Mob Psycho 100 Review — The Bones of A Good Psychic Tale

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.

You talking to me, motherfucker?!

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.

I wish my brother looked up to me like this. Unfortunately, I was even lazier as a kid than I am now.

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?

This one is for all you fangirls.

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.

Minor Quips

  • 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?

18 responses to “Mob Psycho 100 Review — The Bones of A Good Psychic Tale

  1. <>

    It’s not that they can’t hear, it’s that they don’t care because they have different tastes really. You are a guy who for some reason watches anime without liking anime. That is bound to put you into a peculiar and somewhat lonely position. Also mentioning “best girls” in relationship with MP100 is really random.

    <>

    And problem two: you are a guy who writes a blog on the internet reviewing relatively obscure Japanese cartoons and you complain that everyone else likes what’s nerdy about them. Let that sink in. People likes them because there’s nerdy stuff in them, sure. Well duh. Most people who watch anime ARE nerds. I am. And since watching anime is a leisurely activity people don’t feel obligated to be somehow balanced in it like one might be when eating food. They watch what they instinctively like. Is it so surprising that nerds will then watch nerdy stuff? And also, can you really say something about it after declaring freakin’ Danganronpa 3 best anime of the season (I like Danganronpa too, mind you, but *come on*, that’s as nerdy and otaku as it gets! It has meta-humour, it’s self-deprecating, it’s full of an harem of girls most of which you can flirt with in the games, up and including the Gamer Moe Goddess Chiaki who’s basically a free space in the waifu bingo).

    • Sorry, my quotes were deleted ‘cos I used angle brackets, they were:

      1) 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”

      and

      2) For starters, the emotions that the characters cannot be dripped in nerdiness.

    • Also mentioning “best girls” in relationship with MP100 is really random.

      The first paragraph was mostly focused on poking fun at the general Anitwitter crowd and how most anime fans seem to think there are a lot of amazing anime out there, which would make their favorites lists really bloated if that were the case. Not Mob Psycho in general.

      And also, can you really say something about it after declaring freakin’ Danganronpa 3 best anime of the season

      Should I have said “DEFINED in nerdiness”? Yes, Danganronpa is meant to appeal to the otaku crowd, but it doesn’t let that define its entire existence. Same goes for Mob Psycho as well. I said in this review that most of Mob’s issues are relatable and that’s mostly what carries the show’s humor, especially during that anticlimactic finale that people seemed to have missed the point of (or they just didn’t think it was funny). The show falters when said issues aren’t driving the laughs like the last two minutes, but the show doesn’t reach that level all that often. I’m fully accepting of using cliches and “nerdism” as a general means to invite the average fan in, because the extreme alternative like with those Project Itoh movies’ usage of in medias res is kinda shit.

      Maybe my first paragraph gave the wrong idea, but my problem with Mob isn’t that it’s dripping with nerdiness (most of what’s nerdy about this show are shonen action tropes and the cool visuals). I don’t even mention anything related to nerdiness after that paragraph anyways. My problem with Mob is that it’s mostly just a fun time and Bones have succeeded in aiming higher just last year. So when that sort of show gets high acclaim and most of the reasoning resembles what anime fans these days like about K-On’s second season rather than something that truly makes Mob Psycho unique, I think it’s more interesting to peg it down. And even then, I mostly highlight Mob’s good stuff whilst putting a disclaimer that said good stuff isn’t good enough.

  2. To be fair though, there really hasn’t been much else this season, has there? The anime community has always been full of hype machines that churn out hype for a season and then subsequently die out. I’d much rather that people praise Mob Psycho than fucking Re:Zero.

    At the very least, it’s not as bad as Winter 2016, where there were other, way better shows out there that were airing, yet people were proclaiming that ERASED was anything but mediocre.

    While I agree with every point you make, it was still my favorite show of the season, though I haven’t yet watched Planetarian, and I have heard soft praise resonating from the dark corners of anime blogs.

