I knew going into Mob Psycho 100 III, that this would be the anime’s final season. I knew that. But knowing something and experiencing it are two different things. So I found myself spending most of Mob Psycho 100‘s incredibly emotional final episode in a stupor, and then just bawling once it was over. It was one of the most effective series finales I’ve ever seen.
If you’re not familiar with Mob Psycho 100, my recommendation is to stop reading this article and go watch it immediately. The series centers on a middle-schooler named Shigeo Kageyama, who goes by the nickname Mob. Though he’s an incredibly powerful psychic, Mob is wary of using his powers in most situations and keeps his emotions bottled up to avoid having an outburst and losing control. He’s often guided by Arataka Reigen, his “shishou,” or mentor, who runs a “consultation office” where he deals with “spirits,” but actually has no powers at all. In short, he’s a con man, but he does sincerely care for Mob. He’s also one of my favorite anime characters of all time.
Throughout its three-season run, multiple elements of Mob Psycho 100 have made it abundantly clear that this series is something truly special. For one, the animation is stellar; Bones (the series’ animation studio) has never been afraid of experimenting with style or pace. And they clearly had fun with the characters—especially Reigen, who Bones notoriously graced with a healthy amount of “fan service.” The series’ tone and themes also stand out: Mob Psycho 100 is overwhelmingly kind. This is a world in which anyone can have a second chance, and where even the bros in the Body Improvement Club are warm-hearted, open-minded, and looking out for each other. That’s not to say the series doesn’t grapple with darkness, but it does so without the slightest trace of cynicism.
Most importantly, Mob Psycho 100 carries an incredibly important message throughout: Your talents aren’t what define you; how you treat others and navigate the world are far more important. It flies in the face of the real-world narrative that what we’re good at is who we are, and that we’re only as good as what we accomplish. The chorus of the first opening song, “99,” still makes me tear up: “If everyone is not special / Maybe you can be what you want to be / Sorezore no kotae mitsukaru darou (We can find our own answer) / Your life is your own, OK? / Tokubetsu ja nakute mo OK (It’s also okay if you’re not special) / We can find our own answer.”
Against a backdrop like that, the Mob Psycho finale was bound to be emotional. The series isn’t ending because it “had” to—it’s ending because the story mangaka One wanted to tell is over. But the last arc added an important new message that really got me crying, and it’s one that had been building quietly throughout the series. That message is about living with trauma.
One and only one
Spoilers for Mob Psycho 100 III episode 12 ahead!!
Leading up to the final episode, Mob was in a dire place. After throwing himself in front of a car to save a small boy, he loses control of his powers and starts advancing through Seasoning City like a natural disaster. One by one, characters who Mob has defeated and then befriended try to stop him, but he can’t be stopped. You’re actively led to wonder if there’s a death toll.
It would be easy to label whichever part of Mob that’s out of control as a monster; separate from Mob. But his brother, Ritsu, is the first to state the truth: The rampaging Mob is Mob. It’s a version of him born out of feeling like he had to bury his emotions after a telepathic accident years prior, in which Ritsu was badly injured. It’s a version of him that holds all the anger and sadness that Mob feels he can’t express. It’s a version of him born from trauma—which is the name of episode 11. This Mob and the Mob we’ve known are inextricable; they’re one and the same. Mob himself is the only character who denies this. Reigen, the Body Improvement Club, Teru, Sho, and his dad—everyone tries to help the rampaging Mob as Mob. But Mob is the last one to come to terms with the fact that this “darker” part is still part of him.
The conversation between “our” Mob and “dark” Mob is illustrated in a very Neon Genesis Evangelion-like way, with “our” Mob slowly peeling away, his scraps filling in the outline of the “dark” Mob. Once “our” Mob fully disappears into the “dark” Mob, you worry he’s completely gone. But he’s not—they’re the same person. It’s only after Mob finally accepts this that he can de-escalate the situation and come back to himself.
