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 | Episode 8 | Episode 9
“I forgive you if you just scroll on to the next reaction. Just this once.”
I think readers are going to hate me for the angle I’m taking this week. In the first few write-ups we did, a large portion of the (angry) feedback we got was “Stop comparing this to One Punch Man!” “This isn’t OPM 2!” etc. Mob fans were very upset. And, what am I doing this week? Directly comparing the political theory of Mob and OPM. Fans, I forgive you if you just scroll on to the next reaction. Just this once.
The last month or so has seen the structure of the show change from being episodic, character-driven stories to what basically amounts to a shounen battle tournament. The thematic focus has, in turn, shifted from a treatment of adolescence to a broader kind of socio-political commentary. I’d bet most of my money that this transition was handled more gracefully in the manga–if it exists at all there–than it is here. I know some of my colleagues aren’t much enjoying these changes. But, while I liked what the show was and was saying, I still enjoy what the show has become and what it is now saying. So, let’s look at that!
In many ways, Teruki prefigures Claw: both believe—or believed in Teruki’s case— that those born with psychic gifts/powers are fundamentally superior beings to those born without them. Claw simply takes the baton from Teruki and runs to the idea’s logical conclusion, namely that the few naturally gifted should subjugate and rule over the ordinary masses. After losing his fight with Mob, however, Teruki converts to our protagonist’s way of thinking: psychic powers do not confer special/extra rights, privileges or superiority onto those born with them. Mob believes espers should strive to fit into society because he believes in the equal worth of all members of society.
I find the direct contrast of the above with One Punch Man’s commentary to be incredibly intriguing. Last year’s super hero story from ONE features a naturally gifted hero, someone actually capable of doing a whole bunch of tangible good for humanity, being held down by the red tape of a system designed to benefit only “the establishment.” Where Mob emphasizes equality of worth and dignity among individuals and rails against rule by the exceptional few, OPM casts the exceptional individual as a disaffected being who is stifled by the calcified order of society, unable to maximally benefit from her own talents.
I’m not sure that these two points of view can cohere; at the very least, maintaining both as true creates an extreme tension in one’s belief structure. Should exceptional individuals fit in and get along or do they deserve a pedestal? Do they need this pedestal to benefit society as a whole, or is giving them such a pedestal inherently dangerous? I think I’ll have to turn to the manga to get ONE’s most robust answers, but, for now, I’m content to see exactly where and how hard Mob Psycho plants its thematic flag.
“Mob Psycho needs to be thought of on a thematic level…”
There is a sequence in the tenth episode of Mob Psycho which I would argue can only exist in animation. Disposable villain, Miyagawa, erupts on screen in a sea of fire, swallowing Teruki in waves of flame and bellows of tangible heat – and it is absolutely spectacular! The scene lasts for about two minutes, packed with emotion that is driven completely by the spontaneous nature of the flames engulfing the entire frame. It’s completely visceral in its shift from style to style, making more of a deep emotional sense than a cognizant, logical one. Close-ups are unmoving, emboldened lines chisel character motivations, long shots are dominated by the murderous zeal of the surrounding fire storm, and lighting whispers the sincerity of the tone. The team of Kazuto Arai and Miso have outdone themselves in what may very well be the best cut(s) of animation of the year.
Mob is not a logical series. A lot of what happens has very little rhyme or reason outside of source material, and that’s not to say it is nonsensical or off-the-wall zany. Mob is a series packed full of emotion, and that emotion is syncopated which can be offsetting for a lot of people. But what leaves fans(?) morose is that at the same time it leaves just enough room for that so-desired story that will never really arrive. So they sit like spoiled children on Christmas morning, disappointed they didn’t receive that one gift from Santa. This attitude completely misses the intent of the show. Mob Psycho is an exercise in feeling, and it doesn’t make it easy. But that’s the point.
Mob Psycho is a series about emotion. Every time Mob reaches 100% he reaches a new emotion that directly ties into the theme of that episode. In episode 3 we saw him reach anger, a contrast to the happiness cult lead by Dimples. Episode 5 was the moral battle with Teruki, Mob reaching 100% sadness in his false realization he will never change. Hostility reached its peak in episode 8 in the Yutaka Nakamura cut vs Koyama. And in this week’s episode 10, Rejection bloomed. It’s a cleverly crafted metaphor – behind each emotion is power, a power represented by a bad-ass display of animation. Sakuga not a reportage of onscreen events, it is expression that taps into the core of emotion. Sakuga IS emotion. Or at least it’s supposed to be.
The minimal existence of the hand rails that plot provides leaves the viewer as guideless as Mob. This is what makes the emotion syncopated, you don’t have the three act structure to tell you when to get excited. Instead, Mob Psycho needs to be thought of on a thematic level, and more thought needs to be routed to the idea that the visuals are part of the theme emotionally. If this consensus cannot be reached then Mob Psycho will be remembered as the biggest disappointment of the year and a haunting betrayal of expectations.
