Mob Psycho 100 Episode 4
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Mob Psycho 100 ?
Mob Psycho 100 really opened up this episode. The show so far has told one small story in every episode - the first introduced Mob and Reigen, the second focused on the school club, and the third pitted Mob against Dimple. That pattern more or less continued this week, with the episode's central conflict being a showdown between Salt Middle School and their gang rivals Black Vinegar, but the speedy buildup to that battle almost doubled the size of the show's central cast. Mob and Reigen have already established themselves fairly well, but this week, the context of Mob's daily life became significantly more concrete.
The episode's first major introduction was Dimple, now trapped as a puff of spirit-smoke hanging around Mob's shoulder. Dimple's presence in the show's opening was always a source of some concern for me - I'm not generally a fan of silly mascot characters, and given the combination of ONE's tendency towards lowbrow humor and Dimple's “green fart with rosy cheeks” design, I wasn't expecting much from his character. But Dimple actually presented himself quite well this episode; his presence never dominated the story, his relationship with Mob already feels pretty natural, and his personality allows him to act as a streetwise straight man to Mob's guileless sincerity.
The second character given more focus this week was Ritsu, Mob's older brother. We'd only seen Ritsu's behavior around his brother up until now, which remained consistent here - Ritsu presents himself as the guy in Mob's corner, the one unconditionally supportive member of his support group. But through a meeting with last episode's reporter Mezato and some internal monologues, we quickly learn that Ritsu is actually hiding feelings of understandable resentment over his brother's powers. The two are opposites - Ritsu is popular and successful, but feels his conventional successes can't live up to his brother's powers, while Mob sees his powers as mostly useless and longs for the everyday triumphs of his brother's talents. The immediate takeaway from this contrast is articulated by Mezato: “people aren't born equal.” The cruelty of talent and the unfair ways the world frames our personal value was central to One Punch Man's strongest moments, and this time, that unfairness informs both Mob's humble attitude and the feelings of his clear foil, Teruki Hanazawa.
The contrast between Mob and Teru is drawn both through the way they employ their powers and the relationship those powers establish between them and the world around them. While Mob feels isolated by his abilities, shuts down emotionally, and always finds himself being singled out by the crowd, Teru basks in the power and attention his powers provide him. While both of them see themselves as “outsiders” (Teru even directly highlights their connection with his talk of “fools who don't look beneath the surface”), they are outsiders in opposite directions. Mob feels left out but desperate to belong, while Teru assumes that his uniqueness means he is the “main character of this world.” Through Teru's status and actions, we see the threat implied by both Dimple and Mezato - if not for Mob's incredibly self-defeating attitude, his powers would likely grant him all the fawning attention he could want.
In last week's episode, Mob's inability to play along with the actions of an actual cult made him feel first isolated and then furious. Mob is unique in that his greatest wish is to just be another normal, almost anonymous person - but his powers and personality deny him that wish. And yet, when we see someone who's actually come to embrace and celebrate their powers, they come across as a megalomaniac.
It's a pretty brutal Catch 22 that Mob Psycho is presenting here; either a character embraces their powers and becomes a monster or denies their specialness and becomes an outsider. Either way, it's impossible to fit into society if you are different. That could possibly make for a serious downer of an episode, but fortunately, this episode's visual execution was all cartoonish energy and comic melodrama. Last episode was already pretty loose in its animation of Mob Psycho's designs (likely a byproduct of its animation director, the talented Gosei Oda), but this episode leaned away from those more loosely sketched designs and towards more consistent but exaggerated physical violence, the kind you might see in a children's comedy.
Sequences like gang leader Tenga's rapid punches were designed to convey humor more than impact, and even Teru's frightening powers were represented in a mostly cartoonish fashion until he got truly serious. Those loose and largely unshaded animation sequences made for a strong contrast with the episode's regular impact shots, which were heavy on sketchy lines and crosshatching as shading. That style also felt suitable for the content; in spite of this episode's more long-term consequences mostly relating to its key character introductions, the overt plot here mostly dealt with a rivalry between teen thugs. Shots like this one played up the genre affectation of an 80s-style hardboiled drama through their stark, line-heavy shading.
All in all, this was another very strong episode of Mob Psycho 100. I mostly covered character, theme, and visual design in this review, but the show is also engaging on an immediate narrative level - it sets up conflicts with confidence, doesn't waste time, and sprinkles its narrative movements with consistent small visual rewards. Mob Psycho 100 is just a generally excellent cartoon.
Mob Psycho 100 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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