Mob Psycho 100 vs Amaama to Inazuma

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-12-34-46-pm

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.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-12-33-16-pm

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.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-1-21-25-pm

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 :-)

Mob Psycho 100 – 07

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.56.03 AM

The Gist: Ritsu unlocks his psychic powers and can use them with the assistance of Dimple, who has managed to crawl back from nothingness. As you can imagine, with powers drawn from delusion and betrayal, Ritsu’s mental health takes a sharp dive, culminating in the destruction of the student council president and a pile of thugs who now assume he is ‘White T Poison’ (the street name Mob was given for his previous fight)

Hanazawa makes a cameo (in a wig) and shows Ritsu he isn’t as powerful as he thinks. Meanwhile, a shadowy guy in a hoodie has his eyes on Ritsu but, before that plot can unfold, Mob encounters his brother using powers, cliffhangering into next week’s conflict.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.02.28 PM

The Verdict: all the parts are moving now — the major character conflicts are in place and the side gags are kept to a minimum. Even Reigen, who I was never a fan of, serves as a good mentor and support for Mob. So why am I still totally meh about this show?

Unfortunately, Mob Psycho 100 doesn’t have much going for it. It’s visually unappealing, much of the cast is depressed or deranged in an unsavory way, and a sense of overall purpose to it all has never materialized. For goodness sakes, Mob’s only personal objective — his only narrative stake — is a love interest we’ve barely seen in 7 episodes.

Without motivations and character driven plot goals, the show must rely on the ‘stuff is just happening’ of its plot driven narrative… and that has felt random so far. I’m dangerously close to dropping this show.

16rating_7

Mob Psycho 100 – 06

mob61

The Gist: Ritsu continues to obsess over not having powers like his older brother, which leads him to join a sketchy psychic research group. After meeting their underpowered stars and ongoing frustration, he breaks down and helps the student council vice-president frame a delinquent for stealing the girls’ recorder heads.

Meanwhile, Mob detects a sketchy adult with psychic powers, the muscle club members welcome the delinquent into their ranks, there’s a whole lot of misunderstanding about shadow leaders of Salt & Vinegar middle schools, and finally dimple appears to have returned. (witnessed by Ritsu no less)

mob62

The Verdict: MP100 is currently juggling seven narrative threads and each got a little development this episode. Unfortunately, while a lot of ‘stuff’ happened, none of it carried any drama, humor or urgency.

Why should we care about the reveal that Ritsu has powers? It’s a darkly dramatic reveal — obvious due to his anger — spliced between scenes of slap stick and a ludicrous art style. MP100 is entirely the wrong format for seriousness.

16rating_7

Mob Psycho 100 – 05

mob51

The Gist: Hanazawa pounds on Mob in a desperate attempt to make Mob use his powers. When this fails, and when Mob points out they are both meaningless losers without their powers, Hanazawa chokes Mob out.

Which results in Mob’s inner darkness taking over and utterly obliterating the school, HanazawaHanazawa’s hair, and then building it back afterwards.

Also Dimple is destroyed and we learn Mob lost his control once in the past and caused some high school bullies serious injury. Both of these points cause Mob some upset. He even looks around town for poor Dimple in the rain.

mob52

The Verdict: While the action ramped up, the very nature that Mob didn’t want to use his powers (and really didn’t, except for his short 100% unconscious beat down) bled the life out of this week’s battle. Sure, there was internal conflict aplenty but that didn’t carry through what was otherwise a visible action sequence.

The episode wasn’t helped at all by a lack of humor either. This was, by and large, due to the episode focusing on a fight sequence. Meh?

16rating_7

Mob Psycho 100 – 04

mp10041

The Gist: Salt middle school’s delinquent (club?) gets in over its head and seeks out the Body Improvement Club to aide in their revenge. However, this does not fit with the non-violent self improvement mission of the BIC and the delinquents must resort into tricking Mob to get kidnapped and forcing the BIC to intervene.

Meanwhile, evil spirit Dimple-sama has returned and is living with Mob. His goal is to eventually take advantage of Mob and rule the world but, in the short term, he has to learn more about his target and win his confidence.

mp10042

toughs arguing semantics is always funny

Off to the side, we see more of Mob’s brother and come to understand his deep desire for psychic powers. Despite his great abilities, and Mob’s assurance that psychic powers aren’t a source of limitless advantage, the younger brother’s desire is strong. It borders on jealous. possibly psychotic.

mp10043

Finally, there’s a massive showdown between the rival delinquents, the BIC, and eventually Hanazawa Teruki, a villainous psychic and shadow leader of the school. It’s a fantastic battle which raises the stakes until only Mob and Teruki remain, and Mob’s indifference (while tied up) and awareness of Teruki’s psychic powers has the early edge.

mp10044

The Verdict: MP100’s continues to build on its strengths. This episode was funny both in comedic timing and in creative goofiness. My favorite gag was the poor spelling of the letters the delinquents were sending, but Dimple’s reactions were generally a chuckle all the way.