    I think the root of the problem lies in the general anime community’s inability or unwillingness to consider shows’ quality beyond the season boundary that it aired in. Had Mob Psycho 100 come out in another season, it may not be getting the same response. Many shows get this treatment, and that’s due in part to short attention spans and how mainstream (or even non-mainstream) anime reviewers are “rewarded” for staying current, and only talking about shows that are coming out now.

    • Yeah, but 85th on MAL good? That’s almost on the same level as Rakugo when that ended. Sure I like Mob more than Rakugo, but the only reason I don’t like the latter is because I can’t get into the subject matter. I can see Mob getting to that level in the future with a second season now that all the setup is done, but as of right now, it just seems “promising”.

      Of course, I do like it more than One-Punch Man and that’s like 20th best anime of all-time, so meh.

      • You shouldn’t use MAL as a determination of quality until at least a year has passed since a show has aired (or at all, ever). Even then, it’s not always accurate, take Gintama for example. Since Gintama seasons are 50-200 episodes long, and in order for MAL to count your rating you have to watch a certain percentage of the show, only the people who like it enough to sit through it get to rate it.

        It isn’t just MAL, a lot of these review aggregation sites are just plain awful and should not be taken without more than a few grains of salt.

  3. Of course there was development and change. Mob now has actual friends, which is huge for someone that’s so subdued. He’s also taken actual steps to improve as a person, like joining the Body Improvement Club. That’s big, regardless.

    And I’d argue Mob is more poignant than most of the superpower shows nowadays, despite their “evolution”. It’s not a high bar, though(few accomplish anything, to be honest). I’d argue that Mob Psycho is at least pretty great, and worth praising. It is, indeed, the Japanese equivalent “high tier” Cartoon Network show. It doesn’t only rely on humor to be entertaining: I enjoyed Mob’s progression as a person and the animation(the former more so than the latter).

    • Mob now has actual friends

      Aside from the body builder club, who are mostly jokes, I don’t think he hangs out with anyone all that often.

      And I’d argue Mob is more poignant than most of the superpower shows nowadays

      I said last year. Not nowadays. Also, that comment was directed towards OPM. Not Mob.

      It is, indeed, the Japanese equivalent “high tier” Cartoon Network show

      At best, it seems more like the first season of a future “high tier” CN show that’s still trying to find its footing like most sitcoms do.

      It doesn’t only rely on humor to be entertaining: I enjoyed Mob’s progression as a person and the animation

      I never said “only”. And as I’ve said many times, I don’t enjoy character progression for its own sake. Too many bad anime try to use it as an excuse for existing and it’s excruciating.

      • Teru is also his friend(IIRC), and he got a better understanding of his little brother, too. The Body Building Club is actually important, at least to a point, despite their depiction. Kinda weird, but it’s true.

        OPM’s anime suffers from the issues with finding its footing, as the parts it was based on were pretty casual chapters. After all, it was just a hobby for ONE until it took off. It’s still a fun show, but its issues are real. I wish I could make that much money off of a hobby…

        I don’t agree with the last bit. I find it better than Steven Universe, for example. I relate to Mob a bit more, and think it’s funnier as well. I think it found its footing already. I dare say it’s funnier than Rick and Morty, but I never really like R&M all that much to begin with(I just know it’s seen as a high bar for some reason).

      • “Aside from the body builder club, who are mostly jokes, I don’t think he hangs out with anyone all that often.”
        Their comedic value doesn’t negate the tangible and positive impact they have on Mob and the people around them in general (also thinking of the delinquent guy, Onigawara). They rushed head first to save Mob’s ass after learning that he was kidnapped and showed respect and care for him despite the fact that he’s a total weakling. They’re his friends alright.

        “I don’t enjoy character progression for its own sake. Too many bad anime try to use it as an excuse for existing and it’s excruciating.”

        The thing is, Mob’s character progression is and has always been the whole point. Mob Psycho is a show that heavily relies on comedy, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a coming of age story first and foremost (which is like, the most standard premise under the sun in any given form of fiction). You even said yourself that one of the biggest draws of the series was Mob’s character, and his growth as a person was always gonna be a major part of the experience. It’s fine if you have no interest in those types of stories, but I’m not sure how that warrants criticism.

