「神樹① ～教祖登場～」 (Shinju Ichi ~Kyouso Tōjou~)
” ~The Founder Appears~”
After three pretty sedate episodes (which is a MP100 mode I love) the final season finally shifts into action gear this week. That said, it’s the sort of action that’s still character-driven. For the first time since the very beginning of the series, we’re seeing Ekubo in full-on antagonist mode. He’s always been the most opaque figure among the main cast, even allowing for how complicated ONE’s characters are. At various times Dimple has seemed like a sidekick or a mascot, and he’s even been an ally in combat. But he’s still a very powerful spiritual being who has a worldview (and view of himself) that stands in stark contrast to Shigeo’s.
Given the prominent role of cults in Japanese politics and their history of prompting societal trauma, one wonders if ONE isn’t making a point with the whole Psycho Helmet development. As with his powers themselves, one can only be glad that Mob is the sort of person who’s completely disinterested in what such an organization could offer him. The universe keeps trying to get Mob to be a threat, but he’s still too relentlessly himself to give in to it. Ekubo, though, is completely in his element here. Cults are the essence of his game, and a ready-made opportunity like this is simply too tempting to pass up.
Putting myself in his shoes (if he had feet), I think Dimple is probably pissed off that he was offering a partnership in something so great to Mob, and he was just not into it. That rejection probably hurt and angered him, and it certainly hardened his resolve to show Mob was a loser he was for sitting this one out. Ekubo efficiently rolls into action, branding himself as the “true founder” of the Psycho Helmets and brainwashing the populace of Seasoning City with “Divine Tree Powder“. He’s also sucking so much spiritual power from the broccoli that it has to send its root system far and wide, sucking the nutrients right out from under the native plant population.
This, naturally, attracts a lot of attention – starting with Teruki. Realizing what’s happening (at least the tip of the broccoli) he resolves to eliminate the tree, but that proves a lot harder than he imagined. Teruki ends up inside the Divine Tree facing off with the true founder – and getting brainwashed by him. It says a lot of Teruki’s spiritual power that he’s able to fight off Ekubo’s brainwashing not once but twice, but eliminating this enemy proves beyond him. Dimple’s new body – needed to give the followers something to focus on – keeps regenerating itself every time Teruki tees it up.
Reigen has noticed what’s going on, too. He may be a fraud in the esper department but he’s no fool by any stretch, and he realizes that this is a huge problem both for his city and his business. He drafts Mob to help deal with the Divine Tree, and offers up a plan – have Mob uproot and carry it all the way to the ocean and dump it. Mob quickly surmises that might be a big much even for him as a solo job, so it’s resolved to draft Ritsu to help. Ritsu has noticed something weird going on, too – a lot of new believers at school, including in the student council.
That Ritsu falls under Ekubo’s spell (via divine candy) is 100% certain. There almost seems to be some kind of psychic information sharing going on too – maybe Ekubo is capable of pulling that off on a large scale now – since the entire town now seems to know what Shigeo and Reigen are up to. What the deal is with Reigen, that’s less clear. For a while he seems very much himself – the way he picked apart Mob for dismissing the true founder as a “fake” was extremely insightful. But after that his behavior starts to take on a very strange air, and Mob at least seems convinced that Reigen has fallen under the spell too (and this upsets him even more than Ritsu, because Mob just depends on Reigen that much.)
Mob facing off against Dimple solo in his current form would be a big challenge, even for him. Of course Teruki is still in there somewhere, and it seems as if Ekubo is unable to keep him under his spell for any length of time. Mob may the most powerful esper around but he still leans pretty heavily on Reigen for emotional support – and strategic planning besides. As such, this may be another big personal growth opportunity for Mob – something that’s very clearly becoming a theme of the season.