Mob Psycho 100 is an anime adapted from the webcomic by ONE, the creator of One Punch Man.
At first glance, they appear to be pretty similar, and they are often labelled as such as well.
However, they are so not.
OPM is set in a world where superpowers are pretty common, and their use is the norm; from heroes to villains, everyone uses superpowers like it’s second nature to them. But Mob is one of the select few people in his world blessed (or cursed) with psychic powers. Where Saitama wants to be popular by becoming a Hero, Mob wants to be a popular guy by doing ‘normal people’ things that ‘normal’ people are good at. Mob is NOT a middle school Saitama. Let’s make that clear.
Let’s start with the most obvious thing that sets Mob Psycho 100 apart from most anime: the art style. MP100 has a distinct aesthetic which follows ONE’s simplistic art style, but a closer look will tell you it is far from bad, or derivative by any means. The simplicity is actually rather pleasing on the eye, what with some characters having more edges than a dodecahedron.
This style also allows the artists to highlight the moments of heightened emotions or anywhere else where such emphasis is needed. One of the clear examples would be Mob’s release of his full power at 100% emotion, which results in a complete (and awe-inspiring) art shift. It’s impressive each time.
The storytelling is a bit more of a mixed bag. In the beginning, it feels slow, almost like a slice of life with a psychic twist, but with the appearance of Hanazawa, the story begins to accelerate and towards the end of the first season we get a proper shounen story arc, when the organisation called Claw makes an appearance.
The escalation continues in the second season, with every protagonist experiencing plenty of character growth, particularly Mob as he has to use his powers not only to defend himself but is also tasked with the responsibility of protecting others. A great thing about this series is that it balances the fun and light-hearted moments with emotional ones pretty nicely, in a way that does not cheapen the emotions the character is feeling at the moment. It respects these characters and their feelings.
Just like the art, the characters seem simple on the surface, but over the course of the two seasons, some of them show great depth. This is especially the case for Mob, Reigen, and Ritsu.
Mob is an unconfident and skinny school kid, who thinks he’s not good at anything. He just wants to be popular and that makes him extremely relatable. His reluctance to use his psychic ability (because he thinks it’s not that impressive) and his subconscious fear of it add depth and relatability to the character. You get to truly empathize with what he’s feeling.
Mob admires his brother Ritsu, who in a sense is as perfect as anyone can be: honour student, athletic, in the student council, popular with the ladies. In short, a veritable antithesis to Mob. But then this image of a perfect student and a loving brother is challenged when it is revealed that he was always scared of his brother's powers and secretly despises him. Who wouldn’t be fearful and jealous in such a situation? Again, very relatable. Seeing Mob continue to care for him and fight to protect him even when Ritsu tells him that he was just acting brotherly all this while out of fear is quite touching and emotional.
It is the same story with Mob’s mentor, the self-proclaimed ‘spiritualist’ Reigen. Reigen is a fraud who mostly fools gullible people out of their money and for the occasional exorcism relies completely on Mob. Despite this scummy exterior, he is shown to be a good person on the inside throughout the anime. He proves to be a great master and mentor to Mob, one who genuinely cares about his student. His acts of foolish bravery, which trick opponents much more powerful than him, are a great humour device, but it also shows his conviction to protect Mob even in the face of greater threats.
It’s unfortunate that this strong writing did not extend to other characters like Hanazawa and other psychics, who do not get much character development at all and feel like an effort to just round out the ensemble cast for the climactic ending of the seasons. Possible exceptions being the green “evil” spirit Dimple, and the school’s resident delinquent Onigawara. Hanazawa, who at first thinks Mob is a weakling, because he does not use his powers on people, completely changes his opinion of Mob in his next appearance, acknowledging Mob’s power and declaring him to be his rival; later, he even goes on to help him in his ‘missions’. This sudden 180 is too convenient and unsatisfying; one only needs to look to the likes of a fleshed-out Vegeta-Goku rivalry to know how it could have been done in a way that made more sense. During the second season’s endgame, we meet yet another psychic called Shou, who wants to overthrow his father, the big bad of the second season; this drastic development is only hinted at once and then barely mentioned. The motivations of these characters seem simplistic when comparing them to the multilayered stars of the show.
Overall, the series is really fun to watch with great gags that don’t just lean on exaggerated delivery or resort to slapstick. Rather, it actively engineers situations which are genuinely hilarious.
Comedy is not used as a means to distract from plot holes (as is seen in quite a few series) but is an integral part of the narrative.
And at the centre of all this is Mob: a great and easy character to relate to. Despite his perpetual poker face, you can know how and what he’s feeling. The emotion level percentage meter is another cool device. This is the right way to implement the ‘powers linked to emotions’ mechanic, unlike in some shounen anime where the characters scream to get more powerful. And for such a powerful guy, Mob still depends on his friends at times and lives by the phrase “people need people”. And that is a good phrase to live by.
The visuals were pleasing but nothing too outstanding, except the later fight scenes, they were impressive.
The voice acting was great, with all the actors bringing their characters to life, in a fun and touching way.
The story was good without any plot holes but was predictable and slow at times, especially in the beginning.
The protagonist was very relatable. The lead cast was complex. Superpowers were not dominating their personalities. The side cast could have used more character development. But just because of Mob, Ritsu and REIGEN, this gets a 3.
This gets a bonus point for how well the emotion and power mechanic was implemented. And another for the humor, it was a good departure from the norm.