Be sure to check out the write-ups for prior episodes!
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7
“…it is a roller coaster and we are strapped in for the ride.”
Disney’s Twelve Basic Principles of Animation claims that the most important principle of animation is squash and stretch. Indeed, squash and stretch is responsible for any sense of volume an object may have, visually dictating the weight, flexibility, and the velocity of an object in motion. The most common example of this is a ball.
Specific information is conveyed of a ball that hits the floor and flattens for a second before checking in a 45 degree angle at an ungodly speed. In fact, you eyes demand nothing less. The only caveat is that the volume must stay consistent, an object cannot stretch and become more than what it already is without breaking the illusion of physics acting on that same object. I don’t mean to imply that every object has to flex and slim under every motion, it would seem really odd for a boulder falling down the mountainside to elongate to a completely impossible length (though this is a comedic effect which does have its merits), but if it did you would think it was going rather fast! All these ideas are perfectly pronounced and executed in this week’s episode of Mob Psycho.
While it would seem odd for a boulder to stretch and squash without a great amount of speed behind it, not the same can be said for flesh and bone subjected to the extreme forces of psychic powers. The masterful use of the most basic principle of animation allows us to feel every gut-wrenching blow, living it in excruciating detail, and that’s a necessary detail. For those who have had their ass kicked, you felt every blow, and for those who haven’t, you felt like you had after seeing it. We are meant to feel the same frantic desperation as Mob while trying to fend off such a deadly opponent, and that feeling of impending doom is built with each blow that reshapes his face like silly putty. In fact, the cut attributed to Tomohiro Shinoda and Yuuto Kaneko is the perfect example of a basic principle of animation (several actually) executed to such a fine degree that it is elevated to new heights.
And then there’s the amazing cut by Yutaka Nakamura which needs to be bathed in.
For those who may not be familiar with the god of the pen that is Yutaka Nakamura you undoubtedly seen his work. Escaflowne fans will recognize the ultra fluid cut from the opening, capes flapping in the distant wind, swords swinging with the weight of a thousand pounds behind them – that was Yutaka Nakamura. The opening salvo of blows from the final fight between Spike and Vicious in episode 26 of Cowboy Bebop was also by the hand of Nakamura (actually, he animated more than one of their fights). Nakamura is also responsible for some of the most memorable moments in synchronized dancing as seen in the hallowed Space Dandy episodes 17 and 22 and Shinji and Asuka’s angel-defeat-dance in episode 6 of Evangelion. The slow spiral of background animation in Untena‘s ‘zettai unmei mokushiroku‘ scene, the opening fight against Jack the Ripper in Soul Eater, and the climatic showdown of Sword of the Stranger – all Yutaka Nakamura. The man has done too much to mention, and there is no reason not to know his name along with a handful of your favorite scenes he’s worked on because half of your favorite scenes are his work! Nakamura has pushed the industry forward.
For this one cut, every single trademark Nakamura-isim is pulled out of the bag. The Yutapon cubes, animation on impact, action tethered to the camera, perfect modulation of secondary animation on clothing and hair, etc. I would compare this to his cut in the finale of One Punch Man (which he co-produced with Gosei Oda, a name I explained before), but the cinematography in Mob surpasses it. Sakuga is a visual tool that assists the viewer into feeling the emotion on screen, and camera work is part of that. Here Nakamura opts for motivated camera movements, the camera moves in direct response to what is occurring on screen, so instead of the action unfolding and we watch it, we follow the action, as if it is a roller coaster and we are strapped in for the ride. It creates a driving sensation and a sense of purpose, giving the actions on screen more meaning.
“Strictly judged by the quality of its animation … this episode is the greatest aired on television this year.”
Episode 8 of Mob Psycho 100 is an undeniable visual marvel. The framing, the effects, the movement, all of it is top-class. Every weighty punch and glistening psychic discharge lends a feeling of reality, almost as if the viewer is experiencing the effects themselves. It’s overwhelming. Strictly judged by the quality of its animation, there is no doubt that this episode is the greatest aired on television this year.
Yet here I am, wholly unsatisfied.
Is it because of my dissatisfaction with the failure of the previous two episodes? Is it the conflict with the hooded man, which feels so forced and out of place? Is it my own fault for expecting the animation to be fully supported by the plot?
All of these things are likely true.
And it was to be expected, really. With how unconvincing this arc has been so far, it’s painfully predictable that the payoff wouldn’t be worth it. It wasn’t worth it. There was no payoff to be had because this wasn’t even an arc, it was just a short series of pointless episodes used to justify some mindless conflict and segue to the next. Even if it had been properly paced the only reason it has to exist is to develop Ritsu from irrelevancy to the point of just having enough character so that we, as viewers, empathize with Mob’s motivation to rescue him. While this makes sense on paper, maybe even in the form of a manga that I haven’t read, it doesn’t stop it from seeming entirely two-dimensional and contrived.
