First Impressions – Mob Psycho 100

It’s time for Summer 2016 to bust out its “A” game.

OP: “99” by MOB CHOIR

Summer is off to a strong start, no question about it – both in terms of volume of good series and quality at the top, it seems like it has a chance to be above average.  But the two shows I’ve had circled on the calendar since they were announced are late arrivals, and ultimately the rise or fall of Mob Psycho 100 and Battery are going to determine just how good a season this summer turns out to be.  Given the pedigree behind it I had every reason to suspect Mob Psycho 100 was going to be exceptional, and I’ve seen nothing to dissuade me of that view.

Full disclosure – I saw not just the premiere of Mob Psycho 100 but the second episode as well last week.  Bones founder Minami Masahiko hosted a screening at Anime Expo, and I’ll say this much – whatever you thought of the premiere, trust me on this, the second episode is far better.  And that’s coming from someone who’d rank the premiere as one of the best of the season.  Bear in mind this week’s ep was comprised more of less of omake chapters stitched into a series introduction, with next week’s more the true beginning of the story proper.

The thing is, though, that Mob Psycho 100 isn’t going to be for everybody, just as One Punch Man wasn’t for everybody.  Mangaka ONE’s visual style is obviously singular and frankly weird, but his storytelling approach is too, is somewhat subtler ways.  This series is frantic and disjointed and way, way over the top – there are definitely elements of stuff like FLCL and Excel Saga here as much as OPM.  But I would encourage you to stick with MP100, because – as you know if you watched (or read) One Punch Man, ONE isn’t simply throwing crazy against the wall for its own sake.  He’s a writer with a perspective and a vision, with something to say and a good idea of how to say it.  And I think Mob Psycho 100 is broadly speaking a more approachable and less overtly ridiculous story in substance than OPM, even if it’s perhaps more so in style.

The key decision Bones made here was to put this adaptation in the hands of Tahcikawa Yuzuru, who for my money is the most exciting young talent in anime.  He created, directed and storyboraded and wrote nearly every episode of the magnificent Death Parade at the age of just 32.  That was at Madhouse, the same studio that handled One Punch Man – and once again, ONE is very lucky to see his work get stellar treatment from a platinum studio and excellent director.  Tachikawa establishes himself with this show as a director who adapts to the material rather than stamping it with a signature style, and MP100 is one of the most visually arresting premieres in a very long time.  Bones also put the excellent Yoshimichi Kameda in charge of animation and character design and hired the legendary Kawai Kenji to write the music, so to say this series is obviously in good hands is a massive understatement.

I think what ONE is going for in terms of story and character themes will become much more clear after next week, so digging too deep into that here would sort of be a manga spoiler.  For now we meet Reigen Arataka (Sakurai Takahiro at his most unhinged), a sham psychic who runs the “Spirits and Such” agency in the town of Seasoning.  Reigen’s job is to sell – when it comes to actually exorcising anything he calls on a real psychic, middle schooler Kageyama “Mob” Shigeo (Ito Setsuo, who gets to the essence of the character perfectly).  Mob is a quiet and self-effacing kid who politely does what Reigen orders him to, even as he accepts paltry 300 Yen wages and threadbare bowls of ramen while Reigen pockets the big bucks and throws table salt at the spirits they encounter.  At home, Shigeo involuntarily bends spoons to the weary aggravation of his mother and bemusement of his father, as his straight-arrow younger brother Ritsu (Irino Miyu) watches on.

For purposes of the premiere, Tachikawa has effectively decided to set the table, leaving the actual meal for next week.  He defines the broad parameters of the story, shows us roughly how the characters relate to each other, and has a good time with a couple of exorcism stories (a guy who jumped so high after seeing a cockroach that he put his head through the ceiling and a motorcycle gang who slipped on a banana peel).  He also gives us a sense of just how powerful a psychic Mob is (incidentally, the title “Mob Psycho” really doesn’t translate literally into English – the Japanese meaning is closer to “boring guy psychic”), without wading into just what this “100” countdown is all about.  All in good time.