      • Not talking about Mob in particular, but I’m of the opinion that character progression needs to have an interesting point behind it to be enjoyable. Otherwise, you just get one of those identi-kit sports shows like Days or All Out all over again. Yes, Mob’s character arc is interesting, but I think it only got really unique in the final episode and the rest was more like Simon from Gurren Lagann (who I consider a baseline rather than a gold standard in regards to how to do characterization).

      • That makes sense. I probably wouldn’t qualify Mob’s progression during this season as a “gold standard” for character development either, if only because it’s merely the beginning of a really long journey that will last for the entirety of the series and whose most compelling aspects are yet to come.

        I suspect this might be a “Noragami Aragoto” kinda situation, if a season 2 ever happens.

    • I don’t agree with the last bit. I find it better than Steven Universe, for example. I relate to Mob a bit more, and think it’s funnier as well. I think it found its footing already. I dare say it’s funnier than Rick and Morty, but I never really like R&M all that much to begin with(I just know it’s seen as a high bar for some reason).

      That’s because your sense of humor seems to be more Eastern whilst mine is more Western. It’s not an uncommon thing for one person to favor one over the other. American comedies rarely air in Japanese theatres for example because they don’t like the self-deprecation that’s expected of the West.

      • I suppose. I didn’t like Nichijou’s humor, though, and Daily Lives of High School Boys had quite a few silent reactions on my end. I think I’m more in the middle. I just don’t care much for Rick and Morty as characters, so I don’t relate to them well enough to find their jokes funny. Something like that.

      • Relating to a character isn’t a requirement for me to find something funny on my end. I just need to find them funny. I mean when it comes to relatability, Mob has Morty (and most protagonists for that matter) beat hands down.

      • It’s not the only requirement, but I rarely found the jokes to be worth more than a chuckle, so it didn’t help that I didn’t care much for the characters.

  4. Speaking as someone that isn’t balls deep into anime and rather dislikes shounen, I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very mundane, almost FLCL type of plot about a coming of age and learning to accept just being normal and getting a handle on your emotions rather than an action show. It’s obvious from all the fights that Mob’s not going to physically lose, the tension’s never meant to come from not knowing whether the shounen protagonist will win the fight (protip, he will or he will eventually). What’s actually at stake is Mob’s emotional state and his ability to control his outbursts, his fears about the one thing he’s good at being irrelevant. He’s relatable, sorta like when you were a kid and great at something pointless like video games and worrying that’s all you’re good for.

    Everything else is just dramatic dressing for this rather mundane plot. I can’t speak as to whether this is something normal for anime, but it did subvert my expectations. Something as boring as not being a dick about being good at something is made dramatic as Mob is nearly choked to death by an antagonist – you think he’s won by not giving in despite getting so close to having an outburst, but then falls unconcious and does have that big outburst. Mob “wins” the fight in this big showy scene and you know the whole thing is actually tragic, he’s traumatized that he’s let himself get pushed to that breaking point. It’s something that could have been incredibly boring in any other show, but the high-powered visuals serve as a metaphor for his emotional state.

    I think that’s where those Mother comparisons are coming from, it’s a very silly exterior that’s more than a bit camp that uses that camp for dramatic effect. I don’t know if that would really resonate with you. Playing Earthbound is a different experience than watching it, but the gameplay isn’t super amazing in itself. Mother 3 might be a bit more obvious but it’s still rather dated. If you think that you want to “get” this Earthbound comparison I suggest playing Undertale and seeing if you can enjoy it – it’s got much better gameplay and a more consise and arguably better-executed plot that is pretty much the result of the developer worshipping Earthbound. It might give you a different critical insight, it might not – at the very least it’s a lot funnier since it’s not crossing cultural barriers.

    • I should probably make it clear that I like Mob Psycho 100. Just not nearly as much as other people do, but ever since writing this review, I’ve warmed up more to it overtime. Honestly, I’m not too big into FLCL, but I think Mob puts enough of a unique spin on its adolescent formula to be kinda interesting. It’s just that it takes a while for that spin to show up.

      And I have played Undertale. Decent game.

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