Everyone, seriously EVERYONE has heard about the runaway hit, One Punch Man. Arguably the biggest breakout among Westerners since Attack on Titan, the series, showcasing the OP badass who doesn’t try to be badass, the “Caped Baldy” Saitama, brought manga artist ONE and Yusuke Murata into the spotlight. ONE’s story, of an amateur artist, posting works on his own website that lacked brilliant, professional artwork but somehow drew people to an interesting, fun story regardless, became quite common knowledge to anime fans, and it’s really awesome to see. After the success of One Punch Man, people became even more interested in ONE’s work, and, perhaps as a result, his other manga, Mob Psycho 100, received an anime adaptation.
Mob Psycho 100 has often been compared to One Punch Man, sometimes as better, sometimes as worse, but regardless, it certainly shows its similarities. However, a bit of a closer look reveals a lot more than just another ONE hit wonder, underneath the blatant similarities, showing what I believe to be by far, a superior story.
In this review, there will be no real spoilers for the series, but I will give you a rather large idea of what you can expect, because, oh man, it is certainly a weird series, that can catch the unprepared off guard. That being said, let’s get into the world of Mob Psycho 100!
Among those normal people of society, just trying to live normal lives, go to school, work, and have fun, there are those with psychic powers: Espers. Such Espers have telekinesis, they can enhance their physical abilities, and do what is normally considered impossible, almost like magic. With such power, comes great pride, arrogance, and the espers of the world are selfish, self-centered, arrogant, and oftentimes, without revealing their presence to those around them, they take control, become popular, powerful, and prideful. However, among such power-hungry espers, there is one who has the potential to outclass them all: middle-school student Shigeo Kageyama, or Mob. Despite his latent power, Mob is scared- he keeps his powers under check, tries to live without them, and keeps his emotions at 0 percent, because should his powers ever go out of control, he could bring pain to those around him. In such a world of selfish espers, Mob is forced to confront his caged emotions, and perhaps even he will be forced to 100 percent.
Mob Psycho 100’s main story is based entirely on a world of wonder that a person like Mob ends up getting himself involved in. Such psychic powers, combined with his desire to find a way to live without them, lead him to rather stressful situations, and it is through the testing of Mob and the people around him, that we receive our important plot events. That being said, I have to acknowledge that while the strength of Mob Psycho’s story is very much in its character interactions, a good half of its screen time is spent world building, focusing on rather nonsensical happenings that give information about the world that Mob and those related to him live in.
For example, we have Mob’s “master,” supreme con artist Arataka Reigen. The man behind the “Spirits and Such Consultation Office,” he, and the clients he ends up taking, provide a backdrop for many funny, strange happenings that ultimately end up filling space in the story. Other such nonsensical events: middle school fights, fake spirit exorcisms, and more, provide a humorous backdrop to the constant presence that is Mob, and how certain events are perceived by him. A more concrete story emerges out of all this towards the latter half of the season, but even then, the story itself is not developed to an extreme- it is Mob’s reaction to those events that are meant to engage the audience, as well as his interaction with characters that have drastically different viewpoints than his own.
Mob Psycho 100 has two main strengths, one of which, being its main characters, and the role they play in the narrative. By narrative, I don’t exactly mean the story: rather, it is the method in which the story is presented, in this case, following Mob and the events that influence him. As said before, Mob, Shigeo Kageyama, is a middle school student who is almost completely average. Beyond his immense psychic capabilities, he has no exceptional talents, lives quietly, has no real close friends, and, regarding his psychic power, keeps every one of his emotions locked down, out of fear of lashing out at others.
We also have Shigeo’s master, Arataka Reigen, who, despite being a huge con artist, ultimately acts as a role model to Mob. Owner of the “Spirits and Such Consultation Office,” Reigen actually has no psychic powers of his own, and rather, uses his wits and confidence to make people believe that their “spirits” have stopped haunting them, and in rare occasions, takes advantage of Mob. Now, Reigen contributes much to the nonsensical, fun atmosphere the show can create, which is enjoyable in and of itself, but of note here is the dynamic that Mob and Reigen share, as their relatively kind, fair viewpoints are the ones challenged by almost every other character in the show.