“…my problem has been with anime lately: Animation is king of this decade.”
Because this was another episode that was a little on the bland side, I’m not going to go into a play-by-play breakdown. Also of the things I want to talk about, I’m going to wait to see how they flesh out in the story before I open my big mouth. For now, I want to express my feelings about the show as a whole up until this point. Well, that and I feel like my joke about Mob fighting Pippy Longstocking and Haman Karn won’t fill out an entire article. Really this episode was one fight scene after another, and breaking down each fight will be repetitive to read. The after credits scene raised my eye brow, but like I said, I want to see that play out before I comment.
I’m at this point with Mob Psycho 100 where I feel like it can be used to define what anime is like during the 2010’s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. When I say that, I mean it perfectly captures what’s worked really well for this decade and what hasn’t. While the animation has become a lot more fluid and experimental, the story and pacing has been cut to make room for those improvements. Mob excels very highly when it come’s to using its animation as its primary selling point. In fact, I’d say the animation in this has far more importance than Mob’s sibling show, One Punch Man. While OPM is a bit flasher and more action oriented, Mob uses very moment on screen to express a theme and an emotion. It takes the show’s theme of teenage angst and paints that emotion on every frame.
This show is the anime equivalent of, “Don’t Think. Feel.” The moment you think about the context of the animation, it starts to fall apart. When you’re focusing on the volume of characters, or how unbalanced the shift is between the tones of comedy and tragedy, you run the chance of ignoring the bigger picture. Basically, you’re looking at all of the cracks and tears on the side of a mountain instead of embracing the entire landscape. While I personally prefer looking at small details in my entertainment, that’s not how the series was intended to be viewed. I’ve repeatedly expressed how I do not care for how the series uses its shonen tropes, and I stand by that comment, but what I’ve failed to see up until this point was how the series is exploring the emotional side of those tropes. I’ve been wanting the show to explore these themes in a narrative, and that’s not what the show is setting out to do.
But to be completely frank, these problems aren’t unique to Mob Psycho 100. One Punch Man had this issue of spending more time expressing emotion than telling a story. The same goes for My Hero Academia, Food Wars, Amanchu, and Mr.Osomtsu. All of these examples heavily depend on the viewer being emotionally invested in what’s going on on screen as opposed to being moved by the twist and turns of the narrative. While series I do like, Thunderbolt Fantasy, Rin-ne, Kiznaiver and Lupin the Third are often criticized for being too old fashioned. Which is fine and fair to say. To get back to Mob though, Mob Psycho 100 has basically highlighted what my problem has been with anime lately: Animation is king of this decade. These shows sticks to what tricks they know and they do them very well. So I guess what I’m getting at is, it’s not for me. I wouldn’t recommend it, but at least you’re not watching… Whatever show it is popular for you kids to hate on at the moment. Like Taboo Tattoo or something…
“There’s basically nothing about her that’s a villain and I kind of love that.”
Last week, Mob stumbled and fell. This week, it feels like we’ve stood back up. Not yet running again, but the show has found its footing once more. The animation was good last week, as it’s been every week, but it did not feel like the rest of the show was supporting it. Stakes feel as though they’re actually beginning to raise, with a resounding defeat across the board for every protagonist we’ve got in the running. Teruki has one of the most visually engaging fights in the series as he holds back flames that flow like water, followed by a quick loss. Dimple actually gets to flex some of his wit and guile, something I wish we’d seen more success with in previous episodes. Ritsu continues to be interesting to me, mainly because he seems like he thinks he is calculated and well-reasoned, where he is in fact overconfident and brash. He thinks he’s cooler than he is, still stuck in the same place Teruki was before his encounter with Shigeo.
Speaking of Mob, though his encounters are brief compared to the others,they stood out the most to me. The main fight he engages in this week is with Tsuchiya, a hand-to-hand combat specialist that uses her psychic powers to harden her arms and legs, making her blows hurt more. One thing I have a soft spot for, which she fits to a T, is villains who do not act like villains. Nothing about Tsuchiya is villainous. She comes to fight Mob because her friend, a small child, was defeated. She comes at him directly and wants a head-on fight. Everything about her is honorable at first glance, she just happens to fall on the opposite side of Shigeo here.
I love their little exchange. Reigen told him that men who hit women are scum and he doesn’t want to fight back, reduced to tears over it. Mob doesn’t want to be a bad guy and when it all comes down to it, as strong as he is, he’s still a kid. Tsuchiya sees through this, she reassures him. “You’re quite the gentleman, but that’s an insult. I want to fight you fair-and-square.”
There’s basically nothing about her that’s a villain and I kind of love that. I’d like it if she stuck around, to be honest, but I don’t see that happening and we’re very quickly running out of show. Still, as brief as her screen time was, I really appreciated it and it helped really round this episode off for me. Mob could do with another positive influence in his life. I’m eager to see where we go with this next week, because the ending of the episode sure does imply some things.