Mob Psycho 100: The power of ONE [Review]

Mob Psycho 100, undeniably the fan favourite of the season and for a plethora of very good reasons. The mastermind behind the creation of the One Punch Man manga known as ONE receives another TV anime of his other manga of the same name. I’ve been waiting to write about this show since the first episode aired. Trademark sketchy lines and simple character designs are back on our screens once again in all of their over animated and breathtakingly stunning glory.

Mob Psycho 100

A gifted young boy struggles to realise his purpose in life

12 EPISODES | Supernatural, Action, Slice of Life | ANIMATED BY Bones | DIR: Tachikawa, Yuzuru

MB - Debris Shield

Mob Psycho 100 is a touching heartfelt story of a teenage boy with no real plans for the future or specific hobbies to indulge himself in. Combining such an admittedly overdone story arc with the writing and characters of ONE and the animating prowess of Studio Bones resulted in an absolutely spectacular show. Not only is this show a demonstration of serious animation talent, but an exhibition of how to balance effective comedy with quite a dark and brooding narrative.

The Premise of the Show

Shigeo Kageyama (nicknamed Mob) is a high school boy who began to harness psychic powers from a very young age. Able to lift heavy boxes and bend spoons with his mind, he received a lot of attention as a child in both his school and at home. However, not all of the attention was positive and the “tricks” soon became stale with his classmates. Wanting to stop all of the negative attention, Mob began refraining from using his abilities and now has only one goal in mind for his high school debut. The only thing he wants is to become friends with a girl in his class, Tsubomi. The story follows Mob’s daily life both inside school and outside where he spends time with his “psychic mentor” Reigen (who is a lovable con artist and has no psychic powers) as he attempts to find his true purpose in life. Along the way he encounters many eccentric characters to which the presence of some is less wanted than others.

Exquisite characterisation and development

Firstly, I’d like to focus on the characters within Mob Psycho 100 as there are quite a few that deserve their time in the spotlight. Beginning with our protagonist of Mob, similarly to Saitama of One Punch Man, he has no real drive and usually requires some sort of trigger for him to unleash his godlike psychic powers. While some have labelled this as “ONE reusing older assets”, I couldn’t disagree more as their similarities pretty much end at that point. Mob’s powers are linked to his emotions and negative feelings has proven to hurt other as a result. In fear of hurting the ones he loves, he does his best at all times to keep his emotions in check and has become accustomed to the deadpan facial expression you’ll see across this review. On top of that, Mob is rather socially inept and struggles to read certain atmospheres such as danger or a character’s true motives. Despite this, he is a kind and compassionate person who always tries to befriend or get along with the other characters before anything else. If that isn’t the sweetest main character, I don’t know what is.

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Then we have the clear favourite among the fans of the show, Reigen Arataka, Mob’s mentor and primary role model. Reigen is a self proclaimed psychic who claims to exorcise evil spirits and leads a spirit council. He doesn’t just have Mob fooled though, the whole town is seen coming in for seances and spiritual meetings despite the man not having a smidgen of psychic ability within him. That doesn’t let him stop doing his best at his job though, having worked several jobs, Reigen seems to have acquired quite the multitude of skills such as impressive martial arts and giving a mean back massage. In a character full of oddballs, it’s difficult to say if this character is more normal than the rest or not. Although you’ll see him performing some interesting actions on his clients which are more often than not, the funniest thing in the show, there are so many scenes where Reigen brings the show back down to Earth to give a truly moving speech about the situation. And then he’ll dropkick the crap out of the nearest bad guy.

Flawlessly intricate animation and impeccable visual direction

For those of you familiar with the work of Studio Bones, it will come as no surprise to you that the animation in this show is a complete feast for the eyes. Not only is the movement fluid and the characters visually expressive in their speech, but the style of the manga has been replicated perfectly. Especially with the magnitude of action in this show as a whole, the consistency of Mob Psycho 100‘s visuals are absolutely astonishing. My viewing of this show occurred after the season had finished airing, myself and a group of friends sat together and watched the show in an online “hangouts” style site. We had initially planned to watch the first half and finish it another time but the show kept us all hooked for the entire night and we ended up marathoning it into the early hours of the morning. Given my somewhat delirious state nearing the season’s conclusion, I decided to rewatch the show in its entirety again so that I could justify the true sense of amazement I felt. After my now third viewing of the show, I can strongly confirm that feeling.

