Mob Psycho 100 – 04

The farther you wade into Mob Psycho 100, the deeper it gets.

In its way, Mob Psycho 100 is kind of a stealth series – at least the way Tachikawa Yuzuru has elected to present it.  Both the manga and the anime have elements of flash to them.  ONE is a writer who specializes in surrealism and absurdity, and Tachikawa a director whose capacity for stunning visuals is virtually unmatched in TV anime.  Between Regien’s antics in the premiere, the silly place names like “Seasoning Town” and “Black Vinegar Middle School”, and the dizzying array of color and texture, Mob Psycho could easily get by as an entertaining epic farce, and a damn good one.

But there’s more here, so much more – just as their was in One Punch Man, only even more more.  As compared to OPM Mob Psycho 100 is less a genre satire and social commentary and much more a character study and coming-of-age story – and in many ways quite a conventional one (and I mean that as a compliment).  Mob’s esper powers are the MacGuffin in the premise, no doubt, but it’s the impact they have on him and others more than the powers themselves that matter.  As with FLCL, MP100 is a highly symbolic take on adolescence, with a whole lot of wildly imaginative fantasy and visual experimentation as the vehicle to get it where it’s going.

There’s an awful lot going on here, starting with introduction of Salt’s delinquent squad, let by the Kanji-challenged (and generally dim-witted) Onigawara Tenga (Hosoya Yoshimasa).  Tenga is a classic take on the banchou trope, seemingly very good at getting in over his head – in this instance, taking on the rival Black Vinegar Middle School’s bad boys.  They have a secret weapon in Hanazawa Teruki (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu), who’s a secret weapon in more ways than one.  He’s a pretty boy who’d rather be spending his time at nampa but still comes when the boys call for him.  Onigawa turns to the Body Improvement Club for help in defending Salt Middle’s honor, but they aren’t interested in sullying their vocation by using it in such a meaningless and crude manner.

Meanwhile, there’s an awful lot going on at the Kageyama house.  As we saw last week, Dimple has turned up – this time in the form of an absurd green blob urging Mob (“Shige-chan”) to team up with him and take over the world.  Ootsuki Akio really shows off his comic chops here as we rarely hear him do, and the banter between boy and spirit is hilarious from the moment it begins.  Once he’s confirmed the blob’s identity Mob is determined to exorcise it once and for all, but Dimple is right – Mob is a soft touch (but thank goodness for that) and agrees to ask his sensei for advice first.

The other key development here is the first extended introduction of Ritsu.  Things between Ritsu and Shigeo are complicated, unsurprisingly under the circumstances.  Ritsu loves his big brother and was always in awe of his spiritual powers, but can’t understand why Mob has stopped using them in public.  That’s built up a resentment and envy in him, because he doesn’t understand the weight of those powers.  Meanwhile, Mob is jealous of Ritsu because he has everything Mob doesn’t – athletic and academic ability, ease around girls, popularity.  It’s very notable that while Ritsu doesn’t understand the decision his brother has made, he refuses to play ball with Mezato-sempai when she tries to do an expose on Mob’s powers and make a spectacle of him.  Ritsu doesn’t understand Mob’s choices, but he respects them because Mob is his brother.

I can’t overstate this point enough – the world is very, very lucky that it was Mob who inherited this freakish ability.  The funny thing is we hear this thought repeated by different characters expressing different feelings about it – to Dimple, it’s a crying shame. Mob’s humility is both his greatest strength and greatest weakness.  He understands both the limitations and dangers of his powers instinctively, and life has confirmed those instincts via some very harsh lessons.  Sadly for Mob, though, this means having to suppress something that’s a fundamental part of who he is.

These threads come together when Onigawa tricks Mob into falling into the hands of the Black Vinegar banchou vis the use of an incredibly poorly written “love” letter in his shoe locker.  His aim is to get the Body Improvement Club to confront them, and it works – because as we’ve already seen, the Body Improvement Club are actually stand-up guys, and they come to their newest member’s aid without a moment’s hesitation.  And they have no trouble with the Vinegar boys – that is, until Terugawa shows up.

