Weebsday Q+A | 09/16/2020

It is Weebsday, my dudes! I asked my Twitter followers for a lightning round of interesting anime questions to answer on this blog, and you guys didn’t disappoint! Without further ado, here are this week’s Weebsday topics…


What do you think the switch from long running series with filler (One Piece, Bleach, Naruto) to series being split up into seasons to wait for more manga to adapt (like BNHA) means for the longevity of big series’s in the minds of the public and sustained popularity of a series? – @JillyBellys

Startin’ off with a tough one! Just speaking personally, I do prefer the interval-based model for adapting long-running shonen series to the year-round marathon. I like being able to take breaks away from a story and characters to try something new, and then I can get extra excited when an anime worth waiting for returns. I also appreciate the greater degree of quality control and relative lack of filler that comes with this release model. However, from a production perspective, I’m sure the anime’s staff would much rather work contiguously on a project for as long as possible. The animators don’t have to worry about looking for their next gig so often, and the directors don’t have to worry about treasured staff members being tied up with another project in the window that they get to start production back up again. Since you mentioned My Hero Academia, I know that their animation director mentioned BONES was able to organize a production schedule that allowed them to work on it continuously in the early seasons, so animators didn’t have to worry about scrambling for other work even with the break, but I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. I sure hope so!

As for cultural longevity, that’s harder to say. While old-school network and cable TV schedules aren’t going anywhere any time soon, the world has largely moved on to a “binging with breaks in between” model of TV digestion thanks to Netflix and Amazon, so that’s what the most profitable demographics have come to expect from most series. I do feel divorced from that trend in that I still prefer following TV as one episode per week for a full season, but I realize I’m in the minority on that one. Ultimately, I think that being able to time a release based on public appetite for it is more important than one model over the other. If you’ve got a One Piece-sized phenomenon on your hands that’s just one wild fantastical concept after another, starring characters everyone can’t get enough of, then by all means, you run that shit into the ground. But if you’re playing with a more flash-in-the-pan hype-reliant property like Fire Force that people can get burned out on quicker, I think giving people time to miss it, around 6 months to a year, is a great idea. And in that time, the staff can theoretically give the material the visual pizzazz it needs to make the right impact without exhausting themselves.

Based on the traffic and interest patterns I’ve seen over the years, I’d say the average anime can wait at most about 2 years before the story risks weathering diminishing audience returns if some kind of memorable continuation doesn’t surface. After that, you risk passing the Attack on Titan or Re:Zero line, two examples where the biggest anime series of the year, some of the biggest anime series of the decade, didn’t put out another season until four years later. Those continuations were still big hits, so maybe that’s not the best example, but my point is that they did lose viewership to newer titles they could have bulldozed with better timing. Titan 2 got drowned out by a season packed with new action series in 2017, and I’m stunned that Re:Zero is having to fight Rent-a-Girlfriend for attention now. I’m an anime lifer, so I’m happy to wait for new seasons of the things I love for as long as it takes, but the life cycle of anime is short!


Hypothetical! If you had to Midnight Sun an anime and retell it from a different perspective, which series would you pick and to who would you assign the POV? In other words, which anime do you think would benefit from an alternate POV retelling and why? – @saraecardona

I wouldn’t mind seeing Gankutsuou from the villain’s perspective! Oh wait, they already did that, it’s called The Count of Monte Cristo. Gankutsuou is already the Midnight Sunnening of The Count of Monte Cristo.

In all seriousness, I will sit snugly at my table for one in wishing there was a version of the Monogatari series without Araragi in it at all. (At least, I think it’s a table for one. Monogatari fans would no doubt disagree with me, but I’ve also seen non-fans who watched Monogatari express similar sentiments as their reason for not digging it.) There are a lot of great ideas in Monogatari, but I know I would enjoy the story a lot more if it was just about the relationship between all these supernaturally afflicted girls and a slightly more fleshed-out version of Meme Oshino, who acts as an authority on their issues but takes inconvenient sabbaticals from his consultation office, leaving Senjōgahara and Shinobu as the perspective characters, with some kind of interesting relationship that forms between them over time. I don’t like Araragi as a character, but more importantly, I don’t like how he tends to affect the arc of stories being told; every new woman’s story tends to end up being about him instead. I’m not saying he’s unnecessary to Monogatari, because he isn’t. I just know I would enjoy the story more if it was rewritten not to include him, because he tends to make an impact in the most predictable or even uncomfortable ways. I apologize if that doesn’t exactly answer your question, since it’s more complete character erasure than a perspective shift, but one would beget the other. I’ll definitely revisit this question if I think of a better example later.


