Mob Psycho 100 II
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Mob Psycho 100 II ?
Mob Psycho 100 gives us a considerably more dialogue-driven episode this week when compared to last week's esper battle exposé, but it does so in order to lay down its thesis with clarity. With the rest of Claw indisposed one way or another, the two members standing in Mob's way are the umbrella-toting henchman Serizawa and the big bad boss himself, Toichiro Suzuki. While they occupy different positions in the Claw hierarchy, their stories and psyches are given equal weight in this episode's narrative, because they're both familiar elements of our modern world. By pairing them together as the final enemies Mob must face, Mob Psycho 100 makes a powerful statement about how different kinds of people can effortlessly radicalize others in dangerous ways.
Before meeting Suzuki, Serizawa numbered his days as a hikikomori with no life outside of his dark and dirty room. It's a situation exacerbated by his unruly psychic powers (and his unruly mental state), but the situation is familiar. He was bullied for being different. He developed severe social anxiety. He probably couldn't find a job even if he wanted to do so. He could easily be an analogue for Japan's Lost Generation—youth who entered adulthood in the midst of the post-Bubble crash of the '90s—but he also maps perfectly well onto my current generation of disaffected millennials beaten down by the Great Recession. There are millions of Serizawas out there, who one way or another found themselves victims of circumstances well outside of their control and live lives full of loneliness and despair. Serizawa himself isn't a bad guy, and he even expresses more than once that he doesn't want to hurt anybody, but his mild-mannered personality belies the darkness he's serving.
People like Serizawa are prime targets for radicalization. Now, this usually happens via the internet and not a mysterious man knocking at your door with an umbrella in hand, but the methods and end result are the same. Suzuki promises Serizawa purpose, a place to belong, and a connection to other people just like him. Deep down, those are the things Serizawa wants more than anything, because they're basic things any person would want! But Suzuki doesn't care about any of that; he's just preying on Serizawa's weakness in order to recruit another foot soldier for his own megalomaniacal ambitions. And Serizawa's innocent intentions don't matter once he's devoted his life to a group that seeks to hurt other people for absurd reasons. He might believe he's doing good, or that he's exacting some revenge on the kind of people who stole opportunities from him, but his anger has been twisted and misdirected at innocent people by Suzuki. The parallels to modern-day online radicalization couldn't be clearer.
It's commendable how much ONE has his finger on some of the most insidious ills of society, and how he uses Mob to address them in a firm but sympathetic manner. Mob recognizes Serizawa as much like himself, with similar fears and frustrations. But whereas Serizawa chose to retreat inward, Mob made the decision to improve himself little by little. It's not an easy choice, and Mob's path has been full of the pain that comes from conflicting with others, but it's been full of joy and color as well. Mob also knows that his life has been unusually charmed in many ways, a point made all too clear by Mogami, and because of that he knows that he has to be hard on Serizawa. He's a victim of Suzuki's manipulations, but he also bears the responsibility of Claw's evil actions, and he'll have to atone for that in order to move forward and grow up. What matters is that he still can grow up, and he can do it with the help of genuine friends like Mob, not a fringe cult that validates his every dark impulse.
I'm so glad this episode gives me exactly what I was asking for a few weeks ago; this time it's Mob (not Reigen) taking control and asserting himself as The Only Adult In The Room. I cheered when he directly called Suzuki out as the most immature person among them. Seriously, telling the grand esper overlord that he hasn't grown up since middle school is sickest ice burn, and Mob delivers it perfectly with his signature deadpan flair. It's important that Mob initially tries to approach Suzuki with the same sympathetic hand he extended to Serizawa, but he changes his tone as soon as it becomes apparent that Suzuki is coming from a completely different perspective. In his ignorance (which Mob also calls out), Suzuki has deluded himself into believing that he alone possesses the right to be human, and he views everyone else as either tools to be used or enemies to be eliminated. His confrontation with Reigen is also great, not just because Reigen shoots him with a gun (sadly in vain), but because they're perfect foils for each other. They're both con men, but their methods and ideologies couldn't be more different. Suzuki saw Serizawa and swept him up into his world domination plans. Reigen saw Mob and decided to give an anxious little kid some reassurance. Of course, Reigen started using Mob as his personal cash cow after that, but Reigen has also been through a whole arc about his life choices this season and come out the other side a better person. Mob has also grown up enough to cut to the quick of everything that makes Suzuki a pathetic and childish figure. I know he's a cartoon character, but I am so proud of my son for finding his strength and voice.
Mob Psycho 100's pointed and timely message would be enough for me to love this episode, but of course all of that comes packaged with another wonderful blend of cartoonish exuberance and explosive esper clashes. I'm sure there's plenty more to come in the finale next week, but this penultimate episode stands strong as a definitive expression of the nuanced levels of compassion and anger needed to confront bad actors and their cronies. ONE doesn't shy away from the infectious modern despair that plagues our everyday lives, but he emphasizes that even the smallest steps taken toward understanding and bettering oneself can mean a world of difference. Mob might have the toughest battle of his life ahead of him, but he's prepared and he's not fighting alone.
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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