Here, then, is the crux of the episode – Terugawa’s ability is no more “natural” than Mob’s.  He’s a psychic too, of course – Mob recognizes this instantly, and judging by Terugawa’s reaction he might have been the first one to do so.  But to Mob, Terugawa has broken the one inviolable rule of being an esper – never, ever use your powers against other people.  “Especially for fighting” Mob adds with astonishing earnestness.  This is our first proof that Mob is not alone in this world, but also that the dark side to powers like his is a very real threat – if someone like Terugawa will use them for petty rumbles in the alley, what else might he be willing to use them for?  No matter how much Mob would like to keep his powers hidden for the best of reasons, they are in fact a responsibility – there are things only someone like Mob can do.

 

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11 comments

  1. R

    It’s heeeerrreeeee. One of my favorite arcs

    On one hand, super happy they didn’t rush the pacing. On the other hand, the agony of waiting another week for arguably one of my favorite showdowns is agonizing.

    It’s actually really interesting because it wasn’t until reading your sentiments about Mob and how it’s the reaction his powers cause, in himself and others, moreso than actually his power itself that I realized that was a large reason why I liked this particular coming fight so much. The fight with Dimple was pure spectacle, and great for it, but it was a fight against an evil spirit. This time it’s a good hard look into the other side of the mirror and what it can say about Mob is in some ways far more interesting than the actual theatrics of the fight itself. Although I have no doubt the anime will pull off the latter gloriously as well.

  2. To be honest I absolutely loved the way they presented the relationship between Mob and his brother … very thought provoking! And the actions of Mob’s brother in refusing to “leak info” to the newspaper girl – the respect and admiration combined with not understanding Mob and even being jealous of him at the same time – very real. We can also see that Mob is genuinely fond and admiring of his ototo as well – the way he expressed it was actually rather touching for me and illustrated the sweet nature Mob has down deep quite nicely, I thought. And Mob’s reactions to espers abusing their powers? Also – very real when taking Mob’s personality into the whole. These were very well done!

    Also, regarding this:

    “I can’t overstate this point enough – the world is very, very lucky that it was Mob who inherited this freakish ability. The funny thing is we hear this thought repeated by different characters expressing different feelings about it – to Dimple, it’s a crying shame. Mob’s humility is both his greatest strength and greatest weakness. He understands both the limitations and dangers of his powers instinctively, and life has confirmed those instincts via some very harsh lessons. Sadly for Mob, though, this means having to suppress something that’s a fundamental part of who he is.”

    … I thought this was an absolutely great paragraph, by the way. ^^

  3. Thanks, very kind of you. Somehow this show is starting to remind me of Nazo no Kanojo X. There’s a deceptively sweet and innocent core underneath all the edgy absurdity.

  4. e

    Seconding that paragraph praise. The empathy is strong with this one ^^ .

  5. K

    I just really appreciate the fact that Mob is such a good kid. He is kind hearted and most of the time is more harsh upon himself than towards other people. Next week’s episode is (redacted). As a manga reader, I can confirm it.

    By the way, the blonde character is not Tokugawa, but his full name is Hanazawa Teruki. I get that sometimes it is confusing to remember Japanese names ^_^ I’m looking forward to your review of next week’s episode!

  6. Yeah, you’re right of course – I saw Matsuoka’s name and I just defaulted to the first character name I saw. Sloppy.

  7. Its just a shame Mob is so dimwitted when it comes to his scammer boss.

  8. e

    Ah Mob you sweet kid you :,>. Also, Ritsu *patpat*. The writing coud go in so many direction with these two… but whatever happens I hope the broluv will always be a part of their relationships.
    I wonder – and somehow hope – Dimple ends up as fully Team Mob too. Reigen seems to be singularly well suited as a mentor to our MC after all. He can dish out some pretty decent counseling for all its conning and manipulation (btw I hope for all his mad photoshopping or equivalent non-Adobe-software skillz he is aware there are things like the History tool and Undo button :ppp ) plus… well someone else has to be selfish and mean and de facto provide CinnaMob Roll a layer of defense as much as an outlet when/because Shigeo simply (and not-so) can’t.

  9. R

    Oh right, and by Tokugawa I think you meant Teruki (aka Teru)

  10. s

    I havent been able to confirm this as of yet but supposedly this entire ep was animated by one person, Sara Moroyuki. Once in a while we get anime eps animated by one person and im always impressed when that’s the case. It goes to show just how well produced this anime is; makes sense considering Bones didnt start animating mob psycho last minute like what happens with most airing anime

  11. s

    my only doubts that this entire ep was animated by one person was that i could have sworn i saw clips that were animated by Yoshimichi Kameda but i could be wrong.

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