One Punch Man got a lot of hype and became quickly popular, but I didn’t think it was all that good. The premise was interesting: a superhero so powerful that he had become bored of always winning. This idea was new and unique, but I the story lacked a coherent theme, and the characters didn’t grow to develop over the series. It’s one main strength was that it was constantly funny throughout the season.
So, when I heard that Mob Psycho 100, was coming out I admit, wasn’t excited. It’s by the same author, One, of One Punch Man. Soon, however, Mob Psycho 100 had a huge fanbase so I decided I should try it out. To my amazement, I was hooked. One seems to have taken some of his initial ideas and refined them into a story that is much more serious and focused without losing the entertaining comedic elements. His initial character archetypes are more developed and realistic, and the story is more emotional. The timing of the adaptations makes it really easy to marvel at how much One has improved.
The most striking similarity between the franchises is that both protagonists Saitama and Mob wear almost blank semi-emotional faces. The trope of an almost emotionless character is common in anime and has been done in many ways. One, however, turns his own use of the trope on its head. With Saitama, in One Punch Man, it’s simply that he’s so powerful that he’s become bored, lost all his drives and therefore feels no excitement. With Mob, the trope is different almost the opposite. Mob’s powers are so tied to his emotions that choosing not to feel anything is a safety mechanism to prevent loss of control. One took a comedic element from one franchise and turned it into a dramatic and actually tragic element in the next. When the viewer sees Saitama’s face, we’re meant to smile a little. After a few episodes of Mob Psycho 100, we’re almost in pain seeing Mob with virtually the same face.
The same comedic-to-dramatic switch is done with the theme of master and apprentice. In One Punch Man, the title of Master/Teacher is given out in an entirely power-based rationale. Saitama is the strongest hero, so Genos wants to learn from him how to be physically stronger, but Saitama doesn’t really have anything to teach. He doesn’t know anything, so he can’t teach anything. This concept is again turned on its head in Mob Pyscho 100. Mob’s mentor, Reigen, has no fighting ability to teach Mob because he has no superpowers. But he still has a lot of things to teach about life. Reigen’s is the more traditional portrayal of a martial arts master: He imparts important wisdom about of how to act and live in society. Reigen, unlike Saitama, is a qualified and competent mentor. Reigen’s teachings and his role as a mentor are important plot devices.
The tone of Mob Psycho is also a darker progression from One Punch Man. Plenty of characters are impressed or jealous of how strong Saitama is, but nothing in the plot isn’t driven people’s feelings about him. People’s feelings about Mob and Mob’s power are the major driving forces of Mob Psycho 100’s plot. The story is about what it means to be powerful and what different kinds of power mean. Mob’s brother Ritsu’s, feelings of inadequacy are a major plot element in the second half of the series, just as Mob’s feelings of jealousy towards Ritsu’s popularity are driving force in the first half. The Story id about the perception and definition of strength at a human emotional level. The realistic emotional take Mob Pyscho uses is very compelling to fans like me who weren’t big on One Punch Man.
Currently, One is not working on anything new and will continue to write both One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 for the foreseeable future. I look forward to seeing what other projects he will write in the future.