It seems like every time I turn around there’s a new hot series. What would you suggest for someone who still wants to be an active anime fan but can’t possibly keep up with the insane release schedule? – @NobleKind92

Man, you are singing my tune. I have less time for anime right now than I ever have before, and it’s only reminded me of how fast the hype cycle moves and how much content gets churned out, even in these more media-anemic pandemic times. At the end of the day, it’s just entertainment, so the easiest answer is to watch what you want, when you want, and not worry about what your social media bubble thinks about it. If you love anime, you’re an anime fan, and you belong.

However, if keeping up with the seasonal conversation is important to you, then the simplest solution I’ve arrived at is to try picking up at most five things in a new season that interest you, just restrict yourself to the stuff that excites you most, and give ‘em all the classic three-episode test, which is still pretty tried-and-true for weeding out the stuff with a great pilot but no long-term legs. Then, you should straight-up drop any of those five shows you don’t care enough about to see how the season ends. That’s about two hours of anime a week if all of it keeps you on the edge of your seat, and if not, you don’t have to feel guilty about trimming that down to two or three standouts. If you managed to miss something truly amazing, I promise it’ll stick around in fandom memory after the season’s over, and then you can watch that gem you missed during the next season, in place of one of the other five new things you would have ended up dropping. Good luck, and don’t feel the need to limit yourself to what’s hot right now! There’s always more great anime to discover out there, even if it’s been out for decades already!


What’s your relationship with Clamp stuff? Do you like tokyo babylon and X? – @tallesfsr

I like CLAMP! I generally enjoy exploring their work. I do not love CLAMP, since they’ve yet to make anything I would consider an all-time favorite. Generally, when I think of CLAMP, I think of their inimitable art style and immersive fantasy concepts, with a story that starts promising but tends to paint itself into a corner of contrivances the longer it runs. Magic Knight Rayearth, Card Captor Sakura, and Chobits are probably my favorite works I’ve seen from them, but Chobits is the only one I’ve read the original manga for. Everything else has been anime adaptations only, which can vary wildly in quality compared to their source material.

As for Tokyo Babylon and X, I’ve seen X the Movie, which is somehow equal parts incredibly dull and indelibly memorable as a too-complicated apocalyptic fantasy that’s been retro-fitted into this abstract, existential theatrical experience. By the end, it doesn’t really matter if you actually understand what’s going on, and I totally respect that. I’d never object to watching it again, it’s a neat little artifact of its time, and even the boring parts are strangely hypnotic. You can’t deny the power of Forever Love!

I don’t know much about Tokyo Babylon, but I did know just enough about it to get an incredibly hot girl into bed with me once. It was her favorite anime, I encouraged her to gush about it, one thing led to another, and now I’ll always associate Toyko Babylon with booty. I guess there are worse wires to get crossed.


If Naruto put a shadow clone into a Star Trek teleporter, would the teleporter not know the difference and just clone another Naruto? – @krormwrorm

I hesitated to accept the responsibility of answering this question, perhaps the most important question of our era, but I’ve done my research, and I believe there are two plausible answers to this dilemma.

The first answer kind of nullifies the premise of the question, because it’s possible that a Star Trek transporter would just eradicate Naruto’s shadow clone entirely instead of being able to transport it anywhere. Regardless of where you stand in the debate over how much of a person’s body or mind is transferred versus how much is atomized and then replicated elsewhere during the beaming process, it is undeniable that the transporter does shatter the subject’s body into atoms initially. Regardless of how much chakra they contain and how powerful Naruto has become, shadow clones do go up in smoke permanently if they’re struck with a sufficient amount of force. Getting exploded into atoms is such an inherently violent act that even the millisecond between the shadow clone getting “killed” and copied/transported may be long enough for Naruto’s chakra to return to him and nullify the clone’s existence, before the transporter could complete its copying process.

But let’s say that the beaming process doesn’t register as a violent enough act to nullify the shadow clone. Let’s say that he can be processed in the transporter as normally as any other object or person. If we were going by the older pop Trek theory that the transporter completely destroys its subject, copies them into its temporary memory, and then reproduces them elsewhere, then it’s possible that the transporter could create another completely autonomous Naruto, but that theory has been out of vogue in Trek fandom for years, due to complications introduced by the plots of many episodes across Next Gen, Voyager, and beyond.

