Mob Psycho 100 – 02

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -1Mob Psycho 100 wasn’t the first series this season to really get started only with its second episode (I would argue Handa-kun falls under that same umbrella), but it’s certainly the best.  The calendar premiere of Mob Psycho was basically a setup episode, broadly defining the parameters of the story and allowing director Tachikawa Yuzuru to show off the visual and aural style he intended to employ with the series.  It worked, but in order to get a feel for why you should invest yourself in this show rather than just look at it, this was the episode where you really needed to pay attention and make up your mind.

As I mentioneMob Psycho 100 - 02 -2d last week I saw both episodes at Anime Expo, and this one really blew me away.  But I’ve learned you can’t totally trust your reactions when you watch a TV show or a movie with a highly partisan crowd, and the one at A/X certainly qualifies.  They were loud and enthusiastic, and Bones founder Masahiko Minami was sitting less than ten meters away from me – it would be easy to be caught up in the moment.  But now, having seen both of the first two episodes at home, my initial reactions have been borne out – this is a pretty spectacular series, a stunning display by Tachikawa, and this was the episode that started to prove it.

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -3The thing about Mob Psycho 100 is that it’s mangaka ONE’s full-time job.  One Punch Man, for all its fame and glory, is a pretty spartan thing as a webcomic – it’s only when it’s illustrated by Murata Yusuke or adapted to the screen by Madhouse and Nagasaki Kenji that it’s a fully realized work.  But I would argue that’s not because ONE is incapable of fully realizing it as an artist – it’s simply that it’s not his top priority, Mob Psycho 100 is.  And I think that’s reflected in the writing as much as the art.  There seems to be a broad consensus that ONE is a terrible artist and has to be propped up by a big-time illustrator like Murata-sensei or an anime director, but I disagree – I think he’s a fascinating artist with an ingenious mastery of using the format in unconventional ways whose drawing just happens to be very weird.

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -4That said, there’s no question that adding arguably the greatest young gun in anime in Tachikawa (ONE himself is even younger, just 30) elevates MP100 to a new level of brilliance.  As for the writing itself, it’s fairly easy with both Mob Psycho and OPM to get caught up in the notion that these are gimmick series – one-trick ponies that rely on a hook to be interesting.  What you realize with both series (and even more so with this one) if you stick around and pay attention is that there’s a lot of depth and subtlety to what ONE is doing.  The madcap surrealism is important, but so are the characters and the social commentary ONE is slipping past the goalie while your attention is elsewhere.

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -5What struck me about Mob Psycho – both in general and in comparison to One Punch Man – is its warmth and its innocence.  Tachikawa has said that there’s a sweetness to Mob Psycho 100 that really appeals to him, and I totally agree.  Mob is a highly sympathetic character who has goals anyone can relate to – he just wants to quietly live his life and achieve some kind of personal fulfillment while helping a few people.  Of course he happens to be an insanely powerful psychic, and while he never asked for that blessing or curse, it consistently interferes with his ability to do what he’d like to do.  Spirits and such don’t really trouble Mob very much, but put him next to a couple of brash girls or in the midst of any athletic competition and he’s terrified.  In other words, Mob is a nice, average 13 year-old boy who happens to be a freakishly powerful esper.  But the story of MP100 is more about the former than the latter.

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -6That, I think, is why I liked this episode more than the premiere. The true balance of Mob Psycho is much better represented here, because much of it places Mob in a self-reflective mood, and physically places him at school – where some of this series’ funniest material takes place. Reigen is in more of a supporting role, and while I like Reigen and his relationship with Mob is more nuanced and benevolent then the premiere would lead you to believe, the humor works better when he’s not as omnipresent as he was in the first ep. This week introduced the Telepathy Club and its president, Kurata Tome (Tanezaki Ayumi) – a thinly-disguised excuse for its layabout members to waste their precious youth that’s come under threat after its fifth member quits.

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -7As a “bum” Mob seems the perfect candidate to fill in, and he innocently asks Reigen whether he should do so or not.  Again we see Mob in his natural state – trusting, self-effacing, but questing for something.  Reigen of course wants nothing to do with having to compete for time with his golden goose and selfishly urges Mob to walk, but of course he’s right with every one of his accusations – the club is a front for time-wasting and Kurata-san is turning on the crocodile tears in a bid for sympathy.  There’s also a hilarious subplot here which finds Mob and Reigen going undercover at a girls school after having been hired to rid it of a peeping spirit – who turns out to be a loser for whom death has been a lot more fun than his frustrated life.  He sees a kindred soul in the awkward and anxious Mob, and his pointing that out is what pushes Mob towards trying to extract something more out of his wastrel youth the 300 Yen and a takoyaki or two.

Mob Psycho 100 - 02 -8The payoff of the episode, involving the Body Improvement Club, is a beautiful punchline exquisitely brought off by Tachikawa.  And this ep is full of his auteur creative explosions, like the way he shoots the phone conversations which are central to the plot.  As a story about a boy in the throes of puberty caught up in fantastical events that’s shot in a frenetic, fantastically colorful style, it’s hard not to see Mob Psycho 100 as a step-child of FLCL.  And there are certainly echoes of it in both the writing and direction, though ONE’s peculiar sensibility shines through every bit as much as Tachikawa’s.  This is the sort of strange and exuberant psychological deconstruction that you really only see in anime, and every time we get a series like Mob Psycho 100 (which isn’t all that often) it makes me heartily pleased that the medium exists, and that I happened to discover it.

