「都市伝説 ～噂との遭遇～」 (Toshi Densetsu ~ Uwasa to no Sougu ~ ~)
“Urban Legend ~ Encounter With Rumors ~
It’s the nature of the sort of series Mob Psycho 100 is that it doesn’t really matter whether an episode is “stand-alone” or “serious” – they’re all powerful and they’re all connected. It’s easy to be dazzled (bedazzled?) by the sheer spectacle of this show – simply put, one rarely gets the chance to see this kind of talent on display in TV anime (Made in Abyss is probably the closest recent analog). But Tachikawa Yuzuru, the man perched atop this gargantuan pile of brilliant creators, is as much a genius for his storytelling as his visuals. And with Mob Psycho 100, you can’t separate the two.
This is a show that’s full of paradoxes. A protagonist who’s the most powerful esper in the world (probably) in the person of a sensitive and kind young boy. A preposterous con artist who also happens to be the most GAR character in anime when he cranks it up. Absurd physical comedy juxtaposed with deep and nuanced emotional exploration, and a healthy dollop of horror. It’s in the fitting of these disparate elements together that both ONE and the anime team really display the full heights of their ability, and in their hands even a seemingly routine episode like this one becomes truly exceptional.
As he so often is it’s Reigen who’s the driver of events here. Desperate as usual to stir up business he drags Mob off to Cuticle Town, a local hotspot for urban legends – not because he believes any of them to be true, but because such places are rife with people who believe in the supernatural. Tiny table at the ready, he sets up business at a busy intersection but the attention he draws isn’t the sort he was hoping. Eventually a member of the local psychics association, Shinra Banjoumaru (Kusunoki Taiten – who coincidentally played the only other anime “Mobu” character I remember, in Kingdom), shows up to berate Reigen for encroaching on his turf. But when a client shows up asking for help, he ends up roped into helping Reigen with her seemingly impossible request – to rid the town of its urban legends she’s convinced are contributing to her personal hauntings.
This being Mob Psycho 100, nothing is as simple as it initially appears. The rotund Shinra-san not only isn’t a con man, but he’s actually a legit psychic – and dead serious about it too. Reigen may browbeat him into helping for free (theoretically Shinra will get a cut, but…) but he’s still Reigen – he recruits Dimple to tag along and make sure Shinra doesn’t get into real trouble (Dimple agrees only after it’s Mob who asks). And despite what Reigen tells Mob, the most famous of these urban legends – “The Dragger” – turns out to be real (in a sense, though the philosophical implications of that statement are by no means straightforward).
So much happens here that it’s hard to believe this was only 22 minutes, especially since things never felt rushed. Reigen and Mob go off to investigate the human-faced dog story, and find a pooch who’s had his face written on with magic marker. Reigen again shows his true stuff here – cruelty to animals is a non-starter with him. Meanwhile the hapless Shinra almost gets himself arrested as a pervert questioning a couple of kid witnesses at the park, then gets into it over his head with a real pervert who also happens to have become an urban legend – Red Raincoat (Ueda Yuuji). That’s bad enough when said pervert pulls out a stun gun, but the ectoplasm really hits the fan when The Dragger (Kobayashi Yuu) shows up.
If The Dragger isn’t a real urban legend (and I can find no evidence she is) she should be. She’s fucking scary and her M.O. sounds like a classic Japanese ghost story for sure. Dimple steps in (literally) just in the nick of time, and the battle between Dimple-Shinra and The Dragger is utterly fantastic. But then the whole scene in the rainy woods is gorgeously drawn and directed – stuff like the face-shapes mud splatters and on the trees might go unnoticed if you aren’t paying attention. Dimple has been so changed by the inherent goodness of Mob that he puts it all on the line to save Shinra for fear of letting Mob down, but the best he can do with the psychic’s corpulent frame is buy time until his SOS is answered (which is not before Shinra’s Achilles ruptures).
I love the whole idea of The Dragger – a fake legend given real form by the combined beliefs of those in the modern urban jungle who’ve heard the stories and been frightened by them. As Dimple says, she’s really not real or fake, but somewhere in-between – but that means that she’s basically impervious to those who fear her, because it’s their fear which makes her powerful. I love even more that the salvation of the moment is that Mob is such an unspoiled cinnamon roll that he’s never heard of The Dragger or any other urban legend for that matter. And the sad reality that the reason is not just that he doesn’t concern himself much with frivolous things, but that he’s never been part of a posse of boys close enough to swap ghost stories with.
Mob defeats and exorcises The Dragger easily enough, but there’s one urban legend in town who’s too powerful even for him – Dash Granny, who’s like the cherry on top of the episode’s story. Mob’s powers are useless against her – because she’s not a spirit after all, just a genki obaa-san who ruins Mob’s fragile self-esteem by making all his training with the Body Improvement Club seem fruitless. Not all is lost, though – a new ally has been found in Shinra, it seems (I hope so – he’s awesome) and Reigen has finally entered the 21st Century and built a website for his
con business. Unfortunately, judging by the landing page it’s the very beginning of the 21st Century.