Arts anime review

‘Mob Psycho 100’ and the problem of being a hero

A middle school esper deals with his psychic powers

Mob Psycho 100 II
Studio Bones
Jan. 7, 2019
13 episodes

Winter 2019 is off to a great start with anime series like Yakusoku no Neverland, Dororo, and of course, Mob Psycho 100 II. This is the first of many articles ahead in The Tech’s new anime column, reviewing seasonal anime and discussing anime trends and culture. We’ll be talking solely about the first three episodes of Mob Psycho 100 Season Two to avoid spoiling more recent episodes, but if you haven’t seen the first season, we recommend you do so now. Inevitable spoilers ahead.

Shigeo Kageyama, also known as Mob, is no One Punch Man. Mob is an unremarkable 14-year-old boy: he has a bowl cut, a crush on a girl in his class, an inability to speak about his feelings, and, did I forget, he is an esper who works for the con artist (with a heart of gold) Reigen Arataka to exorcise spirits with his psychic abilities. We open to a second season of episodic monster-of-the-week stories mixed with slice-of-life moments.

In spite of Mob’s insane psychic abilities, the anime never forgets to include his regular life as well. We see his daily struggles as a middle school student: fitting in, talking to his crush, and being a good person. These scenes are sprinkled all throughout the first few episodes, reminding us that Mob is just as much a regular middle schooler as he is an exorcist.

I could talk extensively about how much I love Mob Psycho 100, its characterization, its subtle satire of the shonen genre, but its winning attribute is Studio Bones’s stellar animation work. They even brought in a paint-on-glass animation specialist to animate some of the spirits in Season One and the deceivingly simple ED (that we’re still jamming along to) featuring one of the character’s morning routines. Fight scenes are a visual feast of competing styles: from bright colors to sharp animation to rough sketch-like linework, the show knows how it wants to translate this story from manga to animation and how to tell this story with the greatest emotional impact. The attention paid to fight choreography, animation style, and film angle is a sight to behold as the series blends different genres into one.

A simple comparison in the animation style from the first two episodes in Season Two makes this clear. In the first, Mob fights the parasitic spirit Wriggle Wriggle, a crazed hurricane composed of multiple plant roots, animated with frenzied “camera motion” and low angle shots, illustrated in the rural browns and bright oranges of a farmer’s fields. The second fight resembles a scene from a horror film with its dark, monochromatic color palette and sharply jagged linework — Mob and another esper fight the urban legend Dragger, a slit-mouthed woman who drags her victims into the forest to kill them.

The anime often subverts shonen tropes, but when it does embrace shonen staples like epic fight scenes, the animation makes them really worth it. Mob Psycho 100 is an anime without much focus on particular villains. Mob’s greatest enemy is his own timidity because he knows that his psychic powers won’t help him get physically stronger or earn the attention of his crush. He rectified this during the first season by joining the Body Improvement Club, a group of muscular jocks who are not bullies but Mob’s greatest supporters, and it’s no different this season. Mob jogs and exercises with them, and they help him discover his own strength and stand by him against the real bullies. Reigen and the green spirit Dimple both protect Mob through their selfishness but also respect and care for Mob as a person.

As we transition into the show’s second season, the animation team still shows signs of these delightful characters and simple themes. One episode, in particular, caught our attention with its focus on Mob’s relationships with his schoolmates, providing a more intimate look on our protagonist. The show’s general humanity and moralistic, pacifistic outlook are refreshing in a genre of anime that focuses on power-ups over real character growth, epic fight scenes over mundane, everyday life, and the supernatural instead of the real. This season is shaping up to be an exciting sequel to the first one.

Watch new episodes of Mob Psycho 100 II on Crunchyroll.

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