely job attempting to impersonate a high school girl. Isolating Mob during this job is effective at both emphasizing his reliance on Arataka’s confidant guidance while also bringing out some of Mob’s teen angst, though throughout the investigation he is shown as being far more competent than he knows, culminating into this episode’s heroic exorcism.
The ghost’s afterimage, animated by Gedai Animation graduate Miyo Sato’s avant-garde glass painting technique, quickly brings the show’s tone to a much more serious note with its strange, amorphous shape-shifting. Its distorted voice speaks over the subtly dark and ambient sound design like the show itself has completely changed form. Streaks of red flicker across the character’s face as it smears into nothingness, it last words asking Mob what he’s living for.
I was surprised by the poignancy of this monologue, especially coming from a show like this. While the development that stems from that last question is more or less played for a gag at the end of the episode as Mob refuses the telepathy club’s invitation in favor of joining the body improvement club, there is certainly a lot more going on in this show thematically than I was expecting. I’m greatly anticipating where the series will go next, as the looming threat of Mob’s countdown steadily increases towards 100.
And one last thing: the ED is also done by Miyo Sato and her work on it is some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. The fact that such an experimental animator can be working on a popular, commercial TV anime is what I love about this industry.
” I still don’t like Mob, but I have to admit the situation he’s in is pretty terrible.”
Let’s get a few things out of the way before we begin:
- I haven’t read the manga. Nor do I have plans to. Not that it matters because every anime should be able to stand on its own.
- I don’t care for the opening, but it mostly has to do with not liking the song.
- My ramblings during these write up shouldn’t be seen as “reviews”, but as reaction pieces.
Okie dokie, with that out of the way, let’s talk about episode two. The story of this episode revolves around an after school club at Mob’s school called The Telepathy Club. They are being forced to disband after losing too many members, but the leader of the Student Console has given them two days to find a new member. The club seeks out Mob in hopes of joining the club, not because he’s know to have psychic abilities or anything like that, but because the club doesn’t think Mob’s doing anything else with his free time. Reigen (Not Frank’s real name) has issue with this because it’ll keep Mob away from his exorcism job. Mob, being the blank space of human emotion that he is, could care either way.
Unlike last week, I actually do have positive things to say about this time around. Most of it has to do with the animation. Not as a whole, but there were two scenes I really enjoyed on a purely artistic level. The first being the scene where Reigen and the head of the club are arguing over the phone with each other. As Tome, the President of the Telepathy Club, yells at Reigen, the screen fills up with more of her negative space and whenever tries to jump in, Reigen’s space pushes itself back into frame. It’s a nice tug-of-war visual style that matched with how the characters were talking over each other and how they dominated the flow of the conversation. The other shot I liked was of Mob sitting in the bath tub looking at his own reflection. It’s a pretty shot that captures the idea of Mob being lonely and wanting more interactions with people.
Another thing I’m going to slightly lighten up on is Mob. I still don’t like Mob, but I have to admit the situation he’s in is pretty terrible. It’s not his loneliness that bothers me, but how every single time someone goes interact with him, they want to use him for something. Reigen wants to exploit Mob to expand his shady business. The Telepathy Club only wants him to be in the club to fill out their numbers and keep their bullshit club going. But even worse is when the ghost hunting section of the episode pops up (we’ll talk about this in a minute), the girls who hired him only did so because he was cheep. Nobody seems to want to actually talk to this kid and get to know him. Instead of treating him like a human being, they treat him like a tool that’s easily replaceable.
But this is where I stop being nice. This episode still stinks. Yes, it’s better than the first episode, but that’s like saying Superman 3 is better than Superman 4. You would be right on a technical level, but they’re still terrible and hard to sit through. My core problem deal with the Telepathy Club. First off, this plot has been done to death at this point. Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya used this set up ten years ago and it was getting old then. Besides that, it confuses me why they want to keep the club going. Sure they use the club room as a place to hangout, but really you can do that anywhere. They’re taking up space and not doing anything with it when there are other clubs at the school who do need the space. I’m with the student council on this one, kick them out and let them hang out else where. On top of that, no one in the group is really all that memorable. Tome stands out, but that’s only because she the only woman of the group. Everyone else might as well be a cardboard cutout. They’re a group of losers, but they aren’t enjoyable to watch.
