[My thoughts on Mob Psycho 100 (anime) with mild spoilers.]
I completely loathed the art in this animation, the design of the characters and basically every visual element of this otherwise watchable show. That is the most important thing that I have to say about Mob Psycho 100 because nothing else really left a strong impression.
The plot has been nothing to celebrate. We have Mob, our protagonist, who is bland enough to overlook. He doesn’t look like much and he doesn’t say much but he is in possession of an overwhelming power that has yet to meet its match. I think that’s the story, or at least what lingers in my mind some weeks after finishing the show.
I didn’t dislike Mob. Make no mistake, I severely disliked his appearance – his bowl haircut, dull features and vacant expression are the stuff of protagonist nightmares – but I didn’t dislike him. Mob is a simple person. He is supposed to look and feel like someone who belongs in the margins of a story. Superpowers aside, he’s a very regular teenager who just wants enough muscles and popularity to attract the girl he’s fond of. Unfortunately, with minimal charm and no style, Mob just doesn’t leave much of an impression.
Well, there are a few times that he does make an impression. Naturally, I’m referring to Mob exploding like a standard supervolcano after a few million years of holding it all in. It’s fascinating that it’s his repressed emotions, particularly rage, that gush out, given how detached and mechanical he usually appears when using his gift. It’s easy to respect him for not abusing all that terrible power he’s been gifted with.
Apart from his supernova episodes, Mob spends most of his mundane life as a victim of scam. Reigen, the successful con-artist here, plays the role of a mentor, tricking Mob into working for him while (ironically) inculcating the right values and perspectives in him. Without Reigen, this show would be as dry as Mob’s sense of humour. He is the polar opposite of Mob – powerless yet confident, passionate and yet a coward. As strange as this may sound, out of all the characters, Reigen probably has the most sense. He knows enough about himself and others to manipulate situations to his advantage.
Unfortunately the rest of the characters are just as bland and boring as Mob, making the show uninteresting on the whole. The plot isn’t any help either.
The first few episodes don’t venture beyond Mob and his mentor, and after that something like a plot happens. Here’s the thing: I don’t think the plot was an improvement over what we had going. I would probably have preferred a low-stakes episodic plot, without the brotherly ambition and the routine evil organisation. I didn’t care enough about Mob’s relationship with his brother to really feel anything about their conflict and I definitely wasn’t concerned about the evil organisation that seemed to be shoved in to kill time. Let’s be objective here – organised evil rarely fares well in fiction, and we have a psychic monster on the good side. It was never a problem.
In fact, I think that’s the problem with Mob Psycho right there – the misuse of problems. I don’t mind that Mob is overly powerful – I actually like that, because it’s divergent from the typical shonen anime I love to watch. However, conflicts seem to be forced in and dragged out, when we know what the eventual conclusion will be, and that makes watching it very tiring. For example, there’s this part in the story where Mob meets a powerful blonde psychic (obviously created as a foil for Mob) whose values are starkly different. I remember being utterly bored, just watching the whole routine play out, where Mob is steadily thrown around and steadily insulted while his psychometer steadily climbs. Then he has a completely expected explosion with a shower of strength and does away with the blonde. Watching an entire episode dedicated to the inevitable was… yes, boring.
The lack of real comedy just added to the drag. It wasn’t that the show didn’t try to be funny; there was some dry humour inserted here and there, but at no point did Mob Psycho actually make me laugh. I’ve mentioned this earlier: Mob, as a main character, really lacks charm. His monotonous delivery and mechanical expression were a source of an irritation for me rather than a joke. I came to realise that I much prefer watching loud, fiery and energetic characters to quiet, dull and lethargic ones.
So in truth, I never felt any tension in the storyline or connection to the characters. I could say that it was because the run was too short, but that wouldn’t be true; I’ve encountered short stories that really grip me. It was probably a combination of boring characters and boring plotlines, and nothing to distract from that save for the horrible art. To be honest, I think the art alone killed Mob Psycho for me.