It’s all very convoluted to my non-STEM brain, but the short version is that Trek scholars now see the transporter as a more complex machine that does destroy and replicate physical matter, but also transports active brain-wave patterns in a quantum state to preserve the subject’s personhood, their soul as well as we can define it, without the need for complete eradication and reproduction. After all, if this wasn’t the case and the miracle of life was easy to copy and save, then you could store any person’s physical and mental data in the computer and make them practically immortal with the use of a replicator. Because the transporter would not be taking the shadow clone’s distinct individual consciousness, which does not actually exist, through the beam stream, it would just be moving Naruto’s partitioned consciousness to a new location, where he could then recall or manipulate the clone like he usually does. Unless there were a transporter accident, I guess, and we all know that never ever happens on Star Trek…

So, we’ve got two options here as far as I can tell, but in both cases, the answer is no. The transporter as defined by current Trek canon would not create another autonomous Naruto. It would just teleport his shadow clone, which would continue to act like a shadow clone.


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Digimon in Translation | Adventure #1

WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE ISLAND………FILE ISLAND!!!

I have a confession to make: I’ve never watched through Digimon, my favorite childhood anime, in its native Japanese before. Considering how far those digital monsters have continued to follow me throughout my adult life, that’s pretty weird. Digimon was so formative for me at such a young age that I garnered a reputation as a super-fan in the 2010’s, purely because I couldn’t shut up about it online, whether or not I actually knew what I was talking about. I wrote thousands of words about the franchise’s ups and downs, I burned my own DVDs from VHS rips of episodes in EP mode and designed ugly sleeves for them, I produced English covers of the Japanese theme songs, and I pumped out many hours of video analysis about the anime’s first three seasons in the old Blip.TV days. But apart from the numerous short clips I’ve checked out over the years, and watching all of Adventure’s modern updates like Tri and Last Evolution Kizuna in Japanese first, the version of Digimon Adventure I would always revisit was Saban’s re-scored and re-written edit for the Fox Kids block. I just never made the time to close that particular gap between my days watching dubbed cartoons as a kid and my years studying anime as an adult. Generally, if I felt like watching Digimon again in my 20’s, it was because I was sad or sick or otherwise in need of nostalgic comfort food, so I would gravitate to the corny voices and bad puns I grew up with.

This year, after enjoying Toei’s latest attempt to conclude the ‘90s Digimon Adventure with a theatrical exclamation point, and getting a taste of the Adventure-with-a-colon reboot they’re making for today’s kids who watch anime on their smartphones, I’ve got digital monsters on the brain again. I’d been away from the digital world for long enough that it only just occurred to me; I finally know enough Japanese to understand most of what’s happening in a show like Digimon Adventure without subtitles. (I still have subs available for when I do need them, but Tentomon’s Kansai-ben is one of just a few lingering comprehension hurdles.) Instead of returning to the same old well of nostalgia in this ceaselessly brutal 2020, I’ve decided to open myself up to reevaluating this piece of my childhood in a brand-new light. Perhaps by comparing the English and Japanese versions, my appreciation for Digimon’s story and characters will evolve or—dare I say it—digivolve?

Anyway, I hope these posts will serve as a useful reference for Digimon fans curious about the most notable differences between two beloved versions of a TV show that may have been produced to sell toys, but changed a lot of little lives for the better along the way. Digimon in Translation won’t be a painstaking encyclopedia of every altered detail in every episode. (If it was, half of every writeup would be stuff like, “This shot was originally silent, but the dub added in a joke about pizza.”) Rather, it’ll be a more personal overview of how I see both versions side-by-side, with a focus on anything that significantly changes the context of a scene, along with any changes that just make me laugh out loud or scratch my stubble in confusion. There’ll be more than enough weird dialogue to sift through without getting into the weeds of three-word line changes, trust me.

Since there are many character name differences between versions, I’ll be using both of everyone’s names interchangeably, depending on which version of the character I happen to be referencing, with an (S) for Japanese sub or a (D) for English dub added for context. I hope that’ll make things less confusing? I guess we’ll find out together. There are also overall tone trends to Saban’s localization of Adventure that I don’t want to harp on repeatedly. As a general rule, like many cartoons of its day, the Digimon Dub is terrified of silence, so there are lots of extra gag lines thrown in to fill space that ultimately don’t affect the story. Near the start of the Dub in particular, when it was trying too hard to impress, all the kids were a little snottier and snarkier than originally intended, like they’re ready to flip their baseball caps backwards after every new dig, usually at Mimi’s expense. In Japanese, the kids are largely polite to each other, so the faint dickish edge to their English dialogue is worth noting, even if the changes remain slight enough to keep the characters the same at heart—except maybe Matt/Yamato, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Speaking of snark, these posts are bound to get acerbic at times, so I should make one thing clear: I love the English Digimon dub. It still has plenty of issues that you wouldn’t find in kids’ anime dubs of today, but I think the team did a fine job localizing Adventure compared to many of its contemporaries that have aged with far less charm, and if I ever get to Digimon Tamers and beyond, I know the quality and fidelity will just keep improving. The totally radical ‘90s artifacts I’m sure to unearth in my comparisons are just a product of their time, and every once in a while, these dub changes can pepper more fun flavor into an initially straightforward scene. But it’s high time I experience a story that made such a big impact on me in its original Japanese form, from start to finish. I’m excited to fall in love with Digimon Adventure all over again.