Perhaps my standards are raised too high for an adaptation of a manga by ONE; as I have already mentioned before, I found One Punch Man to be similarly half-baked. I must have been fooled for a while by the charming exteriors of Mob Psycho’s minor cast. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Reigen, Tome, and even that one reporter girl who is so irrelevant that I can’t remember her name. I was excited to see these characters have fascinating drama between each other, drawing on the themes of adolescence embodied by Mob himself. I was prepared for a beautiful resonance of teenage angst, sketchy line art and psychedelic art design.
There was a point where the show provided all of these things: episode 5. Mob and Teruki’s all-out-brawl was both a battle of ideologies and characters, because somehow Teruki was able to receive more convincing development in a single episode than Ritsu managed in three. It provided a perfect platform for animators to expose their talents and made for what is easily the most memorable episode of the season for me. It didn’t have nearly as consistent and high quality animation as the most recent broadcast but all of the pieces fit together so well that it still remains the champion in its grace and meaningfulness.
For the most faithful of animation fans perhaps the weak context of this episode may not dissuade, and I’m sure hours will be spent dissecting each cut, admiring what creative new impact frames Yutaka Nakamura has included this time, but I can’t help but feel a hollowness to all of it. I love animation, both for the sake of itself and when used to support a narrative, but in this case the disappointing plot is nothing but a hindrance to the craftsmanship of the work. It would be far more enjoyable devoid of all context, allowing the drawings themselves to communicate what they will.
Finally, it seems the setup for next time involves introducing an organization of villainous espers, and as awful as that sounds to me I am at least somewhat pleased that the most likeable characters have gathered together to face this evil: Mob, Teruki and Dimple. Do I think we’ll see an episode on par with 5 by the time this cour ends? No. Will I keep hoping to be proven wrong? Certainly.
“I have nothing positive to say this week.”
I have nothing positive to say this week.
This episode got under my skin far more than any that have come before. To put it simply, the last thing this series needed was more blasted characters and even more painfully generic Shonen tropes. Let’s run through the events in the episode. Mob is happy to discover that Ritsu’s powers have awakened, but does not approve of how Ritsu is using them. The mysterious dude in the purple hoodie crashes the brother’s tender moment to kidnap Ritsu. Mob goes into his berserk form, but loses. Teruki shows up with Dimple to nurse Mob back to health. There’s a painfully pointless gag with Reigen. And finally Mob, Teruki and Dimple embark on the enemy stronghold to rescue Ritsu and the gang of loser psychics from a few episodes ago.
So let’s count the Shonen tropes that popped up in this episode:
*Rescuing a loved one from being kidnapped
*New power up form is worthless against a brand new enemy
*Previous rival becomes main character’s new bestie (Called it)
*Unfunny gags for the sake of having gags
If the series has an unsatisfying ending or a romantic pairing that’s purely fueled by fan pandering, I get bingo.
But let’s back up a bit and talk about this new villain. No Character Wiki this week, so I’m just gonna call him, “Ring Face.” Setting aside the fact he completely derailed everything the last two episode had been building up to with Ritsu, Ring Face is boring. He’s a powerful psychic who describes himself as, “an asshole.” That’s it. There’s no depth to his character. He’s just a goon working for an evil origination called, “Claw”. Quick aside, maybe don’t name your villains after the gang that was taken out by Inspector Gadget. Go Go Emotionally Unbalanced Psychic Teenagers. Anyhow, even Ring Face’s character design bothers the hell out of me. I feel like this entire fight could of been avoided if Mob had just tugged on his facial piercings. Seriously, brushing your face against your pillow is painful when you wear those things. Just punch his face and it’s game over. But no, having big metal rings sticking out of your face is cool and edgy.
Enough joking around, this fight doesn’t work because there’s no emotional investment like in the battle between Mob and Teruki. Mob fighting to prove he wasn’t defined by his powers. Teruki learning that a victory isn’t determined by the person who won. There was a lot of layers to that battle that made it good. Mob vs Ring Face is just a chance for the animators to do whatever the hell they wanted. The only thing at stake is Ritsu being taken away, and considering there’s only so many episodes left in the series, we know Mob’s going to lose. There’s no tension or suspense here. You’re just waiting for the fight to hit the Shonen beats. Ring Face catches Mob off guard. Mob responds with going Super Saiyan. It looks like Ring Face is beaten until he pulls off a dick move and wins the fight by cheating. Not only cheats, but cheats in the stupidest way possible. He uses pepper spray on Mob. Really? Mob gets back handed at full strength into the side of a building, but a simple looking pepper spray from a dollar store knocks him out. Yeah, I totally buy that. This is such a by the numbers fight that the animation can’t save it.
While I do slightly care about Mob and Ritsu getting back together, I could care less about the other group of weak psychics taken along with Ritsu. I don’t understand how the series expects the viewer to even care about these five characters who were introduced in passing multiple episodes ago and haven’t done anything since then. Why couldn’t Claw just kidnap, Ritsu. That makes sense. Ritsu made amazing progress while he was under observation and could be weaponized. These other kids were depicted to be screw ups and have such little power, it was a joke. Claw could of kidnapped a bunch of farmers on the way to a chicken convention (Cluck-Con 2016 if you’re wondering), and it would had the same effect. You have one useful person captured and five meat shields. Clearly Dr.Claw is getting desperate after losing to Penny and Brain for so many years.