OP: 「1」 by (MOB CHOIR)
「将来 ～進路希望～」 (Shourai ~Shinro Kibō~)
“Future ~Career Paths~”
I always believe in not burying the headline, so – it was great. That will come as very little shock to anyone, I realize, given the pedigree of this series and the staff behind it. But there was just a hint of change to make one worry about this season of Mob Psycho 100. Not as much as Golden Kamuy with its new studio and director (based on the premiere, that bullet’s dodged). But monumentally talented director Tachikawa Yuzuru is stepping back to the “chief director” role – presumably to work on the upcoming Blue Giant film, a serious hype bomb itself. That leaves Mob Psycho S3 in the hands of Hasui Takahiro, a very experienced Bones animator and episode director, who’s slipping into the big chair for the first time.
It’s impossible to know in a case like this how much Tachikawa is directly involved, but presumably he endorsed (or made) the selection of Hasui, and there’s no evidence whatsoever in this premiere of any drop in quality. While on a certain level series like Mob Psycho and Golden Kamuy and Made in Abyss are competing (I have to rank them, after all), in truth they’re really only competing against themselves. How does any given season of Mob ranks against the others? Masterpieces like these are so unique that they establish their own benchmarks.
One thing Tachikawa always did was start a season with a relatively “normal” episode – a stand-alone where Mob and Reigen handle the mundanities of Spirits & Such and Mob deals with his school life. This time is no exception, as we find Mob consumed with worry about filling out his career path survey. Now, Mob is a second-year middle schooler and not only is this totally non-binding, it’s routinely blown off (as Ekubo tells Mob in no uncertain terms). But one of the reasons we love Mob so much is that he’s painfully earnest (and neurotic, but then those often go hand-in-hand). He can’t grok the idea of disrespecting the process by not taking it seriously.
The problem of course is that Mob is a second-year middle schooler. And he doesn’t belong to one of two main exceptions (hardcore achievers who have their life planned out to the last dump, and head-in-the-clouds types who say “soccer player” or idol manager”) who have a real life plan. As such he has no clue what he wants to do with his life (which is actually perfectly fine). He proceeds to talk to just about everybody about this (it’s striking that everyone in Mob’s circle except himself is either at the very bottom or very top of the academic pyramid). But the most memorable conversation is with Reigen, and there will be a callback to it later in the episode.
The first exorcism case (Serizawa is the new face at Spirits & Such, and getting the rookie treatment from Reigen) is a guy who paid ¥80000 for ¥500 statue which turns out to be infested with an actual curse. Reigen is in full bullshitter mode here of course (his natural state), but Serizawa has no trouble exorcising the doll, In the process he does break off one of its arms (still believing it to be worth ¥80000) which prompts Reigen to pull out a secret move – “Rice Grain Big Bang” – to repair it, much to Serizawa’s amazement.
Meanwhile, the giant broccoli outside of town has only increased interest in the Psycho Helmet cult, which has not escaped Mezato-san’s (or Dimple’s) notice. Mob remains singularly uninterested in the impact his powers have on people like this, though that can obviously only continue for so long, Another case comes in, this one somewhat meatier – a guy who’s blaming everything in his miserable life on an evil spirit when in reality, he’s cursing himself. While Reigen does unveil his “Hydrogen Water Mist” finishing move, this time around it takes both Mob and Serizawa to clear the air.
Both Mob and Serizawa find this case hitting a little too close to home – which you can sort of understand in Serizawa’s case, but with Mob is really just tragic. For a 14 year-old to be so terrified of making a mistake that will curse his life is not really that unusual, but still rather heartbreaking. Mob may be only 190/360 in the class rankings, but he’s special in ways beyond his esper powers – he understands things people are happier going through life oblivious to. This all builds up to one more conversation between Mob and Reigen, where the latter tells his protege that the only thing he needs to worry about is doing whatever he wants.
As always, it’s in the quiet moments between these two phenomenal characters that Mob Psycho 100 shines brightest. See, Reigen telling Mob that he was kidding earlier about Spirits & Such being his career path is perfectly logical and believable – but he’s 100% lying here. Reigen will say and do anything for Mob, in the end – not for personal gain but simply out of empathy and decency. He’s seriously bummed to hear Mob say his future lies elsewhere, but he’s not going to let Mob see that at a time when he’s clearly vulnerable. Mob’s wisdom in seeing the danger in cocooning himself with Reigen, and the fundamental paradox of Reigen’s nature – a complete scam artist and self-promoter who’s an absolute mensch when the chips are down – this is Mob Psycho 100 at its absolute best. And that best is about as good as anime gets.