「モブ② ～ライバル～」 (Mobu Ni ~Raibaru~)
“Mob 2 ~Rival~”
As Mob Psycho 100 transitions into its final act, it turns – inevitably – to a battle episode hot the heels of its most bittersweet and character-driven outing of the season. That’s always a bit of a danger moment for me, because I tend to love this series more in the latter mode than the former (not that it doesn’t do both exceptionally well). But while this has all the trappings of a blockbuster action finale, there are some different-y things about it that stamp this development as anything but run-of-the-mill spectacle.
There were a couple of different ways ONE could have gone with what he did at the end of Episode 9. Mob being dead wasn’t one of them – that was just never an option. I speculated in the comments that perhaps a head injury would make him lose his powers, forcing him to confront whether he’d be happier with or without them. I actually think that would have been a fascinating way to go, and probably led to a quiet and introspective conclusion. But he’s gone 180 degrees in the other direction – and not without some precedent.
We’ve seen this side of Mob – canonically referred to as “???” – before a few times, but never fully unleashed as it is here. As best we know it’s the manifestation of Mob’s psychic powers – distilled and corporealized. Without the limiters of Mob’s seemingly limitless kindness and empathy. And that, friends, is a terrifying thought for good reason. Why did ??? come out here, after the accident? At this point we can only speculate, but perhaps the jarring to Mob’s brain effectively put his conscious self into a coma, leaving ??? unchained. Or perhaps it acted to preserve Mob’s brain from the trauma, and if it hadn’t he’d have died on the scene. We just don’t know (yet).
Seen in its unchained form for the first time, this is a terrifying entity indeed. ??? destroys everything it touches – even its footsteps are destructive and explosive. ???-Mob walks through the city, Tsubomi’s bouquet in hand, leaving a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. It’s actually quite sad watching him clutch those flowers protectively, but whatever of Mob is in there is doing nothing to check this power. What it actually reminded me of, in fact, was a cantus monster from Shin Sekai Yori – probably a Karma Demon more than a Fiend, given that the former are less in control of their power. Those were some terrifying creatures indeed – which gives you an idea of how scary ??? is.
The real star of this episode is Teru, in fact. He’s Salt City’s first line of defense against ???, though for Teru this is really about trying to help a friend in need. Sensing what’s happening he goes to the scene immediately, and he thinks he understands what he’s facing. He doesn’t, but he obviously wouldn’t have backed down anyway. Teru tries to reason with ???, to reach the boy trapped inside (and eventually sort of does) but this is not a being to be reasoned with. Teru takes a terrible beating, including his hair – ONE seems to take a special joy in beating the crap out of this kid and leaving him bald.
Maybe Teru slows down ???-Mob a little, but his main victory is in saving the civilians who would have been pulverized in the backwash of ???’s attacks on him. Teru is truly heroic here – and lucky to be alive – and he’s 100% right about Mob being trapped in there, crying. A few of Mob’s friends start to notice something familiar in the scenes of devastation which show up online, and finally Reigen himself does. He’s not going to passively watch from the sidelines now that he knows Mob is in trouble, but for now the one facing Mob is an old enemy, the former head of CLAW Suzuki Touichirou (yes, that was Inoue Kazuhiko and Miki Shinichirou in the same episode) – part of a despatch of criminal espers being parachuted in to deal with the threat.
I’m sure we’ll get our big showdown, but what really interests me is what’s going to happen after. There’s going to be a reckoning for this – both from society and Mob’s conscience. Whether anyone has died or not there’s huge damage, and there will be no mistaking the identity of the one responsible. If ??? is inside him, is Mob someone it’s safe to allow to walk around free? But as big a worry as that is, I’m even more concerned about how Mob will find a way to forgive himself. How can this sweet, inestimably kind boy live with the reality of what he’s done – and equally, what he might do?
That’s the real genius – and cruelty – of this direction ONE has taken for the final arc. All the hard work Mob went through to learn to accept and love himself may fly out the window now that he’s had a harsh reminder of what it means to be who he is. It’s hard to imagine a more painful thing for Mob to go through, so ONE has a big challenge in finding a way out of this box and delivering an ending for him that’s not downbeat and depressing. I’m putting a lot of trust in ONE here, but if any writer has proved they deserve it, he has with this series. I feel certain he was always planning to end things here, and knows exactly how to get where he needs to go.