It might be silly of me to write a serious post about Mob Psycho 100. After all, nothing about this show is meant to be taken seriously, right? The main character, Mob, is overpowered, but he can’t even tell that his master is a fraud. His master, Reigen, has most of the wise, moral-of-the-story lines, easily identified by the way he talks the villains down—but how seriously can we take those morals when they come from his mouth? And don’t even get me started on the art. It screams this is a gag!
[Spoiler warning through episode 11]
Mob Psycho 100 undermines trope after trope, but one theme survives un-mocked: unconditional brotherly love. Most of Mob’s sincere, stubborn actions and words draw chuckles, just because no one is that sincerely gentle. That’s not how the world works. It’s even more laughable because Mob lets people beat him up for no reason except that Reigen told him not to use his powers against humans. Sure, he changes some hearts, but he doesn’t set out to do so, so you can’t take it as seriously as you do in more traditional shounen fare.
Then Mob’s little brother, Ritsu, attacks him emotionally and physically (well, with psychic powers that manifest in physical damage). We can’t laugh anymore.
It’s like Ritsu’s trying to provoke Mob, to hurt him into action, because if both brothers fight in anger, then both will be at fault. If Mob acts as dangerous as Ritsu says he is, then maybe Ritsu wouldn’t feel as guilty about the harm he’s caused.
At first, Mob seems naive as he denies what Ritsu’s done and said. Then the truth begins to sink in, and Mob calmly responds, “But I guess it’s true… I’m your brother, Ritsu. Hey, Ritsu. Half of it is true, right?” And he walks past his little brother to apologize to the boys lying in the alley.
It doesn’t fit, but it’s the best way Mob knows to show that, no matter what Ritsu thinks has changed, he still loves him, and he’s not going to turn against him so easily.
It’s not what Ritsu expected.
The delinquents won’t just take Mob’s apology. They insist that he grovel, and they’re prepared to grind him into the ground.
Ritsu, horrified, tries to stammer something along the lines of, “No, Nii-san, stop it.”
Mob, with his fingers pressed to the street, tells him, “Ritsu… it’s no use trying to get rid of me… Because we’re brothers.”
I love how Mob says his name. He does the same thing in episode 11. It’s a piercing way to say “I see through this nastiness to who you are and can be. I know you. I know who you are to me, even if you’ve forgotten.”
If Mob has to grovel and let people beat him up to prove his love for Ritsu—and to keep his brother from spiraling further in his cycle of violence and guilt—he will. If he has to fight to defend Ritsu from an evil organization, he will, though he’ll still take more than his fair share of beatings in order to minimize enemy casualties.
More than that, Mob won’t even let Ritsu’s shame get in the way of their relationship.
When Mob and Ritsu are finally reunited, Ritsu looks awful. Mob’s just returning to consciousness, and Ritsu starts to babble concerns about his wellbeing.
Mob says his name again: “Ritsu.”
The younger brother stops and looks away, ashamed. He’d tried to reject their relationship as loving brothers, even attacked Mob, and then Mob got hurt trying to save him. This is all his fault. There wouldn’t even be anything to save him from if he hadn’t pretended to be Mob and drawn researchers’ attention.
But Mob doesn’t care. He just walks up to his little brother and hugs him. “I’m so glad you’re okay. You’re okay, right?”
He doesn’t scold. Doesn’t say, “Don’t worry me like that!” or “We’re going to have a long talk about this later. What were you thinking, pretending to be me?”
Nope. Just, “I’m glad you’re okay” and “Let’s go home.”
Ritsu can’t deny his brother’s love anymore. He can’t hide behind claims of fear, and his brother’s proven that he can trust this relationship, despite everything he’s done. Ritsu protests, crying and relieved, that it’s not fair—Mob won’t even let him apologize.
But that’s the point: Mob’s love for him doesn’t hinge on how he behaves. He’s proven that he’ll always be a loving big brother. All Ritsu needs to do is accept that.
A Love That’s Proven Trustworthy
Whenever I see a case of unconditional love—particularly a case in which someone lets themselves get beat up—I think of Jesus Christ. Even if it happens in what appears to be a gag anime, like Mob Psycho 100. As I reflect on Jesus’ actions and the parallels between him and Mob, I notice how, just as Mob’s conduct showed Ritsu that his brotherly love was unwavering, Jesus’ conduct in suffering give me confidence in his unwavering love.
Jesus took a vulnerable, earthly body in order to give humans an opportunity to have a relationship with himself—with God—again. He could have used his power to proclaim himself king at any time during those thirty-three years walking among us (or thirty-two, assuming he crawled until he was about one). He could have protected himself from the sting of whips, or stepped off the cross and struck down the Roman soldiers. But it wasn’t time yet. It was time for humility, gentleness, and submission not only to the Father, but—temporarily—to his enemies and to death itself.