Alright, enough prefacing, let’s get straight into episode one! The Sub version kicks off with a third-person narrator dryly explaining that radical climate changes are beginning to have a major impact on the earth. (Buddy, you don’t know the half of it.) In the Dub, this narrator is replaced by Tai himself, who’s much more nonchalant and colorful with his descriptions of global mayhem, before clarifying that he had no idea any of this was happening while he was dozing off at summer camp. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. (Don’t we all wish 2020 was in hindsight right now?)

Moving on, you can see that the kids originally got more detailed name plates showing their school and grade. For whatever reason, the Dub chose to erase any info pertaining to the kids’ exact ages or grades in school, not just in this episode, but for the rest of the series to follow. I don’t get this at all. That’s context I definitely would have appreciated as a kid, making it easier for me to compare myself directly to the kids who were older or younger than me. Anyway, the Dub fills this narration gap with Tai razzing everybody instead, our first introduction to Saban’s efforts to cool-ify these kids. They all casually pick on each other in these early episodes, but if I pointed out every little extra insult in the script, we’d be here all day.

When a mighty unseasonal blizzard throws their camp into chaos, Jou (S) is the first to tell everyone that they should leave the cabin and find a camp counselor right away, only to be undercut by Mimi’s enthusiasm for a snow day. Joe (D), however, is just worried about catching a cold, which is not as strong of a choice, though it does lean more into Tai (D)’s prior assertion that Joe is a pants-wetting weenie. Jou (S) is supposed to be more of a worrywart than a scaredy cat; it’s a subtle difference, but it matters! When the aurora borealis appears and the other kids gawk in awe, Joe doubles down on his worries about getting sick, but Matt (D) tells him they can’t miss this amazing spectacle. In the Japanese version, Jou is still talking about getting adult supervision, and Yamato (S) actually agrees with him, reinforcing his more thoughtful, protective instincts in contrast to Taichi’s reckless excitement. Nitpicks aside, this scene does a good job of introducing us to the cast’s most prominent character traits in both languages. Matt is protective of T.K., who mirrors Mimi’s childlike energy and just wants to play in the snow, while Izzy is too busy fiddling with his computer alone to even notice.

After a geyser erupts from the canyon and washes all the kids down into the Digital World, the action picks up with the appearance of Koromon, whose name does not mean “brave little warrior”, as the Dub claims. I don’t think people bought that even as kids. I mean, the “mon” at least clearly stands for monster! Koromon doesn’t feel the need to explain his name in the Japanese version, because it’s pretty straightforward. As with Koro-sensei from Assassination Classroom, “koro” just vaguely means “round”. Not much more to him than a hopping head, after all.

It is wild to me that Saban just left all the Japanese text onscreen for every new digital monster’s profile. They clearly had the ability to translate text for composite shots and not just replace still frames, because we saw them do it a few minutes ago for the kids’ intros—in Comic Sans, no less! How am I supposed to know that Kuwagamon is virus type if I can’t read katakana? Seriously though, I admire the Digimon dub’s relative preservation of its Japanese-ness compared to many of its peers from the late ‘90s. For every reference to Japanese geography or culture they excised, they did keep a surprising amount of the original context in the show. You can even see it in Izzy’s dub introduction—they do show you that his real name is Koushiro, even though no one ever calls him that again.

Speaking of which, Koushiro (S) shows up soon after, and there’s a good gag in the Japanese version where he’s relieved to find Taichi because he thought he was all alone, but Motimon interjects that Koushiro can’t be alone, because he’s here to help! Motimon is moving their relationship forward too quickly for Izzy’s (D) liking in both versions, but the Dub maybe loses the point that Motimon’s fumbling jokester personality is very different from Koromon’s bold enthusiasm. Every Digimon is unique, but with a cast this big, you gotta cram characterization into every line you can! Before Kuwagamon shows up to ruin everyone’s day, the kids try to figure out how they ended up in a tropical jungle, and both versions choose to focus on completely different information. In the Dub, Motimon tells them that they’re in “Digiworld,” so Izzy immediately starts making computer puns and analogies for the rest of the episode series, and everyone just accepts that they’re inside some kind of digital dimension going forward.

