REVIEW: ‘Mob Psycho 100’ returns with vibrant visuals in season two premiere

Kageyama Shigeo, or “Mob,” is a middle-school boy who struggles to control his psychic powers. (Photo from IMDb)

The second season of anime show “Mob Psycho 100” premiered Saturday in select cinemas across the country, reminding viewers why protagonist Mob, or Shigeo Kageyama, grounds the otherwise whacky and fast-paced show with a bleeding heart and unadulterated desire to be kind to others.

The episode opens with Mob exorcising an evil spirit that’s taken possession of a farmer’s field, manipulating dead vines to ensnare and suffocate its opponents. “Mob Psycho” fights are usually characterized by bright colors and erratic but beautiful animation. Yet, for however smooth this fight looked, the setting and use of dead plants make it less visually appealing. Although it sets the tone for the rest of the season, the fight scene falls flat compared to some of the early fights in season one.

What the episode lacks in its first fight, it makes up for with other noteworthy visuals throughout. When Mob’s master, the con-man Reigen Arataka, tries to grow cherry tomatoes, only for them to taste awful, the animation switches into a style imitating 8-bit graphics. It’s a visual gag that invokes Pac-Man, complete with the sound effects of Mob powering up when the cherry tomato hits him.

Another key visual moment is when Mob helps one of his classmates recover the pages of his torn up manuscript with his psychic powers. Moments when Mob shows his hand lean towards the surreal, with his power emanating in crystalline wafts from his body to retrieve the pieces from the wind and arrange them back in order.

What works best in this episode is the plot. Mob is convinced to run for student council president to impress his childhood sweetheart and fails miserably. He attracts the attention of Emi, who confesses her love to him because he did something out of his comfort zone. Seeing the lengths Mob goes to to ensure Emi is content — and how happy having her in his life makes him — is an adorable change of pace after dealing with evil spirits or pompous psychics. Nevertheless, Mob is still not good with handling his words or emotions, and his romantic side is often awkward. There are things he says and does while courting Emi that should not work, but because he is so earnest, the audience can’t help but root for him anyway.

Later on, it turns out Emi only asked him out on a dare from her friends. She admits to finding him weird and thinking herself pathetic for spending as much time with him as she did. But Mob isn’t crushed by this. He realizes he needs to be more open with his feelings and, in the episode’s climax, he puts that into practice by rescuing her manuscript piece by piece.

Like most characters initially repulsed by Mob, she is won over by his sincerity in the face of a cruel world.

It’s moments like these that allow the show to shine. Mob is a supernaturally gifted preteen, but he wins people over because of his heart. Eventually he does use his powers to help Emi, but only after he tries to fix the situation like he thinks a normal student would. Emi knows that the other kids in their grade wouldn’t go that far for her.

It’s because Mob is different and awkward (and at times cringeworthy) that he is capable of such pure kindness when other kids in the series are not. He doesn’t take cues from how the rest of society behaves, so he comes up with a set of personal values from his own conscience. Being a psychic does not make him special; his selfless love does.