More important than making a fun romp, this episode gave Mob a true antagonist to work against. While I doubt Teruki is a match for our quiet Mob, let alone a full on explosion Mob, the fact that he treats his powers differently is a good showcase in contrast.

And then, Mob’s brother is probably being setup as a longer term, more tragic antagonist. Good things are coming!

16rating_8

Mob Psycho 100 – 03

mp10031

The Gist: the Body Improvement Club allows the Telepathy Club to keep the room (the BIC only needs it for equipment storage) and everyone is happy. Mob reveals his powers to the Telepathy Club but he’s still not interested in joining them. His focus is on improving his physical form.

On his way home, Mob is pressured into joining a newly formed cult, LOL. It’s a laughter cult run by a hypnotist, who is later revealed as a spirit using low bloodshed methods to take over. In his frustration with Mob’s inability to smile, he pushes Mob too far — into 100% — and he is easily destroyed by the Emotionally Active Mob.

mp10032

Later, Reigen reinforces many of the negative things the spirit said to Mob — that Mob’s lack of emotions and ‘getting it’ mean he will cause trouble for people and be bad at love. However, Reigen also shrugs this off because Mob is his own protagonist and he did just save some people. He was the only one who could have saved those people.

Tying up last week’s club-room drama and expanding on Mob’s social circle was a good move. It was also nice and short, which left most of the episode for this week’s cult plot.

mp10033

The cult plot itself introduces Mezato from the school newspaper, who serves as our point of reference as humans. We hear her internal conflict before, during and after the spirit affects her and that lends more power to Mob not being effected.

mp10034

The Fight between Mob and the Spirit is stylish. Ugly, like everything else we’ve seen, but nicely framed and frenetic. The most interesting elements are the psychological ones: we see how Mob has been hurt in the past by not showing his expressions and the narrator gives us context for why he chooses to hid his emotions.

Finally, Reigen manages a human, not totally cringey scene where he actually mentors Mob. As with last week, the formula works best when we see the least of him but here, we got that AND seeing him briefly in a positive light.

mp10035

The Verdict: It had some lumps but this was MP100’s first honestly good episode. It was also the most One-Punch like, with a most of he episode being spent on Mob not being defeated, and eventually splattering the enemy with one hit.

Setting up Mob for multiple 100% explosions, and not just a single earth destroying one, is a clever fake out. It lends a different structure to the show than I was expecting, and I love surprises. It’s still a Butter Face show but the incremental improvements finally make it worth watching.

16rating_8

Mob Psycho 100 – 02

mob21

The Gist: Mob grapples with how he wants to spend his middle school years. Will he spend it working for his mentor Reigen, will he join the Telepathy Club, or will he put effort into winning a girl and enjoying some young love?

The Reigen path forces Mob to dress in drag and defeat a loser-ghost that didn’t live his life to the fullest — and both of these experiences cause Mob a fair amount of discomfort.

The Telepathy Club doesn’t really interest him. However, he considers it because the club members make a good point that middle school is the only time they ever will be able to slack off, and that he would not only be welcome to join in their fun, but be greatly appreciated, since the club will be disbanded by the student council unless a fifth member joins.

mob22

What worked: when the episode got around to having a core dilemma, that Mob’s great power does not make his personal wants any more achievable, MP100 felt compelling. Dare I say it was even remarkable that Mob’s blank expression was able to emote at the height of his stress.

It was also brilliant to make the invert the Body Improvement Club from throw-away bad guys after the Telepathy Club’s room, into an earnest thing Mob would want to be part of — that he needs to improve his physique to get the girls. That’s smart comedy and drama in short span of frames!

mob23

What didn’t work: Reigen continues to drag down the show. Because he is predictable, he adds no humor. Because he’s self centered, he’s unlikable. Because he’s part of the plot, he gets an unnecessary amount of screen time and totally pulls us away from more interesting developments in the plot.

It’s also still an ugly show. Sadly, I get the sense it would be fine as a manga, where the muddy color pallet wouldn’t exist (black and white) and the unproductive Reigen scenes would be easy to skip. It would also match MP100’s humor style, which relies on frame-reveal and deadpan looks in response to dialog.

mob24

The Verdict: There were glimmers of a better show this week. The ‘live paint’ style of the ghost as it spoke to Mob was visually interesting, the character developments in the second arc were interesting and funny, and Reigen was absent for much of it.

However, at 40% to explosion, Mob Psycho 100 is still not a very good show. I suspect it will continue to get better as Mob grows and his sense of hope deteriorates, but making the audience wade through 3 or 4 episodes first is a brave move to make. Brave… or really stupid.

16rating_7