I'm not too sure if I enjoy shounen type mangas anymore. I've had quite a bit of trouble getting invested Assassination Classroom and Nanatsu no Taizai and some of the older shounens, like One Piece or Naruto, can barely keep my interest any more. I think my major problem with many shounen mangas is that they lack realism. Yes, I know many of the mangas I've list are fanatasy and so aren't realistic in their setting, but I feel that many of the relationships between characters or characters themselves lack realism. I feel many characters in shounen mangas don't act like humans, but are mostly broad archetypes that have been used through media. This isn't a problem in itself, but this allows for lazy character design because these archetypes have a general set of actions set for them. I've seen characters like this used all the time and it gets boring to see after a while. I want to know why characters act like a certain archetype and how it could affect their future actions. I want to know what a character feels after a major development and how he or she moves past it. Though there isn't many shounens that get me invested in them, I've found the works by the writer One to be extremely compelling. One's works are all shounen, but they have a distinct style to them, which match fantasy and realism extremely with a message in them. If you didn't already know, One is the author of One Punch Man, my favorite shounens of all time, but that doesn't matter much because I'm covering One's most recent work, Mob Psycho 100.
Mob Psycho 100 follows Kageyama Shigeo (or Mob), an 8th grader who has psychic abilities as he tries to get through his daily life. Besides going to school, Mob is employed part time at a psychic office run by the self proclaimed psychic Reigen Arataka, where Mob assists with various exorcisms and jobs at the office. Also, Mob has to deal various events at school such as club activities, getting roped into fights between two groups of delinquents, and even getting roped into shady cults. What results is a series that explores what Mob's place in society is and what it means to have psychic abilities in his society.
If I had to describe the style of this series I would say it's "Earthboundian" because the series has many simple character designs, but they are used in strange and interesting ways. What's so simple about the style of this manga is that it mashes together two things together and then makes some kind of weird hybrid creature with distinct traits of the two objects. For example, a broccoli, human ghost hybrid results in human ghost with broccoli like hair and that does something asinine. With all these odd creatures, the manga gives off a feeling that is was made a kid, which works well with the story of the manga because the story covers many topics that kids may be facing in their lives.
The cast of Mob Psycho 100 is incredibly colorful and fun, but what makes them so compelling is that they have well defined beliefs that dictate how they act. The titular character Mob is a good main protagonist because it's clear who he is and his interactions with the supporting character are great. Mob often meets the other colorful characters with a deadpan attitude, which makes him ignore or question the antics of the rest of the cast, much to their frustration. So Mob often dictates the flow of events in spite of the other characters, which leads to some great comedy, a fight, or a great mixture of both. What differentiates Mob from protagonists that also do this is that Mob often questions if his actions were the right thing to do after he's done them, which makes Mob more relatable.
Special mention must go to Reigen, Mob's mentor/boss, as well because he is extremely funny and a good character. If I had to compare Reigen to somebody, it would be Dan from street fighter because he acts like he can take care of anything, but in reality he's powerless. So whenever he tries to accomplish something, it often goes wrong or he solves it in a way that's just plain funny. But what's so interesting about Reigen is that he also acts as Mob's moral compass. If Mob is having a crisis, Reigen will always be there to help him. By mixing these mentor elements with joke character elements, Reigen almost always steals the scene when he's in the manga.
Overall, Mob works together with his colorful band of side characters to explore his character and philosophical points related to his age group to a good degree, while being entertaining.
I love One's writing style because it's so simple. Everything in the manga is presented in a simple form in that it's incredibly easy to follow along with what is going on. It's easy grasp who each character is and why they are acting a certain way in a short amount of time because each manga introduces most characters by having them make a statement that tells the reader about their beliefs or showing how they behave in multiple situations. Also, the events in the manga are easy to grasp too because it clearly lays out who are the villains and who are the heroes, but it goes a step further by also showing why each character is on their respective side. Also, One has a good understanding of tropes and puts them to good use in this series. What this does is it sets up generic situations and either flips it on its head or adds an extra detail to make that situation memorable.
Though the overall writing to this manga is simple, there are some downsides to it. First off, due to the simplicity of the writing, some characters will state the message of an arc so that it's easier to understand. This isn't much of a demerit, but it can get dry at times when the actions in the manga clearly show the message of the arc and then having the message repeated again by a character. Also, since the series is so simple, there aren't any major plot twists in this series. Again, this isn't a bad thing, but it makes it so the series doesn't really challenge the reader to think more about the world and what it means to have psychic powers because it's mostly spelled out in the series.
If you've ever read One Punch Man (One), the version of One Punch Man drawn by One himself, you will know that One is not a good artist. Luckily, One has improved his drawing skills since the creation of One Punch Man and so Mob Psycho 100's art is much better, but it's not that great overall. I find that the proportions of many of the characters change through out the series on the drop of the hat and it can be extremely jarring. Also, scenes with many characters look like a mess at times because One simple isn't good at drawing depth in certain scenes. The simplicity of each character can be a problem too because it can be hard to tell what each character is feeling at the moment. On the other hand, since the style and writing is quirky and simple, the art style further reinforces the feeling of the manga. Although the art of this manga works with the narrative and style of the manga to enhance message the manga is trying to convey, it can be off putting to many people.
Mob Psycho 100 is a fun series that has a quirky style hampered by its art. This manga has a style that freely mixes and matches multiple things that gives it a certain innocent charm, which works well with the writing and characters. The characters are extremely fun to watch because they work off each other by creating situations where their personalities and clash with each other. Mob is especially fun to watch because he almost always bulldozes through his opponents before they get to act, which results in many a funny face. The writing is simple enough to follow, but nuanced enough to be engaging. It does a great job of exploring and presenting multiple situations a teenage psychic would face in his daily life by mixing whimsical moments with dark moments to get a message across. Though the is pretty bad, it works well with the writing and style of the series and makes the series quite engaging.
All images were taken from Mangareader.net and Mangaupdates.com. I do not own any own any of these images.
You can read Mob Psycho 100 here.
P.S. Read this or Reigen will haunt your dreams!