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.
Alright, kids. Settle down, and take your seats. It’s time for me to explain to some of you why the man above was extremely fucking important not only to the modern zombie film as we know it, but to the entire horror genre.
George A. Romero was born on
February 4, 1940. He passed away today, on
July 16, 2017. This man was truly the godfather of the modern zombie. In 1968, George Romero and John Russo unleashed upon the world a little film called Night of the Living Dead. This one film forever changed what a “zombie” meant in terms of horror. Prior to this, zombies in cinema were relegated to mere background villains, and were more closely associated with their spiritual origins in Haitian
Vodou. They did not consume the brains and flesh of the living. They did not infect others. They did not amass into formidable hordes.
Romero imbued the creatures in his film with traits from the “ghoul” of Arabic mythology to form the template for the modern zombie, and invented the Western trope of the collapse of society under the feet of the undead. Additionally, he was the first director to truly utilize zombies as a parable for the common tensions that separate us in our society.
Night of the Living Dead is also incredibly important to horror due to its casting. In choosing the talented Duane Jones as the male lead, Romero had done something completely unheard of at that time: He cast a black male hero, and had him taking the lead of the situation over his white counterparts. Such casting would continue to be a signature of Romero’s zombie films, and would help pave the way for future black actors and actresses to be considered for leading roles.
With Dawn of the Dead (1978), the “zombies in a mall” trope was first created, spurred on by a visit to the Monroeville Mall (at this time, malls were an entirely new concept to the public, so many theatergoers hadn’t even seen one yet), and a passing mention by friend Mark Mason that it would be a great place to survive in if an emergency occurred. In the process, Romero added to the plot a subtle, underlying jab at American consumerism (pretty impressive, given that he hadn’t even planned a follow-up to Night until contacted about it by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento). It was with this film that Romero also gave a then-up-and-coming effects artist by the name of Tom Savini the opportunity to not only act, but to serve as a stuntman–both of which he would continue to do throughout his now-legendary, multi-faceted career.
By the way, if you pay close attention to the background during the “pie fight” scene in Dawn, you might catch a glimpse of George running around in a Santa Claus outfit.
While not as revered, Day of the Dead (1985) can take a great deal of credit for creating the concept of the sympathetic zombie that still holds memories of its past. This notion would be even further explored in Land of the Dead (2005), where the zombies are, in actuality, the true “heroes”–seeking and fighting for a place where they can find peace away from the living.
George would go on to make two more zombie films later in life: Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009), but neither would reach the same level of reverence as his previous efforts. In addition to his flings with the undead, Romero directed The Crazies (1973) (a very anti-military piece that can be seen as a bridge between Night and Dawn), the powerful and highly-underrated Martin (1978), and the much-applauded horror anthology Creepshow (1982).
He became a zombie boss in a DLC pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops. He even had a cameo in a zombie-themed episode of Disney’s kid-friendly animated series, Phineas and Ferb. George A. Romero will always be rightfully remembered as a horror icon that shaped an entire subgenre. Like the cinematic hordes he helped birth into the modern age of horror, he shall live on long after his passing.