That’s not how someone with God’s power is supposed to act—not according to most people, anyway. The world responds to shows of power and violence, not submission. Jews in Jesus’ day looked forward to the day when the Christ (Hebrew: “Messiah”; English: “Anointed One”) would come. They especially liked the prophecies about him being powerful and conquering enemies—understandable, given their conquered state under the Roman Empire. Prophecies about Christ being broken and quietly bearing the weight of our sins? Apparently, those weren’t so popular, or at least they weren’t understood.
Even Jesus Christ’s own disciples, those students who knew him best, didn’t believe it at first. Jesus told them he would be killed and be raised, and Peter pulled him aside to say, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:21–23). Even if Jesus would be resurrected after three days, he shouldn’t be killed in the first place—not in Peter’s perspective, at least. But, as Jesus told him, in very strong words, Peter was looking at things through human eyes, not God’s eyes, and his ignorant opposition was no more welcome that Satan’s.
Peter also took issue with Jesus washing his feet during the Passover—foot-washing is a job for the lowest of servants, especially when you’ve been walking in dirt mixed with horse/donkey/etc. excrement all day. But Jesus was stubborn about being humble, because it was for Peter’s good—and ultimately, the good of every human being who would choose to follow him.
Jesus was determined not only to take our punishment for sin, but to pursue relationship with with us. Even in those later moments on the cross, he didn’t focus on his own pain and exhaustion. Nope. He called out, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” His persecutors and the criminal next to him both taunted him—if he was who he said he was, why didn’t he save himself? Surely their taunts tempted him, as Jesus was as human as he was God, and he was in the kind of pain that could compromise judgment. But he didn’t save himself—didn’t even command the earth to swallow the loudest of the taunters. He forgave them.
Okay, foot-washing is a nice object lesson on humility and servant leadership and all that. But letting himself be killed? Enduring verbal and physical abuse all the way to the point of dying between two violent criminals? Surely God could have come up with something a little less painful—maybe waited until the 20th century and a first world country, so Jesus could have a nice, quick lethal injection. Or perhaps found a way to avoid execution altogether. I mean, he’s God. Surely he could have found a better way. Or, even easier, he could have just displayed his power worldwide, said, “You have three days to realize how awesome I am and beg forgiveness before I put you all in your place, you silly, cruel humans.”
I don’t understand God’s thought process. But I know that his actions have impacted me in wonderful ways, opening the way for an incredible relationship.
I think that if Jesus had flinched, if at any point he decided it was taking too long for people to see how humble and loving he was being, if he decided he was through suffering and it was time to make his persecutors suffer instead… He wouldn’t be the Jesus Christ, the God, I know, love, and want to follow. I know I can trust God’s love as much as I can trust his judgment, because he held to it in the most difficult of circumstances.
Jesus Christ is incredibly strong. He doesn’t force us into relationship with him, and those who reject his offer for reconciliation, who insist on being his enemies, will eventually face judgment. But he’s patient and loving, and like Mob with Ritsu, he won’t let our sins, shame, or enemies get in the way of relationship—not unless we refuse to repent and accept his love.
We don’t deserve his forgiveness. We certainly don’t deserve the kind of love that leads him to suffer and die on our behalf. But Jesus went through a lot to save us anyway, and at the end, he didn’t say “Look what you made me do! We’re going to have a long talk about this.” If we hesitant to join him, if we dwell on our inadequacies as Ritsu began to do, we miss the point. He loves us, even if we don’t love him the way we should. He invites us to leave our rebellious ways and to come home with him—to him—not to be scolded, but to be embraced.
So, while Mob isn’t perfect, and his show isn’t meant to be taken very seriously, I think his love for Ritsu and his willingness to take a beating reflect something very real and beautiful. We can’t laugh at that part.
Disclaimer: Yes, Mob Psycho 100 is about psychics and exorcists. It has “evil spirits” and such in it. Honestly, that’s one reason I wasn’t eager to watch it when I first looked into it. I take this stuff seriously. I believe that psychics, mediums, and such in the real world, when they’re not frauds, tend to get their special knowledge from demons, even if they don’t recognize the evil spirits for what they are. That’s really dangerous territory. But Mob Psycho 100 does not have a realistic view on psychic powers and spirits. It keeps things safely in the realm of fantasy and superpowers. I was able to forget my concerns and enjoy it. I just want my Christian readers to be aware of the content, so you can make decisions about watching it for yourselves.