This isn’t the first time Mob has traded telekinetic blows with Dimple, but their big rematch here is necessarily heavier, laden with their shared experiences. And with tons of eldritch plant matter. Per usual, Mob Psycho 100 knows how to animate the hell out of a battle scene. There’s not a dull frame to be seen, and this doesn’t even scratch the ceiling that we’ve seen these animators reach and breach time and again. However, the real meat of this episode lies in the dialogue between these enemies-turned-friends-turned-enemies. This is really an extended argument between Mob and Dimple, using words, fists, and their entire rolodex of psychic techniques.
The primary thing this episode gets right is that, as far as the audience is concerned, there aren’t two equal sides in this debate. I’m not talking about the content—we’ll get to that in a bit—but rather the characters. Because honestly I don’t care what happens to Dimple. He’s been fun to have around as a conniving contrast to Mob’s determined wholesomeness, but his role has always been outshone by Reigen being a more complicated and compelling foil. Nevertheless, we’re driven to care about this conflict because of the effect it’s having, and that it will have, on Mob’s psyche.
Mob tells Dimple that he’s holding himself back, and the strain of that restraint can be seen on his face throughout their battle. Like ONE‘s other series, we’re dealing with a protagonist who knows he can easily smite his enemy at any time. Mob’s whole thing, however, is the noble struggle that comes with not using his powers as a crutch. When 100% Mob comes out, it’s a sign of defeat, not victory. But part of growing up is also acknowledging those moments when our personal codes have to give way to more important things. Take violence, for example. While it shouldn’t be your first resort, there are absolutely situations where it’s the safest solution. We don’t hear an ounce of sincerity in Hanazawa’s pacifist argument, because it’s deafened by the sound of Dimple swinging around his unchecked power with no regard for Mob or anyone else in the city. And still, Mob, to the point of tears, tries to talk his friend down from his ill-gotten pedestal. It breaks your heart.
Let’s take emotions out of the equation for a moment, though, and appreciate Mob Psycho 100‘s constant dedication to taking the piss out of self-important blowhards. Through Dimple’s resurgence, the show unleashes its most scathing lampooning of cult leaders to date. Because Dimple, to his credit, is honest with Mob. Their familiarity lets us strip away the pretensions and see the naked pride and greed fueling his actions and mentality. He’s very upfront about making shit up as he goes along and hand-waving all of the collateral damage simply because he couldn’t care less about it. To Dimple, the Psycho Helmet Religion’s sole purpose is empowering him into godhood. It’s the endgame of every cult, religious or otherwise, broken down into its basest, truest, most Machiavellian form.
At the same time, Mob’s friendship with Dimple bleeds into our own perspective. Like I said last week, it’s hard to take a guy seriously as a villain when he’s been hanging around as Anime Slimer for two whole seasons. Being so privy to his human motivations and shortcomings makes Dimple paradoxically both more despicable and more pitiable. And the show, in turn, enjoys sucking the wind out of his sails. While there is some genuinely unsettling broccoli-based imagery (never thought I’d type that phrase) in this episode, when Dimple reveals his “true form,” it’s hilariously lame. Even Mob knows this. It’s a joke from The Simpsons. Yet it’s also pointed commentary on how the most powerful figures on the planet continue to leech its resources into perpetuity for the stupidest, tackiest reasons. Look at the mansions some of these billionaires live in. You can’t buy taste.
The final few minutes of this week’s installment are a rollercoaster. First off, Dimple plays dirty this whole episode, preying on the weaknesses he’s observed in Mob’s other battles, thinking he’s finally prepared enough for this gambit. Here, though, at the very end, we see that his time with Mob has also softened Dimple. We see the side of him Mob had been trying to reach out to. He’s genuinely worried about hurting the kid, but he’s also too stubborn to let that show, and unless that changes, it’s going to tear both of them apart—Mob emotionally, but Dimple quite literally. But I’m still in shock and awe that the straw that breaks Mob’s back is Chekhov’s t-shirt. In one interpretation, this fifth episode is twenty minutes of drama and action winding up to a single monkey-print punchline. This is why I respect ONE as a writer so much. Mob Psycho 100 is a prescient and emotionally intelligent work, but he will never shy away from a terrible joke if the situation allows for it.
You could argue that Mob‘s tendency to never take itself too seriously is its ace in the hole. How else do you get to such a grand-scale psychedelic battle within the innards of a giant sentient broccoli stalk? That’s why the series is so likable and iconic. Nobody else in the business is brave enough to leave us on such a hilarious cliffhanger with such heartbreaking implications.
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.