While I certainly enjoyed Amaama to Inazuma more than Mob Psycho 100, which I stopped reviewing after the 7th episode, now that both shows are over, I must admit they both fail at greatness for remarkably similar reasons.
AtI being a slice of life gentle drama/cooking show with a small cast and MP100 being quirky action “comedy” with a huge cast, is a surprisingly small barrier to their comparison, since both focus on the dynamics of family and friendship and struggle with purpose.
In the case of Mob, the first 6 episodes introduce multiple characters which only move Mob from plot point to plot point, yet do not participate in the larger narrative themselves and do not significantly effect Mob himself. For example, Tsubomi-chan, Mob’s love interest, only exists as a reason for Mob to join the body improvement club, and the clubs only purpose is to connect Mob with the telepathy club president (who only exists to make him go to a park and encounter an adult psychic enemy) and to connect Mob with the delinquents (who only exist to introduce Hanazawa and to add a minor extra reason people would mistake Ritsu for his older brother).
Ultimately, these baby steps towards characters who effect the plot, through characters that do not, delays the plot from taking shape coherently until episode 7. Sprinkle in Reagen’s one-note con artist jokes, and MP100 feels like it has no purpose and is wasting your time.
And that is terribly unfortunate, because Mob and Ritsu’s relationship has a great arc in the second half of the season, and the plot “Evil esper organization trying to take over the world” is the perfect format for more One Punch Man style antics.
In the case of AtI, where there are really only 6 characters, a sad tragedy, and the slice of life / recipe an episode structure, things start out much more quickly. Tsumugi is carfully rendered as a believable child, from her silly dances, to the way she lightly flinches when being chastised, to the weird way she uses language, facial expressions, and emotional challenges to mundane-to-adults situations. Coupled with her father, her father’s college friend, her class mates, and Kotori and the restaurant, and the show has a sense of purpose: we are watching how these people grow and deal with tragedy.
While this works wonderfully in episodic chunks, AtI flounders at the point Mob finally became good: half way through the episodes became all the same. Kotori’s objectives are never explored or explained, Yaki and Kotori’s friend don’t have any goals, and Kouhei and Kotori’s mom only meet in the second half of the final episode — just long enough to imply a love triangle could form, and that some drama could build around that… but then roll credits. (this was so jarring I didn’t even realize I’d watched the final episode until Zane listed the show as complete in my review list!)
This is a shame because cutting 2-4 episodes out of the beginning and middle and introducing the adults, and the adult conflicts earlier would make for a fine show. And AtI proved regularly that, when it tried, the production staff were masters of human expression and nuance and charm.
Bizarrely, both shows end with hooks for future seasons and, despite their strengths, it’s hard to imagine watching either of them again. Mob clearly ends with more filler-humor and the idea of 12 episodes setting up and executing adult relationship drama around Tsumugi’s characters just sounds laborious.
What a weird season :-)