「それでも ～前へ～」 (Soredemo ~ mae e ~)
“Even Then ~Continue Forward~”
Well, that was certainly an effective bit of misdirection. On just how many levels it was a misdirection is still to be determined (I have my opinions on that, but all in good time), but at the very least it was the kind of whipsaw tonal change we don’t see all that often in Mob Psycho 100 episodes. Of course this series has a huge range from madcap comedy to very dark psychological drama, but as a rule, episodes have tended to be fairly consistent within their own boundaries. Certainly that was not the case here.
Certainly, I enjoy the eps that focus on Mob’s more or less normal adolescent struggles, and that’s very much what this week was for most of its length. The school marathon is coming up, and Mezato-san sees that as a perfect opportunity to have Mob reveal himself to the Psycho Helmet Religion. That, by the way, has grown to 700 members thanks mostly to a large anonymous donation (hmmm) allowing the establishment of a headquarters, and the fact that Mob appears (from the back, naturally) on cellphone video of Reigen’s now viral press conference.
This is interesting on a multitude of levels, thr most obvious being that it confirms (not that there was much doubt) that Mob was indeed behind those theatrics. I also found Mob’s reaction to Ichi very telling – the idea of fans made him perk up for a moment, but he completely despaired at the idea that a religion has sprung from his legend. But as to the marathon, Mob has bigger and nobler goals than using his (or Dimple’s) powers to cheat at it. He has a promise to himself that he’s trying to keep – if he finishes in the top 10, he’ll finally confess to Tsubomi-chan.
A recurring theme this season is that all those around him, but especially Reigen and Dimple, are consistently surprised at Mob’s personal growth. Reigen is initially quite taken aback that Mob is ready to take the first leap towards adulthood, but – the sting of their falling out and the role his own cruelty played in it (which is to say, all of it) fresh in his mind – he does the right thing and decides to help Mob train (not that this is an area of especial expertise for Reigen). The Body Improvement club helps out too of course, as does Ritsu, and even Onigawara-kun steps up with a flashy pair of running shoes (though only because he bought them in the wrong size).
This is a far more important statement about Mob that Ichi’s crackpot religion – he’s building a circle of supporters who don’t care about his powers, but have come to love him (though one hopes Ritsu always did, even in the dark times) for the person he is inside. Of course Mob’s quest to finish in the top 10 is a pipe dream – he was 291st out of 300 the year before – but that doesn’t stop he or they from trying. Dimple is wonderful here in coach mode (though he’s pretty much wonderful all the time). It’s also great to see so much of Mob’s parents (oh, what a cruel tease that was), who’ve been very much at the extreme fringe of the narrative. They seem like interesting people, and the way they’ve dealt with the seeming curse of having a son with Mob’s powers says a great deal about their essential goodness as parents.
I thought the way the marathon turned out would have been a very nice bittersweet ending to the episode. Mob busted his tail, didn’t cheat in any way, and was genuinely improving (though Ritsu did steal a top 10 place himself, natch) but that gallant little body gave out on the final KM. Mob dealt with it well, another sign of his growing maturity, but all that was a mere prelude to what happened in the episode’s final moments. I had the suspicion something was up when the Kageyama doorbell rang during dinner (seriously Ritsu, why would Mob ring his own doorbell?), but Suzuki Shou was certainly not a face I expected to see.
Claw has been a non-factor this season (apart from expat Matsuo’s brief appearance in the Mogami arc) but they weren’t crushed at the end of the first season, that much was clear. Those last couple of minutes were dark to say the least, and especially given that Mob would likely blame himself for what happened, this could certainly be the thing to push him over the edge. But that said, I’m highly skeptical that what Mob saw in that bedroom – horrible as it was – should be taken at face value. There’s more to this than what it seems – in fact, it wouldn’t shock me if Shou staged that reveal with the express purpose of driving Mob past 100 (though for what reason I don’t feel confident guessing).
I’m not dismissing the idea that sort of tragedy could happen in Mob Psycho 100, but to me it seems as if it would run counter to the themes of the season so far. Mob is being tested, over and over, both as an esper and as an adolescent – both are important, and neither can be viewed independently of the other. This is another test for Mob, and on many levels too, but perhaps the nature of this latest trial is going to en up being a bit different than what we’re being led to believe. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope so – Mob certainly deserves better than that.