“Your life’s your own, Mob.”
Adult Swim’s Toonami block of anime occasionally mixes it up with a departure from the norm, but by and large it’s a collection of shonen anime with overpowered main characters. Mob Psycho 100 is yet another shonen-style anime with a protagonist whose powers are substantially off the charts. Who cares? Well, you should, because Mob Psycho 100 is a true gift of an anime series that we do not deserve. It strives to push the medium as far as it will go and the results make for some of the most captivating, creative programming that’s been on Adult Swim, period.
Immediately, Mob Psycho 100 may look and feel a little familiar. It’s the second anime adaptation from writer One, whose previous series One-Punch Man blew everyone away. One-Punch Man is a tough act to top, but Mob Psycho 100 makes a strong case for being the better of the two, or at least deserving to stand on equal ground with its predecessor.
Mob Psycho 100 is largely a parody of shonen series, very much like One-Punch Man is, but it also goes so far beyond that simple idea that it becomes its own distinct thing. This series breaks convention, but also gleefully plays into it when it’s appropriate. Just when you think you have the series pegged down it does something radical. Right from its opening frames this show brandishes its audacity like a badge of honor and you can feel that this is something special. There’s no grace period with Mob Psycho 100. It throws you out of an airplane into a tornado.
The hero of Mob Psycho 100 is Shigeo Kageyama, otherwise known as “Mob,” who’s an innocent, reluctant, and emotionally frail individual. He’s a serious spin on the typical anime hero archetype. Mob has overwhelming psychic powers deep inside, but he actively ignores and rejects these skills. He doesn’t want to rely on these things as crutches and believes much more in naturally improving his strength rather than pulling out some psychic trick whenever he’s in a bind.
Mob’s emotions are a key factor in unleashing his immense psychic powers, so he blocks himself out from feeling anything and dampens down his feelings. It’s why the character is so insecure and blocked off. However, as Mob takes more emotional abuse and allows himself to feel again, he becomes closer to boiling over and letting that destructive power loose. This struggle to let himself feel anything and the guilt that Mob feels over the actions of his psychic powers become the crux of Mob’s character and it’s super refreshing. There are shades of this in Midoriya, the protagonist in My Hero Academia, but in his sense it’s psychical pain that he experiences, not emotional pain, which is an arguably deeper well. Mob’s “Emotional Meter” (which is represented on screen) adds a ticking time bomb element to the character, which also makes it exciting to know when the next monumental psychic explosion is about to happen.
The core cast in Mob Psycho 100 is rather small, even though a lot of characters course this this world. Mob’s younger brother, Ritsu, and his master, Reigen, are welcome foils for the meek character. Reigen is even largely everything that Mob’s not. He’s someone who has no psychic abilities, but has tricked all the espers into thinking that he’s wildly powerful through his confidence alone.
Also, one of the members in Mob’s entourage is an evil spirit who unsuccessfully tried to become God of the world and is now stuck in a “living” purgatory of sorts as a dinky, non-threatening Slimer wannabe. Mob Psycho 100 always keeps it interesting and there are plenty of weird sects of culture that rub up against Mob, like the Telepathy Club, the Body Improvement Club, or other strange cults. All of these ancillary characters really flesh out this world and amplify its voice, especially for a show that’s as brief as 12 episodes.
Mob Psycho 100’s subversions of character and story make this a great anime, but the real reason to watch this show is the animation. This anime is so freaking visual in everything that it does and it never wastes any space in the frame. There are so many extremes in the show’s animation, whether it’s in a minimal way or it’s an over the top spectacle. You owe it to yourselves to watch this show for the animation alone. The show’s opening credits effectively establish how unhinged and stylized this show can be.
The only other person that I can think of that’s doing something remotely comparable animation-wise is Masaaki Yuasa of Ping Pong: The Animation and Kaiba fame. There are moments in the show that that are raw and sketch-like, while others are polished masterpieces. Animation studio Bones knows when to switch between styles and the synthesis between these two extremes even touches on the duality of Mob’s reluctant character.
The use of color in Mob Psycho 100 is also unbelievable and pushes the show to new heights. You could watch this show muted and it’d still be incredible. The biggest showpieces in the series are reserved for when Mob’s Emotional Meter reaches 100%. These outbursts of power incorporate everything that the show works with and explodes it in a truly ridiculous way. One-Punch Man has some of the most jaw-dropping visuals that I’ve ever seen in an anime, but all of Mob’s “100%” sequences are even more ambitious. You will always discover something new when you re-watch this show.
The anime also boasts a strong sense of humor, both with impressive visual gags and witty dialogue. It’s easy to tell that the voice actors are clearly having a lot of fun in these roles. Mob Psycho 100 finds a healthy balance between its comedy and its action. Furthermore, all of the fights are amazing and they utilize a strong mix of both physical attacks and psychic assaults that keep them unpredictable, but also allow the show more freedom in its battles than say, One-Punch Man, or even Dragon Ball.
If there’s anything to complain about with Mob Psycho 100, it’s that there are some minor issues with pacing, both at the beginning and the end of the season. That being said, the show juggles so much that these aren’t significant problems. The show always finds something interesting to dominate its time, even if it’s not exactly relevant. Plus, the roving antagonists that pop up throughout the series add a nice variety to the show and don’t just all feel like retreads of some bitter psychic. The show knows who should stick around and when it’s a good idea to mix things up. Honestly though, it’s almost more fun when Mob Psycho 100 loses track of itself and just has fun. Check out the first episode and see if Mob mentality doesn’t overwhelm you.
Mob Psycho 100 makes its premiere on Adult Swim’s Toonami on Saturday, October 27that 11:30pm (ET)
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.