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10 comments

  1. s

    this ep was gooooooood; I think what i like most about this series so far is that the characters speak for themselves; the show doesnt feel the need to explain to you who these characters are. You learn about them through their interactions with other characters and through good visual storytelling. It was already a given but im definitely sticking with mob psycho 100 through and through. I just hope the rumors are true and its 24 eps, which based on the pacing, it’s looking like that might be the case. And yea, totally digging the surrealism of it all; next ep is going to be lit

  2. R

    I was actually in the “ONE is kind of a crappy artist” camp when I hadn’t read Mob Psycho 100. Now I stand corrected. ONE is still kind of bad at anatomy but he’s actually really, really damn good at conveying motion and focusing shots. And conveying emotion or intent. And storyboarding. Basically all the other art stuff that tends to be overlooked if someone has really gorgeous art.

    Also it seems some of the chapters are being adapted out of order a bit, but they happen to be episodic ones so it doesn’t really matter. I think warmth is a good way to put it, but it really sinks in later just how significant that is. After all it’s easy to look at Mob and how powerful he is and feel disdainful that he doesn’t make use of it or even actively tries to suppress his power.

  3. I think what strikes me the most is that ONE’s style only comes off as awkward if you compare it to the standards of Japanese manga industry. Slap an European name on it and publish it with some indie company and no one will notice it as weird at all. Minimalistic art like this is pretty common in these parts. The way he achieves this weird fusion between eastern and western comics is pretty interesting on its own.

  4. e

    @Simone: I agree. Actually the first time I happened to spot his characters’ drawings I was immediately reminded of Kate Beaton’ s ( Hark! A Vagrant ) quirky figures… but mixed with rather detailed backgrounds and clever storyboarding. As much as I adore more traditional and fine arts-leaning comic styles that’s a rather winning mix in my book.

  5. P

    I like how the show is taking liberty on the order of the chapters adapted. They made it more coherent (giving more reason for Mob to join the club). Can’t wait for next week”s episode.

  6. Before I watched Mob Psycho / First Marcross Delta – Sweetness and Lighting were viewed. I was already drained from Marcross but Sweetnees and Lighting went to another level of feels . So when I watched Mob Psycho I just wasnt imprresed . It was good but it feels like the anime is beinng forced on me to accept the comedy / animation . Also the episode was set mostly around the Telepathy Club ( an often overused / clubs High School Trope ) After having One-Punch Man with older people this feels some what underwhelming. Like you said it’s not for everybody.

    Now this one episode / things can change quickly in anime but here’s another point .Amanchu got negative reaction to some of the animation but Mob Psycho anime style gets a pass something I think you see on the Cartoon Network ( Really nowadays there is not a lot of difference between anime / cartoons .

    For myself Saiki leaves with more laughs and great satire in 4 minutes than this entire episode of Mob Psycho which stiil will be up there in my favorites but there is lot of anime I am dealing with this season .

  7. I do find Saiki’s show (and the manga) to be funnier than Mob’s, but this is deeper than just the laughs.

  8. “Also the episode was set mostly around the Telepathy Club ( an often overused / clubs High School Trope )”

    Well, the point was exactly to build up your expectations with the most typical club-about-to-be-closed plot possible just to wildly subvert them at the end. That’s the joke.

    “Mob Psycho anime style gets a pass something I think you see on the Cartoon Network ( Really nowadays there is not a lot of difference between anime / cartoons)”

    I wouldn’t say you see around much anime having the guts to look like Mob Psycho does, and as for it looking like some CN show… maybe, but art and animation are two different things. The art might as well look like a CN show, but I don’t think the animation does.

  9. s

    Speaking of liberties taken with the source material, i think we may have had a little Easter egg in regards to camera girl (who i consider the best girl of the series). Now take this with a grain of salt but when mob was called on by the teacher in the first ep and the class laughed at his display of ignorance, the camera seemed to focus on a girl with bushy hair who turned to look at him after she was done giggling. Im surprised people who were familiar with the source material who live reacted to the first ep (or viewers in general) didnt pick up on this. I think that was the camera girl (they have similar eyes and shaped head), but she probably cuts her hair later to fit her design in the opening. This is something that wasnt in the manga which is why im mentioning it because i think it’s a weird detail for bones to add in the first ep if my theory is correct; and if it is correct, i think i understand why they made this decision. It’s very minor but i like that attention to detail if that is indeed the case

  10. R

    Having Tachikawa Yuzuru as the director of Mob Psycho 100 is one of the reasons why I like this show. Tachikawa-sensei has already proven himself as a great talent — to me he represents a bright future of the industry — but Mob Psycho is a very different show from Death Parade, so I’m keen to see how he handles it.

    The other reason is that this show allows creativity to go wild, which I’m excited about. However, in anime form I am not fond of art for art’s sake — it still needs to tell a story, period. I’m starting to feel Mob in this episode, and I like it. I’m hoping that Mob Psycho, in the hands of Tachikawa-sensei, will let me experience something like Ping Pong — the wild and free form style is a part of overall storytelling that elevates the experience.

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