I loved this premiere, which was just overflowing with style and flourish (including the fabulous OP) but again – if you didn’t, stick around for at least one more episode before you decide.  There’s a lot going on with Mob Psycho 100 – a highly literate source material, a ridiculously talented director, a great staff – and it seems very likely Bones is going to give this story two cours (possibly split).  Tachikawa-sensei intentionally took a modest approach with the premiere, but even in doing so it’s obvious that this show has exceptional written all over it.  Once he takes the limiters off, Mob Psycho 100 is going to blow the roof off the place.

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11 comments

  1. P

    Now I’m excited to watch the next episode.

  2. It surely did NOT disapoint. I would love to see this series and OPM have a crossover.

  3. R

    Full disclosure I’ve read all the chapters of the manga so far and I ADORE it, so it was a little odd that they chose to adapt a series of side stories.

    But then I went back and retread the first few chapters and the manga was indeed a lot slower in pace then so in hindsight it might not have been the worst decision. Still looking forward to the second episode though to see if they get the really start right.

  4. s

    ahhhhh it gives me satisfaction to see the pedigree of a staff shine through a production. Aside from being reminded of flcl and excel saga, I sort of get space dandy vibes from this production as well but i cant quite put my finger on it as to why; maybe its the visual pedigree/direction. You can tell that this adaptation is going to take some liberties with the source material, but it is going to do it in a way that channels the themes of the story and pays respect to the source material i.e that’s a positive in my book. This was a comment i read elsewhere so take it with a grain of salt as im not sure how true it is but supposedly ONE stated that he’d rather have Bones inject more character and creativity into the adaptation as opposed to making a page for page adaptation of his work and it seems we may just get that. Now another yet to be confirmed piece of info that i read was that in the source code of the old MP 100 website, the series was pegged for 24 eps; however, the new website indicates 12 eps instead, which supports your theory that there may be split cour thing going on. Id like to have it run until the end of the year but hey, if having the split cour deal means that the production values stay this purdy then im all for it.

  5. No, you’re right – ONE absolutely did say that. Here’s a link:

    http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-feature/2016/07/11/mob-psycho-100-creator-one-and-director-yuzuru-tachikawa-discuss-the-new-anime?utm_source=community&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=mob-psycho-100

    That article was very positive to me, because it reflects that both dudes are sensible and smart – they understand what makes an adaptation good and bad. I fully expect Mob Psycho to wind up as a better anime than OPM (which made my #10 spot for last year) – Tachikawa is a genius, and I actually think MP100 is a more human story.

  6. s

    exactly everything you just said. One thing i never understood is when viewers call a show being adapted from a source material a bad adaptation because it doesnt follow the source verbatim; that just doesnt make any sense to me. A smart and creative person with a vision knows how to take liberties with a source material and make it more engaging while keeping to the tone and aesthetic of the source in tact. And yea, as i already mentioned, i do consider mob psycho the superior one out of ONE’s written works for the fact that it is a more human story as well as the fact that there so many factions within the plot yet it is all held together very well with tight writing.

  7. Y

    Was a little unsure about hopping onto this bandwagon, because I found OPM only to be so-so. However, this preview was stellar and now I can’t wait to see what comes next with this series.

  8. The psychic main character really reminds me of Akira from Akira, they look similar enough that it might not be coincidence; in that case its entirely possible that the story takes a dark turn. Thus far I like the art style a lot more that OPM, its amazing how the staff manage to turn shoddy drawings into works of art.

  9. Yep I mostly agree. I think I would have preferred OPM more if it had stuck with ONE’s visuals. Thet tell a story if their own (or at least Tachikawa has cleverly utilised the art style that way).

    A little reserved about the humor, but I think and hope this one has stronger characters lined up.

  10. First i enjoyed once you got past the intro. The OP / ED songs are very good !

    I am happy to have this and Saiki

    You were right some people dnot like Mob at all / some thought OPM was better. The art style was brought up . Myself I keep animes seperate is they are from the same source.

    I am wondering like Kabreni ( Attack On Titan ) Mob has backlash from not having another season of OPM

    Again if this was suppose to be the Top Anime of summer I have seen enough negatives to maybe not make it as Stellar ( in some eyes )

    IDK if you have watched most of the shows ( I have 32 to keep going ) plus 7 ongoing ! A lot of the anime fans are really disaappointed at a lot of the summer shows ! Berserk was another big hype but the CG / story has people turned off! I myself think we hit peak last year I myself miss the spring shows way more than I should!

    It’s in my Top 5 !

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