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 | Episode 10 Episode 11
“I hope the fandom will forget the plot that Mob Psycho really had no business in having … and instead remember the emotions they felt watching the show…”
Regardless of what you thought about the show, Mob Psycho has pushed the medium forward. Just its weekly injection of paint-on-glass into a commercial property has done more in furthering the variance of visual language then every other anime this year thus far. And while Mob Psycho isn’t the crown jewel adorning thousands of years of storytelling, it has achieved a new level of aesthetic sophistication and introduced a ton of new talent that cannot be overlooked. This is crystallized in episode 12.
The first 10 minutes is nothing but pure sakuga. Having a series wrap up with the most impressive cuts in nothing unique, but the way Mob Psycho chooses to do so is. I have continuously used verbiage comparing Mob Psycho with jazz, stating that the show’s strongest aspect is its syncopation of sakuga – the key placement of visceral animation spread throughout the course of 12 episodes. It strengthens the downbeats, scenes when the viewer might be accustomed to zoning out are transformed into exciting displays of animation. To continue the metaphor, episode 12 is the explosive conclusion to the tune. A sensational display of young and old artists toss their cuts together in something resembling the memorizing effect of hard bop.
One cut among them was Yutaka Nakamura’s, which mixed and matched a ton different styles into one phenomenal sequence. Nakamura has proven that he truly is one of the best animators in the industry one again. No one has furthered the art and craft as much (with the exception of Kanada and Tezuka before him) with a signature style that keeps growing and pushing the boundaries of what we think animation can do. And if at any moment you think his praise is overwrought, he comes out with something new to prove you wrong. Nakamura is a giant among men – and yet we have a new wave of young animators that stand right beside him with their cuts and hold their own. That alone is justification of Mob‘s existence and praise, possibly anime of the year.
Speaking in specifics and trying to articulate episode 12 scene by scene is beyond the scope of this piece, and on top of that, I feel it is something that needs to be experienced in the moment. Going forward, I hope the fandom will forget the plot that Mob Psycho really had no business in having (because it truly is forgettable) and instead remember the emotions they felt watching the show, because that’s really the message of Mob Psycho. Every 100% is a new emotion, and that emotion is depicted through the triumph of aesthetic and style – the truly important parts. And it all comes back to the opening theme: “If everyone is not special, maybe you can be what you want to be.” And Mob Psycho is what it wants to be. It’s a visual masterpiece.
“‘…being able to pack meaning into the action, to make it further the goals and ideals of its participants, that should always be the target to shoot for.”
If there’s one thing that bothers me about Mob Psycho 100, it’s a pair of scenes. The first is when Mob rebuilds Teruki’s school after having demolishing it with his psychic powers while blacked out. The narration of the event, as Mob reconstructs it, implies that it is not so much a conscious act of his, so much as it is an unconscious expression of his power. In his sorrow over his inability to change, his failure to overcome himself, his powers overflow and act out what he most wants in that moment. In that instance, he wanted to wipe away his mistake.
I do not have an issue with this as an expression of Mob’s power, generally speaking. The 100% in the title continues to be Mob’s inability to restrain his internal emotions and expressing them outwardly in an uncontrollable way. I just, at the moment, took issue with the way it was presented. The narration felt a bit tacked-on to me and I felt it messed with the flow a bit. Still, it was something that I had forgotten about until I recently re-watched the episode.
The second scene that bothers me ends up being, fundamentally, the same thing. In the final episode, Mob’s expression of “running away” in alignment with his master’s, Reigen’s, wishes is to jettison his powers (and therefore, responsibility of the situation) onto Reigen, who directly asked to be responsible for this. In the moment, the narration that explains what has happened is necessary to understand what has, well, happened. This is a failing of the narrative structure in that there was no other idea on how to convey this happening besides directly telling the audience.
These two scenes, along with how Episode 9 dragged, make up the sum total of my problems with Mob Psycho 100 and even then, I still think the scenes work. In the moment they feel off, but even in the finale, my misgivings were quickly wiped away by the delivery of it past that. We manage to swing both an action-heavy and a sakuga-heavy finale while not compromising the moral integrity of the characters. We do not have a fight just to have a fight. That’s not always a bad thing, but being able to pack meaning into the action, to make it further the goals and ideals of its participants, that should always be the target to shoot for.
