Mob Psycho 100 II
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Mob Psycho 100 II ?
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I like to livetweet the anime I watch with a lot of bad jokes and the extremely occasional poignant observation. This season, Mob Psycho 100 has been captivating my attention hard enough to prevent me from saying much of anything while watching it, and true to form, the most eloquent thing I could think about this episode initially was just "this is NUTS." I still think all-caps NUTS is the most fitting word for not only this episode but this entire season. Time after time, these creators have crafted a production that's both dazzling to the eyes and rousing to the spirit. This episode is finale-caliber, but it's neither the finale, nor is it even the first time this season has delivered animation on this level. I feel like I can't help but be redundant each week in my praise for all the talented, hard-working people who make an anime like Mob possible. It's really something special.
As Mob's allies push their resistance against Claw forward, a series of high octane and psychedelic psychic battles ensue. Ultimate 5 member Shimazaki squares off against Ritsu solo, but Ritsu is soon mercifully backed up by Teru and the ex-Claw members from the 7th Division. Shimazaki's forte is teleporting, and that combined with his ability to read his opponents' moves makes him a formidable force even when severely outnumbered. The storyboarding does a great job playing with the camera in order to make his teleportations feel surprising, but grounded enough that the audience can actually follow the flow of his attacks, with each hit feeling appropriately brutal. Like the fight against Shibata last week, it's neat to see some of these battles play out more traditionally, with the strength and cunning of the martial arts being just as important as the trippy psychic enhancements. I particularly love the scene of Shimazaki beating up Teru, where his teleportation is communicated not by the characters moving but by the background suddenly changing. It's a creative inversion of how we'd perceive his power as bystanders, and we really get a sense of how dangerous he can be.
Meanwhile, Sho rushes up the tower with three months' worth of accrued psychic energy to beat down his embarrassment of a father. Of course, it's not that easy, and the scene instead serves as our first exposure to the extent of Suzuki's psychic powers. He's been talking the talk for the past few episodes, but it turns out he can walk an extremely destructive walk too. The dude doesn't even bat an eye as he deflects each of his son's attacks and counters them with deadlier versions of the same. It's one-sided to the point of being rough to watch, but it establishes Suzuki as a real force to be reckoned with, and sparks will assuredly fly during his inevitable showdown with Mob.
Speaking of Mob, it's wonderful to see him finally awake, because each of his scenes is a standout example of the show's thematic core. At first, he comes across a bunch of Claw grunts raiding a storefront on the edge of the chaos they've whipped up, and Mob cuts to the quick of their arrogance. Claw's entire philosophy is that the potency of their esper abilities gives them carte blanche to do anything and everything, but Mob points out just how limited their powers are. They don't know how to grow food. They don't know how to fix a broken door, let alone run a business. For as much as they laud themselves as the new masters of the world, they're still depending on the hard work of others to survive, and even worse they're taking that for granted. No single person possesses enough power to not need anybody else. Human society works only because we can make up for each other's deficiencies with our own strengths, and anybody who thinks otherwise is just a spoiled brat.
Minegishi arrives to deal with Mob, and I love all of the color and life the animators inject into his plants. Mob bluntly points out that Minegishi only sees his plants as a tool through which he can exercise his power, which is in line with the shallow thinking of the rest of Claw. While Minegishi definitely doesn't care, his tune changes quickly once Mogami randomly shows up like the world's creepiest guest star. Mogami's introduction is like a punch to the gut; the palette immediately changes to dark red and black as his frightening visage possesses the screen and then swirls together into a horrifying chimera of plant and bone towering over the city. Not a single word is needed to communicate his intimidating presence, and Minegishi finds himself squirming in his giant vine-ridden fist. To Mogami, it's a simple matter of exterminating an enemy, but Mob's intervention on Minegishi's behalf reflects our complicated reality—it's hard, but people can change for the better. Mogami's salt-the-earth approach is a guaranteed way to never be hurt, but also a surefire way to hurt other people. Society requires us to put faith in the goodness of others, and even though it's never a guarantee, it's better than isolating ourselves entirely. That's how you get groups like Claw.
Mob Psycho 100 seeks to refute this selfish arrogance that allows a person to imagine themselves both outside and above the rest of society. Suzuki only decides to carry out his world domination plan once he reassures himself that he's the most powerful esper in the world, but this is a cowardly approach that shows a lack of imagination. My dude goes on a single international sabbatical and he thinks he's seen everything the world has to offer. That's so sad! Shimazaki similarly believes himself to be unbeatable once he uses his powers to detect all of the other espers around him. After all, who else but the most powerful of espers could hope to outmatch his strength and agility? The answer is Reigen, who steals the entire episode with the sheer beauty of his Self-Defense Rush. It's such a perfect anticlimactic capstone to the battle, and it also slots neatly into Mob Psycho 100's philosophy of power by itself being useless. Ritsu puts it best when he realizes that he was never jealous of Mob's psychic abilities, but of Mob's stalwart conviction to make himself a better person and never look for shortcuts. There's nothing subtle about how Mob Psycho 100 communicates its themes, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Ultimately, it's the quandary posed by Mogami that lingers beyond the cliffhanger: kindness and trust are good and even necessary actions that hold society together, but there also come times when good faith is abused, and a line must be drawn. If Mob can find that line, Mogami argues, he will be invincible. I doubt Mob has any interest in becoming such a grand figure, but his confrontation with Suzuki will surely be a moment that defines his answer to this question. Earlier in the season, he found himself confused and upset by these grey areas of complex morality. He's grown a lot since then, however, and Dimple is quick to point out that he'll be an adult before anybody knows it. I'm proud of my boy, and I have faith he'll make the right decision when the moment comes.
Mob Psycho 100 II is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a friend who's good at watching anime and can be found making bad posts about anime on Twitter.
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