Mob Psycho 100 is firing on all cylinders right now, plain and simple.
Having demonstrated with Episode 5 that it can do big-budget action with any anime on the planet (not that there was any reason to doubt that with this pedigree) Mob Psycho 100 this week sets about proving its impressive versatility. This show really has it all working – it’s deliciously well-written, full of interesting characters who each have their own story, and it has a quintessentially anime sensibility that’s perfectly suited to the subject material. The roadside is littered with the hulks of anime that try to capture the feeling of classics like FLCL and fail, but the ones that succeed – like Mob Psycho – do so not because they’re trying, but because it’s a part of their DNA.
One of the problems with Mob Psycho is that 22 minutes really isn’t enough to take in all the good stuff that you’d like to see in any given week. There are so many compelling characters and the plot is so intricate and full of fascinating cul-de-sac that every twist and turn seems worth following. Even Reigen – who started out in rather overbearing comedic fashion in the premiere – has proved himself to be a fascinating study in contradictions. ONE takes pains to remind us that he’s a complete charlatan (this time around it’s a bogus seance with a client wanting to speak to his Yankee dad), but somehow when Mob (or now Ritsu) is in trouble, it feels kind of comforting to have Reigen around, as if he’s the one who can keep things from going too far off-track for them.
In case it wasn’t obvious enough, Mob Psycho 100 is certainly a story about adolescence – about the struggle to fit in and both discover who you really are and stray true to it. But it’s not as though the esper premise is in any way an afterthought, and it’s the particular genius of the writing that it manages to seamlessly intertwine those two threads. Ritsu has really emerged in the last two episodes, and he’s an important figure in both halves of the story. And like everyone else in MP100, Ritsu is complicated. He’s not someone who can easily be summed up – morally, ethically or emotionally.
Is Ritsu jealous of Mob? Absolutely – why should Shigeo have these powers and hard-working and responsible Ritsu not have them? But he’s also fiercely protective of Shigeo – which is why he’s so angry when he thinks he spies Onigawara bullying him (but in fact gets it totally wrong). Ritsu is also, like Mob, uncomfortable in his own skin. Like Mob Ritsu is suppressing who he is and playing a role – that of the “normal middle schooler” (which the seitokai vice-president sagely tells him he could search the world over and never find). And the more evidence he sees of Mob’s specialness, the more frustrated Ritsu gets – and that will push him into the arms of two rather dangerous figures.
Komuro Shinji (Yusa Kouji), is the first of them. He’s the student council president, but living in the shadow of his “elite” older brother. We only get a brief glimpse of Kamuro’s home life but it’s pretty fucking harrowing (his room is full of plastic bags of garbage), and perhaps he senses in Ritsu some of the same sibling envy he feels and knows that makes him vulnerable. He lures Ritsu into a scheme to frame Onigawara for stealing the mouthpieces to the girls’ recorders (a classic pervert move – in manga anyway), and while he absolutely knows it’s wrong, Ritsu goes along with it. Improves on it, even. This is a truly despicable act, and Ritsu hates the pleasure it gives him to commit it – but he still enjoys himself, and (I believe) hates himself for it.
The other wayward path Ritsu’s frustration leads him down is that of the Awakening Lab, headed by one Mitsuura Kenji. He’s a rich dude who’s put his money towards trying to unravel the mysteries of esper powers and become one himself, and he mistakes Ritsu for his older brother. Again, Ritsu is way too smart not to know this is a really bad idea – but he follows Mitsuura anyway, intrigued at the notion that he has latent psychic powers the man might evoke. The lab itself is inside a gutted apartment building, and the prize espers are a group of five kids whose collective powers are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
There are no answers here for Ritsu, not yet anyway – unless perhaps you count the seeming realization that what he’s done to Onigawara was shameful – but something does seem to change for him after his visit to the lab. He may or may not have bent that spoon more than a boy should be able to bend a spoon by throwing it in anger, but there can be no doubt he sees Dimple (Dimple!) when he returns home. Here we have Ritsu turning to the dark side because he wants what his brother has, and Mob so terrified of his own powers that he feels “sickened” when he spots an adult esper during his “date” with Tone. The journey to the self is a brutally hard one when you’re hip-deep in puberty, that’s for sure.