Be sure to check out the write-ups for prior episodes!
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6
The Subtle Doctor
“It is [his] deep internal contradiction that makes Ritsu so unpredictable and interesting to watch.”
After gaining quite a bit of insight into who Mob is, episodes 6 and 7 let us in on the life of another member of the Kageyama family, Mob’s younger (!) brother, Ritsu. While the complete picture of Ritsu’s motivations isn’t made as clear as it should be, it actually doesn’t take too much effort to fit together some seemingly disparate threads into a coherent whole. And, that whole is fascinating.
From the outside looking in, Ritsu is the superior Kageyama brother. He’s popular, good looking and smart. The kid could have anything he wanted and everyone in his life—from parents to teachers to classmates—reinforce this message. Yet, there has always been one area of his life in which he could never succeed: he has no psychic aptitude. It’s unclear at this point whether Ritsu is jealous of Mob or only deeply admires him; perhaps he is just disgusted with his own psychic ineptness. Whatever the case, Ritsu’s inner life tends to be dominated by wishing he could be like Mob, like the brother who everyone else deems inferior.
Then, two interesting events occur. Ritsu sets a fire just to watch the world burn. He involves himself in the student council president’s corruption by planting evidence to frame school thugs as perverts. Ritsu knows it’s wrong, but walking the golden path had become tiring and constrained. He felt no joy being himself, or the self that others taught him to be. While struggling with the guilt of his actions, the second event happens: the emotional stress unlocks his latent psychic powers. Throwing away the thing that set him apart from Mob in the minds of others—being the ideal student—allowed Ritsu to unwittingly grasp the particular kind of equality with Mob he actually longed for.
It seems like the show is telling us that human beings aren’t fit to possess psychic abilities. First of all, think about the kind of place Mob Psycho 100 presents the human world to be. Everyone is trying to use each other. Adults prey on children, older children take advantage of the younger and the strong dominate the weak for their own benefit. Such a cycle naturally creates a lot of wounded people, especially among those who lead deeper, more involved internal lives. While the show does seem to indicate that it’s best to be someone like Mob—the used rather than the user—going against the tide in this way will prove difficult. Introducing psychic gifts to these sorts of beings will lead to the creation of individuals like Dimple, Teruki and Ritsu. While Dimple used his powers to try to gain and much personal wealth and prosperity as he could, Teruki (until recently) and Ritsu have goals and beliefs that make them far more dangerous than the dead cult leader.
Like Teruki before him, Ritsu begins to see himself as transcendent, or, at the very least, as someone who can see through the illusions of reason and morality to the cold heart of reality. He believes he has become unfettered and has risen above his limits as a human being, when, in actuality, his newfound superiority, amorality and overall detachedness have their roots in something very, very human. Ritsu wants to stand on a level playing field with his brother.
In all likelihood, Ritsu is obsessed with surpassing his brother, not just in the minds of others but in the area he knows Mob has always been superior to him. Despite rejecting his previous self, he cannot let go of his previous self’s desire to be great. Ritsu’s wish to be better than everyone and his wish to abandon the path of the ideal student are in direct conflict with one another. It is this deep internal contradiction that makes Ritsu so unpredictable and interesting to watch.
“Let me come out and say it: I liked this episode.”
I was correct in my assumption that last weeks episode was a purposeful detraction of sakuga. Episode 6 did not get the attention or love it deserved, and so I feel like the fandom is going to swing in time with the visuals of this episode out of ‘sakuga starvation’ if nothing else. Reaction to this episode can already be gauged as overwhelmingly positive as it simply falls more in line with the rabid expectations of famished fans. And that’s OK. It was all part of the plan.
But first I want to assert that Dimple is the best character. Put simply, his position in the world of Mob Psycho is the most interesting one. Dimples is power hungry, yet not powerless; cunning and conniving, but willing to stick his neck out for others when they’re threatened. He inhabits this narrative space that only a formless, floating blob of ectoplasm could: the Instigator. Although the first three episodes are truly setup episodes (though it could be argued that all six episodes ’til this point have been purely setup) the first inklings of a plot/narrative structure emerged when Dimple was first introduced in episode 3. The next major step was instigated with Dimple’s ‘death’- we saw an unexpected dramatic depth tackling the profound question of ‘can people change?’ with great success. And now, with Dimple’s return, the plot thickens.
