「巨悪のオーラ~黒幕~」 (Kyoaku no Aura: Kuromaku)
“The Heinous Aura ~Mastermind~”
Nope, there’s no way I’m going to list all those characters – you’ll just have to look ’em up.
There’s a kind of “blah blah blah” quality to talking about Mob Psycho 100 at this point, because it’s been pretty much great every week for so long. Do I really need to call attention to how superb the animation and art was again this week, or single out the Kawai Kenji soundtrack or how Tachikawa-sensei is using it? No, I don’t think so – you have eyes and ears, and if you’re anime fans you’re already most likely sold on what a stellar effort this series is (and hoping like crazy for a second season). It makes my job easier and harder at the same time.
Mob Psycho is quite a different series than One Punch Man, but a very obvious similarity (in addition to the God-tier animation) is that one very much gets the sense in watching the first season wind down that it’s only the merest tip of the iceberg. A second is a foregone conclusion with OPM (it sold extremely well for a shounen), and while MP100 won’t sell as many discs, it does seem a better than even chance we’ll get a sequel (or that this was a split-cour all along, as rumored). Bones is certainly acting like it, throwing a dizzying array of new characters at us and making it inescapably clear than the Claw situation is going to be nowhere close to being resolved when the season ends.
Essentially, I see this rather epic episode as a wold-building exercise. We’re getting a clearer picture about many things, starting with Claw. These guys are seriously evil – that they plan to take over the world is an obvious starter, but they also kidnap children and torture them in futuristic iron maidens in order to try and spark an “awakening” through intense pain. It seems the lackey class at Claw is well aware that aspiration is their worst enemy – there’s no bridging the gap between powerful and powerless. The best strategy is to lay as low as possible, try to evade notice and hope to feast on the table scraps once the world is conquered.
If there’s one impression I’m left with that’s stronger than any other, though, it’s that there’s a very stark and distinct hierarchy among espers. That, and that Mob sits at (or very near) the top of it. Claw is built around this hierarchy – the peon lackeys with no powers at all, the zaku foot soldiers with spoonbender trifles (which are still enough to give them an insurmountable advantage over muggles), the scars – the elites of the branches, effectively the upper management. And then the division leader her(?)self, and finally the boss altogether, who may be the only esper out there strong enough to have a chance against Mob.
I don’t know exactly where every named character we met this week stacks up, but it seems pretty clear that the stronger esper pretty much always beats the weaker – so one approach is to look at who’s left standing at the end. Ritsu is on a certain level – he can plow through the zaku no problem, but his race is run when he butts up against a scar. Dimple is on about the same level in his current state (he does have a rather entertaining duel with a “Pokemaster” style scar), Hanazawa probably a couple of steps above that.
As for Mob, he’s clearly a world above any scar we’ve seen (“I know you were about to do something” he tells a scar he’s just flattened, “but I’m in a hurry.”) – his darkest moment comes when he breaks down in tears at the notion that he must beat up a woman (the scar Tsuchiya) because Reigen has told him boys who hit girls are the lowest of the low. It’s a classic Mob moment – his innate decency and pacifist spirit shining through even as he’s being forced to become a beast. It’s the illusionist Mutou who finally pushes Mob to 100 by showing him an illusion of a badly wounded Ritsu – biting off way more than he can chew in doing so. We see something new from Mob here – a “rejection” once he goes on the boil (taking Mutou out in the process), followed by fainting on the spot.
What we’re left to ponder, of course, is that epilogue. What do we make of the seeming arrival of the boss of Claw – an aura strong enough to make the lackeys and the escaping Discovery kids quiver in terror – only to see the face of Reigen? Well, I suppose it’s possible Reigen is both the world’s best actor and actually the head of Claw – but I’m not betting on that. Occam’s Razor suggests this is a gambit, a ballsy ploy to impersonate the boss in order to rescue Mob (which would in itself be quite a level-up for Reigen). I mean, we know he can bullshit with the best of them, that’s a given. One thing’s for sure – I took a while to warm to Reigen, but now that he’s been missing for a couple of eps I’ve really missed him and I’m glad to see him back. Not only is he a great character, but he’s the one guy who’s always on Mob’s side, and Mob needs all the help he can get.