Mob Psycho 100 Episode 3
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Mob Psycho 100 ?
Mob is an incredibly powerful psychic. Like, ludicrously powerful. So far, nothing in the show has even come close to harming him - he's given various spirits time to explain themselves, and he hasn't always noticed everything that's happening immediately, but ultimately every threat before him has been dwarfed by his titanic, overwhelming abilities. And that's before we even get to his emotional lockdown, which is apparently preventing the display of even more unstoppable power.
But all that power can't help him look cool to the girl he likes.
That's pretty much the only reason he joined the Body Improvement Club, in the end. His powers are great, but they're not relevant to the life he's living. Mob wants simple things - to be liked by a girl or to be popular in a general sense. So he decides to bulk up, and when a stranger implies she has the keys to popularity, he follows her right into a crazy cult. Mob's insecurity and vulnerability are the linchpin of this series. The show wouldn't work without them; if Mob were confident, there would be no tension or humanity in his actions. But not only is Mob not confident, his lack of confidence stems from understandable insecurities. He sees his powers as more dangerous than cool, so he locks them up along with his emotions. He's not good at expressing himself, so he gets picked on, and then can't see any recourse. His insurmountable villains are not the spirits who assail him, but the idea that he is weird and doesn't deserve to belong.
This episode's cultist antagonists presented an extreme example of what “fitting in” or being popular can truly mean. When you're seeking popularity for its own sake, and it doesn't just come as the result of your natural self-expression, you are always stuck in an artificial pose. Mob's classmate Mezato initially lead the charge against this false ideal, responding to the cult leader Dimple-sama's praise of laughter by saying “if I forced myself to laugh, it wouldn't be sincere.” But Dimple's calls for peer pressure were elevated by psychic suggestion, so Mezato quickly fell in line.
Mob is different. His psychic powers (and the responsibility of controlling them) have led Mob to hold things inside from a very young age. He doesn't laugh much, even if he's having fun, and even though he knows this makes him “weird,” he can't really change the person he is. Mob's actions speak to a universal experience of feeling different - Mob actually seems to want to be the kind of person who gets caught up in a cult, but his nature doesn't allow that, and so he ends up being mocked and isolated in the same ways he's always been. Even at the episode's very end, after Mob has "defeated the villain," he can't help but frame his heroic actions as "ruining other people's fun." Mob faces enemies no external show of strength can defeat, which makes his story poignant and relatable no matter how powerful he may be.
This episode was a cutting exploration of peer pressure and adolescent anxiety that did tremendous work in further establishing Mob as an excellent protagonist. And of course, beyond that, the episode looked absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. There were plenty of the usual style tricks aimed at conveying specific character moods (I particularly liked Mob's descent into featureless blackness as his anger built), as well as a variety of new and old stylistic flourishes (the return of the show's now-regular painted interludes, a nicely stylized descent down a flat-plane elevator). There were animation highlights throughout, and plenty of moments where character acting elevated their emotional presentation (like the intentionally staggered frames conveying Mob's exhaustion early on). There was just a bounty to look at all around - when it comes to visual execution, Mob Psycho is only competing with itself. Between its consistently great look and this episode's uniquely sharp writing, this may have been the show's best episode yet. Mob Psycho 100 knocks it out of the park once again.
Mob Psycho 100 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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