A surprisingly simple yet complex plot

Whether that header is grammatically correct or not, this show seems to masquerade its very simple plot as one that is of great complexity. While the first half of the season allows the viewers to observe Mob’s daily life and enjoy his harmless antics, the latter takes a swift turn. I’m not going to reveal anything to do with the plot itself because it really is an incredible story but there is a lot more to the shell of the story than you may think. On the flip side, I doubt that feeling would come across your mind as Mob Psycho 100 initialises with some of the most entertaining and elusive first episodes I’ve seen in a show. Introducing each character can sometimes be a long and arduous process if handled poorly and if the characters in question are a chore to be around. Thankfully, this is not the case as each character seems to possess the same level of eccentricity as the last.

Having spent most of his out-of-class time at Reigen’s side, Mob has yet to join a club at his school. With the rush to claim enough members for existing (and new) clubs to ensure their existence, Mob is put in a very strenuous position – whether he decides to show it or not. A large portion of the first half of the show contains a girl called Kurata Tome, a fan of all things supernatural and unknowing of Mob’s psychic powers. While she puts her everything in trying to recruit our protagonist, an unexpected job seems to do a better job of winning him over. Here I get to talk about some of the most underrated characters in anime history, the members of The Body Improvement Club.

I’ll keep this brief because it’s more akin to a character focused article rather than a feature review. The body improvement club are a group of bodybuilders who are way too buff to be high schoolers but we’ll let that slide because the character designs are pretty crazy in general. Rather than taking the easy route of making the group a bunch of “meatheads”, they truly are driven characters who just want to improve their bodies. They’re an often overlooked set of personalities who (quite ironically) assist Mob’s mental journey rather than his physical one. While he joins in an attempt to enhance his own muscles so that he has to rely less on his psychic powers, his body caves in pretty quickly and it’s here that we can really see the extent of Mob’s determination. The group grow fond of Mob very quickly and, on multiple occasions, actually save him from danger when all seemed to be lost. I’m thinking of going more in depth about these characters but I’ll leave that for another piece.

MB - Animation Demo

Excellent execution of visual comedy

In amongst the epic battles and incredible fight sequences that can be found within this show, there is an impressive amount of comedy and witty writing. It would be borderline sinful for the writers to not have moments where these excessively eccentric characters interact with each other. Most of them are so quick witted and in some of the most unexpected places, I found myself laughing hysterically at these interactions. A lot of this is down to Mob’s expressionless demeanour and dry delivery when talking to characters that he’s not too fond of. Especially when combined with the over the top and active people such as the supernatural club’s leader Kurata or his mentor Reigen, the dialogue formed is some of the funniest I’ve heard from such an otherwise “serious” show. I put that word in quotations as this is the same show where Reigen shaves salt onto a woman’s shoulders and a high schooler goes completely bald.

In accompaniment to the show’s witty writing, Mob Psycho 100‘s use of visual comedy is some of the best I’ve seen this year. As a personal fanatic for the use of visual comedy in media, this won me over very easily but did feel cheap in any way. Although Mob may be expressionless for the majority of the show, that doesn’t mean that everyone is. Just the simple use of a cleverly detailed facial expression can be enough to earn roars of laughter across the audience. In almost every episode’s comments when I’ve been watching the show, there have been people time-stamping their favourite moments and more often that not they would lead to an example of the show’s excellent use of visual comedy. Whether it be an unexpected medium change or a psychedelic esque dream sequence as we see into a character’s mind, the sky seemed to be the limit when the staff story boarded this show. My personal favourite has to be the big reveal of Reigen’s face near the end of the season where we were treated to a pencil sketch close up of his expression. Priceless.

Fantastically satisfying finale and anticipation for Season 2 (?)

Fear not, I won’t be spoiling the ending of the season. The finale of Mob Psycho 100 Season 1 was absolutely fantastic and was a great set up for a second season. During my first viewing there was some genuine fear that the show would fall at the last hurdle, resorting to a simple “boss battle” style sequence and end at that. The build up for the final moment was executed so perfectly and paced so well that I am so glad there was a satisfying payoff. Not only did the show answer many questions I know I personally had, it also left enough questions for there to be a clear cut path to follow later on. I haven’t been this excited for a show’s continuation in a very long time.

While not a reader of the show’s source manga myself, it appears that there is a lot more to come and the final frame of the episode seems to quite blatantly reference a second season. With the success of this season and the steamroller that is ONE showing no sense of slowing down, it seems like a no brainer that the show will continue.

MB - Season 2 Speculation
The first season ends with, quite literally, two mushrooms being seasoned.

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