「社会復帰戦 ～友情～」 (Shakai fukki-sen ~ yuujou ~)
“Social Rehabilitation ~Friendship~”
Mob Psycho 100 is one of those series that has many faces, and can be brilliant in many ways. All of them were one display in the first season and all of them have this season, too. On a purely personal level, this edition has been a bit heavier on the shounen battle content than I’d prefer – as much as I love that side of MP100, I love the more measured character moments with Mob (and the comedy) even more. But if you’re going to make a blockbuster action series, it sure works out better if you do so as brilliantly as Bones has done with Mob Psycho 100 II.
The last couple of episodes might have been problematical in lesser hands, but with Tachikawa Yuzuru and the incredible team of animators he’s assembled, they’ve been breathtaking. I’m not sure there was any possibility of compromise here – these eps either had to be spectacular or fail utterly. While this one wasn’t quite as sublime as last week’s flawless masterpiece, it still stacks up as one of the best battle episodes of the series, and it did manage to sneak some character material past the goalie in the process.
The surprise of the week was Serizawa, who not only got a much bigger bite of the narrative apple than I expected but proved he deserved it. He’s a disaster, there’s no question, a hikikomori who was at his low ebb when Touichirou found him in his mother’s basement and sweet-talked him into joining forces with Claw. But he’s a poor fit for the sort of campaign his boss is engaging in – he’s so squeamish at seeing Shou brutalized by his father that he has to leave the scene, and it’s a full-time job to delude himself into thinking Touichirou’s brand of world domination is a victimless crime.
Mob, to his immeasurable credit, is ever true to his ideals. He hasn’t come to Chomi Tower to fight, but he’s come prepared to fight. Reigen describes Mob’s greatest strength as his ability to be absolutely honest about his feelings, and while only someone like Reigen would say that and in Suzuki Senior he’s up against the worst possible adversary to use that strength against, there’s a genuine power in it. What’s more, the fact that someone with Mob’s tremendous power of the more literal kind is able to remain as unassumingly empathetic as he is amplifies the potency of his essential goodness all the more.
That won’t work against Touichirou (as we’ll see) but it does work against Serizawa, who’s as fragile as he ever was, hiding beneath his umbrella to keep his anxiety in check. This solution that Touichirou has devised for Serizawa is utterly unhealthy and useless for him, but of course Touichirou doesn’t care – Serizawa is just a tool to be used like any other. The fact that Mob refuses to take no for an answer eventually wears Serizawa down, and the clincher comes when Serizawa sees that Mob actually can understand his pain in a way Touichirou never even tried to (and never would).
As big bads go (and I realize that with the manga progressing well past this point, there’s likely an even bigger one awaiting) Touichirou is about as good as it gets for Mob. I’ve come to view the pair of them as complete and polar extremes, diametrically opposed examples of what can happen with a boy is gifted (or cursed) with overwhelming esper powers. Mob is completely selfless to the point of dysfunction – he literally disregards his own feelings and wishes routinely, and initially resents the powers he was born with. Touichriou is the perfect narcissist, a genuine sociopath who views his powers as the sign that no one else in the world is worthy of his mere consideration, never mind respect. Touichirou believes his powers make him superior to everyone else; Mob that his powers make him defective.
The crucial difference here, of course, is both through lucky encounters with others and through his own innate resilience, Mob recognized the dangers of the path he was on and sought to change. Touichirou doubled down, becoming ever more isolated and ruthless in his use and abuse of others. And Mob’s efforts have succeeded gloriously, which is really what this season is all about – a kid discovering that it’s OK to like himself and OK to have selfish feelings sometimes. There’s something almost cocky about the way Mob keeps trying to build bridges with people (and spirits) who want to harm him. He’s like a kid with a new toy whose functions he’s still figuring out how to use.
Again, though, with Touichirou he’s barking up the wrong tree. And he comes to realize that soon enough, through watching the way his enemy treats his own son and the way he belittles his own allies. For all that we love Mob’s essential goodness, there’s something glorious in his disgusted “Never mind”, when he realizes this scumbag just isn’t worth it. Once Touichirou’s powers are finally revealed we see even those are shared with Mob – the ability to share his powers with others, or to draw on their powers for himself. Mob being ready to fight is only part of the battle, though. Touichirou is crazy strong – hell, even Reigen’s balls of steel (and lead) attacks prove powerless against him, and only Serizawa sacrificing his precious umbrella prevents disaster. This is one enemy Mob can’t disarm with the strength Reigen talks about – it seems very likely that only proving he’s truly the strongest esper will win the day. That’s not the most poetic way to end the season, but it should make one hell of a spectacle.