I’ve mentioned this before, but you can always tell when Mob Psycho 100 has just had an epic episode by looking at the Stalker rankings, because they spike big-time. Usually it’s an action-driven blockbuster with a preponderance of big fights, giving the peerless team Bones has assembled for this series the chance to really strut their stuff. But while there were definitely some sasuga moments, it was a different sort of epic this week that drove the numbers.
Reigen has been Mob Psycho 100’s most perplexing character right from the beginning. ONE plays up the contradictions in Reigen’s nature brilliantly of course, and Tachikawa-sensei made a really interesting choice in highlighting the charlatan – and buffoon – side of his character so heavily in the first episode. If there were ever a case where a director intentionally made a premiere less satisfying that it could be, I think this series is it. In terms of Reigen, the director set up the audience like bowling pins.
The answer to the cliffhanger of last week became pretty clear in the first moments of this episode. No, Reigen was not secretly the leader of Claw as some had speculated. He’s just a guy with balls of steel who can talk his way out of any situation – or at least he has so far. It wasn’t through his aura that Reigen convinced those zaku that he was Ishiguro’s (we finally get a look at him, and he looks a lot like a kid) boss – it was simple conviction and a silver tongue. Hell, he wasn’t even intentionally trying to make them think he was the boss – all he had to do was command the situation. One of the great liars in fiction history, George Costanza, offered this advice to Jerry about fooling a polygraph test – “Remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it’s the truth.”
More than just being one of the great bullshitters of all-time, though, there’s a remarkable sense of, yes, honour and inner peace with Reigen. He’s s guy who pretends to be a medium for a living, yet he seems the most grounded and common-sensical man in Japan. When Mob first came to him (as we see in flashback) he was desperate for someone to talk to, and Reigen clearly didn’t believe there were real psychics out there. And he gave Mob the kind advice that changed his life before he knew the boy was the real deal – he expected to get nothing out of it. His words were simple – you have to accept who you are and be happy. Esper powers are just like any inborn trait – they’re nothing to be ashamed of and shouldn’t be run away from. But they also don’t make you special – only being a good person can do that. And Mob has tried to live his life by that creed ever since, despite being maybe the most “special” boy in the world. The thing about Reigen is, he defies that old adage “money talks and bullshit walks” because damn, when he bullshits he backs it up. After talking his way into Claw HQ (charming an entire squad of lackeys enough to turn them) he’s not leaving without Mob (not to mention Ritsu and Kanazawa).
One has to really sympathize with Mob here, because he’s truly torn about all this. He’s genuinely dismayed at having defied his master’s rules, and Reigen genuinely dismayed he had to. But now Reigen is determined, by hook or by crook, to get the kids out without letting them fight. And above all to not let Mob lose control again, because he’ll be the one paying the price for it in the end. Reign may not be an esper but in effect, he’s almost like an anti-esper weapon because he just doesn’t give a flip – he has weapons of his own, and doesn’t hesitate to use them. And let’s be clear – if Mob’s meter can hit “100” and Reigen can still talk him down off the cliff, Reigen is plenty powerful in his own right.
It strikes me that Claw is especially vulnerable to someone like Reigen, because their authority is effectively a reig(e)n of terror – much akin to a ring of school bullies. I don’t see much loyalty to the group here, only fear – and not much loyalty to each other either. Guys like Shou, the guy from HQ (as has been pointed out, he has no scar) seem to have no regard for the group’s larger rules. If someone like Reigen shows up and undercuts their position, and someone like Mob shows up and demonstrates strength greater than theirs, Claw’s hierarchy is in trouble. Most of the Scars seem like guys who’ll follow whoever’s the strongest, and that’s clearly Mob – but maybe Reigen is even stronger, if he can keep Mob from unleashing his terrible power.
It’s certainly notable that Mob did the preview voice-over for the first time (though with Reigen seemingly having just been struck down by Sakurai’s katana it’s not surprising). In effect this confrontation comes down almost to a referendum on pacifism – and in the process, an object lesson on why pacifism is such a difficult philosophy to live out (after all, “I don’t care what happens to the enemy if I can protect the ones I love” could hardly be a more seductive line of reasoning). It’s hard to imagine we won’t see more Mob Psycho 100 after this season – Bones is certainly acting like we will, and it figures to do pretty well on disc. But if not it’ll be a crying shame, because it’s clear ONE is exploring some very big ideas here, and that he’s got an awful more to say – and I, for one, really want to hear him say it.