The other problem is the clunky the transition between Mob dealing the with Telepathy Club and dealing with the monster of the week. It happens at almost neck breaking speeds. One moment, Mob’s talking to Reigen about what he thinks he should do about the club then cut to the two of them in school girl outfits talking about an exorcism job at an all girls school. Everything up until this point about the club is completely pointless and has no real baring on that section of the plot. It might as well have been its own episode with how little these two plots have to deal with each other. But no, it’s a shonen action comedy, Suzumiya forbid there’s an episode without a flashy bubblegum flavored fight scene and a joke about a dude with hairy legs wearing a skirt.
Also quick aside, shouldn’t Reigen have been arrested for trying to sneak into an all girl’s school while being dressed like that? While the police stop him from entering, the only consequences seem to be a slap on the wrist. He was displaying signs of being a sexual deviant. I know laws in Japan are different, but if you pee at a public playground you can get registered as a sex offender even if they’re aren’t children there at the time of the act. Reigen tried sneaking into a private school building, dressed in an outfit that’d perfectly suited for flashing his naughty bits at underage girls. I don’t understand how he got away with a warning. Maybe I’m taking this too seriously.
Final thoughts on episode two of Mob Psycho 100: It’s better, but only if you consider getting kicked in the teeth is better than getting kicked in the balls.
“…Mob Psycho is pushing the medium forward”
They say the devil is in the details. The best way to talk about a work of art is to examine it with its container in mind – in this case anime. The greatest benefits of animation over other mediums is its ability to pronounce meticulous detail without mistake. This age of digital animation allows for flawless lighting, exactness of color, and give artists the leeway to develop bold and unique styles like never before. It’s a labor intensive process, but one that allows the greatest amount of control. In Mob Psycho‘s case, the container allows the syncopation of sakuga to drive the narrative more than anything else. I’m tempted to say what’s being said doesn’t even matter, nor what’s drawn or even how, especially when the entire show looks so damn amazing. But no one is arguing that the show looks bad, but I hear no one saying why it looks good – “it just does“. I see a bunch of names tossed around (Miyo Sato’s rightly so) but in so many cases there’s a lack of meaning behind it. I am reminded of the quote from jazz artist Miles Davis: “The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas.” And Mob Psycho has ideas: a lot of them. Good ideas make the show good, but when/where they are placed makes it spectacular.
The scene where Reigen and Mob share dango is a great example of this. The scene opens with Mob handing Reigen’s massage victim his change from the upper-right and the dango enter from the bottom left, a visual cue for subject change. A standard medium shot followed by a shot/reverse shot establishes the two are sharing the dango while Reigen outlines his pseudo attempts to better dispel the malignant forces of the world. The camera pans over a poster detailing a special offer on Reigen’s fraudulent services as he utters the line “Of course, it’s only effective because of spiritual power.” but the point is punctuated with an expressive cut of him burning his tongue on the hot dango he so graciously shares. In this shot alone, Reign’s insincerity is laid bare, but it is the forceful rhythm of the sakuga that pronounces it.
The scene continues with Reigen spitting the dango across the table in a wonderful, seemingly elliptical overhead tracking shot, utilizing the sense of space to it’s fullest and allowing for a much more powerful visual when Mob suspends it with his powers – action and reaction in the same shot passing the control of the scene to Mob. Reigen even comments on this, saying he’s never the one to start a conversation; we wouldn’t know, it’s only episode two. Mob exhibits some impressive control over the floating dango, turning it into a smear of motion before using his powers to feed Reigen; the metaphor is obvious. The scene continues with Reigen more concerned for himself than Mob, but the visuals had already told us this ages before the dialog catches up. The sakuga means something.
Overall the episode had a great range. Elements of minimalism and expressionism stood side by side in a truly unique experience. Aforementioned Miyo Sato’s painted ending is above and beyond, rivaling the opening in terms of quality and creativity. And while Sato’s paintwork is not nearly as perfect in terms of perspective or exact boundaries, but as Scott Adams said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” It’s an amazing idea, and its execution is an awe-inspiring, god-like display of patience and attention to detail. Seeing her ghosts for a second time, I can safely say her work looks like nothing else in anime and is very, truly, sincerely authentic.
There’s so much more that can be said with two episodes on the table, and there will be much more to talk about with more to come. However, one thing is pretty clear to me – Mob Psycho is pushing the medium forward.