He’s back! In Mob form! I can’t believe over three years have passed since the second season’s finale installed a giant broccoli floret in the middle of the city, but there’s little room for me to grapple with the passage of time when Mob Psycho 100 III picks up like that was yesterday. And that’s fitting, because MP100 is a series that never fully left my consciousness—nor the consciousness of everybody else online, it would appear. Remember that time Eric Trump got everyone’s favorite cartoon son trending? Or the innumerable instances of Reigen’s schlubby sex appeal gripping the internet with the force of a coconut crab? It’s a series that sticks with you. Like your favorite gum. And it’s back in style.
Season three’s opening trio of episodes does a fantastic job reminding us why Mob and his psychic (and psychic-adjacent) brethren are so beloved too. It’s a kaleidoscopic union of great characters, sensitive writing, dazzling animation, and—perhaps most importantly—a sense of liberation. MP100 feels like an anime that could attempt anything and pull it off with aplomb. If psychedelic ghost battles are your thing, then episode two has a rogue’s gallery of yokai you can watch get exorcized into oblivion. If you’re partial to relevant social commentary, then the last section of the premiere manages to neatly weave several characters’ anxieties into a thoughtful and touching conclusion. And if you just want to see Mob cosplay as the improbably-jawed gigachad guy, then may god have mercy on your soul, but the third episode possesses what you desire.
Mob Psycho 100 is every bit as good as it’s ever been thanks to the uber-talented creative team remaining more or less consistent throughout its run—with the inevitable changes that can happen over six years, of course. The most conspicuous shuffle this season sees Takahiro Hasui stepping up as director, while Yuzuru Tachikawa, head of the first two seasons, hangs on as chief director (a position usually reserved for more supervisory roles). While this may seem scary, it makes sense. Tachikawa has the Blue Giant film coming out in February, so I’m sure that’s soaking up his time. Hasui, meanwhile, is no stranger to Mob, as he directed the sixth episode of last season, in addition to having credits on Carole & Tuesday and Sk8 the Infinity. And whatever concerns I might have had about that personnel switcheroo have been thoroughly dispelled by how much I’ve enjoyed this season to date, so I don’t think there’s any doubt the anime remains in good, dexterous hands.
On the peripheral sides, both the new OP and ED accomplish the daunting feat of living up to their predecessors. I might actually like this OP the most out of the three we’ve gotten; it merges the now-requisite freeform psychedelia superbly with moodier abstractions befitting this final season, as Mob’s adolescent struggles presumably reach their peak. For the ED, Miyo Sato returns with her unmistakable and lovely paint-on-glass animation, mirroring her Reigen-focused season one ED with a quiet observation of Mob’s morning routine. The best anime openings and endings are always more than the sum of their parts. They’re opportunities for creators to deviate from the shackles of narrative storytelling and make 90 seconds of capital-A Art. In that respect, MP100 is batting a thousand.
That spirit of creative abstraction seeps into every pore of Mob Psycho 100‘s animation philosophy, and that fusion of freedom and passion remains the show’s quintessence, to me. Mob just wouldn’t be Mob if it didn’t let its animators go buckwild in every scenario, big and small. Sure, the psychic battles are the series’ colorful cornerstone, but I’m also frequently delighted by how much character can be instilled in the most mundane interactions. This week, the animators turn Tsubomi sneezing at an inopportune time into a hilarious exposé of her darkest, pettiest fears, drenched in rainbow-sheen snot. And Reigen would not be nearly so popular if he weren’t so often drawn like a Looney Tunes character. He’s a conman with the facial plasticity of silly putty, and everyone online wants to jump his bones. This is what cartoons are all about.
This show is also important to me in a more generalized sense, because it represents one of the precious few bastions of transformative adaptation philosophy left in this industry. High-profile adaptations feel like they’re getting safer and safer in their pursuit to please fans and draw in newcomers. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but long story short, one of my favorite anime ever is Hiroshi Nagahama‘s version of Flowers of Evil. So hopefully you can understand where I’m coming from here. And in many respects, Mob is the perfect series to get as visually weird as possible with. ONE‘s rough art style wiggles and pops with character, so it only makes sense for an animated adaptation to adapt the spirit of those drawings, if not also occasionally the letter. In my Perfect World, all adaptations would prioritize vibes and spirit over visual fidelity and coherence. But I suppose I don’t have to waste time pining for a Perfect World when Mob is here blowing my hair back each week.
I realize now I’ve barely talked about the story. Oops. But we’re still in the early stages of this arc, and I think what these episodes have done well is ease the audience back into these characters’ lives. I love the low stakes of Mob’s little fits of anxiety about choosing a career, and I love Reigen’s instinct to tease, but ultimately reassure Mob that he will have plenty of time and space to forge his own path. Their weird, happenstance, yet wholly genuine friendship remains the backbone and best part of the series. I also love the way this week’s episode takes an extended joke about Mob finally hitting puberty and, in the last scene, steadily warps the situation into something a lot more unsettling. While MP100 works really well as a heartfelt comedy, its staying power lies in its ambition to do and say more.
For now, I don’t feel like there’s much else for me to say except yep, it’s more Mob! It’s one of the best anime of the past decade, and we’re lucky enough to be able to see it wrap up as confident and as iconic as it ever was.
Mob Psycho 100 III is currently streaming on
Steve is a regular freelance contributor to ANN and also the guy who called Arataka Reigen an internet sex symbol that one time. Feel free to roast him on Twitter about this. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.