Mob Psycho 100 came in to surprise viewers and position itself as one of the best anime to come out in 2016. Many expected the series to stick to the parody elements that made One Punch Man so popular, but Mob Psycho 100 turned out to be a lot more character-driven and even quite dark at times. The series features themes such as social incompetence, sibling rivalry, humility, and morality.
For the first time in TDF’s Character Analysis series, we are doing an analysis for two characters of the same series. Mob and Reigen can be considered the main characters of the Mob Psycho 100, and the way in which they influence is one of the main highlights of the story.
NOTE: This analysis contains spoilers for the anime
If there’s anything that’s made both One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 so popular is ONE’s deconstruction and reconstruction of what is known as the “OP MC” (“overpowered main character”). There’s countless anime featuring a main character who possesses some type of special secret ability that will make them get out of any situation. It really doesn’t matter who they are as a person, as all their flaws will be overlooked because they’re just special or “the chosen one”. Both Saitama and Mob are ridiculously overpowered, but in these stories the meaning of their powers differs from what’s so common in anime. Saitama (who has been speculated to suffer from depression) is bored with his life because he never gets to face any challenges or real opponents. On the other hand, Mob sees his psychic powers as something scary that he cannot understand, nor control. Their powers are not an advantage, but an inconvenience.
In fact, while everyone around Mob thinks of psychic powers as useful and cool, Mob doesn’t feel that way. When being asked about his powers by his younger brother, Mob replies that “psychic powers are not needed to survive in the first place”. And they are not (with the exception of the occasional attack by the Claw Organization). Mob places a lot more value in all the other qualities a person can have and that he lacks. Instead of being contempt with his powers, like Teruki Hanazawa used to be, Mob is constantly seeking out ways to better himself. This aspect of himself is made clear when he joins the Body Improvement Club instead of the Telepathy Club, as everyone was expecting. Mob realizes that, if he wants to impress his crush, he needs to get out of his comfort zone and become a respectable member of society. Because this world doesn’t have about kids who can bend spoons – it cares about people who are proactive, sociable, and, who can bring something of value.
Mob’s got a long way to go, though. He’s someone whose presence barely registers. In fact, his nickname, ‘Mob’, could be translated as ‘John Doe‘, a reference to the fact that he doesn’t stand out in a crowd. This trait is even emphasized by his plain-looking face that almost seems like a mock of the Spot the Main Character meme. However, his lack of expression and his inability to follow social cues has also led many to speculate Mob might be autistic. I personally don’t believe that’s the case. While Mob does have some traits that could fit in the autism spectrum, Mob’s lack of expression comes from the fact that he’s subconsciously repressed his emotions because they work as the trigger of his uncontrollable powers. In Episode 3, when he’s forced to laugh by Dimple and his LOL sect, Mob replies: “Your powers can’t make me laugh. I don’t hate it. I just couldn’t, even if I wanted to”. In Episode 11, Reigen states that “confronting others is the hardest thing for him”, and describes Mob as someone who’s “awkward and gets easily discouraged”.
Coincidentally, what Mob lacks is what Ritsu possesses. Mob envies the fact that Ritsu is athletic, smart, and popular among girls. On the other hand, Ritsu thinks of his traits as “too normal” and wants nothing more than to have extraordinary abilities like his brother’s psychic powers. To Ritsu, who grew up scared of his brother’s abilities, psychic powers mean a way for him to protect himself. But to Mob, who was on the other side of that accident, sees his powers as a danger to others. It’s not until Claw Arc that both of them are able to see each other’s perspective and find some common ground. Both Mob and Ritsu are special in their own unique ways, and neither is better than the other. This also happens to be Reigen’s mantra throughout the series:
“We were born with special powers that other people don’t have, but we mustn’t let it get to our heads and think we’re special. People who are fast, people who sing well, people who are book smart, people who are good at talking and people who can use psychic powers. You can’t put one over the other. Being confident about your powers is fine, but you mustn’t get conceited”.
Mob is also extremely nice and naïve, and thinks good of everyone. The first time Mob and Reigen met was shortly after the accident with Ritsu. Little distressed Mob went to Reigen’s spirits office hoping to get some advice from an “expert”. Kids are very impressionable, and so Mob clinged to every word Reigen said. Fortunately. It’s both interesting and scary to imagine what would have become of Mob if it weren’t for Reigen’s presence in his life. Despite all this, our first impressions of Reigen are very different. Reigen literally went from being a shady character that people disliked to pretty much being everyone’s favorite character. He was also one of the most talked about anime characters of 2016, and even had his own meme.
In the beginning, Reigen is portrayed as a conman who lies to everyone (including Mob) about being a psychic. He uses a middle schooler to earn money, and he pays him very little in return. For most of the season, Reigen is seen as a manipulative person who only cares about becoming famous. It’s not until certain situations arise that it becomes clear that he actually cares about Mob as a person, and not just as his employee. He gets him out of dangerous situations, and he gives him advice on growing up and taking control of his life.
Main characters that have adult mentors is a very common thing in shounen anime. The difference in Mob Psycho is that, unlike those mentors, Reigen has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. At least not when it comes to spirits and psychic powers. He doesn’t know how they work, or even shed some light on what ???% might be (he doesn’t even know it exists). He does, however, know a lot about life. Due to the age different between the two, more than a friend, Reigen is like a big brother or a parental figure to Mob (not that he has any issues with his own parents). Reigen teaches Mob that his powers can also do a lot of good, like they did when saving those people from the LOL cult. Reigen doesn’t necessarily teach Mob how to use his powers, but how to go about them. In Episode 11, when he tells Mob to run away and to not follow his ‘murderous intent’ (!), he’s proving two things. One, that he cares about Mob’s mental state (imagine the psychological consequences of committing murder in a kid like Mob). Two, that he’s the only adult in that room. Excluding the obviously childish Claw Members, Teru and Ritsu are too young to realize how much something like murder can break a person’s life. It’s also a good critique on how anime has normalized teens and pre-teens fighting to death like it’s nothing. Similarly, Mob has also influenced Reigen in many ways. And even though that is not explored until a (pretty likely) second season, it’s already shown in the Ending song.
Furthermore, Reigen might lie about the things he does in his business, but he doesn’t have bad intentions. He doesn’t scam people. If he can help his customers, even if it’s with a massage that he disguises as exorcism, he will. He’s always able to get people on his side due to his charisma, charming personality and excellent social skills. Reigen is very good at reading people, and knowing what people want to hear is key in winning in any argument or negotiation. It’s easy to mistake Reigen’s pacifistic words as an attempt to make up for the psychic powers he lacks, but that’s not the case either. When Mob transfers his powers to him in Episode 12 (titled ‘Mob and Reigen’) with 1000% Gratitude, he doesn’t use those powers to defeat the Claw members, but to support his speech. He doesn’t make Claw surrender to his powers, but to his words. Reigen openly admits that he’s a commoner, a mere human living in society just like everyone else. Because, once again, what makes someone special is being a good person, not the abilities you have been born with.