Mob Psycho 100 II
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Mob Psycho 100 II ?
It seems the inevitable has finally happened. With no other way to follow up last episode's face-melting feat of animation, Mob Psycho 100 has deigned to give us a story arc about that festering sack of human garbage, that scheming punk, that salty swindler, the one, the only, the beautiful Arataka Reigen. The timing of this episode is doubly weird for me, since my first review from this season has recently garnered some unexpected attention on Twitter for describing Reigen as an “internet sex symbol.” I just want to say that if anybody wants to point fingers, please direct them towards the Bones animators who deliberately gave Reigen an anime-original shirtless scene in this episode. Stay thirsty, my friends.
Before we talk about Reigen, we have to catch up with Mob. He went through a hell of a lot with Mogami, but thankfully his school life is back to normal (or as normal as school life can be when you're in a combination telepathy/body building club). If anything, life is getting better and better for Mob. He's getting stronger both physically and mentally. He has an eccentric but genuine group of friends to spend time with. He's been much better about identifying and articulating his feelings. Mob has really taken to heart the lesson that Mogami inadvertently taught him, that he's truly blessed to be surrounded by such good people. Sharing food and idly chatting with his fellow club members are simple pleasures, but they're enough to give him pause about how much he appreciates these new facets of his life. As a fellow quiet kid, I know the exact feeling Mob is talking about, and it warms my heart to see him opening up and growing up in equal measures.
Reigen, on the other hand, can absolutely go straight to hell.
Reigen is a fantastic character, and he's just as important to making this story work as Mob. “Con man with a heart of gold” is a familiar archetype, but Reigen's blend of wisdom and buffoonishness made him a great match for the serious but naïve Mob. However, Reigen can also be a big selfish jerk, and unfortunately for him, Mob's getting wise to his tricks. Mob's growth is actually thanks in large part to his self-appointed mentor, since Reigen has frequently warned Mob about getting taken advantage of by others. Reigen just never foresaw a future in which Mob would become confident enough to call his bluff, and this comes to a head when Reigen pushes Mob just a little too far. Reigen might be the only functional adult in the show, but he's built his living on the goodwill of a teenager, and he's taken Mob's kindness for granted. To Reigen's credit, he realizes he's gone too far almost as soon as the words leave his mouth, but I'm more proud of Mob for putting his foot down and standing up for himself. His mentor deserves to see what life is like without his golden goose.
While he might act especially scummy this episode, Reigen sure is fun to watch! The animators take even more cartoonish license with him than usual, playfully twisting and smearing his body and facial expressions with an exuberance befitting his personality. He's a showman through and through, and that's all he has left to rely on with Mob taking his deserved sabbatical. His professional modus operandi honestly doesn't change much, but this episode's novelty lies in the glimpse we get into his private life. And it's about as sad as you'd expect from a grown-up who primarily hangs out with a teen boy and a ghost. The reversal of his fortune is straight out of the sitcom textbook; he expects Mob to come crawling back to him, but he's the one dodging out of sight when a perfectly content Mob saunters down the street smiling with his friends.
Reigen's antics are amusing given how pathetic a figure he cuts when he no longer has a wide-eyed apprentice looking up to him, but ONE also lends a compassionate lens to Reigen's backstory. It's easy to understand his drive to carve a life for himself independent from the doldrums of the 9-to-5, and the way he builds his business from scratch would be admirable if it weren't built atop a foundation of scamming vulnerable people. Still, he has his independence, doubly so now that Mob's out of the picture, but his selfishness has left him bereft of a life outside of his work. And since his work is conning people, he can't even fall back on the bonds he's formed with his clients. He comes to the sad realization that the closest thing he has to friends is a small bar full of gullible marks. He doesn't take advantage of these people in his usual way, but he still uses them to boost his own ego as he listens to their problems and throws out whatever advice sounds good. This is a substitute for friendship. It's fake. It's hollow. His drink doesn't even have alcohol in it, but he subconsciously convinces himself it does. Conning other people is one thing, but Reigen has managed to con himself into thinking he's content with his life.
The best expression of his ennui comes from a small scene of Reigen trying to find solace on the internet, which is predictably disastrous. I love the setting, with his dark plain room illuminated only by his computer monitor and a single beam of twilight through the window. The most distinguishing feature in his place is a water cooler, and I wonder if that wasn't a going-away present from his old job. He has to have Face—I mean, Friendbook tell him that it's his birthday, and the only message he receives is a passive-aggressive email from his mother with a job recruitment notice attached. It's a morbidly funny scene, and it's hard not to feel for a guy who's finally realizing he's stuck in a rut.
At least Reigen is smart enough to know he needs to make a change, so that's what he does. New™ Reigen is born, and he tears through the ranks of the psychic world—not by developing any powers, but with old-fashioned elbow grease (and spending a lot of money on MMOs). While I love seeing the fruits of his drive to be a somewhat decent person, it's difficult to judge this episode on its own, because it ends abruptly in the middle of an important scene. Still, it crams a surprising amount of stuff into its runtime. In the wake of a powerfully dramatic arc for Mob, this episode chooses to rein things in and focus on Reigen with both the humor and the sensitivity I've come to expect from Mob Psycho 100. Reigen may be a scoundrel, but he's our scoundrel. While he's been getting away with being an adult by default, perhaps it's finally time for him to mature into an adult for real.
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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