Now would be a good time to bring up a comment left by Stubbley on last episode’s writeup, asking what I thought about the story along the lines of the characterization and comedic aspects, outside the realm of animation. First I want to state that I do not find it 100% necessary for art to have a story. Architecture, songs, paintings, none of these have to have a story in order to be good, they only have to convey emotion. In fact, I would go as far to say that all good art has to convey emotion, at the bare minimum invoke thought. The problem with Mob is that it leaves room for story, yet still has not completely filled that space – but this episode looks to be changing that. The episodic nature has been shed; episode 7 ends with immediately pertinent questions, the type that keep you hooked, the type that keep you waiting with baited breath for the next episode. What has me excited is that we see Mob clearly is facing an opponent he can’t beat (at least while conscious). Finally, a build in anticipation!
With the continuation of the story the animation has followed suit. It’s a statement that episode six was 100% purposeful. Seeing Ritsu finally come to grips with his psychic abilities under the coaching of Dimple was a great character dynamic that I find compelling. It’s that juxtaposition that I mentioned before, the show is damned good at it. But this was all highlighted by the fact that the animation has returned to it’s bright and shiny self. And some of these cuts where simply inspired: camera movements depicting the movement of the wind, sudden bursts of sakuga cutting away from Ritsu leaving your mind’s eye to fill in the rest, not to mention the layout and blocking of all the actors.
Let me come out and say it: I liked this episode. I think the problems with having ‘such a large cast’ are unfounded, as all of the characters are enjoyable in the capacity that they intend to be. I don’t feel like the plot is being rushed or crammed, but I do wish we could see more of Ritsu, simply because I find him and his situation really compelling. Hopefully next episode will live up to expectations and the gates will be opened. But I’m sure the show will just follow Dimple anyway – and I’m OK with that.
“While a bit cliche, I do like this direction in the story.”
Every week whenever I sit down to write these reaction pieces, I have the Mob Psycho 100 Character Wiki opened on my phone to make sure I’m spelling the names correctly. I bring this up because I’ve known since writings the first reaction that Mob Psycho 100 was going to have a lot of characters in it, but after watching this episode it’s finally dawning on me just how many characters inhabit this universe. The episode opens up by introducing five or six different rival gangs. Each gang is gunning for Tenga’s territory. After becoming disgraced by Shinji’s recorder mouth piece stunt (which I still don’t understand), and being beaten by Teruki, Tenga’s dominance over his territory has greatly weakened and since he owned the largest section of land in the area, it has becomes highly sought after.
Now, this bit of information went by pretty quickly in the show, but I want to talk about it for two reasons. The first of which is how it introduced these other gang members. Right out of the gate, the narration bombards you with this info. You hit play and boom, here’s six different sets of characters you’ve never seen before that you need to familiarize yourself with for understanding the following events in the episode. Now, grand scheme of things, these characters aren’t really all that important, but if that’s the case, why not reduce the number of gangs down to say two. Give more time to develop each group and give them more personality than just a different set of uniforms. I just don’t understand why this story needs so many characters. This is especially odd considering the previous episode introduced a new villain character in Shinji and these rival gangs are basically going after him. It’s getting to this point where you need a flow chart to follow all of the relationships going on between these characters. It’s a bit overwhelming for a short series like this to have this many characters.
Which leads me to my next point, I had no idea that Tenga had that much street cred. While Tenga has been showing up in the series consistently, the series hasn’t state before this point that he was anything more than a school bully. His outreach didn’t seem to effect anywhere that wasn’t within his home turf. If anything when the series introduced him it was as a low level punk who couldn’t beat the kids from the neighboring school. Now the series is expecting us to believe he’s one of the most renown punks in the city? I don’t buy Tenga being able to beat Glass Joe in Punch Out, let alone be the leader of any territory regardless of size.
But enough about that, this episode was fine. Actually it had stuff in it I liked. Shocker, I know. The main bulk of the episode deals with Ritsu again. Dimple has returned and has offered to help Ritsu unlock his lament psychic abilities. More or less Anakin has meet Emperor Palpatine. While a bit cliche, I do like this direction in the story. The evil devil whispering into Mob’s ear has replaced Mob with someone more desperate and gullible in hopes of achieving the power he craves, while Ritsu becomes more drunk off the powers unlocked by Dimple. As Ritsu becomes more powerful, he’s more willing to abuse them without any sort of guilt. It’s decent character development and I’m looking forward to the emotional battle between Ritsu and Mob next week.
Speaking of Mob, I actually really enjoyed his brief appearance with Reigen this week. Mob gets suckered into an art gallery where the caretakers frame Mob for breaking a vase and Reigen steps in to defend Mob. It boils down between being a battle between a con man and a true con artist. Reigen out scams the caretakers and its a funny scene! It also leads to this nice scene between Mob and Reigen where Mob states he doesn’t like con artist and questions Reigen’s nonexistent abilities. Reigen doesn’t say much, and you get the sense he’s not sure how much longer he wants to lead Mob on. This also has me looking forward to seeing how Mob will react in the future when he does find out Reigen’s a fake. I’m not sure how Mob will react to that news.
