Weekly Motion Cannon: Mob Psycho Episode 4

josh_biggerJosh Dunham

“Overall another great episode, but an even better set up for what is to come!”

As of this writing, if you pull up Sara Moroyuki on Sakugabooru you will only find six cuts, two of which were featured in liborek’s piece. But be sure Moroyuki is responsible for a lot more than that – sakuga wiki has the name listed as the solo Key Animator on episode 4. Looking at the episode’s official credits also confirms this (thanks to @RonSnow_0) with Moroyuki listed once again as solo Key Animator with no less than 18 2nd Key Animators (read clean up animators). As for the question, ‘who is Sara Moroyuki?’ your guess is as good as mine. The alias has continued to escape identification even among those far more sakuga savvy than myself. But here’s what I know:

mob psycho ep4

There was a rumor spinning ’round the Japanese net that Sara Moroyuki was actually the god-like Mitsuo Iso (think the best cuts of Evangelion and the tank battle in Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell) under a pseudonym, however there’s little to support this aside from conjecture. In my mind I don’t seem much similarity, but I won’t deny how amazing, crazy gifted Moroyuki is, whomever they may be. What interests me most of all is not who the real Moroyuki could be, but more the idea that an extremely talented, mysterious animator can produce an entire episode in this day in age and still remain illusive – it’s almost like a ONE story. It’s not who they are but what they stand for; a pure force of animation.

 

Thematically, I feel its fitting that a single name carry so much of the weight this episode. We’re seeing another psychic for the first time, and the episode ends on the insinuation that only the unknown Mob will be able to stop him. What’s more is the slow integration of the idea that these psychically gifted beings could be heralded as gods to even the mightiest of mortal humans. In many ways, Sara Moroyuki is much like Mob, unwilling to show their powers in public despite the mantle of animator deity. It’s a brilliant synchronicity.

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Animation aside, what made this episode great was it’s use of lighting and backgrounds. Background used for comedy, backgrounds to accent action, or even no background at all; the show knew exactly when to utilize it’s secondary imagery and bring it into the forefront. It was nearly essential being solo KA’ed, as it’s much harder for a single person to produce all the amazing scenes that can fit into a single episode when you have a crack team producing the cuts. I don’t mean to convey that this episode fell into Toei territory, far from it. Gosei Oda set an awfully high bar after episode three, and for one lone animator to try to compete with with that output is insane, even if it’s Mitsuo Iso. Not for the lack of trying: quite a few scenes did touch the hem of the garment (the sunset cut of a lone bird’s flight comes to mind).

Perhaps it was wise then for Moroyuki to tackle an episode that featured Dimples so predominantly. The entire ectoplasm’s existence is the squash and stretch principle, allowing for a lot of freedom when drawing his frames, no doubt relieving the burden somewhat. Though not firing wraither beams this episode, I found his character to be a counter to Reigen and a much needed balance in the show’s moral diet. Perhaps it’s the constant whisper of “Mob, use your powers!” that makes him so enjoyable, he says exactly what we want to see, he is our voice of sorts.

Overall another great episode, but an even better set up for what is to come!


JimmyGnomebiggerJimmy Gnome

“…this episode proves its worth through excellent visual direction and storytelling.”

Mob Psycho’s production seems to operate on a simple dichotomy, alternating dazzling displays of animation prowess with more restrained episodes that serve to set up the next gig. This one happens to be of the latter form, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s necessarily a bad thing. Despite not being a sakuga-fest, this episode proves its worth through excellent visual direction and storytelling.

Beginning with a return to the status quo after the climactic episode 3, this episode focuses on introducing new members of the cast. One isn’t actually new at all, though his form has changed: Dimple, the big bad Mob defeated in his outrage at the end of the previous episode has returned, but all that’s left of his once mighty form is a small blob of ectoplasm that is seemingly harmless. The other is Hanazawa Teruki, a blond haired egoist who’s popular with the ladies and is revealed to have similar psychic powers as Mob.

These two seem to be characterized in a way ideologically opposite of how Reigen and Mob were first introduced. Dimple intends to manipulate Mob to serve his ambitions of godhood, but he so far comes off as ineffective because of how unfamiliar he is with Mob as a person. Furthermore, he is confused as to why Mob refuses to use his powers to escape the dangerous situations he finds himself in, a result of the morals Reigen instilled in Mob. Teruki also lacks these morals and is perfectly fine with attacking ordinary humans with his powers. Add this to his good looks and popularity and you have what is basically an anti-Mob, representing everything Mob wants to be.

While it’s hardly the most impressive episode in the series thus far, it’s certainly notable that all key animated handled by a single person, namely Sara Moroyuki. This took me by surprise not just because of how rare solo-KA episodes are in the industry, but because of how well Moroyuki managed to characterize their animation to suit the variety of characters featured in this episode. This is most particularly noticeable in the gang fight at the end of the episode, which features hordes of yankiis, the members of the body improvement club, and Teruki in combat. Each are animated in distinct ways that match their characterization: the gang leader’s aggressive challenge is marked by Kameda-style looseness and expression, during battle the body builders are made to seem like towering Olympians with graceful, measured movements and hatched shadows to convey their monstrous bulk. Teruki is at first drawn in a fairly regular way, but as soon as he unleashes his powers the style shifts to match his overwhelming advantage.

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The storyboards offer great support for Moroyuki as well, as Mob Psycho continues to contain some of the most dynamic framing this season. Again I’m drawn to the brawl at the end of the episode, which is full of impressive shots, such as the single bolt of lightning that strikes above Teruki as he sends all five members of the body improvement club into the air simultaneously, which might actually be my favorite shot in the show thus far. Even without its main draw of over-the-top sakuga, the series manages remains visually compelling.