The Sub version buries the lede for much longer, because Motimon only tells the boys that they’re on “File Island.” So, the kids have various conversations later about how far “File Island” might be from Japan, if it’s near South America, things like that, because why would they assume they were on a completely different world? The Digimon never bother to clear things up, because they don’t know anything about Earth either, so nobody actually grasps that this is a Digital World until long past episode one. I like that! It’s a shame that this endearing naturalism is lost in the Dub, but on the other hand, it’s not like they’re ruining some big twist or anything; we know what show we’re watching, these are digital monsters.

Suddenly, Kuwagamon swoops in, screeching in creepy bug clicks in the Japanese version and roaring like a TIE fighter in English. I don’t really have a preference between these monster noises (who’s to say what a stag beetle that big sounds like?), but it is funny how completely different they are. Tai (D) is impressed with Koromon’s bravery when he decides to fight back, but Taichi (S) is more earnest about thanking Koromon for saving his life. Since Koromon is no match for Kuwagamon, the kids flee to Motimon’s “hiding tree”, which is explained in Japanese to be nothing but a metal pipe that projects a hologram of a tree on the outside, our next clue that this world operates on different rules from our own. That’s fine, the kids in the English version already know that this is a digital world, so they don’t need to learn about holographic trees.

After the danger dies down, the kids gather for an official introduction to their Digimon friends. In Japanese, this scene is just the monsters saying their names one by one, but in English, they’re talking about how funny and cute and cool they are, which I only mention because the choppy timing makes it sound exactly like a Burger King commercial. You can collect all 7 in your Kids Club meal! Since Mimi is the only one still missing, her disappearance turns into a dunk-fest in the Dub, while in the Sub, Jou mentions that he has something to give her. I think this is setting up something in episode 2 that I don’t remember. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is this hilarious shot where Izzy says that Mimi is probably off picking flowers—with his mouth closed, because there wasn’t supposed to be any dialogue here.

Five minutes in a fantasy world, and Izzy has already developed telepathic powers. Makes sense, he is the most likely member of this cast to become the protagonist of an isekai novel.

Of course, Mimi is being chased by that tenacious Kuwagamon, so they all flee for their lives again until their retreat takes them to the edge of a cliff. Matt (D) shouts, “Great. Anybody bring a helicopter?” and you know what, that’s a quality joke, got a chuckle out of me. (In Japanese, nobody says anything, take a shot.) Tai gets closest to the cliff’s edge to look for a safe way down when Kuwagamon charges, so Sora (D) shouts, “Watch out!” like any concerned friend would—except in Japanese, Sora (S) shouts, “Now’s our chance!” What? I have no idea what she means by this. Does Sora think the edge of a cliff is the best place to pick a fight with a giant flying monster?? Or does she think they can all get away safely if they abandon Taichi to get eaten first??? If “今のうちに!” means anything that makes sense in that shot, please enlighten me.

Once again, Koromon throws his body at the unstoppable threat, and right on cue, the Dub opts to undercut the resulting violence with a joke. Koromon (D) explains to Tai that he’s just trying to make a good impression on him, like this is a job interview for lifelong monster partner, while Koromon (S) pulls out a classic super-sincere “I have to protect you!” When his bravery inspires the other mons to join in the fray, Izzy (D) gets a wonderfully cheesy line in response: “They must be programmed for courage!” I love it, Izzy and Tentomon always get the best material. After the evolved Digimon partners save the day, Tentomon (D) even says that his powers are “pretty wizard!” Please, zoomers, I’m begging you to help us bring back “wizard” as an everyday superlative.

I forgot that “Hey Digimon” wouldn’t make its debut as the Dub battle song until further into the series, so I guess I’ll enjoy that while it lasts. I am not a “Hey Digimon” defender. You will hear no defense of “Hey Digimon” from me. I don’t plan to compare the music very often in these posts, so I’ll just say overall that I enjoy both musical scores, and they don’t diverge enough in quality to affect the material most of the time. The biggest problem with Saban’s soundtrack is just that it’s overactive at times; dubs of this era were truly terrified of losing kids’ short attention spans with any moment of silence. Anyway, “Hey Digimon” to the left, we get our first dose of “Brave Heart” in the Japanese version! This superior battle theme’s never gonna get old for me. We’re nearing the episode’s end, but it’s a lot harder to take notes with all this saltwater in my eyeballs.

As the kids tumble down from the crumbling cliff, the Narrator (S) foreshadows a time-distortion aspect of the Digital World by proclaiming this to be both the longest and shortest summer vacation of the Chosen Children’s lives. There was also a Sub-only remark from one of the tiny monsters earlier that they’ve been waiting a “long time” to meet their partners, which’ll come up more often in future episodes. Digimon Adventure certainly starts out with a bang. Looking back, I appreciate how much of the runtime is just spent, well, running from terrifying monsters. The kids are even scared of the new best friends that destiny has assigned them! All seven members of the ensemble get just enough attention to make their personalities clear, and their monsters exhibit a surprising level of individualism too. But all that dialogue is woven firmly into the action, which basically never stops, even if the show’s animation can’t possibly keep up with the peril as scripted. (Nobody who loves Digimon cares about how ugly the show looks most of the time. It’s beautiful on the inside!)

