If the success of American television broadcasts of anime titles such as Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and One-Punch Man isn’t enough to fill your anime fan spirits with hope for what’s to come, then perhaps going psycho is the answer. For in addition to anime’s renewed footing on Adult Swim, legitimate simultaneous online broadcasts of otaku-targeted anime are now the norm, such that we can all be into what the Japanese fans are, when they too are seeing it for the first time. In the wake of the smashing global success of One-Punch Man such infrastructure provides us, the web comic author “ONE” has quickly found another of his series adapted into animation, with similarly spectacular results. Mob Psycho 100 may just be to ESPer manga what One-Punch Man is to superhero comics.
Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama is a young teenage boy with immense psionic abilities, but rather than defend the Earth with the help of an aquatic robot, pterodactyl, and shapeshifting panther a la Babel II (see sidebar) he … mostly just sort of does nothing with them. Electing not to use his powers in favor of living an “ordinary” life, Mob has suppressed his emotions to the point where he’s a social nonentity. But when you’re no good at sports, not popular with the other students, and the girl you like barely knows that you even exist there’s a limit to how much you can bottle up and repress before you EXPLODE like Neo-Tokyo of long ago, and you … may not want to be around when that happens to somebody with colossal superpowers. Fortunately, the series provides viewers with a helpful “Progress Toward Mob’s Explosion” percentage … which maxes out sooner than you might expect!
It’s not like Mob keeps his powers a secret, but the only area in which Mob bothers to use his psychic abilities is for his part-time job at the rinky-dink “Spirits and Such Consultation Office” run by Reigen Arataka. A complete charlatan, Reigen uses his smooth-talking charisma to charge customers for “spiritual exorcisms” that amount to a combination of practical skills and cold reading of clientele. It’s a pretty good scam—that’s how it’s done in the real world, after all—until confronted with ACTUAL paranormal activity. That’s where Mob factors in: to do all the heavy lifting in exchange for zero credit and sub-poverty line wages! Truly, a hero with global relatability.
I don’t think I’m inviting very much controversy when I say that ONE’s artwork is rough around the edges. Mob Psycho 100 marked ONE’s professional manga debut back in 2012, and while it certainly looks worlds better than much of the original One-Punch Man web comic that put ONE on the map, it’s still crude enough to give Hajime Isayama, the writer and artist of the Attack on Titan manga, a run for his money. It took Yusuke Murata’s astonishing redrawn version that appears in the pages of the digital US edition of Weekly Shonen Jump as well as the superb Madhouse anime adaptation for One-Punch Man to blow up worldwide, and a similar effort is required to give Mob’s psycho explosions the impact they deserve. Fortunately, that’s precisely what happened. Mob Psycho 100 might just be the single coolest-looking anime television show of 2016.
The efforts of a slew of highly talented animators at studio BONES (Space Dandy, Blood Blockade Battlefront) under the direction of the talented up-and-comer Yuzuru Tachikawa (Death Parade) take Mob Psycho 100 to the next level in style. If seeing the action unfold reminds you of Kill la Kill and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, that’s no accident: a fair share of noteworthy animators working on this previously contributed to those titles as well. The color palette is bright and varied, the battles are outrageously choreographed, and the animation technique stylizations aren’t afraid to swing for the fences since it’s not like going off-model is out of the ordinary for ONE anyway. The opening and closing credits sequences alone are bursting with creativity, as though the animators are exploding their psyches onto the screen like Mob themselves. Here’s a fun fact about the opening credits: because the last shot mirrors the initial shot, it loops perfectly! Why, it’s as if they knew we’d all want to just keep watching it over and over online. You don’t suppose they’re … psychic?
Comparisons to One-Punch Man are simply inevitable given its shared creator with Mob Psycho 100 and their similar premises. While it’s certainly true that if you like one you are virtually guaranteed to like the other and that both series deal with humdrum heroes wielding immense destructive power, the difference is execution. Saitama in One-Punch Man sought out his power and attained it to such comedic effect that he regrets that he never has the opportunity to give everything he has. Mob is the opposite. He never asked for his abilities and is doing all that he can to NOT give everything he has, such that the central thrust of the story is that he’s semi-frequently pushed to his limits (and rather quickly, beyond). There are jokes and plenty of laughs to be had, but unlike Saitama’s malaise the ennui that Shigeo experiences hits much closer to home. Sure, you probably don’t have to exorcise malevolent spirits and can’t move objects through telekinesis, but having trouble making friends and forming relationships due to a lack of extroverted hobbies tends to resonate among those of us so inclined to spend entirely too much time watching cartoons and reading comic books!
This is probably why it’s for the best that Reigen is around, and it becomes clear that One-Punch Man wasn’t just a one-time success story when you see that ONE wisely elects to introduce us to Reigen and his small-time con man operation before we get to know Mob. Had we started on Mob and his awkward uncool existence it would have come off as “typical” in this post-Evangelion world! Such shock and awe reactions can only be gained from a man who can “exorcise” the “curse” placed on your shoulder as a result of spending too much time browsing adult websites.
So far, only 12 episodes have been officially announced for Mob Psycho 100, but considering there are 12 volumes of manga currently available and the anime is expanding upon the action sequences there will be no shortage of available material to cover should the series prove popular enough to warrant continuing. Perhaps this anime will be the necessary push needed for the manga to finally get an official release in the United States?
Mob Psycho 100 is available from Crunchyroll.