But I do want to end on another negative that really bothered me this week and that’s the pacing. The content in this episode could of easily been covered in three separate episodes. Have an episode about Tenga’s gang problems, an episode of Mob bounding over being scammed with Reigen and have an episode or two about Ritsu developing his powers with Dimple. This episode tries covering all of that content into a single episode and it’s a bit much to absorb in one sitting. While the Mob and Reigen stuff is fine, the story lines about Ritsu and Tenga suffered a lot. I’ve already touched on Tenga, but even though I enjoyed the stuff with Ritsu, the episode feels like it glosses over an entire volume worth of character development in a few minutes. Ritsu goes through this whole process of helping the Student Console President Shinji with his plan to rid the school of trash. The problem is the school more or less looks exactly the same from the start of the series as it does now. You don’t really see how the school changed before Ritsu and Shinji started this plan. And then, it quickly moves on to Ritsu and Shinji having a falling out with each other, and the both are constantly being attacked by the rival gangs. Instead of watching a cohesive narrative, it feels like I’m watching the cliff notes version of the show. While you get the gist of everything that’s going on, you don’t get a chance to really experience it properly. There’s no breathing room for these events, almost like the show is trying to rush head first into its next big fight scene.
So while there were good moments in this episode, it’s bogged down by structural issues and having too many new characters thrown at us.
“Mob Psycho is the kind of anime I wish wasn’t an adaptation.”
The further we get along the clearer it has become: Mob Psycho is indeed a victim of being a single-cour adaptation. I don’t think it’s even a question now, Bones is trying to fit more into this show’s runtime than they should and it’s having adverse effect on the pacing overall. While not quite as quickly paced as last episode, Mob Psycho 7 continues to hurry though the necessary exposition without giving its viewers the time to invest in the conflict. It compounds the already prevalent fault of having such a flat supporting cast, with new members being introduced every episode, and makes such jarring shifts in tone that it often comes across as an unintentional parody of itself.
But hey, this one still manages to look rather nice.
Takashi Kawabata, a frequent contributor at SHAFT, seems like the perfect fit to direct an episode of a show as visually dynamic as Mob Psycho. His storyboards here are distinctive and memorable, using a large variety of blocking techniques and creative compositions. My personal favorite scene involved two con artists attempting to swindle Mob after forcing him to break a gaudy pot. When Reigen shows up to rescue his pupil he intimidates the scammers with a ghost story, bathing the entire room a dark shade of crimson. The two laugh at his childishness when suddenly the pot behind them bursts apart, followed by the shattering of the surrounding light fixtures. They cower on the ground as Reigen and Mob take their leave, the floor shaking beneath them. It’s a very well executed and funny little scene which actually segues fairly well into the following scene.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the primary plot thread in this episode: Ritsu’s descent into amorality. Without even considering how much of a non-character he was before this arc, and thus how difficult it would be to really call this a “descent” to anything when he had no strongly defined standing in the first place, Ritsu’s characterization in this arc falls totally flat. His guilt and inferiority complex are so skimmed-over I wouldn’t be surprised if it all leads into one big gag next episode for kicks, after which Ritsu joins the horde of ambiguously half-developed, stunted characters to be recycled into a convenient plot device later on. Consider the scene in this episode which describes the student council president as “drunk with power”, followed by Ritsu, who we’re told is “suffering greatly” by the omniscient narrator. This isn’t development, it’s a cop-out. At least we’re shown the president’s megalomania through his actions, yet Ritsu is continuously shafted so that his motives come across as paper-thin.
Truthfully I’m not sure how many of these issues stem from the pacing of the show, which in turn stems from the limitations of its brief airtime, and how many are actually present in the manga. I’ve been told that this is its weakest arc, which seems believable, but that begs the question: Why doesn’t the adaptation try to correct these issues? It’s not as though Bones is a studio well known for their faithfulness to source material. Of course, this is asking for too much; we will just have to live with the ugly blemishes of industry standards.
Mob Psycho is the kind of anime I wish wasn’t an adaptation. It’s just too obvious that there’s a certain point in the manga that the producers desperately want to get to and they’ll sacrifice what they can to see it through. That said, I am still happy it is being produced, both as an opportunity for talented animators and directors to flex their muscles on television and as an anime so radically different from its contemporaries. The truth is we need more shows like Mob Psycho, but that doesn’t make it immune to critique or any less marred by flaws. Hopefully whatever material it’s sprinting towards is compelling enough to forgive it for its faults.