“Every emotion, every action, every event just felt bigger, more bombastic and robust”
Hello everyone, meet Gosei Oda:
Except you’ve met him before and probably never realized it. His resume goes back 10 years ago to the second cour of Imaishi’s powerhouse Gurren Lagann, and here he is surpassing it. Except he did that along time ago; the legendary Naruto Shippuden 167 secured Oda’s place as part of the anime alumni under animation director Atsushi Wakabayashi (a personal favorite for his god-like work on Yu Yu Hakusho). Oda worked side by side with some of the most amazing animators in the industry, sharing the credit as ‘Second Key Animator’ with Natsume Shingo who needs no introduction for all his Space Dandy and One Punch Man work, as well as Norio Matsumoto (responsible for one of the most iconic scenes in Evangelion), and Yamashita Shingo (who solo animated the first Birdy the Mighty: DECODE ending). It’s an amazing watch even if you don’t like Naruto, and in a way, it reminds me of this episode of Mob Psycho. Even the tiniest inklings of Gosei Oda’s style can be felt in there despite such a power-house crew.
Working back to back to back on both seasons of Space Dandy then the adored One Punch Man secured Oda’s name as a sakuga kami, producing cuts that simply refused to be ignored. Perhaps the best isolated example of his style is his solo cut in the very first episode of One Punch Man. There seems to be a certain affinity he shares with Yoshimichi Kameda when it comes to using sumi-e pens, turning motion into thick, bold freight-trains of emotion, cranked up to 11! Also like Kameda, Oda is an action scene intuit. Oda perfectly utilizes the space in the frame in a rhythmic fashion that provides a giant payoff in the end; and that’s exactly what we saw in the battle between Dimples and Mob. Despite all this, perhaps the greatest aspect of Oda’s style is its ability to mesh perfectly with whomever he might be working with, like Yutaka Nakamura for example. But returning to the Kameda comparison, it helps to realize that these two have worked together before (and literally shared cuts), so it really should come as no surprise that Gosei was given free reign over this episode.
The first thing you notice hitting play is what an amazing love letter to Osamu Dezaki this episode is. This was partially due to the change in the width of the lines all moving objects share; they’re thicker. Not only are they thicker, but they are rougher around the edges, more flawed, solid yet more expressive for what the show was trying to accomplish. Every emotion, every action, every event just felt bigger, more bombastic and robust, like the actual animation was going to overtake the viewer and push us to 100% along with Mob. I found it to be quite the rush, a roller coaster I could enjoy from comfort of my laptop atop my bamboo bed tray.
Color too had a huge part to play in it. Against their thicker barriers, the colors seemed more vibrant, possessing greater life and fervor than before which formed a striking contrast going from a highly colorful scene to one that was barren of hue and tint. The acute shifts did well to project Mob’s mental state, working in tandem to heighten each other when they appeared on screen. Miyo Sato’s cut is the prime example of this: starting in a full-color, expressive, geometrical pattern, that cuts into a closeup of Mob spewing milk, then ending on a black and white shot of foam around his mouth and eyes. The color (or lack of) frames Mob as the victim of a cruel joke, serving the narrative goal. The antagonist, Dimples, also benefits from this, as his entire existence is exuding happiness, color just acts as our visual stand in.
But all these Gosei lines, expressive colors, and neo Dezakisms culminated during the final fight in an explosion of furry. Gosei’s rapid zigzag attack was realized against animated backgrounds for multiple layers of motion, an evolution of his style over what was seen in Naruto and Sacred Star of Milos. Immediately following is series of brushwork imagery that straddles the line between impact frame and animation. I was knocked dead. All the while, the Dezaki-Gosei lined crowd floats in the backdrop. More impressive yet was the point blank ‘Wraither Beam’ and it’s accompanying impact frames, neon blue sparking against the black and white sumi-e lines. It’s a three-minute, awe-inspiring smelting pot of technique and style. Gosei truly is the Jimi Hendrix of Kameda’s Band of Gypsys.
“The show is confounding my expectations and proving that, in terms of effective characterization and emotional storytelling, it can punch with the best of ‘em.“
Mob Psycho reminds us of the beauty and potential of youth; Mob Psycho reminds us of the fragility and the aching pain of youth. On the one hand, you have beings that are struggling to undergo self-realization and self-actualization, creatures who see the world with a fresh perspective and possess the potential to change that world. Yet, it is this same constitution which makes youth susceptible to being manipulated or unexpectedly wounded. If taken advantage of, that same openness which allows them to have an untainted worldview can be a source of deep emotional pain.
