“Mob and Reigen: A Giant Tsuchinoko Appears”
I can sum this one up in three words: it was great.
It’s been a very interesting season, with a basket of really strong shows at the top that span a fairly huge range of styles and genres. From the lovably cheeky romcom of Konobi to the abject emotionalism of Orange to the peerless and almost regal Hollywood storytelling of 91 Days, there’s been something here to suit a sizable array of tastes. But in Mob Psycho 100 I think we have the most quintessentially “anime” of all the top series – a series that’s both reminiscent of the medium ten or twenty years ago and quite timeless. No matter how retro it is I don’t think a show like this could ever feel dated, because it’s simply too alive and inspired.
In truth, I don’t think Mob Psycho 100 has really out a foot wrong over the course of its entire run. And funnily enough I’d include the first episode in that even though it was the weakest of the series. The reason is that I think it was the weakest quite on purpose – it was an insidiously clever tweaking of the manga by director Tachikawa Yuzuru to both send us down the garden path when it came to what kind of character Reigen was, and to throw off our expectations of what kind of series Mob Psycho was. I was lucky enough to see the first two eps in one sitting but most weren’t, so there’s no question this would represent a lot of faith in his audience on Tachikawa’s part. But based on the evidence, I think it’s going to be justified.
I think the signs that there was something kind of deep and touching about Mob and Reigen’s relationship started to creep in pretty early (I believe I noted it around Episode 3) and this season finale was the natural culmination of that turn of events. If we look at Mob’s powers as an extension of who he is, it’s only natural that after Reigen saved him (and I mean in the existential sense) Mob would extend those powers to Reigen. For me, what it really comes down to is this – Reigen is the only one who tells Mob that wants to believe in his heart is true. That he’s a good person, that his powers don’t make him special, that he not only doesn’t have to hurt anyone, but that he absolutely has a duty not to. Time after time when Mob is in darkness, Reigen pulls him back. And what nobler purpose could there be for Mob’s powers than to protect someone he loves without hurting anyone else?
That’s what it means for Reigen to be Mob’s “bridge” – a very elegant way to put it (I assume coined by ONE). And let’s face is, Reigen is a pretty badass guy. Mob’s powers may be propping him up but damn, this dude walks the walk. He indeed has powers of his own – he’s such a good bullshit artist himself that he has an infallible eye for BS in everyone else. He bats away Ishiguro’s gravity balls like soap bubbles and snaps Sakurai’s sword (that’s sort of ironic when you think about it) like the plastic toy it once was. But much more than that, be punctures the bubble of pomposity and false superiority these overgrown schoolyard bullies have built around themselves. The emperor has no clothes – not when Reigen strips him naked. By the time he’s done shattering their illusions about themselves the lot of them have been left broken, defeated husks. Mob’s powers and Reigen’s chutzpah – an unbeatable combo.
The carnage includes Ishiguro, whose mask Reigen literally and figuratively rips off (after scolding him for not removing it when talking to people), revealing a wretched, spotty old geezer who’s the most pathetically insecure of the bunch. Even after it’s clear the battle has been lost Ishiguro decides on a scorched earth strategy, and with even Mob’s power starting to tire things look dicey for a moment. But then Shou steps in, and reveals why he’s unscarred – he’s clearly a step up in power from the rest of the Seventh Division elites. He puts down Ishiguro once and for all, declares that the Seventh Division is to be shuttered, and calls Mob a coward before disappearing into thin air.
I realize that we’ve yet to see Claw’s true fangs (or whatever), and that when we do, that’s likely to be a major part of seasons to come. But what happened here seemed quite predictable in a way, because as far as the Seventh Division goes at least, Claw has always struck me as a paper tiger. The reason Reigen’s verbal assault was so effective was because it was so on-point – these really are a bunch of school bullies, and once you take away their implicit advantage in brute force they have nothing. Even Onigawara found this out, though he more or less reached the conclusion on his own after Ritsu and Kamuro’s treachery drove him to rock bottom. I don’t know what the future holds for the ravaged remains of the Scars, but it’s hard to imagine that they can be reformed as a meaningful weapon for Claw.
The postscript of the episode is conspicuously open-ended, given that this was in theory the final episode. Ekubo has eaten his way through Matsuo’s remaining spirits (that belch!) and emerged rejuvenated. Hanazawa has decided to team up with Awakening Lab to try and act as a mentor to the esper’s eggs, helping them prepare for the next time Claw comes for them. Reigen and Mob return to their usual life as itinerant spook hunters – though it might be argued that the truth of Reigen’s lack of ability is now no longer a secret to Mob. Most interestingly, it’s revealed that Shou is the son of the man we can safely assume is the leader of Claw – and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind to him, either. The Scars may be finished, but we’ve surely not seen Claw’s big guns brought to bear yet.
So what’s next? Well, as usually happens, we’re left to ponder and wait. I was hoping for a S2 announcement at the close of this episode, but not really expecting one. And frankly, I’ll be very surprised if we don’t get a second season, and fairly soon, too. There’s plenty of manga for it, and there have been rumors (including of a supposed hidden cache of episode-chapter correspondence on the official website) since the series began that Mob Psycho 100 was a split-cour. If all that weren’t enough, the series looks to be on track to sell quite well on disc – wedged between Boku no Hero Academia (which is a far bigger seller in manga form) and One Punch Man, if Stalker is to be believed. Bones is sure acting like this series is going to continue in anime form, and it’ll be a far bigger surprise if it doesn’t than if it does.
That I sure hope so is so obvious that it hardly bears repeating. The equation here is simple – if you take really smart and well-written source material, pair it with arguably the best studio in anime and probably the most exciting young director in the business, you get Mob Psycho 100 – a powerhouse of an anime that exemplifies the best that the medium can be. Tachikawa is the goods – a stunning talent, equally adept at storytelling and storyboarding. His visual interpretation of ONE’s idiosyncratic (to use a charitable term) art style is nothing short of genius, and Mob Psycho 100 doesn’t have a manga adaptation by a heavy hitter like Murata Yusuke to act as a template and buffer. Bones has pulled out all the stops here – Kawai Kenji’s music and a murderer’s row of legendary animators – and the results are nothing short of staggering. Bring on Season 2 – and the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned.
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