Mob Psycho 100
Episodes 1-2

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Mob Psycho 100 ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Mob Psycho 100 ?

Mob Psycho 100 was likely the most-anticipated show coming into this summer season. Its author ONE was also the original creator of last year's much-lauded One Punch Man, but while that anime adopted the visual style of One Punch Man's remake (defined by hyper-precise drawings courtesy of Yusuke Murata), Mob Psycho stuck with ONE's loose, and scribbly original aesthetic. ONE's drawings look more like an alternative diary comic than a conventional manga, making the question of how they'd be adapted to anime a real and pertinent one.

Fortunately, Mob Psycho 100's anime is blessed with two of the most talented visual voices in the medium. On direction, the show features Yuzuru Tachikawa, one of the hottest new directors of the last few years. After contributing standout episodes to shows like Bleach and Kill la Kill and working as assistant director on Shinichiro Watanabe's excellent Terror in Resonance, Tachikawa made his first full-length statement of purpose with 2015's Death Parade. That show demonstrated a clear voice and a masterful understanding of visual tone, using its episodic structure to dance nimbly between exploitation horror, comedy, thriller, and sincere drama. Tachikawa has a bright career ahead of him, and Mob Psycho 100 is already demonstrating all the strengths that made Death Parade great.

In addition to its talented director, Mob Psycho 100 also features one of the greatest modern animators: Yoshimichi Kameda. Kameda first rose to popular attention through his many dynamic highlights on Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Since then, he's contributed to properties from The Tatami Galaxy to Evangelion 3.0. Kameda is handling character designs for Mob Psycho 100, along with various other duties - he worked as animation director for the first episode, and you can see his wild, everything-is-animated style in the show's opening song as well.

Of course, having a talented staff doesn't guarantee you'll have a great show - but so far, Mob Psycho 100 is performing and then some. The show's premise initially feels somewhat like an echo of One Punch Man's. In a world where supernatural phenomenon are common, Mob is a middle schooler with incredibly strong psychic powers. However, Mob doesn't really think much of his own powers, so he works part-time as the assistant to Reigen, an exorcist who doesn't have any powers at all. The two of them wander around solving cases, as Reigen's bluster ultimately gives way to Mob destroying the bad guys with some overwhelming display of power. None of that should seem terribly surprising coming from the creator of the superhero who defeats everyone with one punch. However, while One Punch Man was more of a dedicated action vehicle, Mob Psycho seems more interested in proving the validity of Mob and Reigen's world. And so far, the show is nailing it.

Mob Psycho is suffused with abundant but constantly purposeful visual creativity. The first sequence is a bravura display of hallucinogenic animation acumen, as Mob floats his way through a nightmare vision of shape-shifting monsters. The following opening song actually manages to one-up that sequence, as wild colors and transforming shapes introduce Mob Psycho's characters to a catchy pop-punk tune. And when the show truly starts, Tachikawa's talents kick in, bringing Mob and Reigen's feelings to life through dynamic layouts elevating crass, funny, and occasionally heartfelt material.

The first episode is more focused on Reigen's perspective, so the visual storytelling is a mix of over-the-top expressions and hard-boiled detective framing. Shots like Reigen peering through the blinds of his office or stepping warily up to an abandoned tunnel perfectly match the persona Reigen is trying to put on. Those visual choices essentially act as a continuous setup, punctuated by consistent visual punchlines as Reigen reveals how little of a grizzled detective he really is.

In the second episode, Mob takes center stage, as he deals with believable middle school problems like lamenting an old crush or wondering if he should join a club. It's in this episode that Mob Psycho's writing truly gets a chance to shine; Mob's anxieties about fitting in and doing what's right parse as totally believable, and lines like “Do I have something I really want to do? Does everyone else have something?” speak to a universal experience of adolescence. The direction supports the honesty of these feelings; Mob's world seems intimidating and always on the verge of collapse, and even staff interviews have made clear that Tachikawa is aware and supportive of Mob's fundamentally earnest nature.

Not everything about Mob Psycho has worked for me. ONE's taste in humor runs too loud and broad for my tastes - there have already been jokes about panties and ugly girlfriends, and the show's exuberant visual execution can turn overbearing when the humor isn't working. But there's no denying the enthusiasm of this production or the beautiful craft on display. If Mob Psycho 100 can consistently hone in on the clear vulnerability and humanity of its leads, we could have a legitimate classic on our hands.

Overall: A

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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