OP: 「99.9」 by (MOB CHOIR feat. sajou no hana)
「ビリビリ ～誰かが見ている～」 (Biribiri)
“Someone is Watching”
There is a phenomenon that happens, where your expectations for a premiere are so high that you worry (sometimes with cause) that it can’t possibly live up to them. And that disappointment is a very hollow feeling when it comes. But somehow with Mob Psycho 100 II my expectations lapped that concern and left it in the dust, because I had absolute confidence – no matter what my expectations were, this premiere was going to be great. There’s just too much quality in every facet of the jewel for that not to be the case – source, studio, director, staff, cast. I was never worried for a second (and for me, that’s pretty goddam rare).
I’ll be honest – I probably should be worried, because my expectations are freakishly high. The first series would almost surely have been my #1 show if it had aired in 2018 (that it was #4 in 2016 is just a testament to how good that year was), and there’s every reason to expect this one will be better. All of the key personnel are back in place – most crucially genius director Tachikawa Yuzuru – but with the addition of renowned animator and Tachikawa collaborator Kameda Yoshimichi as chief animation director (the first time he’s accepted that role for any series). We’ll be seeing ONE’s manga through some of its strongest material too – and by all accounts, it’s brilliant.
I actually found myself putting off this premiere for most of the day (a day off for me) just because I knew I’d only have the experience of savoring my anticipation for this series once. It was well worth the wait, of course – the best premiere so far even with as great as Dororo was, and I’ll be shocked if it’s not the best of the season in the end. Like all great anime directors. Tachikawa-sensei understands and respects the importance of intra-episodic pacing – each ep is a self-contained narrative journey, a steady build, and the B-part is always always the half that floors you. So it was here – but in ways I would say were somewhat surprising.
As he did with the series premiere (where he intentionally adapted two chapters which come much later in the manga), Tachikawa starts us off with a somewhat gag-driven Mob-Reigen sequence. This time around it’s only half the episode, though, and there are elements of some importance lurking here. Among them, I would judge, was the eye-opening experience Mob-kun has of manipulating living things – in this case vines, but who’s the say once the principle has been applied, it has to stop there? Exorcising a spirit haunting an amateur farmer’s field is no real challenge for Mob, but it’s a good re-acquaintance with he and Reigen – and a reminder of just how overpowered Mob is.
The paradoxical side of these two central characters is at the heart of Mob Psycho 100 to be sure. Reigen is a swindler, a scam artist, sometimes a buffoon – but he’s also incredibly ballsy, quite noble in his way and absolutely the guiding light in Mob’s life. As for Mob, well… Mob-kun is such a good boy it just breaks my heart, yet he’s also probably the most dangerous person in the world. One can imagine someone less kind and humble than Mob having his powers, and be terrified – but just as much, one can imagine what Mob’s life might be like if he didn’t have to contend with the burden of those powers he didn’t ask for. That’s where Reigen’s guidance comes in, and that’s a strong and recurring theme throughout the story.
Back at school (and beyond) we touch base with many of the faces from the first season – the Body Improvement Club, the student council president Kamuro-kun, the Occult Research Club. There’s also Ichi-san, who’s now part of the Mob cult the “Psycho Helmet Religion” – milking it for everything she’s worth, hiding that she knows the “missing founder” Mob and planning to use that knowledge to her maximum benefit at just the right moment. As for Kamuro, he’s decided to resign as president over the false accusations scandals Mob confronted him with – and that gives Ichi just the excuse (to help him impress Tsubomi-chan) she needs to push Mob-kun down a course she thinks will help him become the person she can triumphantly reveal to her fellow cultists as their dear leader.
What follows is, out of left field, an emotional wrecking ball (and we’re only in week one). Mob running for seitoukaichou is of course a disaster – he freezes during the assembly and becomes the first student ever not to utter a single word during his allotted 5 minutes of speech time (in fact, Kamuro has planned all along to throw himself on the mercy of the school and be re-elected – which he is). But an unexpected benefit seemingly results from it – responding to a note in his shoe locker, Mob meets Emi (Matsui Eriko), who says she was struck by his courage in confronting his fears and getting on-stage, and confesses.
All I can say is, the world just doesn’t deserve Mob-kun. He declines of course (though we don’t find that out immediately), but still spends the next week with Emi (walking home with her, then coming back to school for Body Improvement Club) so as not to hurt her feelings. Mob could never accept a confession knowing he’s in love with someone else (Tsubomi) but he could never hurt someone who confessed to him, either. What makes this truly heartbreaking is that it turns out (I had a feeling it would) that Emi asked him out on a dare from her friends. Even this still isn’t enough to turn Mob against her, though – and Emi realizes that the joke is on her, because Mob comes closer to seeing the real her than any of her so-called friends has. That whole sequence with the torn-up novel is both gut-wrenching and uplifting (and of course, gorgeously executed).
What can I say that won’t sound like gushing? Not much, because this was all, in a word, great. The OP and ED (and even the eyecatches) weren’t forgotten either, mind you – they were also stellar, as was the acting (Ohtsuka Akio doing comedy is A-OK with me, and him being in both my favorite shows of the season so far? Score!). Bones is pulling no punches with the animation, and Tachikawa is for me the single most brilliant director of his generation (yes, edging out even Matsumoto Rie) – all of his visual flourishes are tasteful and in-the-moment. That’s nine paragraphs for a premiere and truthfully I could easily write nine more, but I don’t need to – you saw it for yourselves. As an anime fan I spend my days waiting for that rare generational classic show to come along, a few times a year if we’re really lucky – and we’re watching one play out in front of our eyes in Mob Psycho 100 II.
ED: 「Memosepia」 (メモセピア) by (sajou no hana)