「通信中② ～未知との遭遇～」 (Tsuushinchū Ni ~Michi to no Sougū~)
“~Encountering the Unknown~”
I gotta say, that was the strangest episode of Mob Psycho 100 in three seasons AFAIC. Unexpected, too – though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. I mean, in a setting where telekinesis and telepathy and giant gestalt broccoli are real, well – why not space aliens? I guess for me those things aren’t as outlandish as this was. They’re not real but they’re grounded in reality, and they exist as a means to further develop the cast. This – this was just out there, straight sci-fi. Though not exactly the sober and drily intellectual kind.
Now, looking back on it, I’m still not sure whether this episode was incredibly brilliant or just incredibly weird. Even the visuals were a big left turn. At times a staggering avalanche of huge frame rates and movement, at times hazy and indistinct. I believe that part was quite intentional, which would take me in the “brilliant” direction. It was dreamlike, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it was supposed to feel like. It actually reminded me of an episode of Space Dandy, another Bones series where experimentation rules the day.
This whole alien thing, starting from the cliffhanger last week, had the feeling of a narrative Trojan horse. The first half of this week was building on that theme, presenting this is the most grounded of Mob Psycho plotlines, a straight-ahead tale of adolescent imagination indulged. The drive up Mud Boat Mountain was eventful for the most mundane of reasons – Mob getting carsick, nervous driver Reeigen missing the turnoff for the hiking trail, Tome being increasingly sullen and difficult. Eventually everyone gets lost on the mountain after Kijibayashi and Mob go off to take a piss, and Reigen only manages to find the trail after considable time-wasting meandering in the woods.
Tome still doesn’t believe Takenaka is a telepath, and has a bug up her butt about the boys basically doing all this as a lark at her expense. Which, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. Eventually he convinces her the obvious way – by reading her thoughts – and things turn in a heartwarming direction. Even after Takenaka (who was late because he stayed up late researching) admits that the author of the book with the alien-summoning spell went to jail for fraud. It’s all very “the friends we made along the way”, with Reigen playing the role of wise but respectfully detached adult mentor to a T.
Except the spell works. Which, you know, I kind of suspected it might, even if I did call this a surprising turn. There are aliens – they’re pink and translucent with huge hypnotic eyes – and they have a spaceship with a tractor beam. There is a language barrier but Takenaka’s juju seems to work on them too. Eventually the kids are beamed up, and even Reigen lets himself be drawn in. And it seems very much like what we have here are alien middle schoolers – they certainly act like it. And it’s implied they’re all girls, too, which will play a significant role later on. Games are played, snacks are shared, gifts are exchanged, everyone hangs and shoots the shit till morning in true pubescent fashion while a bemused Reigen lounges in an alien beanbag chair and frets about mundane things.
Thus, we have our second heartwarming “Afterschool Special” head-fake of the episode, because the aliens decide they’re going to keep Inukawa. Who, without Takenaka there to translate, has no way to communicate with his captors (hosts?). And, if I read the signals right, they basically drug and molest him. All this gives us a quite magnificently imaginative and beautifully executed look at the aliens’ world, and it all seems convivial enough on the surface. Inukawa exterminates the aliens’ arch-enemy and becomes a hero, and eventually manages to communicate his desire to go home – and if nothing else, the aliens do return him apparently in one piece, if now spoiled for marriage.
There’s a lot I could be asking here (like whether the others were trying to get Inukawa back or anything, and how long he was gone). But I get the sense I’m not supposed to be asking. This was the sort of episode you almost expect to be told was actually just a dream, except it seems to have actually happened. The reason this tips towards genius rather than just random for me is the way that very sense is communicated by the writing and the art, working in perfect synch. Absent any reason to do otherwise I’ll look at this mini-arc as a one-off, a Bird solo in the middle of a performance of “Night in Tunisia”. It may not fit seamlessly with the rest of the series, but it was a fascinating detour to be sure.