I’ve got a bone to pick with a certain kind of anime protagonist. You know the type: they’re mopey, unpersonable, and have no social acumen–yet, because of their inexplicable special powers, they constantly save the day and everyone loves them. They’re a vehicle for wish-fulfillment–suggesting that even though you’re a boring, average person, you can still be popular with the ladies as long as you’ve got some kind of secret ability that makes you special. Mob Psycho 100 has a bone to pick with this kind of character as well.
Shigeo Kageyama, also known as Mob, has a very simple desire: he wants to connect with people–namely, the girl he likes. Mob happens to be an insanely powerful psychic who can wield unstoppable force over anything he chooses–but, early into the series, he comes to the realization that this power is really of no use to him in pursuit of his goals. The girl he likes isn’t impressed with psychic abilities–she’s impressed with big muscles and a charming personality. Ergo, Mob sets out to acquire these things by joining the Body Improvement Club.
Self-betterment is the central theme of Mob Psycho 100. Its villains are all people who want an easy route to happiness, or who feel entitled to the love of others because of their talents. In episode three, Mob fights against a cult of people who try to delude themselves into thinking that they’re happy just by laughing, rather than trying to work out their lives. Most of his battles are against psychics who aim to take over the world because they believe that everyone else is worse than them; ignoring the fact that all of them have developed twisted personalities, intense inferiority complexes, infantilized interests, and sociopathic tendencies–none of which has actually made them happy, or convinced anyone to like them.
Mob doesn’t feel any sense of entitlement as a result of his powers–if anything, he sees them as a burden which prevents him from reaching his actual desires. Rather than trying to take what he wants by making everyone else bend to his will, he instead decides to achieve his goals through sheer force of effort–which flies in the face of the entitled beliefs of his enemies, putting them into conflict. What Mob forces his enemies to see in themselves–and what his de-facto life coach Reigen later spells out for some of them–is that none of them are actually hot shit. They’re all just humans who happen to be a certain way, just like anyone else is–and the only way they’re ever going to find satisfaction in life is by coming to terms with their humanity and working towards their own betterment.
Reigen himself is a world-class bullshit artist who strings Mob along to help with his money-making schemes–all while imparting golden nuggets of real-world life advice along the way. Even though Reigen’s practice is totally dishonest, his approach is weirdly kind-hearted and understanding. In essence, he is a psychologist, who is able to judge people quickly and to tell them what they want to hear, or to put on the act that they want to see, in order to make them happy–and most of the time it seems like it really is important to him that the customer is satisfied. The kind of people who visit him are the sorts of idiots who would seek out psychic and spiritual advice anyways–and if they were going to be conned no matter what, then it might as well be from someone who can legitimately cure their ails with a firm massage, under the pretense that he’s exorcising the ghosts that their goofy asses are bound to go on believing in. Reigen doesn’t have any kind of special powers, but he does have incredible charisma and social skills, which allow him to effortlessly feel the kind of human understanding that Mob so desperately longs for.
Whereas the original author’s previous work, One Punch Man, was an outright satire of the formula of shounen fight manga, Mob Psycho 100 is more predominantly a character-driven story full of comedy, action, and drama–but it does incorporate satirical elements to stunning effect in making its point about self-betterment. One of the best scenes in the show comes in episode two, when the Telepathy Club is trying to recruit Mob as a member. It’s pretty clear that the Telepathy Club mostly exists for its members to shit around in the club room and take it easy; but their leader tries to frame it as though the club exists in the name of youthful companionship and creating fond memories together. In a world filled to the brim with anime about do-nothing clubs wherein high school friends hang out, it seems like Mob is bound to join them–I can even think of several shows specifically about Telepathy and other supernatural studies clubs which have the same feel to them. But Mob, being the badass that he is, completely rejects them in favor of actually getting shit done by joining the Body Improvement Club–the members of which are pretty much all the coolest and nicest people in the known universe, and have no interests in anything other than making themselves better.
Mob Psycho is the hero story that our generation needs. It has no patience for people who are willing to sit around and wait for something to happen, or to waste their time forming pointless memories instead of getting what they want with their own two hands. It doesn’t forgive Mob for being physically weak and personality-deficient–Mob sees these as weaknesses on his part which he needs to work to change. His development is not left up to the whims of how the story affects him–it is taken upon himself to enact. In a time wherein so many people come to feel that the world owes them something, or that the system is unfairly stacked against them, and therefore they’re not willing to bust their asses to head for their goals, Mob shows us that even if you start off with unparallelled talent, it doesn’t mean shit if you can’t impress the girl you like. Forget about your destiny as the name which everyone in the world will one day know for your hidden talents, and hit the fuckin’ squat rack.
If you still haven’t seen this show yet, and you want to witness one of the best animation showcases of the year, as well as a fun and at times emotionally poignant action-comedy story, then I recommend checking this series out on crunchyroll after signing up with the link that makes me money. You can also help support my channel via patreon if you want to help me to make more videos like this, or by sharing this video around. Check out my myriad other channels for more frequent uploads, and as always, thanks again for watching–I’ll see you in the next one.