Josh talked previously about how this show might be a message to Japanese young people. While I personally remain hesitant to attach such a specific meaning to the show as a whole, it’s hard not to see Mob’s experiences depicted in episode three as a simultaneous lamentation and celebration of youth in general. The flashback scene in particular seems like a universal experience. Everyone has these kinds of small and should-be-forgettable moments in their childhood that stick with you because you deeply internalize the message(s) communicated to you through them. Mob’s is “Get a clue!” Yours might be “What’s the matter with you?” or something non-verbal, like a disappointed look or an angry gesture.
Other people perceive their part in these memories as trivial, as something anyone should be able to shrug off, but, (not to be too dramatic) these moments can alter the trajectory of your life. Mob became the person he is, a person who believes he is terrible and should hide his gifts, because he internalized and frequently replays the message that he doesn’t have a clue, that something is wrong with who he naturally is. As a parent, this episode of Mob Psycho terrifies me because there is no way to predict these moments in your child’s life. There’s no guarantee I’ll be there when someone tells my kids to get a clue. There’s no guarantee that it won’t be me inadvertently communicating such a message to them.
Of course, Mob Psycho is continually pushing the audience towards the conclusion that its protagonist “doesn’t get it.” We’re lead to believe, for instance, that he can’t see that he’s just being used by his employer. In episode three, his lack of awareness manifests itself in the form of Mob taking the ill-disguised bait that a (super shady) cult holds the secret to popularity and consenting to attend their meeting. It would be so easy for us to roll our eyes, sigh and say “Oh, Mob.” However, a moment’s reflection will reveal that we were probably strung along as kids too. Since we tend to only see what is directly in front of us when we are young, it can be difficult to ascertain when/if we are being manipulated, if we are even considering the possibility.
And, maybe Mob even knew. Maybe he knew all along what the cult was offering was bullshit, but his internalized messages were so powerful that his desire to believe he could overcome his hang-ups with a magic quick fix prevailed against his better judgment. It’s harder to tell than normal because Mob’s internal life runs much deeper than your typical shounen hero. I was absolutely fooled into thinking he was just another kid designed with below-average intelligence for either comedic purposes or to be inclusive or both.
But Mob’s apparent lack of perception belies his sensitivity and the degree to which he engages in self-reflection. Due to an off-hand comment by his crush, made years before the story takes place, Mob is insecure about using his full power. For him, unshackling his true abilities (again, being who he naturally is) is something to hide. Mob has this enormous potential bubbling within him, and all he can see is something to be embarrassed about. His young, open heart was wounded by little comments, small moments. As he uses his 100% explosive psychic ability, Mob, voice full of self-loathing, asserts “I’m terrible.” Perhaps Reigen can’t teach Mob any new psychic tricks, but I, for one, am rooting for Mob’s less-than-reputable mentor to teach him lessons of another kind, to start the healing process within our protagonist.
I started out thinking that Mob Psycho would be exclusively about spectacle and might even slide into being occasionally heartwarming. The show is confounding my expectations and proving that, in terms of effective characterization and emotional storytelling, it can punch with the best of ‘em.
“…it actually had me laughing audibly while I watched.”
So in this week’s Mob Psycho our hero is finally pushed over the edge and the counter we’ve all been watching manages to finally reach the titular 100, resulting in a return to the bombastic nature of the first episode and even exceeding it in terms of the raw number of impressive sakuga cuts. That said, what appealed to me the most out of this episode was less in the visuals this time around, but actually in the comedy.
This is something I hadn’t mentioned in either of my previous reviews, but I do think Mob Psycho is quite funny indeed. While it is mostly slapstick humor, which I’m alright with, there’s also an element of comedy that comes from the relatability of Mob as a naïve, dorky teenager, and that’s what comes across so well in this episode. While he is normally dense to all forms of social contact, giving little-to-no reaction to whatever life throws his way, we’re shown he has a definite weak point: matters of love.
Last episode introduced us to the cliché crush Mob has on his childhood friend Takane Tsubomi, but this episode pushes it quite a bit further. Like many boys his age, especially those with poor social skills and the inability to “get a clue”, the girl he has happened to fall in love with takes no interest in him. Mob, desperate in seeking acceptance, will believe anything anyone tells him if it makes him more attractive.
This is played on incredibly well throughout the episode and actually had me laughing audibly while I watched. When Mob is talking with the Telepathy Club crew at the beginning of the episode and is called out on his self-improvement efforts being an attempt to gain popularity, there is a lovely twinge of embarrassment that shoots across Mob’s face as he tries to explain it away. The animation in this reaction embodies what I appreciate from Mob Psycho’s talented staff the most: their ability to inject nuance that wouldn’t be present in an anime of lesser caliber.
That said, I have problems with this episode’s execution. While it contains plenty of spectacle and style, most of it feels empty to me. For example, this episode has another Miyo Sato scene and while it’s a pleasure to watch for its expressiveness it ultimately feels wasted on an otherwise minor gag scene. Furthermore, when Mob lets loose in 100% form the animation is absolutely beautiful, but the buildup to it left much to be desired.