Mob is forced to the edge by varying situations, facing evil spirits, power-hungry espers, and once he reaches 100%, all hell breaks loose. It is in these huge moments of emotion, however, that provide deeper insight to Mob’s character, and ultimately make the show very, very intriguing to watch. Originally, as a rather bland person, almost too bland, Mob is presented as rather boring, not talking about himself or his motivations at all. However, we do get to learn more about him, when he gets emotional, angry, sad, even hateful at some points. He has concrete values, strong viewpoints, and desires that mean a lot to him, challenged at multiple points by characters who are interesting in their own rights, but overall, are meant to present the idea that those with psychic powers should use them.
Between Mob, who provides an interesting character to learn more about, and Reigen, a static presence of good that, beyond being charismatic and likable, has stronger ideals than what one might initially expect, Mob Psycho 100 has the character department locked down. Other characters- the spirit Dimple, Mob’s brother Ritsu, and more, all present varying views to contrast Mob and Reigen’s own, while managing to establish concrete personalities of their own. They provide a bit of spice to complement the constants that are Mob and Reigen’s nonaggressive stance, and, at its best, it can be an absolute spectacle to see the conflicts that arise as a result.
Oh yes. Mob Psycho 100’s stylistic choices. Man, oh man, where do I even start.
Well. As you might be able to tell from pictures alone, the animation style is not exactly what you’d call conventional. Looking rather rough, not perfectly proportioned, like we’re used to in most anime, Mob Psycho 100 displays a rather…wonky animation style at first, to say the least. The faces are weird and not conventionally attractive, side characters are far more heavily stylized, and even the main characters aren’t exactly the epitome of bishonen.
It all blends together to create a bit of a surreal, odd atmosphere at first, but as the anime progresses, the animation goes from 0-100 real quick. Similarly to One Punch Man, the show has moments of…not subpar animation, but rather, silly and odd animation lulling you into the idea that it’s just a quirky show with some charm. However, as soon as you reach an important scene, you’re going to know it. The quirky animation and designs are kept, but the movements are more fluid, and at its best, the detail that Mob Psycho 100 is capable of is actually kind of absurd, and hard to capture in mere pictures- you honestly have to experience it for yourself.
The animation quality, although quirky and unorthodox, is wonderful, so don’t get dissuaded by its odd style. With that in mind, the music of Mob Psycho keeps up that same trend. It’s not going to be exceptional, but in general, I can say the music is a great match for the look of the anime. It’s quirky and odd at times, but during the intense action scenes, it picks up with great guitar riffs and a fast-paced sound, while during slower scenes, the music somehow just…it works very well. Ultimately, Mob Psycho 100 is just an odd beast, but one that is very confident in its ability to exploit its strangeness to create something very smooth, impactful, and enjoyable.
4. Personal Enjoyment
Overall, Mob Psycho 100 was one of those shows I had to give a chance. I remember watching the first episode a while back, and never actually followed through with watching the rest of the series. It was just… a bit too weird, and I couldn’t get myself excited, for whatever concrete story the anime was aiming to present. However, going back to watch it, the first few episodes had me hooked, and gave me a better idea as to where the show was going- not to be totally ludicrous as I first expected, nor to give a hugely personal, or concrete story like the ones I generally enjoy. Rather, it focused on character- it focused on a story that, although based in its own world and events, was almost certainly revolving around Mob’s reactions to it all, and the unique themes that could then be explored.
The anime was a strange one to be sure, but it is an anime that I personally was able to find a lot of enjoyment in, thanks to the combination of excellent animation, quirky humor, and unique character development that ultimately led me to enjoy it far more than One Punch Man. All in all, factoring in the story, characters, and the style of Mob Psycho 100, I’d give it a rating of 9.0 out of 10. Its animation and unique look at its characters made the anime great, but with all that, I have to admit that it is not for everyone.
If you watch the first three episodes, and are not intrigued or impressed by the characters, or the quirky style just doesn’t grow on you, I’m not quite sure if it’s the anime for you. The one bad thing I’d have to say about the uniqueness of Mob Psycho 100 is that it is just that: unique. Because of such uniqueness, it won’t appeal to everyone, compared to something like One Punch Man, which, with far more traditionally attractive animation, and a less story-driven design, can more easily impress a wider variety of people. That all being said, I still greatly, greatly enjoyed Mob Psycho 100, and at the very least, I recommend that if you haven’t already, you give this rather odd anime a try: I believe it’s worth it.