The True Nature of Strength in Mob Psycho 100

Today let's explore the thrilling Mob Psycho 100's perspective on what it means to be strong!

Mob Psycho 100’s second opening song is a delirious visual spectacle, handily demonstrating the show’s action fundamentals and aesthetic creativity all at once. But at the end of that dazzling display, the screen briefly resolves into two clear, written phrases--first the show title, and then the phrase “Your Life Is Your Own,” echoed by the song’s lyrics. I initially wasn’t sure what to make of that phrase, or how it applied to Mob Psycho specifically.


I mean, it feels obvious, right? Even if we have nothing else, obviously we maintain ownership of our own lives. But through looking back on Mob Psycho’s first season, I came to realize that this truism isn’t necessarily intended as simple encouragement; it’s a reflection of our fundamental responsibility, and our agency in deciding the worth of our lives. In a world where everything can often seem predetermined, and people possess wildly different degrees of power and agency, “your life is your own” is both a prayer and a promise, a hope that we might choose our own destinies tethered to an acknowledgment that these choices determine who we truly are.


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Throughout the whole first season of Mob Psycho, Mob has great difficulty seeing much value in his own life. Though he has tremendous psychic powers, he didn’t do anything to earn them--they’re just this thing his body can do, and often he’s more frightened and ashamed of his powers than actually proud of them. Those powers hurt his beloved brother when he was young, and as a teenager, psychic powers don’t help him study in school, or make friends, or stick up for himself. Whether consciously or not, Mob chooses not to define himself by the strength of his psychic powers, and thus can only feel ashamed of his own lack of accomplishments.


The villains of Mob Psycho’s first season feel very differently. Composed of highly gifted psychics with a variety of sinister powers, the organization CLAW is convinced that these powers give them the right to enforce their will on all who cannot defend themselves. To these psychics, physical strength is synonymous with power and righteousness, and thus the psychic blessings they’ve possessed since birth are a symbol of their inherent worthiness. In contrast with Mob’s “outside of this arbitrary power, I’m not special in any way,” CLAW chooses to believe that having arbitrary powers is what makes you special.


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Mob’s mentor Reigen is not particularly impressed with this attitude. Squaring off with some of CLAW’s most deadly operatives, he calls them fools and children, and wonders why they’re wearing such silly costumes. All the pomp and circumstance surrounding their powers dissolves in a moment when an actual adult enters the room, and asks them why they think being different or having powers by itself makes them special. And in response, after all the fireworks and battles are concluded, CLAW’s greatest advocate reveals himself to be exactly what Reigen thought of him--a squalling child, determined to make others respect him by pure force of anger, certain he should be praised simply because he exists.


But as that opening song says, the truly important choices are the ones you make yourself. None of us are solely defined by our given, natural strengths; those are just the base context for the lives we will ultimately live. In the end, your life truly is your own--you can do with it what you like, and though life circumstances and given specialties will guide our hands, we are ultimately only accountable to our own choices. It’s both a freeing and terrifying fact, and something Mob seems far closer to understanding than his pompous psychic enemies.

 

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This way of measuring personal value and strength flies in the face of traditional action shows, and is why it’s been so important for Mob Psycho to depict Mob growing in ways entirely unrelated to his psychic powers. While Mob’s position would easily lend itself to a conventional power fantasy, where his psychic strength grows as he himself grows stronger and more capable, Mob’s psychic powers have always, from the very start, been ludicrously over-the-top. Mob learns enemy powers in an instant, and defeats them with a wave. It’s simply not meaningful for Mob to “get stronger” in terms of pure psychic output, and to do so would contradict everything this show stands for.


Instead, Mob has grown in entirely lateral ways, focusing on the things he truly does care about. Mob doesn’t care about being a psychic; his powers have been a burden to him in the past, and he’s come to accept them over time, but they’ve never defined his self-image. What Mob cares about are the things most teenage boys would care about, and over these two seasons, he’s pursued those desires as much as he can. He’s joined a club at school, and made friends that help him feel better about his body image. He’s developed a stronger, more honest bond with his brother, and established a much happier home life. He’s found a job he takes pride in, and worked hard to develop his social skills. In short, Mob has been growing up, growing up in the real, hard way. To become a strong and laudable adult doesn’t mean cultivating your ability to impress your will on others--it means acknowledging your own flaws, pushing yourself in new directions, and accepting that you’ll always have more to learn.

 

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In light of this, Reigen has turned out to be an unexpectedly fitting teacher for Mob. While the first season’s antagonists attempted to convince Mob his powers made him special, to Reigen, Mob has always just been Mob. He has psychic powers, but so what? Though he’s a shady con man, Reigen’s advice to Mob embodies its egalitarian spirit; its belief that each person’s growth is unique to them, that we’re all equally worthwhile, and that we’re all in this together. It is easy to be strong, if you define strength in terms of the things you’re already good at--it is harder to be charitable, and to embrace a spirit of kindness in all your actions.


But ultimately, nothing else matters. We are not special because of our given strengths, because of the context of our birth, or because of the amount of force we can exert on others. Each of our actions must account for itself--we are never above our fellows, and never above judgment of our choices. To embody true strength is to accept the consequences of your actions, be honest in your engagement with the world, and work to help others find their own strongest selves. To accept you are not special simply because you exist, and find the joy in that--as the show's first opening song declares, "if everyone is not special, maybe you can be who you want to be."


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Mob’s priorities may seem strange, but they have enriched his life in a myriad ways, gaining him the friends and respect and loving home life that abusing his powers could never provide. That is the marker of true strength--respect and love earned through diligent humanism, not oppressive control. We might force others to accept our will, but they will never love us for it, and never help us grow in turn. It is only through seeking true, compassionate strength that we can hope to grow as people, and truly change the world.

 

How do you view Mob Psycho 100's views on strength and growth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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Nick Creamer has been writing about cartoons for too many years now, and is always ready to cry about Madoka. You can find more of his work at his blog Wrong Every Time, or follow him on Twitter.


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