Despite minor issues, I still strongly enjoyed the episode. I wasn’t expecting such a climax so early in the series, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops from here.
” I thought comedies were supposed to be funny.”
The episode is about Mob getting tricked into joining a cult that centers around smiling called LOL. The leader of this cult is a spirit named Dimple, who uses mind control abilities to force people to laugh. When it doesn’t work for Mob, he gets upset, goes berserk and defeats Dimple, freeing everyone of his mind control spell.
The idea with this episode is to ask the question, “If mind control is being used to help everyday people get over their depression and nobody is getting hurt in the process, is that a bad thing?” Which can be an interesting topic. Hell, “Rick & Morty” covered this idea last season with an episode about an alien hive mind controlling an entire planet’s population. In that episode, the characters bring up the ethical dilemma of robbing free will from innocent people. As a counter argument, they also mention the alien race being controlled were on the verge of extinction brought about by their own endless racially drive wars. The alien hive mind was keeping her hosts alive and helped maintain peace. “Rick & Morty” explored this idea of mind altering wonderfully. It doesn’t choose one side. They explore how both sides are right and both sides are wrong. Some people need extreme levels of help when it comes to helping folks get through life, but that doesn’t mean that extreme level care shouldn’t apply to everyone.
Mob on the other hand handles this topic about as well as a dentist with a jack hammer. Mob just says, what Dimple is doing is wrong and what he’s doing is evil. There’s no discussion. Plus it seems like Mob only wants to stop Dimple because the mind altering trick didn’t work on him. It doesn’t matter if Dimple is helping other people get through their miserable day-to-day lives and building a community of like-minded individuals who are supportive of one another. Nope, he’s evil and needs to be killed. Mob only looks at the topic at face value. This episode doesn’t say anything beyond, “Being told to be happy when you’re sad and depressed doesn’t help” which is a topic covered in numerous anime and other forms of media. Most of which were handled a lot better.
But I hear you saying, “Hitch, it’s a comedy. Lighten up. It shouldn’t be taken so seriously.” My first response to this would be, I thought comedies were supposed to be funny. More importantly, the show itself treats this topic very seriously. The episode’s jokes aren’t, “Look at the wacky cult members”, the jokes are about how Mob doesn’t want to join and can’t seem to leave. The show takes the idea of altering one’s mind to be happy very seriously. Instead of a joke, it’s a horror story. It’d be one thing to depict this group as evil if they were hurting others, but they aren’t. Some people seem to benefit from joining the group, like the sad homeless man who’s welcomed into the group by saying they’ll give him a job to get him up on his feet again. But no, according to the show, the act itself is evil. Some might look at this episode and say its about the horrors of religion being placed upon youth, but I’m reading this as anything that suppose to help cure depression, like medication and attending therapy sessions are evil. Because the fact that they are a cult doesn’t really mean anything to Mob. Its not the origination that Mob has a problem with, it’s the mask and the one using his abilities and skills to help. Dimple is giving these people a way to feel good about themselves and when it doesn’t work for Mob, Mob’s emotions explode and he wants to kill Dimple and dissolve the group that didn’t work for him. Which seems healthy. Yes, I’m probably looking into that too much.
Although beyond the topic itself, it doesn’t do anything funny or clever with the visuals either. The episode’s highlight joke is a number of cult members doing spit takes into Mob’s blank expressionless face. Its just a generic looking cult with smile masks being lead by a guy in robes with a face that slightly resembles Buddha’s underneath. Throw in Dimple’s final form looking almost identical to the nameless baddie at the end of episode one and you’ve got yourself a lukewarm snooze fest for the ages.
The last thing I’m going to touch on is Mob’s crush, Takane. I don’t understand what he sees in her because all of the flashbacks we’ve gotten about her seem to give the impression she’s shallow. The last episode had Takane leaving Mob when she became bored with Mob’s psychic powers and moved on to having taste in good looking boys with strong athletic skills. This week we see her belittle Mob when he doesn’t join in the group at laughing at a kid who pulled down his pants and started shaking his exposed butt. Again, nothing but the highest levels of comedy come from this show. Anyhow, It’d be one thing if Takane played an active roll in Mob’s life or show any interest in him, but she’s almost nonexistent to the story at this point. Mob keeps trying to improve himself so she’ll like him again, but what’s the point? Outside of being pretty (I guess she’s supposed to be pretty. The character designs in this show are about as appealing as a drunk four year-old’s chalk drawings), why does Mob fancy her? Takane doesn’t seem to have any other traits or skills that would make her appealing, let alone someone worth changing for. She’s really underdeveloped. For Takane to be this target of Mob’s hopes and desires seems wrong. Although her personality seems like a perfect description for this series, a pretty face with no redeemable qualities.