「孤独なホワイティー」 (Kodokuna Howaitī)
Well now, that was quite a left-hand turn for Mob Psycho 100 II this week, not just within the series but the episode itself. It was pretty clear things were going to be considerably more low-key than last week’s blockbuster (there was really only direction we could go after that), so a character piece this time was no surprise. But I wasn’t necessarily expecting things to take the turn they did.
I’ve noted it before, but the thing that really makes Reigen such a standout character is his paradoxical nature. There are two facets to him (I was going to say “faces” but that implies a duplicity I don’t think exists) in almost every sense. I mean, while he’s an amazingly cool guy and a badass who’s (up to now at least) always been reliable in the clutch, but he’s also kind of an asshole. Most of the time he’s an asshole in the service of good, so it’s not such a problem. But we saw a side to him this week we really hadn’t seen before – or at least not that I remember to the extent we saw it here.
If there’s been a recurring theme through the stylistic roller-coaster of the season’s first six episodes, it’s Mob’s quest for self-respect. This is certainly fitting, because he’s at the age where he should be discovering himself – the fact that he’s an incredibly powerful esper has little to do with it. As with FLCL (the real one, I mean), all the sci-fi and fantasy trappings are the glitz and the flash, but the story is at its heart a relatively simple take on adolescence. And Mob – starting with the premiere and Mob’s assertion that he was trying to “listen to his own feelings more” – is growing up before our eyes. Exceptionally lucky in the people he has surrounding him, yes, but Mob has friends now. Friends that genuinely like and care about him.
Here, then, is yet another paradox with Reigen. Despite being a hack and a fraud he’s still been Mob’s protector, his catcher in the rye – and for the most part, he’s steered Mob in the right direction especially where his powers are concerned. But he’s also taking advantage of Mob, who does whatever legitimate work Spirits and Such does for a pittance and is expected to come at Reigen’s beck and (phone) call. It’s a testament to how much Mob has grown (all those emotional push-ups he’s been doing) that he’s finally ready to stand up to Reigen when he walks out on a fun outing with the Body Improvement/Telepathy club members (it was going to include Mob’s first ever karaoke experience) only to be treated quite shabbily by his master.
A couple of points up front… First, it’s totally, 100% healthy that Mob decided he needed a break from Reigen. He deserves a chance to have a sliver of normal childhood while there’s a rare moment of peace. And second, Reigen was a serious asshole to Mob there – I mean, almost to the point where it seemed out of character. He relentlessly poked at all Mob’s sore points and insecurities – which was an incredibly nasty thing to do and if we’re honest, there’s no way someone as perceptive as Reigen didn’t know exactly what he was doing. We saw an ugly side to Reigen here – including the fact that he’s possessive of Mob and flat-out jealous at the idea Mob has friends (or God forbid, confidantes) apart from him.
The B-part of the episode was, to be frank, kind of unpleasant for me. I get that it was supposed to be, but above and beyond that. It’s not fun seeing a grown man so unmade by being rejected by a 14 year-old boy that he falls into a cycle of despair. The fact is that it’s Reigen, not Mob, who has no friends apart from the other. And perhaps most unpleasantly of all, we see what Reigen’s life – professional as well as personal – is like without Mob in it (no messages on his birthday apart from Mom). And it’s unsettling, not reassuring, that he can be so financially successful relying 100% on fakery and bullshit. For all that Reigen has been a positive on Mob’s life (and he has, and downright saved it more than once), this episode leaves no question that meeting Mob has been a hugely positive factor in Reigen’s life as well. We saw this week how Mob brings out the worst in Reigen, but he also brings out the best in him.
For now, it seems pretty clear than Reigen has surfed the wave of bluster and lies a wave too far, and he’s gotten himself into serious trouble. The TV appearance with an extremely pissed off Shoudo-san (who for all his popinjay ridiculousness is an actual psychic) has disaster written all over it. I’ve no doubt that Mob would come to Reigen’s aid if he knew he was in trouble, and he very likely will here. There’s genuine affection and even love between these two despite the dysfunctional side of their partnership that was on display this week, and that will win out in the end. But in order for them to remain a team, I think Reigen has to start respecting Mob as a person in a way he hasn’t up to this point, and to stop treating him as a child. Maybe, as ugly as all this was, it can be a good thing if it leads to that end result.