One Punch Man is funny. It has a lot of spirit and though not especially groundbreaking in terms of writing, it’s a good show. But it doesn’t have nearly as much heart as Mob Psycho 100 does. The characters are both humorous and possess a depth to them that works in tandem with the humor, rather than in spite of it. It’s not perfect, but it feels like a true evolution of ONE’s writing in a way that goes past humor or basic drama and into a kind of complexity I just don’t usually expect in an action-heavy show. It’s easily the best in show for me, when it comes to the Summer season, and I don’t anticipate another show matching it for me come Fall.
I loved seeing it motion week-to-week, I loved he characters and I really feel like this is one of those shows that will stick with me. I anticipate being able to recommend it for years to come and, as transient as anime can be, the ability to last is the hardest thing to achieve.
“Mob Psycho is indeed far superior to One Punch Man both in terms of aesthetics and in its ability to bring out genuine emotion.”
The last episode is finally here, and it has managed what I thought was impossible just a short time ago. Previously the core themes of the series were realigned, and this time it drives them home in a way that neatly ties things up for the season. While I may still have some qualms with the execution, I’m happy to see the show end on such a high note after weeks of struggling.
First of all, what a fake out! After last week’s cliffhanger I was fully expecting another Mob breakdown, losing his rationality to chaos and spurring a bad-guy annihilation. Instead we’re treated to something so much better: an extension of Reigen’s ethos that was touched upon in episode 11, which I believe is the true gold of this arc. He essentially takes the role of the parent who has to stop his kids from rough-housing, trivializing all of their trite conflicts in with his own power: adulthood. He points out the immaturity of each member of Claw and strikes them down with the ease of a well-functioning member of society (even if his occupation is dubious, gaining Mob’s powers symbolizes the strength of his good intentions).
The only thing I didn’t like about the climax is how it is cut short. When the villainous leader is revealed to be an old man who has never developed mentally past infancy and literally regresses to the form of a baby, Reigen runs out of juice. Fortunately the bratty kid who has been built up over this invasion arc takes him down instead, effectively setting up the next season but denying us the catharsis of thematic victory. I understand the purpose, but I feel it would have been better accomplished with only the Metal Gear-esque post-credits phone call approach.
The rest of the episode is a pleasant wind-down that ends on a lovely little book-end vignette of Mob and Reigen just doing some ghost busting, leaving me hopeful for the series when it resumes next year.
Now that it’s all over I went back and read my opening impressions to see how my opinions may have changed over the course of this season. I can confirm that Mob Psycho is indeed far superior to One Punch Man both in terms of aesthetics and in its ability to bring out genuine emotion. It may have had a brief indulgence in a similar brand of power-level matches, but the way it ends feels more like commentary on the childishness of those kinds of plots than a support of them. Its expressive, cartoony visuals never grew old, especially with the huge variety of talents that were incorporated into the production. I still feel that the sub-cast suffered from unconvincing characterization, but Mob and Reigen more than make up for it.
Mob Psycho is certainly one of the most ambitious and inspired anime to have aired this year, and it is a great example of how individual artists can greatly enhance the effects of a story through their craft. While it still has some issues, especially at the beginning of the latter half, it is clearly a labor of love and I’m certainly looking forward to the next season.
“We always knew it had the look, but over the course of the season, it revealed that it had the heart as well.”
This show has a tremendously good time faking out the audience. Last episode it teased for as long as possible that Reigen might actually be the boss of Claw. Episode twelve immediately undoes the dramatic final moment of the previous week by having Reigen pop right back up, unharmed. Once again, the show dangles the possibility in front of us that Reigen has awakened his unparalleled psychic powers…only to reveal that Mob just transferred power over to his mentor. Mob Psycho performs these tricks with such glee, that, rather than feeling manipulated or annoyed, I’m laughing right along with it.
I’m laughing and laughing. Reigen, a con man through and through, proves to be the voice of reason and moral compass for the world’s most powerful beings. It is an absolute joy to watch what is the equivalent of a parent dressing down a group of naughty children for their misguided mischief. Yet, his commonsense message of equality and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) the value of honest work only hits home with Claw because of the assistance of Mob’s powers. Some might find this turn of events thematically confusing, but I believe that ONE is illustrating exactly the appropriate use for power. Individuals with power shouldn’t use it to oppress society, but instead are actually responsible for using it to protect society when it is under threat.
