I mentioned this last week, but two of this season’s standout series make a fascinating contrast. 91 Days could hardly be less “anime” – not only is it set in America and built around a premise rarely used in anime, but in tone and style it’s remarkably Western, a true homage to the films that so obviously inspired it. Mob Psycho 100, on the other hand, is as anime as it gets – it would have been as at-home 20 or 10 years ago as it is now, but it’s hard to see this story fitting in anywhere besides anime and manga. It’s that diversity that I love most about this medium, and why I worry so much at every sign that it’s under threat from the commercial pressures which drive the industry today.
One of the things that I especially like about Mob Psycho is the way characters who seem to be very minor players at first keep turning up, proving themselves to be important to the story. And of course, that the initial read we get on most of the cast is usually wrong or at the very least incomplete. It’s a story that punishes jumping to conclusions and superficial judgments, and that can apply in any number of different ways. One of the effects of that, I think, is that it makes the lack of guile in Mob stand out that much more – and all of this is ingeniously brought out in the casting.
One of the themes of this episode is certainly “consequences”. Most crucially (though not exclusively) the consequences of what Ritsu and Kamuro did to Onigawara in last week’s episode. It is indeed Dimple that Ritsu finds outside the Kageyama house – outside it because his ordeal has left him so spiritually weak that he can’t even enter the house of a strong esper like Mob unaided. Dimple is nothing if not an opportunist, and he gets a sense of Ritsu pretty quickly – latent spiritual powers, simmering stress. He thinks to possess him but he’s too weak even for that – the best he can do is seduce Ritsu with the notion that he can help him unlock his powers and eventually rival Mob.
Ekubo and Ritsu make a great pair, not least because Ootsuka Akio and Irino Miyu are among the very finest seiyuu of their respective generations. The trap of Ritsu’s situation is that his powers grow in direct proportion to his negative emotions, and at the moment he’s full of those. Ritsu knows full well that what he did to Onigawara was a heinous act, and of course it doesn’t stop with him – Kamuro sees this as his opportunity to wage a reign of terror against anyone he chooses. Another consequence is what happens as a result of Mob’s utter demolition of Teruki – word has gotten out everywhere, and every banchou in the pantry is looking for the kid they’ve dubbed “White-T Poison” (for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, to be honest). Thus begins a cycle of violence that sends Ritsu careening ever faster down his dark path.
Meanwhile, Mob is unaware (I was going to say “blissfully” but, well – this is Mob) both of Ritsu’s spiral and of Ekubo’s return. He in fact gets himself caught up in a scam run by a couple of art gallery workers, and ends up having to call Reigen for help. I find this relationship between Mob and Reigen oddly touching – Reigen always has Mob’s back, and Mob turns to Reigen whenever he’s in trouble. Of course you can’t fool a scammer with a scam, and Reigen is a first-rate scam artist – he shows the amateurs what a real operator looks like, but it’s only after some mysterious psychic interference that the two of them are free and clear.
Like most about Mob Psycho this is rather complicated – Reigen is, undeniably, a con man (and he knows it). He’s providing a terrible influence for Mob, yet he’s also Mob’s moral compass and somehow, he usually manages to point him true North. The sheer hypocrisy of Reigen lecturing the art gallery duo is hilariously absurd, yet there’s a sincerity to it somehow – and I suppose what Reigen does might even be argued to be a service to his clients. He does generally by hook or by crook (or by Mob) leave them feeling reassured, better than they did when they walked through his door. I’m going to be very interested in seeing how Reigen reacts when he sees what’s become of Ritsu.
Ritsu is indeed attracting attention – not least from Teruki, who’s become something of the first devotee of the Church of Mob. He spots what’s happening with Ritsu as easily as Reigen did with the art cons – because he’s looking in a mirror. It’s hard to tell just where Hanazawa is at this point – clearly he’s well-aware of his own limitations now, and seems determined not to use his powers for self-glorification. But when Ritsu confronts him, he’s only too willing to give him a taste of just how limited his own powers are. For now he’s content to observe, unaware of the relationship between Ritsu and Mob, knowing only that Ritsu is willing to let others believe that he himself is White-T Poison.
Ritsu has attracted some other attention too, and it seems altogether more sinister – that hoodie guy Mob spotted last week. That he’s played by Miki Shinichirou is just gravy, because that adds yet another generation’s best seiyuu (arguably) to the Mob Psycho cast. We don’t know his story yet, apart from the fact that he’s observing and reporting to someone, and a strong enough esper for Mob to have sensed him in a massive crowd. But the climax of the episode is Mob walking in on Ritsu while he’s in the process of dispatching a throng of bullies from around the city, and it’ll be fascinating to see how Ritsu reacts. His feelings towards his brother could hardly be more conflicted, while Mob’s feelings could hardly be more straightforward – which is artfully reflected in the performances of Miyu and Itou Setsuo. Seems like Ritsu is going to be forced to decide what he really wants – and what sort of person he really wants to be.