Now, let me tell you why this completely fucks me up. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As I’ve sought to untangle all my various knots, I realized there was a part of me I was routinely ignoring and de-legitimizing. (“Dark” Mob even accuses “our” Mob of this in episode 11.) On the surface, the things this part of me said seemed extreme or even scary. But once I was encouraged to look deeper, I realized this “dark” self’s extreme perceptions were born from the duress of traumatic situations. The important thing, my therapist emphasized, is to realize that these parts were ultimately trying to look out for me in the best way they knew how. But, because of the limitations imposed by the trauma, these parts lost their ability to gauge situations properly.
I don’t think I have to tell you that Mob Psycho 100‘s depiction of this phenomenon is spot-on. The “dark” Mob is simply trying to honor his desire to reach his rendezvous with Tsubomi-chan. He just doesn’t know how to go about it. He never learned. He needs “our” Mob to help him, and “our” Mob needs the “dark” Mob to re-gain his ability to fully experience all of his feelings. The two Mobs don’t exist. There’s one, and only one.
We are damn lucky to be living in an age where so many shows genuinely understand trauma and treat it with so much empathy. Steven Universe Future immediately springs to mind, as does One Piece. Each of these shows has a different angle on trauma and PTSD. Mob‘s is a particularly unique one—a side-effect of experiencing trauma that is incredibly hard to explain. But it’s important to show that struggle, and even more important to ultimately show how Mob grows from—and triumphs over—it.
It’s also crucial to show Mob’s laugh at the end.
Reigen murders my heart
And then there’s my guy, Reigen. Episode 12’s extended scene featuring Reigen’s struggle to reach Mob is the closest Mob has ever gotten to being gory. Reigen’s race through the telepathy-created cyclone is legitimately hard to watch. Reigen gets knocked off his feet, thrown against walls, and battered by rocks—all while calling to Mob, begging for a chance to speak with him. The vocal delivery is incredibly raw and candid in a way that feels striking for both the series and the character. My heart felt like it might explode.
To add even more to the stakes, a friend pointed out to me the incredible importance of Reigen taking off his shoes before running to Mob. There’s a custom in Japan that’s become something of a trope, where one takes their shoes off before ending their life. The idea here is that Reigen is fully willing to die in order to reach Mob. Further heart explosions.
With Ekubo’s help (HE’S ALIVE!!!), Reigen finally reaches Mob and is able to tell him that very important thing: He’s been lying to Mob the whole time. He’s never had psychic powers. The audience has, of course, known this the whole time. And I think Mob did, too—or, at least, the part of Mob that stifled his emotions did. But to hear Reigen admit it, and to imagine how hard it must have been for him to finally own up to years’ worth of lies, is stunning for both the audience and for Mob. It’s enough to shock Mob out of his rampaging state; it’s the extended hand that enables Mob to join his two halves.
Viewing again from a trauma / PTSD point of view, I really think that showing the lengths Reigen is willing to go in order to reach Mob is vital. Part of the reason “dark” Mob exists is that Mob felt like he had to suffer and shoulder his burdens on his own. But there were people around Mob all the while who would’ve been willing to help him. Reigen’s efforts to show Mob that he’s not alone are profound. Hopefully, it can remind viewers who also suffer from trauma or other mental illnesses: You are not alone.
Anyway. Hilariously, Reigen pointedly says he wants to talk to Mob “alone,” and tells Serizawa and Ekubo individually that he doesn’t want them to listen in. I interpreted that in the typical Reigen way—that he doesn’t want everyone to know he’s not actually a psychic. He thinks he’s still fooling people. That seems true in Serizawa’s case, but it’s definitely not true in Ekubo’s. I guess we can’t expect a sudden, seismic shift in Reigen overnight. It’s for the best, honestly. Another lesson from the last episode: You’re fine as you are.
In a beautifully fitting end for Reigen, episode 12 ends with the entire cast throwing him a surprise party. You might remember how, in season 2, Reigen celebrated the saddest birthday ever by heading to a bar, by himself, where the drunk regulars knew him from time gone by. He realizes he has no real friends and vomits in the alley from drinking too much. The stark contrast of the surprise party (in what I assume is the following year) makes Reigen cry. It also made me cry.
Naturally, he had to fall face-first into the cake, too.
So, thank you, Mob Psycho 100 for being one of the best, most sincere, and warmest shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
(featured image: Netflix)
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