Teru (& some TeruMob) meta
Warning: contains some fandom salt, oops.
Fandom opinion from what I have gathered so far tends to either characterize Teru as this pure boy who has a crush on or lives for the attention of Mob and gets nervous and anxious over it like a shoujo heroine, OR this somewhat edgy yandere that fucks a girl every week and would probably choke and abuse Mob or something… and I fucking cringe.
Both are so wrong I don’t even know where to begin and I know both characterizations are passive aggressive wars between “antis” and “nasties” but lol, that’s something I am not coming within a 20 ft pole of and I can’t stand when ppl warp characterization to piss off the other parts of a fandom instead of reading carefully with canon… but I digress.
I think what’s jarring and easily misinterpreted is Teru’s change of behavior following his battle with Mob.
There was a great Tumblr post awhile back (which seems to have been deleted, argh) that hypothesized that Teru’s change in personality is an example of altruistic surrender.
Altruistic surrender refers to an ego-defence mechanism postulated by Anna Freud by which a person internalizes the values of another person and lives his or her life in accordance with those values.
I never took a psych class so I’m not going to delve into this further but this makes a lot of sense, since Teru’s previous identity and system of values took such a huge collapse that it’s impossible for him to formulate and rebuild it quickly, so he latches onto and internalizes Mob’s values, which does ultimately change him for the better and is a powerful driving force in him learning to reform his own personality, but does clash with his inherent personality traits to an extent.
Teru says during his battle with Mob that “people can’t change that easily” and that point is simultaneously right and wrong regarding himself. On the surface, it seems like he’s suddenly changed, but that’s because his entire world has been uprooted to the point he can’t return to it so he’s substituting believing in (and thus admiring) Mob until he figures himself out again.
However, for a person with stubborn pride like Teru, when that pride is shattered it doesn’t smooth out immediately, but impales the person on its pieces. You definitely see flashes of those gaping wounds post-defeat - an example being when he intimidates Ritsu, which I believe was both genuine advice and a way to vent frustration with his own former self.
In the manga, you see that Teru gets addicted to developing and refining his psychic power and learning multiple techniques. Sure, it’s probably because it’s useful if he and Mob ever have to fight a shady organization again (and they do), but on some level he’s still trying to surpass Mob in some way. He’s not demanding Mob acquiesce to his values like he did initially, but he’s trying to prove, perhaps both to Mob and himself that he’s an equal - since he can’t match Mob in overwhelming power reserves, he makes up for it in versatility. And from my point of view he seems to be always, on some subconscious level, trying to figure out why he wants to prove himself to Mob - as a friend? A rival? Maybe both? Why? Does he simply want peace of mind by proving that point? Or does he want to ‘repay’ Mob for ‘saving’ him? Shrugs, we can never know exactly but those are both possible.
It’s interesting that Teru’s catchphrase is “I am an ordinary person” and it seems like something he both accepts and fights at the same time. He accepts it in that he’s gotten through to his head that psychic powers don’t make him a better person inherently, they’re just another talent, etc. He fights it because he simply has too much ambition to sit quietly and not be outstanding in some way (“through effort, I have become an exception”).
Unlike Mob, he doesn’t easily accept being ‘nothing’ and having ‘no presence’ - he doesn’t quite have the strength of heart to embrace that ideal without looking back. But I do feel like this time the way he deals with it is healthier because he wants to stand out for genuine hard-earned achievement, not arbitrary factors he was born into.
Now, I’ll address the characterization in most TeruMob fics of Teru as the “nervous blushing shoujo heroine” and WHY I think people make that mistake a lot of times when writing fluff. Those writers aren’t 100% utterly WRONG in reading how Teru would act towards Mob in a romantic fanon context but they oversimplify his internal thought processes and fixate too much on the tropey outwards actions.
Teru has never had a real friend before Mob because his previous “friendships” were for status and ego boosts. Mob saw through that facade while everybody else bought into it.
There’s a lot that could give him anxiety re: forming his first friendship because it’s new and difficult and he’s learning as he goes along without being able to skip any steps, and also because Mob is particularly difficult to read as is. Teru and Mob, in the earlier stages of their friendship (outside of the necessary temporary alliance in the Claw infiltration arc) would probably be very awkward as both of them can easily be concerned with what could go wrong.
Mob is bad at reading the atmosphere, and Teru is not the greatest at genuine communication without putting up a front, so you can imagine how that goes.
Now if we’re going the route of implying Teru having romantic feelings for Mob, that complicates things further. Teru’s dated girls for show but when it comes to somebody he genuinely likes… given the way he’s handled facing his own emotional problems thus far I’m inclined to think he’d be in denial. While Mob’s clinical, pathological compartmentalization of his emotions made him a literal time bomb of sorts, Teru is more of the “self-aware but actively avoiding” type is my interpretation. And frankly speaking, there’s a lot that could go wrong should he get into a relationship with somebody he has genuine feelings for because he has too much to unpack about himself. His admiration of Mob in general would prompt him to also keep those feelings under wraps because the friendship is already an intricate maze to navigate.
Again, everything I’ve just explained is probably where TeruMob fic writers are coming from but they tend to gloss over or skip depicting these parts and thus end up with a hollow shell of what could have been. Also, for anime-only watchers, it’s easy to not get a good grasp on Teru (because you miss out on his technique-developing obsession and what that implies) I feel.