I often approach the question of how the world would perceive the loss of anime using a rather simple technique. I relate it to myself; how would I take it if this cultural juggernaut just vanished from my life?
The answer to this always troubles me to no end. Justifiably so.
Over the past few years of my life, I have been shaped, nay, properly moulded by the phenomenon that is anime. A full decade has blown past from that starting point, that moment of uncertain induction into this cult. Shows like Dragon Ball Z and that du-du-du-du-d-d-d-DUEL show have, of course, regaled me through my adolescence. They were fundamental as the base for my adoration of this art form.
Yet, their most important feature was that they left me intrigued, even unsatisfied to an extent. It made me crave for so much more, this perception of mine that these shows lacked something. I had to find what gnawed at me so. I had to find it in this vast, wondrous world.
For the first time in a decade, the two seasons of Mob Psycho 100 have been able to tell me exactly what it is I’m missing out on. And, that all important quality, that Holy Grail that I was desperately looking for is – wait for it –
Yes, Mob Psycho is a typical shounen title in so many aspects. However, it caught my eye by deviating from the tried-and-tested path in myriad ways, each of which I thought were hitherto impossible in this numbers-driven industry. Chief among them being:
How many effing times can you possibly subvert the viewers’ expectations?!
Mob Psycho 100 trails our protagonist, Shigeo Kageyama, on his reluctant journey to realize the full extent of his psychic abilities.
Endowed with said abilities from birth, Shigeo, or Mob as he is more, ahem, “popularly” known, withdraws into a shell of sorts coinciding with the onset of his adolescence. This is most likely brought about by a realization that his powers are, above all, a double-edged sword that he believes should be kept repressed.
Like for the hackneyed protagonists of yore, the manga and the anime chronicle Mob’s gradual acceptance of and awakening as a more sociable person. In fact, all of Mob’s blossoming and rite of passage is ONE big parallel to a person coming of age, and the various juxtapositions between the two are handled beautifully.
A perfect instance of this is seen in the second season with the antagonist Keiji Mogami and his contrasting philosophy about society – it takes our hero a long time to decide whether he truly is a bad influence. Even then, he is in desperate need of external help to reach this epiphany, slowly coming to terms with all that is wrong with Mogami’s world view.
While beautifully done, the symbolism does not really set MP100 apart from other shows. Heck, this isn’t even the first anime I’ve watched this week that contains this transitional voyage – it’s a staple of every ‘inspirational’ anime ever.
You also have the token evil organization and a standard rogue’s gallery providing the fodder for Mob’s emotional growth on his quest of reformation.
While many of the fights dazzle and provide visual bliss, the villains themselves are nothing to shout home about. I suppose their unique styling and being cardboard punching bags by design counts as a plus, but not by much.
And yet Mob Psycho 100 has plotline upon consistently unique plotline like not many shows I’ve seen. Mob is a genuinely shy and troubled boy who has very strong reasons for not letting go of his emotions. The very fact that he considers emotional development, not strengthening his psychic powers, as personal growth speaks volumes about his temperament. ONE of the hallmarks of a great anime is presenting the dichotomy of the main character’s motivations in a convincing manner. In that regard, MP100 has done a great job so far.
Of course, coming from the stable of renowned mangaka one, the series was bound to have an off-the-beaten-path retelling of an otherwise oft-repeated tale, regardless of the genre (think ONE-Punch Man or the “slice-of-life” in hell, Makai no Ossan). Expecting the unexpected is a norm with his works, so I was left extremely smug yet satisfied by all the twists and turns that never once felt predictable or repetitive.
I could so effortlessly wax eloquent about the art style – the one weak element of ONE’s works that the animators at Studio Bones immediately converted into the strongest part of this incredibly and lovingly made show. The panels feel like they have been messily, yet carefully made - the ‘freehand’ art style lends itself beautifully when portraying emotions during comedic moments. It is evident that hours of top-notch effort have been put into each scene. It fully deserves all the acclaim it has gotten so far.
Safe to say, MP 100 has had quite the lasting impression on my world view for all the right reasons. While the story and the characters’ belief seem very naïve at times, I suspect this was no accident as it makes them more flawed than any ‘tragic backstory’ could ever hope to do. This is an outrageously well made show.
As a reviewer, I am mightily impressed.
As a viewer, I love this show from the bottom of my heart, goddammit.
Strong Eight. Fantastically balances a socially awkward teenager’s repressed angst with frequent comic interludes. Main protagonists get strong plot points, but cannot say the same for antagonists and supporting cast. There was definitely scope for improvement.
(Japanese): Light nine. The actors more or less perfectly capture the essence of the characters. Some smooth, highly evocative acting is on display, yet nothing is over-the-top.
(English Dub): Decent seven. Has acceptable VA execution overall. However, it is massively outperformed by the Japanese version (surprise, surprise). Would have been a strong six if Chris Niosi's Reigen hadn’t carried the dub like he did (bless him!).
Decent nine. The fleshing out of the characters just blew me away. While it wasn’t consistently done, the depth and emotions conveyed from their actions are of a superior calibre.
Nine. The ‘amateur hand-drawn’, rough around -the-edges effect manages to convey the envisioned ideas beautifully. While not for everyone, it is heartening to see such a bold style being embraced by the community.
Decent nine. Studio Bones has clearly made this project with a lot of love. Every scene seems high-budget and the action is fluid and smooth. The viewer is taken on a ride whenever required (say ???%) with some overawing visuals.
Decent Eight. The OST, at some points, lacks high production values. However, it is far from mediocre. 99.9 by Mob Choir is one of the more unskippable OPs that I have come across.
Composite Weighted Score: 8.99
Mob Psycho 100 is most definitely a coveted addition to shounen anime in recent times. It is surprisingly well rounded in most aspects and delivers a compelling story to us viewers. Despite obvious flaws in the woodwork, it is easily among the best shows of last year.
Binge-worthy? Oh yes.