Mob Psycho 100 Season One (Cert 15)
4 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 291 minutes approx
“With great power comes great responsibility” has become a mantra for superheroes and people who have been born with special gifts ever since it was first proffered in Spider-Man comics nearly 60 years ago. While some don’t listen, others take it to heart and try to suppress their powers for fear of losing control.
Like Shigeo Kageyama, a school boy with psychic abilities so immense he avoids getting over-emotional in case he unleashes his power and creates havoc, hence his permanently saturnine, inexpressive face. But Shigeo, aka Mob, does use his ability in small doses working for Arataka Reigen, a self-professed psychic (but apparent charlatan) investigating the paranormal, exorcising spirits for a measly 300 yen an hour.
As Mob’s master, Reigen has instilled in him that using psychic powers on humans is wrong and it’s okay to walk away from a fight, adding further gravity to Mob distancing himself from others. But as other Espers embrace and abuse their abilities Mob finds his emotional level tested – when it gets to 100%, all hell breaks loose.
Created by the pseudonymous ONE, who also gave us One Punch Man, the theme of the reluctant hero is continued in Mob Psycho 100 but approached from an entirely different angle. Whereas Saitama, the protagonist of One-Punch Man, achieved his power through relentless training his strength is a natural phenomenon he can’t control; Mob is born with something unusual and can control it, to a point at least.
It is a given there will be comparisons made between the two shows, the shared creator being the least of them with ONE’s distinctive art style and esoteric ideas inviting them from the onset. That both Mob and Saitama sport hangdog expressions and stare blankly at us with their large simply drawn eyes is another indicator but this is no different from Matt Groening’s catalogue of instantly recognisable characters across numerous shows.
But it ends there. The wacky adventures of Mob essentially form a coming-of-age tale of a young lad entering adolescence with a strange ability prohibiting him from interacting with others on the same level as “normal” teens. He has a childhood crush in Tsubomi that he can’t confess to, but a flashback reveals she grew bored of his powers many years ago, suggesting she is either flighty or might possibly like Mob for who he is.
We may never know as Mob is preoccupied with working with Reigen and facing the challenge from other Espers. Two of Mob’s conquests become future allies – evil spirit Dimple, a sort of articulate and suave distant cousin of Slimer from Ghosbusters, who possesses people, and Teruki “Teru” Hanazawa, a cocky heartthrob in need of a lesson in humility and in choosing a suitable wig (you really have to see this one for yourself).
Mob’s greatest challenge however comes from his younger brother Ritsu, a quiet lad normally sympathetic to his brother’s dilemma, Ritsu is secretly upset at his own lack of psychic abilities. This changes when Dimples possesses Ritsu’s body, awakening the latent powers within him which Ritsu can’t wait to capitalise on unlike Mob. This showing off leads to a case of mistaken identity as an evil Esper organisation called Claw think Ritsu is Mob and capture him.
For the first few episodes an overarching storyline isn’t a prominent factor but this doesn’t mean ONE relies on random, soon to be forgotten silliness to keep us occupied until then. The narrative may flow unevenly and taken in some pit stops that might feel undercooked but reading the subtext, it is clear this is stealth world building to put Mob’s conflicted mindset into perspective through the expectations of others.
An invitation to join the flailing Telepathy Club at school that ends with Mob’s enrolment in the Body Improvement instead shows us psychic powers does not equate to being superhuman; Mob has no sporting prowess, intellectual advantage or adroit finesse at all – he is a normal teen who can bend spoons, cause heavy objects to levitate and exorcise ghosts.
The satirical underbelly of this show is focused on Japanese life as much as the hero genre, more shared DNA with One Punch Man, this time the tropes of high school on the end of a bespoke ONE make-over. Mob, Reigen, Dimples and Ritsu may be the main “stars” of the show, but the support caste are hardly forgettable ballast, even those that barely register on the radar.
Whether it is Mob’s parents, the Student Council, the feared delinquent, Reigen’s clients or the villains of Claw, each one represents a sector of society or life in general, the lampooning of whom provides a trenchant commentary on the foibles and failings of modern Japan that is recognisable to us gaijin too. By making Mob the least ridiculous character he is the most relatable in highlighting the pros and cons of being different.
It is this sardonic approach, coupled with the unique subversive Japanese humour that makes these capers hugely amusing, whether the gags are subtle or overtly gregarious. Surrealism is another integral facet, mostly in the presentation – a fast paced barrage of visual wackiness routinely flitting between standard animation, pencil sketched stills, abstract paintings, and retina burning psychedelia. It’s as raucous and unsettling as it sounds yet befitting to the madness of the story it is telling.
Perhaps its most astute asset is in understanding the manic humour and visual bombast isn’t always sustainable thus it takes the odd moment to calm down and give everything a chance to breath. But this doesn’t mean dull, the cast are engaging and the world is rich enough that even the slightest distraction has something to say.
By the time Mob Psycho 100 reaches the final episode you’ll forget the One Punch Man connection and realise that ONE has done it again, delivering a sublime wrecking ball of a show that entertains, provokes and tantalises the eyeballs. I don’t need to be psychic to know you’ll love this one!
English Language 5.1 True HD
Japanese Language 2.0 True HD
Disc 2 Only:
Mob Psycho Mini x 6 episodes
Textless Closing Song – “Refrain Boy”
Rating – **** ½
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