Reviews of Mob Psycho 100 (2016) and related work

Mob Psycho 100 (2016)

Seen in 2020.

Kageyama “Mob” Shigeo is a quiet kid in middle school. His nickname has nothing to do with organized crime. He is neither bright nor athletic and he doesn’t attract attention. One day he walks into the office of a two-bit scam artist, looking for a consultation. Kageyama is a psychic talent, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. The scam artist, Reigen Arataka, tricks the boy into being his disciple, driving out unwanted spirits. Attention inevitably follows.

Mob Psycho 100 was a big hit, probably because it combines a broad character-based comedy (e.g. Mob never realizing that Reigen is faking it) with above-average animation sequences for the action scenes of a quick shōnen power trip. The love of animation, more than the school-and-workplace comedy, give it life. The many small sequences of animation on glass, the medium of Caroline Leaf, are a nice complement to the energetic cel-style action.

The escalating power level, from minor haunting spirits to an evil organization plotting world domination with hundreds of powerful psychics, is abrupt, and includes a number of side stories that fail to achieve their intended emotional depth. The long, dark story of Shigeo’s little brother, Ritsu, is unsuccessful in my opinion; none of the horror elements really work with the comedic baseline. The school clubs and rival gangs of delinquents are more fun, but that material is derivative of decades of middle-school manga. The central motif of “espers”, chōnōryokusha, is played for nostalgia, having much in common with Domu: A Child’s Dream (1980) and the psychic fad of the 1980s.

Shigeo resembles the same writer’s One Punch Man (2015), the overpowered, good-hearted naïf. “99”, a song set to the opening credits, starts with an attempt to encapsulate Shigeo’s dilemma in English: “If everyone is not special, maybe you can be what you want to be”. This is the ethos of Rick and Morty (2013). Like Morty, Mob is at an unfair advantage, yet struggles to form his own character in adolescence. Arataka is a more original character. The relationship between them, though comical, is based on traditional Japanese notions of mutual responsibility: The master, though he may be a petty criminal, does in fact try to do his duty toward his disciple and nurture the boy, which is a functional dramatic backbone.

animation fiction Japanese production moving picture series

“Mob Psycho 100: Reigen – The Miracle Psychic that Nobody Knows” (2018)

Seen in 2020.

A recap under the premise that Reigen dictates a book based on his adventures.

This is a vehicle for announcing that the second season would be made. The little new material is not worthwhile.

animation fiction Japanese production moving picture