You know the drill. With a subtle nod and a thousand-yard stare tougher than steel-plated armor, a cool and collected character nonchalantly paints the walls with their enemies. I’m talking about telekinesis, baby, a power that practically formed a sub-genre of its own in the anime and manga of the ’80s and ’90s. From the timeless Akira to creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s own Domu and more modern espers like Elfen Lied and A Certain Magical Index, there’s just something about third-eye thrills and joint-popping gestures that are a perfect fit for anime.
Psychokinesis and style go hand in hand—after all, how are you supposed to separate the real from the fake unless they have you pinned against the wall with the power of their mind? We knew the experiments in Akira were working because we saw their destructive power firsthand. Legit mental gymnastics that go beyond mere parlor tricks are absolutely terrifying.
But then there are those who simply want to get in on a fad for the money, fake the funk for a quick buck. Without this side of the coin we wouldn’t have 1-900 psychic lines, ghost mediums, or a half-dozen Uri Geller wannabes bending spoons in bargain bin Jos. A. Bank suits. That’s where Mob Psycho 100 comes into play.
Emerging in a beautifully crude style from the brain of One-Punch Man creator ONE, Mob Psycho 100 is the coin tucked behind the ear in animation form. It’s both the real deal and a complete illusion—world-rending psychic slobberknockers walking side by side with bottom of the barrel scam artists.
Before we get to the meat of the ostensible hero Mob and what makes his series the perfect culmination of psychokinetic anime, we have to take a moment to give the other side some time to shine. The dark, duplicitous underbelly of the paranormal world is exactly what makes legit displays of magic so awe-inspiring, and it’s perfectly encapsulated in Mob Psycho 100‘s shameless spotlight snatcher: Arataka Reigen.
The Geller’s the Feller
Reigen is so integral to the world of Mob Psycho 100—which eventually spirals into a high-stakes takedown of an entire extrasensory organization—that he’s the very first character we meet. This self-proclaimed psychic sets up shop at his “Spirits and Such Consultation Office,” charging customers through the nose for poorly-staged exorcisms and half-baked heroics. Whenever one of his clients gets close to sniffing out his lies, he goes to absurd lengths to keep them hanging by even the thinnest of threads.
He plays guessing games that make even the most limp-minded of phony psychics look unquestionably authentic. He literally attempts to beat possessing spirits out of his customers, which results in a very relaxing Swedish massage. He frequently busts out his signature salt-throwing special move that’s more effective at seasoning than dispelling. Anything goes as long as it keeps his clients from walking away without paying their overblown bill in full.
Reigen’s lies are so powerful that it’s apparent he believes most of them himself to some degree. In fact, they’re so overblown they even managed to inspire their own special Mob Psycho 100 OVA called REIGEN The Miraculous Unknown Psychic, which was theatrically released in Japan and spins the entire series from his perspective in the ultimate lie to the entire audience.
The premise of this film still has Reigen exploiting the unknown with ceaseless claims of legitimacy, which is something at which all Uri Geller types excel. Like Geller, Reigen is consistently caught in the act, which only forces him to double down or die trying. To sweeten the pot, a well-aged palm reader named Kirari Sophia gives Reigen the idea of a lifetime. As seen on TV, this psychic’s best-selling book has proven to “enthrall white collar workers and housewives” alike, selling boatloads in the process. Tell as many fortunes as you like, but it’s the books that fuel the clientele, she says as if speaking directly to Reigen. That’s all he needs to hear to set out on his own quest to be a best-selling author.
Naturally, he gives his subordinate, Mob—the reason we’re all here in the first place—the job of actually typing the contents of the book, which will be funded via one of today’s greatest scam artist miracles: crowdfunding. Sure, Kickstarter and its ilk are fantastic platforms, but for some they’re a direct path toward easy money and unfulfilled promises. Thus, Reigen will complete a book by any means necessary, crowdfund it to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sit atop his vast literary riches for the remainder of his life.
The rest of the special episode consists of Reigen dictating the entire story of the Mob Psycho 100 anime to Mob, swapping out the heroics of the latter in favor of his own. Reigen’s head literally gets pasted over the other psychic stars of the series, from the hair-raising Teruki Hanazawa to the first spirit-turned-ally of the show, Dimple. The beauty of it all is that Reigen almost gets us good. Since I hadn’t seen the TV series in a while when I watched the OVA, I started to think to myself, “Wait, did he really do that?” and “Was he with everyone when they infiltrated the vile Claw organization?” Chalk it up to a bad memory or a convincing narrator, but even I had been fooled!
As it turns out, it’s easy to be a convincing fake when you aren’t being compared directly to anyone else at the time. When you actually see legit psychokinesis in action, though, the true power of Mob Psycho 100 makes itself clear. It’s been two years since the series originally aired—and a second season is right around the corner—but no matter when you watch it, Mob and co. make a strong argument for respecting those with serious powers and shunning Reigen and all the other Gellers out there lurking in the shadows.
The Real Deal
Reigen would be nothing more than a two-bit psychic scam artist if it weren’t for the undeniable authenticity of his secret weapon. Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama is about as mild-mannered as one can get, meek and quiet on the outside and positively bubbling with power within every inch of his being. His psychic abilities aren’t just strong, they’re otherworldly. They’re so over-the-top that he has to keep his cool and stave off any raw emotions or else his feelings will get cranked up to a nuclear 100 percent. What happens when he maxes out is half the fun of the series.
Mob Psycho 100 plays around with psychokinetic battles on another level, snapping the dial and testing the limits of TV animation with the help of prolific anime studio BONES (Space Dandy, My Hero Academia) and Death Parade director Yuzuru Tachikawa. To say the action is electrifying is an understatement; Mob and the other psychics of Mob Psycho 100 hit harder than a bullet train, crunching concrete like aluminum cans and turning all of Seasoning City into a cracked and crumbling playground. As far as animation is concerned, this is the culmination of decades of devotion to depicting destructive mind games on screen. It’s a thousand and one hits to the head that result in everything but a full-on Scanners money shot.
The fact that Reigen attempts to take credit for all the gorgeous devastation that unfolds during Mob Psycho 100‘s 12-episode run is downright delicious. It makes all the predictions, trifling tricks, and alien-bestowed paranormal gifts of your average Uri Geller seem quaint. Much like the very real powers Mob displays on a regular basis, Reigen’s own craft has been honed to perfection. Maybe he is the true protagonist after all, and we’re just caught up in another hard sell. Seeing is believing, and Mob Psycho 100 is a lie worth reliving over and over again.