Mob Psycho 100 II
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Mob Psycho 100 II ?
It's been a long week since the previous episode's cliffhanger left me with heart palpitations, and I had equal parts excitement and dread swirling inside of me in anticipation for this week's installment of Mob Psycho 100. I have to respect the way this episode keeps its cards close to its chest to maximize the audience's agony. Dimple is able to diffuse Mob from ???% to 100% by saying the bodies are just dummies, but it's obvious he's just blowing hot spectral air. It's pretty heartbreaking to see Mob realize this, but nevertheless ignore it because he has to latch onto any semblance of hope that exists in order to not go full Akira on the city. It's doubly heartbreaking to see Reigen also realize this, yet go on to reassure Mob that his parents and brother are okay. It sucks that they have to lie to him to protect him (and themselves), and it's another example of how unfair the world can be in spite of all the progress Mob has made. All of the psychic powers and emotional intelligence in the world can't stop every bad thing from happening.
Mercifully, Mob's family is actually okay! Leave it to a serial liar like Reigen to accidently nail the truth, that their deaths were staged in order to protect them from the impending Claw attack. I think this is the better of two bad scenarios, because killing them off so wantonly would've been a step too far for Mob Psycho 100. That level of darkness wouldn't fit in with the show's thematic concerns of personal growth and redemption. Still, that makes their “deaths” a pretty cheap trick on the audience, and last week's cliffhanger feels extra exploitative now. What redeems it slightly for me is the implication that Sho went through the trouble of staging this not simply to protect Mob's family, but also to deliberately provoke Mob into going berserk and attacking Claw for him. So far this arc is full of people manipulating and lying to Mob in various ways, and as long it ends with this aspect being addressed, I can forgive it for playing with my feelings.
Even after being calmed down by Dimple, Mob is all business in the beginning of this episode. It's weird to see my precious boy turn into the kind of shonen protagonist he's deliberately different from, but it's understandable given the circumstances. As fun as it is to see him thrash some Claw goons and levitate an entire car, it's grounded in the reminder that Mob is barely holding himself together, which is especially clear once he immediately goes to sleep at the first opportunity. Outside of that, there's not much Mob in this episode. Instead, the focus is on the faces, both new and old, that will be important players in the upcoming arc. It's easy to forget just how big the cast of this show has become, and I appreciate that most of them are introduced with their names onscreen, because a lot of these people haven't been relevant since the end of the first season nearly three years ago. The Claw members who got their asses handed to them in the previous season finale are now ex-members actively working against Claw. We aren't privy to the intricacies of their individual redemption arcs (there just isn't enough time), but it's nice to see them turning over a new leaf. Mob and company are going to need all the help they can get too, with the nearly 600 remaining members of Claw mobilizing under their leader to execute their plan for world domination.
Claw's philosophy seems the same as ever, that their psychic powers grant them manifest destiny over the rest of the world. Reigen already refuted this line of thinking spectacularly in the first season by comparing them to children throwing a tantrum, refusing to grow up and clinging to the idea that they're better than society instead of participating in it. In fact, it was refuted so well that I'm curious how this arc is going to deal with the same themes, albeit ramped up. I hope it isn't a complete retread of the first Claw arc, and I think the best way to wrap it up would be to have Mob assert himself as more mature than their narrow-minded perspective. In the meantime, I like that Sho's primary motivating factor seems to be embarrassment for his dad's chuuni world domination plan, which is riddled with clichés like hijacking the airwaves to deliver his big villain speech. ONE's savvy enough to know how cheesy this is, following it up with snapshots of social media users cringing into their text boxes.
Despite all the work that goes into setting up an eventual explosive psychic clash of epic proportions, this episode feels like a step down in terms of the creativity and thoughtfulness I've come to expect from Mob Psycho 100. It's not bad by any means, but it spins its wheels trying to cram in as much as possible while not much of note actually happens. The mutiny plot doesn't go anywhere. We don't get any insight into what makes their leader tick. We get a taste of how formidable his Ultimate 5 are, but they too seem like a retread of the Scars from the first season. While we get an intimate look into the inner workings of Claw, at the end of the day they still feel like cartoon villains who don't realize they're cartoon villains. Much of that is deliberate, but I'm struggling to care absent any other reason to engage with these new foes. I think Mob Psycho 100 is at its best when it's focused on making small character moments feel like grandiose examples of kindness triumphing over all, and unfortunately there was no room for that this week. Even the animation and direction, while still leagues above the average TV production, were not up to the caliber I've come to expect. I feel spoiled typing that, and Teru's battle at the end of the episode certainly had some standout cuts, but unlike the rest of this season I can't point to a single scene of action or character acting that really wowed me. I don't doubt that Mob will be back in top form again soon, but on its own, this episode left me wanting.
In the end, Mob might have unlimited telekinetic powers at his disposal, but it's his family, friends, and companions who are there to help when things go south. These are bonds forged out of love and a mutual desire for self-improvement, and they couldn't be any different from the will for power that unites Claw. When Mob wakes up, he won't have to face this battle 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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