In closing, the biggest detail that stood out to me in this rewatch was that T.K. is the least weirded out by the Digital World, while Joe freaks out the most. This fits their personalities on its own, but it’s also a sly little nod to how strongly the Digital World is connected to childhood, and how quickly characters age out of it once their big adventure ends. Digimon have always had this “imaginary friend”-like quality to them that fades in power as you grow away from their world and start finding your place in human society. Right away, T.K., the youngest, has the strongest connection to his new partner, while Joe, the oldest, takes the most persuading. And he’s only in sixth grade! There’s a special kind of magic to the transience of Digimon stories, a bitter sweetness that’s always stuck with me. I’ll try to make these next 53 episodes last.


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Reigen Arataka | Confidence Man

Mob Psycho 100 is a great anime. I know, I’m christening this new blog with a scorching hot take there. The psychedelically animated series starring a 14-year old boy with ESP strong enough to warp reality to his whims—but all the confidence and ambition of a three-legged hermit crab­—has swept up enthusiastic fans and critical accolades since it first aired in 2016. But to be honest, I wasn’t riding high on the Mob train back then. While Shigeo gradually becomes a perfect protagonist for the specific story being told, his nickname, Mob, does mean “just a face in the crowd” for good reason. Maybe I’ll write about Mob Psycho 100’s humble protagonist some day in the future, but this story didn’t really make landfall in my heart until 2019—when its second season devoted a silly yet sobering two-parter to internet sex symbol Reigen Arataka.

I am at most barely responsible for this perversion of Google’s algorithm, but the sin still haunts me.

I can’t be sure if all that Reigen thirst online is sincere or ironic, but I’d guess it’s a little of both. Sure, he’s a con artist exploiting a middle schooler’s psychic powers in exchange for pocket money, but if you can look past that, he’s great at mentoring Mob where it counts, and his ability to roll with the endless punches to his dignity can be inspiring. But if Reigen’s got such a heart of gold, how do you square that with his choice of profession? What would make such a thoughtful and flexible guy choose a life of deceit and manipulation? Why is Reigen Arataka a con man? I wondered this to myself throughout season one, because I felt like it was important to his character in some deeper way, but I didn’t know why—until season two.

In his own words, Reigen seems to think he chose the grifting game for the most obvious reasons: easy profit. He saw an ad in a magazine promising fabulous wealth to anyone who purchased a worthless hunk of “lucky” jewelry, and that inspired him to re-brand his exceptional massage skills (another solid checkmark on the boyfriend list) as a bogus form of spiritual healing. But the Spirits and Such Consultation Office never became a cash cow, and Reigen just kept playing psychic anyway. Not only that, he’s remained the cheapest psychic in town three years later, offering all his clients bargain packages that just manage to keep the lights on in his humble office—and that’s after hiring the most talented esper in the world (for about five bucks a day, but that’s beside the point). Reigen is a classic case of a liar for hire deceiving himself more deeply than he can fool anyone else, so I had to dig deeper to find my own answer for what made him into a con man. (Oh sorry, Reigen, I meant con artist.)

So, let’s begin at the beginning. Before we get to know “the greatest psychic of the 21st century” from his own perspective in season two, we have to see him through his pupil’s eyes in season one. Since Shigeo is such a trembling void of ambition, Reigen overcompensates to propel the show’s dramedy forward, vacillating wildly between mentor and punchline as he encourages Mob to take ownership of his life, while secretly blundering his way through his own adult hardships. Reigen’s flop-sweat-with-a-smile routine is comedy gold, while his genuine care for Mob’s future is heartwarming, and this contrast ties beautifully into Mob’s character arc. Reigen may be a shiftless weirdo barreling toward his 30s with no plan whatsoever, but Mob doesn’t realize that any more than he grasps the terrifying gravity of his own godlike powers. The impressionable Shigeo just takes Reigen’s advice at face value. After all, Reigen is a grown-up, wearing a nice suit on a big poster, so he must know what he’s talking about, right?

And to Mob’s credit, sometimes he does:

“Just because you have psychic powers doesn’t make you any less human. It’s the same as people who are fast, people who are book smart, and people with strong body odor. Psychic powers are just another characteristic. The truth behind one’s charm is kindness. Become a good person. That’s all.”

