「不和 ～選択～」 (Fuwa ~ Sentaku ~)
“Discord ~ Choices ~”
After I’ve just gone and waxed poetical about how different Dororo and Mob Psycho 100 were while being equally great, watching this ep brings home the flaws in that line of thinking. I mean visually, sure – one could hardly imagine two more diametrically opposed styles. But there is a universal theme running between these two stories, that of trying to retain your sense of decency in a fundamentally cruel and unjust world. They don’t get a lot more universal than that in fact, so it’s really not so surprising even if it’s counter-intuitive.
As odd as it is to say, one of the first things that crossed my mind in watching this episode was “My God – how much did that cost!?” I rarely focus heavily on production budgets in reviewing anime, but I rarely see episode on TV that look anything remotely like this. Money cannot buy brilliance, that’s for damn sure – but at the same time, you can’r deliver the blizzard of sakuga we saw this week on Mob Psycho without spending a lot of it (especially by TV anime standards). Bones isn’t like most other anime studios, and MP 100 isn’t like most other anime. Even so – wow.
In truth, the visuals were so good here that it’s hard to focus much on anything else. ONE’s underlying story, with its powerful themes of alienation and loyalty, was represented brilliantly as always and this was a powerful subplot. But in truth that side of things was what we’ve come to expect from this show (I’d actually still rank the season premiere as the most emotionally powerful so far this season, in fact). We’ve come to expect great art and animation too of course, but if the writing was vintage Mob, the visuals were an a whole other level.
The spirit of Gainax (and some of its former staff) are certainly a presence here (the “manga in motion” sequences are super-FLCL, and those explosions…), but this is a unique entity – Bones, Tachikawa, ONE – we’ve never seen anything that looks quite like it. In point of fact ONE’s native art style and Tachikawa’s (at least if Death Parade is anything to go on) are quite different, and he’s assembled a murderer’s row of the greatest cel animators and background artists from the past three decades to work on this series. Stylistically there’s so much to unpack here – rather than a consistent look the ep is in fact all over the map in a way that totally works. It’s breathless and unrelenting, a visual tsunami that picks you up and carries you along helpless to resist.
One of my favorite visual conceits here (and I’m going to assume this is a ONE thing) is representing Mogami’s presence in the dream world through a variety of creepy crawlies. “Come into my parlor”, said the spider to the fly – and Mob came voluntarily, too much the compassionate fool to abandon a girl he’d never met to her fate. If I’m honest I thought the dream sequence sped by a little too quickly – I would have liked to have seen an entire episode (or maybe even more) devoted to Mob trying to cope without his powers. It certainly goes more or less as you’d expect – Mob is still socially awkward and physically weak, but now he has to face the world basically unarmed. And Minori is a major force among his tormentors.
It’s pretty clear where Mogami is going with this to be honest, and there may even be a tiny grain of honesty in his telling Mob he sees something of himself in the boy, and wants to prevent his making the same mistakes. Of course the overwhelming mass of motivation for Mogami is selfish, to turn a child he realizes is a freakishly powerful esper into an acolyte. As terrible as things are going for Mob in there, it does seem as if Mogami’s literal mind games are shifting him – something inside Mob does seem to break, though tellingly it’s not when he himself is threatened by Minori and her team of bullies but when the stray cat he’s been feeding is.
What would have happened if Ekubo hadn’t broken into Minori and snapped Mob out of it? I suppose we’ll never know, though it’s a bit disturbing to consider. As it turns out Matsuo is a key player here – it’s his psychic B-12 shot that allows Dimple to get past Mogami’s barrier (and for another reason, as we’ll soon see). As Reigen says, he refuses to flee because he’s “dumb” and trusts Mob – and Mob is dumb because he trusts Dimple and Reigen. But trust is the key to everything for Mob, and it’s hard to overstate the important of Reigen’s appearance in his life giving him someone to trust. That’s one thing Mogami was absolutely right about – Mob was very lucky to have wound up surrounded by good people who care about him (and a debatably good spirit who does).
When it’s all done, of course Mob forgives Minori – he has an infinite capacity for goodness, so he’s always prepared to see it in other people. He believes in their power to change, but the struggle for him is believing in his own – not to become kinder or more selfless, but in fact to value himself and his feelings more. That’s what someone like Mogami can never understand, and that’s why Mob is able to carry the burdens he does while remaining pure even as he struggles to become the person he wants to be. That, and the insanely on-point support team good fortune has allowed to stand behind him.