A topic that has continued to live strong into 2016 is that of the superhero. We already have our fair share of heroes with strong personalities who yell their feelings before landing punches, as well as antiheroes tired of the establishment, humanity, or whatever, and now we have unassuming ones who take on evil with blank expressions. Their motivations are unbelievably simple and the results of their actions anti-climatic. The shows I’m referring to are One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100, both of which are the creations of mangaka One.
I already spoke about OPM in last year’s 12 Days of Anime since it wrapped up the previous December, but I must bring it up again due to the similarities with Mob Psycho 100 which aired this past summer. The hype for OPM was huge, filling my blog and Twitter feeds, and I saw countless people cosplaying it at the last Sakura-Con. With the same creator and the proximity to OPM’s anime release, I thought MP100 would be a much bigger deal than it turned out to be. There were the occasional positive responses here and there, but the reaction was smaller than I had expected. Perhaps viewers thought the premise and tone too similar, or the focus on Espers instead of superheroes draws a smaller demographic of viewers. Either way, I actually found MP100 more engaging–and I love OPM.
I think what draws me most to Mob’s story is the type of supernatural abilities involved. While psychics are present in both One works, here we also have harmless and malignant spirits who inhabit the world. Mob’s multiple confrontations with spirits, like the motorcycle gang and Dimple, perfectly introduced his character to the audience. His nonchalant interactions and exorcisms revealed his deep pool of ability, while his repeated mantra of never using his powers on humans proved his quality. As effortlessly cool as Kageyama Shigeo “Mob” was when on the job, he still struggled with the typical high school problem of popularity. All the self control he imposed on his emotions to prevent his powers from running rampant also affect his everyday interactions at school and elsewhere.
This constant choke on his emotions is displayed to us as an actual percentage. The higher the number, the closer Mob is to exploding in power. There’s something effortlessly fun with seeing titles and numbers splash across the screen, and that’s no different here. Each time Mob stepped closer to his limit, I felt my own tension rise accordingly.
While the majority of the rise in Mob’s levels can be attributed to nastier confrontations with ill-intentioned spirits and bullies, we occasionally see an increase reflected from his daily interactions with his employer, Reigen Arataka. This self-proclaimed master of the occult is actually a master con-artist. He tricks the gullible with his skills of exorcism, most of which are actually handled by Mob. As one-sided as Reigen’s and Mob’s relationship seems to be, there’s an honest affection between the two. We see Reigen repeatedly display genuine concern for the well being of his “pupil,” despite knowing Mob’s capability to care for himself. He understands surprisingly well that Mob cares more for others than himself, and that any pain he might inflict on humans will hurt him emotionally doubly so.
Another relationship that shapes our protagonist and the story is Mob’s younger brother. Ritsu has everything that Mob does not: popularity, good looks, and athleticism. Yet he lacks the one quality he desires most, psychic powers. Where Mob suppresses his emotions, Ritsu disguises his. The two of them are interesting studies in their methods of handling their feelings and desires. When the two finally come face to face with everything laid bare, we are brought to the final arc of the anime in an incredibly satisfying series of events that rewards our time spent with Mob through all his previous ridiculous encounters and life lessons.
Mob Psycho 100 was a surprising gift from this past year that I highly recommend to others, whether or not they are anime fans or have seen One-Punch Man. The anime’s high production quality is apparent in the flamboyant style of art, characterizations, and story writing. I will undoubtedly watch it again and again.