Now, from Reigen’s perspective, this speech is yet another con job at the end of another long day of lying for a living. He doesn’t believe that this cute little squirt actually has psychic powers. He just wants to tell a troubled kid something he thinks will help him feel understood, so he can scoot the ankle-biter out of his office. If Reigen actually knew what Mob was capable of, maybe he would have painted the kid’s weighty destiny in a different light. Instead, Reigen mistook Mob for a fellow problem child, the kind of mischief-maker who lies for attention and dreams up psychic powers to make himself feel special. Naturally, Reigen leaps at the opportunity to tell a version of his childhood self to do things differently this time around. And when Mob does as Reigen says and not as he does, it puts him on the path to becoming a true superhero in a world overflowing with more self-absorbed psychics.

As a mentor, Reigen voices the show’s main theme, that everyone is “special” in some way or another (or thinks they are, which is basically the same thing), so instead of basing your worth on something so secretly common, it’s best to focus on being a good person. Goodness isn’t a special power or talent that anyone is born with. It’s a subjective quality defined by our actions and how they are remembered by others, so it’s something you must learn how to be in roughly the same way as everyone else, by making kind and brave choices day by day, as you learn to exercise your own will for your own life. Then as a punchline, Reigen reminds us that, while finding our place in the world based on our special talents can be daunting, the bar for being a “good person” is so damn low that even a shifty slacker like Reigen shines brightly compared to Claw’s megalomaniacal espers, who spend their whole lives huffing their ectoplasmic farts in arrested development until they literally become Old Babies like Ishiguro. It’s hilarious to see these supervillains’ spirits get shattered not by the power of a stronger psychic, but the sober self-deprecation of a total loser who outclasses them in adulting regardless.

“You’re telling us to return to being commoners?”

“You still don’t get it, do you? Who the hell do you think you are? You’re just a part of the masses! I’m a commoner! I’m much more powerful than you, and I’m still just a commoner. So what does that make you?”

For as often as Reigen steals the show in season one, of course Mob Psycho 100 still needs to be Mob’s story. His gifted-kid coming-of-age arc is unique in that it downplays the importance (and subsequently lightens the burden) of being gifted in the first place. Mob has learned how to develop his powers from a charlatan with no supernatural acumen whatsoever, and that may be for the best. It would be better for Shigeo to become like Reigen than most of the other maladjusted espers he meets; that’s the joke and the message all rolled into one. But at the end of the day, I can’t call Reigen Arataka aspirational, either. I mean, he’s exploiting an eighth-grader to run a business that makes as much money selling bullshit exorcisms and seances to shmucks as it does busting actual ghosts. The greatest psychic of the 21st century is overdue for a towering wave of karma, which finally brings us to the midway point of season two and the darker side of Reigen’s heart.

In the episode titled, “Oh, It Me” “Poor, Lonely, Whitey”, Reigen’s uptick in clients begins going to his head around the same time that Mob has finally started to develop a social life. After Reigen pressures Mob to leave his new friend’s birthday lunch and exorcise a small fry spirit in exchange for ramen as usual, his faithful pupil turns down their celebration dinner, expressing discomfort with how this Spirits and Such gig is cutting into his personal life. Without warning, his master explodes into a strangely cruel and defensive rant.

“I don’t know what you were doing with your schoolmates, but do they really understand you? Come on, we’re saving lives here! You’re making a difference in the world by helping me out! Not to mention, I’m your master! Choose your social circle wisely, Mob! If they’re going to get in the way of your exorcism job, get rid of them! They don’t actually care about you. They’re just having fun mocking someone as wimpy as you.”

Now, Reigen’s no stranger to talking his way out of trouble—he’s mastered this superpower about as well as Mob has mastered his own—but we’ve never seen anything like this from him before. Instead of coolly fibbing just as much as he’s gotta so he can slip past the problem, Reigen’s heightened emotions mutate his gift of gab into something destructive at the slightest indication that Mob wants to spend less time working for him. We’re getting a taste of Reigen’s own version of ???% Mode, as he exorcises feelings he can’t handle, not through explosive ESP, but explosive words that he hopes will brute force the situation back to normal. While Reigen’s uncontrolled powers can’t disintegrate buildings like Mob’s, he can definitely cause devastating emotional damage, and Shigeo does seem to disassociate from the shock for a moment. But we’ve watched this kid go through a lot of growing already, and he’s stronger than Reigen remembers. Mob is now discerning enough to recognize his master’s outburst as a red flag worth avoiding for a while. “I’m beginning to understand that not everything you say is true” is all Mob has to say to render Reigen’s big mouth powerless.  

