Alright kids. It’s been awhile, so it’s time to buckle up for another one of my Patented Mob Psycho 100 Essay/Meta posts (patent not pending).
As much as I love and appreciate how Studio BONES adapted Mob Psycho 100, one of the things that always bothered me is how they adapted 100% Sadness.
Y’see, in the anime, it’s a fairly quick buildup. It’s clean and it’s pretty.
Mob wakes up to rubble where a school once stood.
The beautiful Ghibli tears roll down as he realizes what’s happened.
He curls up as the emotions well up within him.
And he unleashes 100% Sadness as sparkling tears cascade down towards the audience.
It’s so sad, right? Super sad! Poor Mob!!
But in the manga, things are….slightly different.
Mob wakes up not sitting neatly with his feet folded underneath him, but instead sprawled out on his hands and knees, hair in a frenzy from his psychic powers still being active. He’s not looking straight ahead at the remnants of the school, but upwards at the destruction still going on in the sky above, like some kind of giant looming over him. Mob doesn’t just look small. This shows how he feels small.
The narrator explains Mob’s thoughts in further detail here. It’s not just “Mob wakes up, realizes he Hecked Up, and feels Really Sad about that.”
This is Mob’s trauma, a thing that has made him feel helpless and alone. It’s the thing he hates about himself. And while the audience can certainly infer this from the animation alone, hearing it (or reading it, in this case) helps compound this fact and draw it out. It’s not just sadness Mob feels, it’s many, many complex negative feelings he’s been storing away inside himself for 4 agonizing years.
His percentage meter slowly ticks up and the thoughts and feelings build up–
And he begins to bawl.
Not dainty fat dollops rolling neatly down the middle of his cheeks. Not cutesy sparkly anime shoujo tears.
This is some absolutely unrepentant ugly crying.
This is Mob feeling so overwhelmed, that the careful control he’s practiced his entire life isn’t just gingerly removed, but absolutely smashed to smithereens. His tears pool and drip out of his mouth like drool. He can’t even fathom how gross it must look because he is so overcome with built-up negative feelings that he has never allowed himself to express.
His percentage meter peaks at 100% and then–
It’s panels like these that really tick me off when people say ONE isn’t a good artist. Because in comics, good art isn’t just drawing people realistically or with proper proportions. Good art is utilizing the space in a panel to convey meaning and symbolism to help tell the story.
Mob isn’t just curling up into a ball here. He collapses into a bow before his own powers that overwhelm him from a story standpoint and also overwhelm the panel.
Rubble cascades down from the sky, mimicking his own tears and the likes of rain. It is so powerful, it encroaches past the black border at the top of the panel, dominating the scene. The weight of it and his own sadness presses him into the earth.
This panel, this expression, shows how not just miserable this whole affair has made him, but how absolutely terrified he is. Mob at this point has been under Reigen’s tutelage for 4 years.
He never knew any other espers growing up. Reigen was his one hope at learning to control and stop this aspect of himself, and he is currently watching that hope churn amidst the remains of the school, shredded to pieces all around him.
The contrast of the calm emptiness of the bottom left only intensifies the sheer chaos of his powers at work around him in the top and right.
This is Mob’s duality.
The anime ends the scene with Mob watching as he neatly mends Teru’s school back together, his back turned to the audience. It’s nearly identical to the panel in the manga, but there are several key differences:
1. You can still see the cracks and tears in the school, despite Mob fixing it
2. Mob has his back to the school, turned away from it.
3. The lightning flashing in the background.
Let’s break these points down.
1. The cracks in the school stood out to me the first time I read this scene. What it portrays is that although Mob certainly “fixed” the school, he can never totally “undo” what has just happened, no matter how hard he tries. The narrator even makes this point–this was Mob’s “meager” attempt at fixing the situation. Even if he did somehow manage to repair the school to functionality, there will no doubt be remnants of damage and evidence of the destruction it went through. Contrasted with the anime where the school is neatly glued back together, it feels at odds, and even contradictory to the narrator’s previous insertion.
2. Mob is not looking at the school. He does not want to face the aftermath of what he’s done. He can try to mend the situation all he likes, but ultimately the end result is the same: He failed to change. In yet another spectacular use of composition, the destruction directly looming over his head in the background is a perfect mirror to his current mental state. Where Mob expresses, things are broken.
3. The grey overcast of the anime coupled with the soft strumming of the guitar carries sadness, but in a cathartic way. (After all, crying is known to help bring back chemical balance when our brains are overwhelmed with emotion.)
The manga, by contrast, feels foreboding. The framing of the scene shows Mob just below the chaos of his powers returning the school to its prior shape, him large and especially prominent, as opposed to smaller and meeker in the anime. Most importantly, there is lightning flashing in the background. There are no gentle sunbeams peaking through after a harsh rain, there are no soft painterly textures in the clouds.
It is still dark. The clouds are not soft nor comforting. Lightning flashes to signal continuing storms and danger. It is a warning:
This is not the last time we will see such cataclysmic destruction.