Comedy wise, this episode was quite fulfilling for one major reason: Dimple. His contempt at the beginning of the episode is brilliantly transitioned to pity as he learns of Mob’s various social ineptitudes. Again, Moroyuki does a fantastic job animating Dimple, keeping his form loose and giving him different levels of facial detail to accent the scene he’s in, although his general shape stays mostly uniform throughout. I wonder if other animators will end up handling him differently.

The episode ends right before the confrontation between Mob and his mirror foe Teruki. I’m left very interested to see whether or not Mob decides to sacrifice his principles, whether to emulate Teruki’s success or to attack him head on. Either way, it seems that the stage is now set for another explosive and climactic episode next week.


fR2BruO4_biggerCJ Hitchcock

“…this whole entire episode’s plot reeks of Shonen clichés…”

If you are looking for me to be King of Grump Mountain this week, you’re going to be disappointed. Also if you are thinking I’m suddenly going to have a change of heart about this series, you are also going to be disappointed. After watching this week’s Mob Psycho 100, I’m left with a feeling I can only describe as, “Neutral.” I’m not angry or upset, but I’m also not walking away feeling like I was entertained either. It was a thing I watched and now I have to cobble together some form of an intro paragraph for my section of the article that’s going to be summed up with, I like Body Improvement Club characters, but I could care less about Ritsu, Mob’s brother, and Teruki, a new character that will serve as Mob’s psychic rival.

mob psycho ep4 (41)

The short summary of events is a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure cosplayer picks a fight with a rival school gang lead by Teruki. After Not-Josuke gets beaten, he asks the Body Improvement Club to avenge him. When the club says no, Not-Josuke tricks Teruki’s gang into kidnapping Mob and the Body Improvement Club has to rescue him. Oh, and Dimple is hanging out with Mob in a Slimmer-ish type ghost body.

The Body Improvement Club were the most entertaining aspect for me this episode. While they aren’t all that special and remind me of the body builders from Oh My Goddess, I still got a kick out of their attitude. Hell, the joke about them focusing on doing squats is the first time I cracked a smile while watching this show. They’re fun characters that bring much needed positivity to the show. Although what makes these characters so likable is how they treat Mob. In most other series, these muscle bound goons would bully the small and fragile Mob, but the team is incredibly supportive. They’re including Mob in their workouts, giving him handicaps as to not overwhelm him. These aren’t insulting handicaps either, but reasonable ones that any coach would give a newcomer to a group. They treat Mob like one of their own and it’s nice to see someone in this series treat Mob like a human being. The brief shot of Mob lifting weights with Goda, the leader of the club, has been my favorite shot this week because it captures everything I just described.

mob psycho ep4 (42).jpg

Outside of that though, this whole entire episode’s plot reeks of Shonen clichés, the biggest of these is easily Teruki. Teruki’s introduction feels similar to Uryu’s from Bleach. He comes into the story early on as a baddie, but soon become acquaintances with the hero and shares a common goal until a later story line where they have to square off against each other for reasons. I’m not saying using this type of story line is bad, its just very common in this genre. I’ve seen it used one too many times at this point for me to be interested in it.

While we are on the subject of overused tropes, Dimple’s back as a slapstick mascot character. I get they’re trying to use him as a dark force whispering into Mob’s ear like a devil sitting on his shoulder, constantly tempting Mob into using his powers for evil, but all I can think about is his new goofy character design. Looking at it, it makes me wonder how many toy plushies they’re going to make out of his stupid Not-Slimmer face. Again, its not a bad idea or a bad direction for that character to take. This type of character could be interesting later in the series when things get more serious, but as for right now, his purpose is just saying things that are supposed to be funny.

This episode also fleshes out Ritsu a bit more. He’s the older brother who’s jealous of Mob’s psychic abilities. He’s treats Mob well enough. He’s supportive and protective of his younger brother. It’s the case of, Ritsu wanting to be special like Mob, while Mob wants to be friendlier and more emotionally balanced like Ritsu. They idolize each other and for a lack of a better word, it’s cute. Too bad I’ve already seen this before. The example that instantly comes to my mind is Speed and Rex’s brotherly relationship in Speed Racer.

By now I’m sure you’re noticing a pattern in my reaction piece this week. With every passing moment, I’m reminded of something better. Well, maybe “better” isn’t the right word, but Mob’s narrative definitely treads common ground that’s been explored in the medium. It feels like the creators are going through a Shonen library, picking out random pieces of narrative and character archetypes from multiple series, throwing them into a blender and blending the hell out of it. Very little of Mob feels original or authentic to me. It feels I’m watching a Store Brand Shonen Jump series. Sure a lot of the same elements from the original brand I like are in there, but its missing that extra something that makes it the real deal.

Now, does this make Mob bad? No, it doesn’t. Just because you’re unoriginal doesn’t mean you can’t put your own spin on things. Mob is attempting to do this through its visuals, which are bombastic and colorful. You can say all sorts of wonderful things about how the animation flows and how it has taken this really crudely drawn manga and elevated it to a whole new level, but I don’t watch anime for just the animation. I want a unique narrative that’s fun and engaging and I’m not getting that here.

I mean, maybe if the series was drawn in a 4 : 3 ratio, I’d enjoy it more, but I guess I’ll just have to put up with this 16:9 bull crap. (Disclaimer: Inside joke)

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