Counter-intuitively (or maybe not, who the hell knows) I think it’s possible to feel too much affection for a character. At least for a reviewer, because that can obviously put a dent in your objectivity. The fact is, I was already losing it over the events in this episode before the final cliffhanger ever happened – so what chance do I have now? We’re getting pretty close to what the original definition of moe was – feelings of protectiveness and worry about a character. If any character ever lived up to that, it’s Kageyama Shigeo.
In the final analysis I suspect this season of Mob Psycho 100 will trail behind the second in the esteem of many fans (though that’s an enormously high bar). There’s no denying that it’s been quieter and more interior, where Season 2 featured a ton of blockbuster action. For me, though, this is a step up, because it’s closer to the heart of what this series is (or at least what I love most about it). This is not a smart action series with good characters – it’s a character story that happens to be blessed with some of the best art and animation TV anime has ever seen.
That MP 100’s final arc should be called “Mob” can hardly be a surprise to anyone. The subject at hand is one that’s been largely invisible since the first part of the first season, Mob’s crush on Tsubome-chan. It’s pretty obvious that ONE intended for this to be the climax all along, and Mob’s procrastination about it largely reflects the author’s intentions. Everything has been building towards this – not some climactic battle with another overpowered esper with the fate of the world at stake, no. The existential crisis of Mob’s adolescence, where he’s forced to put everything he’s tried to change about himself into action and confront what he fears most (in more than one sense).
That’s wholly appropriate, because Mob Psycho 100 is (to me) indisputably the chronicle of that adolescence – the fact that Shigeo happens to be a God-tier psychic is basically an interesting character trait. None of his powers can help Shigeo in situations like this – and that’s exactly the point. Yes, he’s actively engaged in self-improvement, and with real success – but none of it has been directly connected to his powers (which are already strong enough). He’s improved his body (continually illustrated with great subtlety), and stopped judging himself so harshly. What’s important about Mob’s powers is not the powers themselves, but the way he’s learned to accept them because he’s learned to accept himself.
For all that, when fate intervenes in the form of Tsubome’s planned move, Mob has to accept another reality – he is who he is. He’s an introvert, an introspective boy who will always doubt himself and overthink situations like this. I’ve always believed we can never stop being introverts – for those of us who live with it, it’s part of our essential nature. We can learn to manage it – which I call being a “recovering introvert” – and to his great credit Mob has been honest with himself and made great strides. But in a crisis moment he can still revert to type, and desperately needs the help and support of those who care about him.
Fortunately for Shigeo, there are a lot of them around. Because anyone who gets to know Mob realizes the truth – he’s as essentially kind and gentle a spirit as you could ever hope to meet. There are some standouts as Mob makes the rounds seeking advice – an especially moving moment was when Ritsu invariably clasped his hands in prayer (expecting the worst) when Mob was finally able to bring himself to call Tsubome (Saitama wallpaper!) and arrange to meet. Of course most of Mob’s circle are not ideal candidates for advice in situations such as this, but that doesn’t stop them from each and all doing their best in their own way (fortunately Mob graciously deferred when Teruki suggested helping him pick out clothes).
I had a recurring thought while all this was happening – that of all Mob’s friends, it’s Ekubo who could have been the most helpful here. Dimple’s incisive bluntness would have been more use to Shigeo than anything, but he’s gone. Of course Mob turns to Reigen in this moment, and this too is a wonderful sequence. Reigen is clearly neither confident or experienced when it comes to succeeding with women (under 70). He proceeds to give Mob a hilarious collection of bluster and platitudes – much of it cribbed off the internet, no less. But in the end he snaps his antique flip-phone shut and gives Mob an incredibly wise and relevant observation – “There’s no point keeping up appearances with someone you want a deep relationship with. Just be yourself.”
Nothing could exemplify the human contradiction that is Reigen Arataka better than that – he can’t resist bullshitting to try and look cool when he’s not, but in the end he gets it exactly right. It’s very obvious here just how much Reigen loves Mob and wants to see the nobility in his nature survive the harshness of the world. And indeed all through the episode it’s made very clear to us just how much Mob’s friends and family (even his secret ally at the flower shop) care for him, and just how much he’s grown as a person – in no small measure (though unknowingly) as a result of that affection and respect from those he respects himself.
This all seems like a brilliantly heartwarming reflection leading to a likely bittersweet end, but the episode takes a major left turn in its final moment. Shigeo uses his powers to save a cat from a speeding car, but when another runs the light (its driver dozing off) and is about to hit a small boy, it’s all Mob can (or at leasts thinks to) do to knock him out of the way and absorb the blow in his place. I’m not even going to entertain the thought that Mob could actually die here (stop it, I’m not) but this could still have all sorts of implications – even something like Mob losing his powers after a head injury, who knows? Apart from frantic worry over this noble child, I oddly find myself most anxious that he still get the chance to tell Tsubome how he feels.