The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Mob Psycho 100 II
How would you rate episode 1 of
Mob Psycho 100 II ?
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How was the first episode?
This is exactly what I wanted from Mob Psycho 100. I fell pretty hard for the first season of the show a couple years back, and I was eager to catch up with the psychic misadventures of Mob and Reigen, two of my most favorite dorks in anime. Initially, this premiere feels like an easygoing jump back into our heroes' wonderfully weird world: Reigen puts on his “competent adult psychic” act and promises to rid a poor farmer of the spirit haunting his crops, then immediately summons Mob to do all the dirty work. The ensuing fight with the scarecrow-spirit turned dirty-roots-skull-demon is very satisfying, recalling some of the thrilling battles that made season one of Mob Psycho so much fun.
Then the majority of episode slows things down and allows Mob to just be a kid for a while, which is where this episode goes from being “really good” to “utterly transcendent”. The plot at first seems like it will focus on Mob trying to woo his childhood friend Tsubomi by running for Student Council President. Ichi thinks this will be the perfect opportunity to get Mob to improve his leadership skills, so she can mold him into the perfect leader for the Psycho Helmet Cult, though Mob's anxiety at the podium ruins any chances of that scheme working out. This funny plot gives the folks at Studio Bones an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and show off the series' signature zany aesthetic. It also provides a chance for the show to organically reintroduce many of season one's key players, though the true heart of the episode lies in a new character, the seemingly disaffected Emi, who asks Mob on a date in what we later find out is a cruel prank orchestrated by her friends in order to further humiliate Mob.
The amount of pain, pathos, and heart-melting warmth that Mob Psycho 100 manages to cram into just one half of an episode is truly astounding. We feel elated to see Mob becoming happier and more confident in a relationship, we empathize with his awkward but sincere attempts to engage with Emi and her writerly interests, and it's almost physically painful when Emi admits her ruse and leaves Mob alone on that grassy hill. It's like every single high and low of young love encapsulated in just a few minutes.
If the story had been left at that, a cautionary tale for Mob as he continues to navigate his adolescence, then this premiere could have still possibly been great. What takes it to the next level is how Mob follows up this needless act of cruelty by stepping in to support Emi when her own callous friends tear her novel apart, and we see the realization dawn on Emi's face as she chooses to stay behind with Mob to pick up every single piece of her book, because he cares about her writing and that makes it worth saving. The cut of animation where Mob reveals his esper abilities in order to save Emi's pages from the breeze and piece them back together isn't just my new favorite scene in all of MS100, it's one of the best scenes I've seen all year (by which I mean last year, not just the last two weeks).
Mob Psycho 100 was already one of the most creative adolescent odysseys of recent years, and this masterful premiere gives me incredibly high hopes for its followup. I am a thousand percent on board for this season, and anyone looking for quality anime owes it to themselves to check out this show.
Damn, I forgot how much I liked this show. While Mob Psycho 100's most distinctive traits may be its unique art style and completely bonkers psychic battles, its real appeal for me is something a little simpler: Mob is just a fun character to watch. He's a well-meaning bundle of youthful uncertainty and awkwardness, and he's portrayed in a way that makes his deadpan reactions endearing in their own way. His interactions with the rest of the cast place him at the core of the show's humor, and he also provides the beating heart behind its surprisingly relatable humanity. For me, then, more Mob was almost inevitably going to be a good thing.
This sequel, particularly in its opening episode, is saddled with the difficult task of replicating the big first impression that its predecessor made, and at some level it plays things a little too safe for my tastes. This episode starts off with an exorcism sequence that's pretty much par for the course for Mob and Reigen, with no real surprises apart from Mob's relative level of comfort with his job. Granted, “par for the course” still means that we get a well-directed and impressively animated action scene, but some part of me would have preferred a bigger surprise right out of the gate. At least it's an effective reintroduction to the series, and the student council election that follows it is all too brief but riotously funny.
That leads us into Mob's encounter with a classmate after his failed election speech, along with their resulting relationship. It's here that the show really brings itself back up to full steam, as Mob's awkward interactions with Emi blend well-timed comedy with surprising moments of introspection. The little twists and shifts in momentum are neatly presented as we learn that neither character is as invested in the relationship as they first appear to be, and this all builds up to a compelling final scene. Mob's version of standing up for a friend feels totally in-character for him, quiet and unassuming yet uncommonly kind. It's a great reminder that under all the bombastic visuals and biting humor, this is a story about learning to be comfortable with who we are.
It goes without saying that this isn't the best place to start if you're a newcomer to the series; you're much better off sitting through the first season before diving into the new stuff. If you're a returning fan, however, it's good news across the board here. This is still the same Mob Psycho 100 you know and love, and the characters' growth and experience from the first season should serve this sequel well as it looks to carry the story forward. I'm already annoyed that I have to wait a whole week to see what happens next.
Mob Psycho II was easily my most-anticipated title coming into this season, for a variety of reasons. The biggest, of course, was that the show's first season was so incredibly strong. Combining ONE's inventive and profoundly humanist storytelling with Yuzuru Tachikawa's brilliant direction and a whole host of the best animators in the business, Mob's first season was as visually dazzling as it was emotionally rich. After a season that carried us through wild exorcisms and bloody psychic battles, that season ultimately ended on a firm declaration that in the end, simply being kind is the most difficult and powerful thing we can do. From its unimpeachable technical qualities to its lovable cast and inspiring ethos, Mob Psycho's first season was nearly everything I seek in anime.
Productions can often suffer significant shifts in staff or trajectory in the gap between seasons, but fortunately Mob Psycho has retained basically all of the first season's key players. The results speak for themselves throughout this premiere, as we run through first a classic Reigen-and-Mob exorcism, and then a poignant personal story at Mob's middle school. Tachikawa's direction feels as confident as ever, and Mob's overall art design remains an aesthetic marvel. Embracing the scribbly looseness of ONE's original art, Mob Psycho finds profound beauty in its wobbling yet richly colored backgrounds, and consistently evocative compositions. This fundamentally vivid design sensibility is further bolstered by the show's copious fluid animation, as well as its regular digressions into totally different visual styles. Characters don't just make funny reaction faces in Mob Psycho - their faces contort into painted grimaces, stylized minimalism, or even 16 bit retro gaming riffs, all of which feel strangely at home in this aesthetically diverse show.
And of course, there's the actual narrative. Though the first half of this episode is somewhat constrained by the necessity of reintroducing the whole cast, even that feels like a necessary concession to the ultimate goal of making this truly feel like a second season, and not just the first season's next episode. Mob has changed, and the people around him have changed as well, all of their own choices feeling like natural consequences of their prior passions. Watching Mob become a known and respected quantity in this world carries an inherent thrill, building naturally into Mob's first relationship with a quasi-girlfriend.
Mob's relationship with his classmate Emi consumes the last act of this episode, and stands as both a welcome testament to Mob's growth and a cutting story in its own right. Compressing last season's poignant thoughts on social difference, coming to love yourself, and finding a place where you belong into one lean romantic drama, it essentially embodies everything that was laudable and sympathetic about that season's thematic thrust. What could easily come across as a pat resolution is lent sharpness through the specificity of Emi's perspective, with lines like “could it be that you don't have your own feelings or opinions” first echoing the brutal harshness of the first season, and then revealing themselves as opportunities for Mob to demonstrate his growth. Instead of concluding on an epic battle, this premiere climaxes in a lovingly animated expression of simple kindness, as Mob's powers are used simply to encourage a friend to love themselves. It's a triumphant statement of purpose to send off a basically perfect premiere. Good to see you again, Mob.
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