After not being blown away by its premiere, Mob Psycho wormed it’s way into my heart and eventually became my favorite show of the season. We always knew it had the look, but over the course of the season, it revealed that it had the heart as well. Most episodes were visually exciting, but that excitement would have been a hollow thrill ride without the series’ lovable, well-realized characters. I’m invested in the outcomes of the bombastic, beautifully-animated battles because of a fragile-hearted boy, his complicated younger brother, their reformed, cocky buddy and the most endearing scamp to grace my TV screen in quite some time. Let’s hope we get a second season.
“I’d argue the story is an insult to the animation, and the animation this series got deserved to be in a much better series.”
-Meanwhile at Studio Bones-
Intern: “Um sir, our last episode is three minutes short of its running time. Do you want to do anything about that?”
Tachikawa: “Urg, I’m burnt out. Screw it, just have Mob and Reigen look for slugs in the forest or something.”
Intern: “Wouldn’t that kinda suck and be a visually boring way to end the series?”
Tachikawa: “Look, we’re done. Everyone has a happy ending and we threw in a cliffhanger teaser at the end to get fans worked up for a second season. What more could fans possibly ask for?”
Intern: “An ending sequence that doesn’t feel like the series is starting from square one and not a goddamn thing has changed since the beginning.”
Tachikawa: “GIVE ME THE SLUGS DAMN IT AND DON’T QUESTION MY GENIUS!”
Intern: “If I wanted to question your genius, I’d ask why you felt the need to make the final battle in the show between some old dude and a kid we introduced in passing a few episodes ago.”
Tachikawa: “You’re starting to sound like that punk on Wave Motion Canon who doesn’t like my show.”
-Intern takes off mask to reveal CJ Hitchcock-
Hitch: “While I’m at it, while I did like the idea of Mob…”
Tachikawa: “His name is Shigeo.”
Hitch: “While I did like how Mob gave his powers to Reigen and the fun fights that followed, I do wonder why you felt the need to give everyone a happy ending.”
Tachikawa: “Because they make people happy.”
Hitch: “Yeah, but you have this entire show that is centered around teenage angst, growing up, and learning to understand your emotions. Most worthwhile stories need the characters to earn a battle scar or two in order for them to achieve that level of self understanding. I’m not saying it needed a sad ending, but nothing really all that life changing happens to Mob during the course of the story. Sure, things happened to people around Mob. Teruki befriends the loser psychics, seeing them as allies instead of pawns. Ritsu sees his brother as a sibling as opposed to an obstacle to overcome. Even Reigen gains a little more creditably by actually being able to see ghost now. But Mob’s still in the exact same place as when the series started. He still can’t talk to his crush, he’s still getting pushed around by Reigen, he still doesn’t have control over his powers, and he can’t keep up with the Body Improvement club.”
“Instead of creating a character arc, you’ve made Mob a static character. Which would be fine in a simple action show like Dragonball or a consistent comedy like My Ordinary Life, but you were aiming to tell this story about understanding who you are. In order to do that, the character needs to go on a journey of self discovery and have him apply what he’s learned on the trip to his everyday life. He needed to undergo a change as a reward of sorts for his troubles. By placing Mob in the same conditions under which we met him, you basically told us nothing has changed for Mob. All of the difficulties he faced were meaningless and a waste of time for both Mob and the audience.”
Tachikawa: “Dude, our animators worked their asses off. You can’t write off the entire series like that.”
Hitch: “This is true. The animation is the show’s only saving grace, but he’s the thing about the animation when you apply it to this series, all of it can be enjoyed without context. You can get the same experience watching the animation in a ten second gif as you do from watching the show. There’s no added benefit from watching the show to get to those moments. Your show is basically like a car with a great paint job, but your engine is busted. Sure, it looks good sitting in your drive way, but that car won’t take you anywhere without giving you a major headache. If anything, I’d argue the story is an insult to the animation, and the animation this series got deserved to be in a much better series.”
Tachikawa: “Get out of my office. Security!”
-Hitch is dragged away by police officers-
Hitch: “YOUR SHOW PEAKED AT EPISODE 5!”