Mob Psycho 100 is an all-time classic anime. The disarmingly simple-looking show possesses a complex grasp on the joys inherent to animation. Mob Psycho 100’s dedication to building complex, nuanced characters who drive the narrative forward and engage with the audience makes it a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in anime.
Mob Psycho 100 comes to us courtesy of the enigmatic One, the manga artist who made a name for himself with One-Punch Man. He has received praise over the years his fantastic command of narrative that manages to both mock the tropes that govern shonen fiction and offer moments of genuine sincerity. The massive success of One-Punch Man allowed One’s other projects to gain traction, which eventually led to the creation of the Mob Psycho 100 anime.
Mob Psycho 100 tells the story of Shigeo Kageyama, also known as Mob, a middle school boy gifted with incredible psychic abilities. When the show begins, he works for his mentor, a con artist named Arataka Reigen. Under Reigen’s guidance, Mob has managed to control his powers, which he does by clamping down on his emotions. Restraining his emotions puts distance between himself and his peers, so he decides to dedicate himself to becoming a better person without his powers in the hopes that he’ll be able to connect with others one day. However, there are psychics and spirits at work in the world that don’t seem content to let Mob be a normal kid and challenge the various underlying principles that Mob develops over the course of the series.
- This Page: Mob Psycho 100 Focuses On Its Characters & Vivid Expressions
- Page 2: Mob Psycho 100 Subverts Shonen Expectations
Mob Psycho 100 Meticulously Constructs Its Characters
The laser focus on character development across the cast stands out as one of the major strengths of Mob Psycho 100. Each character pursues their own goals as much as they can often shifting their perspective and priorities as they change in the process of obtaining what they want. This growth invests the viewer in every character that comes on screen, no matter how small their role.
With character development so highly prioritized, the plot is freed up to make episodes that subvert audience expectations of what a shonen anime should be. One of the first big fight scenes in the entire series pits Mob against another human psychic, hot shot Teruki Hanazawa. The dramatic tension not from the action on-screen, but from the question of how Mob will resolve the conflict without using his powers to hurt another person, a principle the show has gone out of its way to build up over multiple episodes. Because we care about Mob and are invested in him, the fight goes from fast, flashy, and fun to straight horror as Hanazawa pushes Mob further and further until he finally breaks. Part of the genius at play in that episode lies in how Mob Psycho 100 very carefully lays out why Hanazawa is this way; how Mob’s existence means that there are other psychics that could ruin the perfect life he’s given himself by using his powers at every opportunity. He is the typical anime protagonist.
Mob breaks in that scene after Hanazawa chokes him until he falls unconscious, refusing to use his powers even if it kills him. And then “it” awakens. The thing sleeping inside of Mob rips apart Hanazawa’s world in an instant, shattering any notion in the would-be protagonist that the world revolves around him. This incident is haunting. It’s dramatic. But most of all, it matters. It causes Hanazawa, a relatively minor character in the series, to rethink his life. He teams up with Mob later in season 1 and again in season 2 having grown from the encounter. As for Mob, we learn from that the strength of his resolve. Despite his seeming all-encompassing averageness, he has the willpower to hold onto his kindness in the face of adversity and push through the difficulties he faces.
Mob Psycho 100’s Dedication to Vivid Expression
The expressive nature of One’s artwork in both One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 helps sell the drama and humor of the narrative. In the manga, that expressiveness pairs with the plain designs to great effect. That approach actually translates quite nicely to anime where simple designs allow for more motion since animators don’t have to work as hard to keep characters on model. The basic groundwork laid by One in his manga series leaves a great deal open to the artistic skills of the incredible animation studio Bones to fill in.
With that groundwork, Bones allows their work on Mob Psycho 100 to cover a vast array of different mediums and styles to accentuate the emotions and meanings of scenes and characters. In the aforementioned incident between Mob and Hanazawa, Mob’s unconscious retaliation against the rival psychic floods the screen with an inky darkness that looks like black, sludgy oil in which a gaping face slowly appears. The shift in style comes across as deeply unsettling. During intense moments, the generally smooth faces of characters develop more detail, contorting in passion. When Mob Psycho 100 needs to convey subtler emotions, Bones adds a small amount of detail to faces that immediately stand out to effectively communicate character’s intentions.
One of the standout visual gags of Mob Psycho 100 season 2 involves Reigen hiding from Mob dejectedly where his face goes through several visual transformations, one of which even appears to be a paper cutout of a child’s version of Reigen’s head. In another scene, a friend’s ripped up story is sent flying into the wind and Mob uses his powers to bring it back and stitch it back together. While the simplicity of the characters in that moment displays a lack of detail, it hardly matters as it enables the camera to follow the paper pieces in one continuous shot as they fly on the wind back to Mob, rounding his head before coming to rest on the awe-struck witness’ face. Charcoal sketches, oil and watercolor painting, 3D animation, unexpected/crazy visual styles, and fluid camera moves all come together in this seemingly simple show to make it one of the most expressive and captivating anime series of all-time.