Yes, I really went there.
The more time passes, the more clear it becomes to me that I am a lone man on a lone island who people can’t hear because they’re too busy jerking off to the latest “best girl”, a term that has become about as meaningless as the word “Final Fantasy”. Pretty much every anime fan that matters seems to have watched one of the brightest gems to have come from the Japanese animation market since the one from last season, but I watched an anime that I would have only considered going back to in five years is if I was stranded on an island with nothing but this show and a bunch of ecchi crap to pass the time with before my laptop ran out of batteries. I think similar to Re:Zero, a big part of my problem with Mob Psycho 100 is that I’m not an anime nerd. Every single praise I’ve seen for this show always glorifies the “nerd” stuff, with the only one I appreciate being the actual animation. Unfortunately, most animation nerds seem to judge the art based on the actual technical quality or the style whilst I judge it based on what emotions are successfully conveyed through the art and I have high standards when it comes to emotions. For starters, the emotions that the characters cannot be
dripped in defined by nerdiness.
Mob Psycho 100 is the latest manga adaptation from ONE, author of the hit webcomic-turned-anime series, One-Punch Man, and brought to life with the production values from Bones and the directorial talent of that guy who made Death Parade that only smarmy elitists would remember the name of. Unlike the instant hit of what’s apparently the best superhero series in a year where every single medium was trying to cash in on the boom, Mob Psycho initially churned out a mixed response for its artsy visual style (because apparently, the anime community is composed of nothing but teenagers who misuse the word “pretentious”) and had to win people’s hearts the hard way aka by keeping a consistent quality and going through heavy promotion from all the big-name nerds. Obviously it succeeded, because the show quickly rose up in popularity to the point that it’s considered amazing, let alone the best anime of the summer. Definitely going to be showing up on many top whatever anime lists by the time this year ends. And obviously I have to stomp on some sycophantic heads, because the word “amazing” is not something you want to throw around lightly in regards to anime. It’s something you should only reserve for something that’d be in your top 40, or more accurately, your top 20.
It’s no secret that a large part of why people paid attention to Mob Psycho at the very start (for good or for bad) is because of its visual style, which in a community that’s getting increasingly sakuga-obsessed is like posting a Youtube video on the Net for all those losers who still think “lolcats” is funny. The real draw though comes from Mob himself, a psychic boy who uses his powers for a local con man in order to make money whilst trying to rely on skills that us powerless humans have to get by in his every day life, despite him being as athletic and social as a donkey in the middle of this year’s dragon-hatching festival. Whether you prefer One-Punch Man or this show, you’d be hard-pressed to deny that Mob is a much more relatable character than Saitama considering he actually “can” fail and has goals in life, even if said goals are pretty standard for the superpower genre and teenagers as a whole. Become more social. Join a club. Win over that attractive girl who doesn’t have any physical screen time. Take care of your younger brother. Defeat a bunch of evil psychic-users. We’ve all been there before. Okay, not so much the psychic-user part, but shut up. I’m trying to make a point.
Of course, Mob Psycho probably could have helped alleviate the negativity from the non-sakuga crowd if it had established a more clear direction at the start. The show’s primary genre is shonen comedy, and like most American sitcoms and Shonen Jump products, it has a bit of trouble working out the quirks and the characters early on because the writers are either experimenting to see what sticks or are looking so far ahead that they forget that there’s no time like the present. The first episode in particular is completely divorced from the overall plot and only exists to establish who Mob and his boss are, which could have easily been accomplished in a way that didn’t involve that goddamn “salt splash” meme and only exists because ONE is just that quirky. And the rest of the first half mostly just exists to introduce new characters whilst spouting out lessons regarding how psychic powers should not be used for evil, which could have only been more cliched if they added “thou must not kill” into the mix. Not that you have to worry about anyone dying, because ONE’s works run on toon physics and thus getting hit with a Kamehameha is the equivalent of getting hit with a girl’s megaton punch. Still hurts mind you, but you’ll live.
One of the things you have to keep in mind with Mob Psycho is that a large part of your enjoyment will come from how much you can get into its unique brand of humor. A guy I know who’s really into the show claims that it’s basically Earthbound: The Anime, and without game play to back it up, Earthbound doesn’t have much to its narrative beyond the fact that the protagonists are a bunch of kids who name their pets “Vagina” and fight weird-looking aliens with frying pans and sticks of butter presumably shoved up the ass. As such, even when we get more of an overall plot later on and the storytelling improves, the actual story doesn’t grow along with them. All that happens when Mob’s brother takes his “why does my nii-san get the powers and I don’t” jealousy too far and other psychic users get in the mix is test Mob’s resolution regarding when it’s acceptable to use his powers to hurt people, as well as provide more convenient excuses for Bones to show off their visual prowess. This does lead to a kinda funny final resolution that’s been getting some flak for its anti-climactic nature, but that just goes to show how much Mob needs to make you laugh in order to work.
Personally, whilst it got a smile from me every now and then, I don’t recall ever flat-out laughing at anything Mob Psycho did. If this show was an American cartoon, it’d be more alone the lines of something like The Amazing World of Gumball or current-day Adventure Time rather than something like Steven Universe or The Loud House. Okay, Steven Universe isn’t exactly a riot either, but the point is that at the end of the day, Mob Psycho feels like a Japanese version of one of the lesser cartoons on Cartoon Network rather than the amazingly brilliant ones. As I said, the animation is awesome, but so is The Loud House’s, and most people wouldn’t call that show the revival of Nick’s animation block just based on that. All of the morals Mob Psycho imparts are too universal to be hard-hitting unless you have low standards and want to ignore all the evolution that superpower stories and animation in general have accomplished in the last few years. And whilst they’re all executed well, there’s a limit to how much good execution can achieve when your elements are only slight less base than a Ridley Scott film.
It also doesn’t help that by the end of the show, nothing really changes other than a few characters not taking psychic powers quite for granted, which is about as progressive as a harem story that ends with the main character slaying a dragon. Sure it would make him come off as less of a loser, but it doesn’t help in choosing a girl unless they’re repulsed by the smell of dragon guts. Mob is still living his life the way he wants to, everyone else’s plotlines get resolved cleanly, and it ends on a cliffhanger foreshadowing a Noragami Aragoto-esque sequel that isn’t guaranteed to deliver on the same level that Aragoto did. Oh, and there’s a two-minute skit at the end that’s completely irrelevant to the plot and only exists because Bones realized they had a few extra minutes left to animate and let ONE do whatever the hell he wanted. It wasn’t the least bit funny, so let’s not dwell on it, shall we?
I definitely wouldn’t call Mob Psycho 100 boring. But there’s no denying that as far as superpower/psychic stories are concerned, it still plays in the kiddy pool regarding how to handle its elements, and there’s nothing in it that makes me want to buy the blu-rays when they eventually come out. It’s just a “fun” show at the end of the day, and Bones has proven in the recent past that they’re capable of so much more than that, so I’m not sure why I should be satisfied when this is all they have to offer. I’m already looking forward to putting this show behind me after I finish this review. Got to free up some room in the excitement chamber for Luke Cage, bruhs.
- Should probably actually play more than fifteen minutes of Earthbound sometime in this life.
- Does anyone even remember the name name of Mob’s mostly non-existent love interest?