The live-action adaptation of Mob Psycho 100 manages not to take itself too seriously, and that’s it’s strong point. The quirky interactions, along with exaggerated speech and physical movements, make you feel like you’re watching an anime acted out by people. The series has its flaws, but with the right mix of action, drama, and silliness, it produces a reasonably enjoyable experience overall.
I am notoriously bad at watching things in a timely manner these days. The Netflix original series released nearly two years ago in January of 2018, and I have just now been able to watch through it. I watched the entire 12 episode run over 3-4 days and found it mostly enjoyable.
It’s no secret that Japanese and American TV programming is like comparing apples to oranges. Different goals, standards, etc.— though I’ve watched enough international TV that the difference isn’t that jarring to me anymore. Cultural differences aside, this show isn’t the zenith of Japanese television, but what it aims to do, it does well.
A God-like Esper who won’t flaunt his power
Shigeo ‘Mob’ Kageyama is a bit of a loser. He’s awkward around everyone, especially Tsubomi Takane, the girl he’s been crushing on for years. His only wish is to be popular and athletic, like his younger brother Ritsu. Despite his shortcomings, he has one exceptional talent— being one of the strongest psychics around.
While most psychics, called Espers in this series, want to flaunt their power for recognition or power. Mob is sternly against using his abilities for personal gain or to harm others. However, he tends to find himself in desperate situations where his stress level reaches 100% (hence the reason for the “100” in the title), and that’s when his true power is revealed. He enters a super-Saiyan like state, swiftly defeating anyone willing to stand in his way.
Events in his past are the reason he tries to keep his powers in check. He also works for conman Reigan Arataka, a self-proclaimed psychic who runs an agency dedicated to exorcising ghosts. Mob encounters many different opponents throughout the series; common thugs, evil ghost Ekubo (Dimple), rival psychic and student Teruki Hanazawa, and members of an evil organization called The Claw.
While the world wants Mob to use his power for their own reasons, all he wants is a normal life. Unlike Saitama in One-Punch Man (both series are created by manga artist ONE), Mob doesn’t want to be the hero, but he’s constantly forced to decide between his values and protecting himself or others. Will mob ever get to be a normal kid and live a simple life? Probably not.
As ‘anime’ as live-action can be
The one thing that kept me watching through the series was the fact that it felt like watching an anime. The special effects are sometimes good, sometimes awful. When Mob uses his full strength, the aura he produces makes him look ominous and powerful. I found Ekubo’s ghost design to feel really out of place. It looked cheap and rushed to me. It appears there isn’t much thought put into the look or how it would look superimposed onto the scene.
The most anime thing about the show is how the actors become living embodiments of their characters. You get the feeling that the actors and the production team made it a point of emphasis to be as “anime” as possible. The members of the bodybuilding club act like overachieving meatheads. Mob opponents make exaggerated speeches. Tome Kurata will introduce herself by striking a “cute” pose. It’s those small touches that make this show better than perhaps it should have been.
The only character I really couldn’t get behind was Tsubomi. I know some praise Yuki Yoda’s portrayal for being more reserved and true to actual human behavior. Maybe that’s by design. Perhaps she’s there to be a sense of normal in a crazy, exaggerated world. She does have the odd quirk of misusing certain words and sayings, which Mob regularly lectures her about to her dismay. They play her off as being aloof, dumb, and shallow too often. There are times where she comes through and shows a better side of her personality, but I think they relied too heavily on her negative traits for my taste.
The final verdict
Mob Psycho 100 is a wise choice for adaptation to a live-action series. There isn’t nearly the volume of SFX treatment necessary to pull it off as the majority of anime series out there. Even so, there are times where a little more care would make the show stand out more and seem less inferior in that department. The ability of the actors to portray their roles as intended in the source material is ultimately what makes the show watchable.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t call it a stand-out series, but it is one worth watching if you’re a fan of its manga or anime namesake. I was able to binge through it in a few days’ time, so I would consider it a little more than watchable. If you like humor mixed in with your action, give it the three-episode test and decide for yourself from there. If foreign TV doesn’t do the trick for you, or you’re not into anime, then move on to something else, because you will likely be disappointed.