Tanner McEveety ‘22 / Emertainment Monthly Video Games Section Editor
Even if Mob Psycho 100 had been left without a proper conclusion, the show would still be a must-watch masterpiece. But with its third and final season airing with that proper conclusion on the horizon, it’s clear that the world is watching a modern classic in the making.
Mob Psycho 100 follows Shigeo Kageyama, AKA Mob, an emotionally stunted middle school boy, as he embarks on a journey of self improvement, hoping to earn the attention of his crush, but spending most of his time working for a manipulative con man named Reigen Arataka. The twist is that Mob is only emotionally stunted because his emotions are tied to extremely powerful psychic abilities that can be dangerous if not kept contained. Reigen employs Mob for the purposes of exorcizing evil spirits, but only when he comes across real ones. Most of the time, his clients are wrong about being haunted, but he’s happy to assuage their fears by throwing salt around or giving them exorcism-themed massage therapy—for a price, of course.
It’s a premise that lends itself naturally to comedy, and Mob Psycho has it in spades, contrasting Mob’s quiet, stoic demeanor and Reigen’s loud, charismatic commitment to his every half-formed lie. Aiding the humor is the wonky, off-beat art style with simple character designs and flat colors that lend themselves perfectly to animation. As a result, the animators have the freedom to bring endless energy to dialogue scenes with exaggerated hand motions and facial expressions.
Mob is convinced that his mentor and boss is actually a supremely powerful psychic, and Reigen plays along to keep Mob around. Although this is an undoubtedly manipulative relationship, Reigen is, at his heart, a good man. His intentions are nearly always pure, and he leaves all of his clients better off than when they came to him, but more importantly, his mentorship has a genuinely positive effect on Mob. Reigen inspires Mob to be the best version of himself, teaches him to never view himself as above his peers because of his natural gifts, and convinces him that violence is never the solution to his problems.
Heightened violence is one of the core appeals of the show. Various psychics with over-the-top, city-destroying techniques regularly brawl in Mob Psycho. Anime studio Bones goes absolutely crazy on the animation, with complex camera motion through and around swirling multicolored lights, explosions of debris, and rapid superhuman figures zipping in and out of frame. But when it comes to characters that have been enlightened by Reigen or Mob’s perspective, fighting prowess is never a tool for achieving results, but instead a way of developing the might for right. They use their abilities to help others and defend themselves, never unprovoked, and the villains they encounter across the series must learn that their ability to inflict violence on others does not make them special.
That’s the core theme of Mob Psycho 100: you are not special. It seems like a depressing truth at first, but Mob quickly learns to view it as freeing. If he isn’t special, he does not need to be defined by his natural gifts. He can choose to live his life his own way. If everyone is ordinary, then everyone can be special in their own way.
Mob Psycho 100 is a coming-of-age action comedy with a heart of 24-carat gold. Incredible, boundary-pushing animation mixes wonderfully with character growth that manages to be subtle while still reaching moments of incredible emotional resonance. Anime this good doesn’t come around very often, but when they do, they are called “classics.”