「モブ③ ～トラウマ～」 (Mobu San ~Torauma~)
“Mob 3 ~Trauma~”
As we butt right up against the end of this amazing journey, of course there’s a sense of melancholy that goes along with that. But for me it’s tempered by the fact that Mob Psycho 100 could hardly have been treated more kindly by anime. It’s received a complete adaptation, with very little skipped (or added). Every minute has been under the auspices of one of anime’s iconic studios in Bones. And most of them have been under the supervision of Tachikawa Yuzuru, the greatest director of his generation and clearly someone who loves and understands the material. A fan of the series could hardly dream of more. Mob Psycho – and we – have been very lucky.
At that, ONE has chosen a very complicated and difficult way to close the story. This is not pretty, what’s happening to Mob – not for him, not for those who love him (both on-screen and in the audience). MP100 is as it’s alway been, a chronicle of Shigeo’s adolescence and struggle with identity. It’s always been that, even as it’s veered between intimate and sometimes comic personal stories and sweeping action blockbusters. What ONE has done here of course is choose the path that unites those two tributaries – the two more or less distinct faces of the series coming together as it nears its end. And for obvious reasons, that seems both ironic and entirely appropriate.
The good will Mob has built up over his life – not by pandering, but simply by being who he is – comes back to him now, as everyone who cares for him tries to come to his aid despite the obvious danger. Teru gave it his all last week, a sweeping conclusion to his arc (but hopefully not his life – he’ll make it). Others are on their way – Ritsu and even the bros from the Body Improvement Club. But before they arrive the stage belongs to Touichirou – and to his son Shou, who arrives to help the father who’s rarely been much help to him (especially in the existential sense).
When Touichirou was last rampaging across the screen I noted that he was a perfect foil for Mob – a big bad who was opposite him as an esper in every meaningful way. As well that “there was surely a bigger big bad on the way”. And that bigger bad – the top boss – of course turned out to be Shigeo himself. Though not Mob, crucially – that’s an important distinction. There’s a nice symmetry to the former big bad doing battle against the current one, and this fight is yet another display of what Bones can do when they really give a show their all. But what’s really striking is just how much of a mismatch this is – even with Tou and Shou pooling their strength. They’re just no match for ???. No one is. And that’s very much the point.
This struggle ends very unconventionally, as you’d expect from Mob Psycho 100. Touichirou is prepared to sacrifice himself by becoming a vessel for ???’s overwhelming power, draining him dry but blowing himself out in the process. But in the end, he can’t – he may have been a supervillain, but in the end he’s a human being. Touichirou assesses what he has to live for and chooses not to die – perhaps a cowardly act, depending on how charitable you’re feeling, but a perfectly understandable one. The struggle going on inside his opponent – rooted in the desire not to kill the father and son – gives them an opening to flee the field, leaving ??? as a problem for someone else to solve. If anyone can…
It’s the bros who get to Mob next, but while their courage and loyalty is above reproach, they have absolutely no idea what they’re up against. Fortunately for them Ritsu – who more than anyone else knows exactly what they’re up against – is just behind them, close enough to yet again prevent a ???-instigated tragedy. Ritsu was present when this happened before – when he and Mob would attacked by bullies, and ??? made an appearance that effectively scarred Mob for life. That incident (among other things) caused Mob to seal away part of himself totally, and caused Ritsu to live in a constant state of fear about what could always happen. And that’s really tragic, given how much he loves his brother.
There’s absolutely a measure of FLCL-style symbolism to all this – the latent power inside Mob to an extent represents exactly what it did with Naota. But ONE certainly charts his own course here. Ritsu agonizes over Mob having to suffer alone, and realizes that he developed powers himself specifically because he wanted to be able to rescue Mob in his inevitable hour(s) of need. But the sad truth is this – Mob is always going to have to suffer alone. No one else bears the responsibility he does. He’s suppressed a very real and essential part of himself in order to cope, but that comes at a cost. ??? is like a 9.0 earthquake, the result of psychic energy having built up over years of having no way to release itself incrementally. When the moment finally comes, it truly is seismic – and catastrophic.
Ritsu does everything he can do, but he too is dust in the wind that is ???. Ritsu’s attempt to shock Mob into awareness by destroying the flowers causes ??? to erect a giant tornado around himself, throwing Ritsu clear. And inside we finally see the full extent of what’s happening here. ??? claims to be the real Kageyama Shigeo, and Mob the imposter – the one whose elimination would finally allow “Shigeo” to be liberated (in Touchirou’s words). This is the nut of the problem – Mob has tried to build an artificial wall between the two of them, to pretend this part of him didn’t exist. And truthfully, what else could he have done? But it was always doomed to fail – he can’t escape who he is, even with his limitless resources of kindness and empathy. What’s the way out of this closed room – for Mob, and for ONE?
How can Mob reconcile ??? being him – and how can he go on as a functioning member of society even if he does? I see no easy way forward here, but one has to be found in the final 22 minutes. And at the end of all things it was always going to be Reigen who stood next to Mob on the precipice of Mount Doom – how could it be anyone else? Reigen may not understand ??? like Ritsu does but he understands Mob like no one else. In Reigen’s lonely, shallow existence it was meeting Mob that changed everything – that allowed the nobler side of himself that was always there next to the bullshitter to walk into the light. What Mob has done for him – allow him to reconcile his conflicted self and move forward – it’s Reigen and only Reigen who can repay in kind.