Now that we’ve seen Reigen do this to someone once, it’s easy to assume he’s done it before. Hell, we don’t have to assume, because we see it happen again just a few minutes later. Reigen improvises some word vomit to try and manipulate Dimple into helping him get Mob back, but the semi-evil spirit also decides to drift away from the conversation. Why bother debating a guy who’s never lost an argument, but has clearly lost too many other important things in the process? Indeed, the rest of the episode paints a bleak picture of Reigen’s life, now that we’re not seeing it through Mob’s eyes. He’s been so alone for so long that he forgets his own birthday, and the only way he can think to celebrate is to visit his local bar and get sick off of a single virgin lemon sour. Hey, he’s gotta do something to forget about the only b-day message he got: an overbearing, judgmental e-mail from his mom. As he beats himself up for puking in a back alley, Reigen is rapidly unraveling inside his own mind.

“This isn’t good. I’m going in a very bad direction. Me, of all people! Wait. Me? I mean, what am I? I guess I’ll just have to become somebody.”

Surprisingly, this crisis of confidence kickstarts a brief golden age for Reigen. He decides to turn over a new leaf and become his best self, combining his old ways of doing business with more honest odd jobs that give back to the community he’s been hoodwinking. Sure, he’s still pretending to be a psychic, but at least he’s helping to solve real problems again, like he did when Mob was there—and all that busy work is great for silencing the voices in your head. Who needs Mob? Reigen’s turned his haunting brush with ???% in front of Mob into a 100% fulfillment of his talents for the whole world to see. He’s even been invited to perform an exorcism live on TV! What could possibly go wrong?

Before Reigen’s star inevitably comes crashing down to this bitch of an earth, I think we’ve already seen enough to finally answer the question I started with. Why is Reigen Arataka a con man?

Well, when you take a closer look at the work he’s been doing, to what extent is he even conning people at all?

Reigen’s hideous homepage does exist and you should visit it.

Unlike most fraudsters, he doesn’t research people’s personal tragedies to exploit their grief, he doesn’t sell them trash disguised as spiritual totems, and the services he does offer—massage, photoshop, forensics, etc.—are fairly priced for the positive results he delivers, even if his clients don’t realize they’re paying for something different than advertised. I think the true service Reigen offers people is just plain showmanship. He eases their fears of the unknown by giving them closure however he can, bringing Mob into the picture only when the ghostly threat turns out to be real. So, if your definition of a con man is a deceitful criminal who preys on the weak, of course Reigen is too lovable to qualify.

No, I’d consider Reigen a con man in the purest sense of the term, because the word “con” doesn’t come from con as in “negative” or con as in “convict.” The word originally referred to “confidence,” and confidence—not money—is what Reigen Arataka impulsively tricks people for, all to feed a nameless void inside him that grows every time he pretends for them.

While it’s true that a swindler should exude confidence to run a successful scam, this term was not coined in reference to the confidence of the man himself, but what he must first take from you; he has to win his mark’s full confidence, their trust, before he can get their money. It may surprise you to learn that this English idiom is used in Japan, too. I’ve heard “コンフィデンスマン” spoken in a few anime over the years, most notably in this year’s Great Pretender, where the protagonist drops it like punctuation. I don’t know if this etymology was on ONE’s mind when he began developing Reigen’s character, but winning the confidence of others—not as a way to their wallets, but just for its own sake—is certainly the phony psychic’s core motivation.

Reigen’s life has been spent posturing at a table for one, begging the world to believe in the self-made man he wants to be, but his big personality only belies a guy who is deeply insecure about everything. This comes out most clearly in his ???% explosion at Mob. He’s not really upset about work; he’s upset because he’s terrified of losing time with his only friend. Even if he can’t admit it to himself, Reigen has been clinging to the adoration of this 14-year old boy to feel like he’s where he’s supposed to be in life: successful, sincere, somebody’s senpai. After years of failing to connect with anybody at one insipid sales gig after another, Reigen stuck with a job that requires him to fool people and therefore keep them at a distance. However, mentoring Mob has forced him to stay honest and even a little vulnerable between clients. He can say things like, “All that matters is that you become a good person”, and when Mob believes him, he can believe it himself despite the bitterness of his adult life and the needs of his duplicitous occupation. But despite Mob’s positive influence on him, Reigen can’t seem to take his own advice and stop pretending to be something he’s not. Psychic powers aren’t the only talent that can make you feel isolated from society, and Reigen’s own gift of gab is a double-edged sword that has crippled his ability to believe in himself.

I think the most valuable thing we ever learn about Reigen is that he’s gone his whole life without ever losing an argument. Just imagine for a minute what that must be like. It might sound great at first, but on further inspection, “never losing an argument” doesn’t mean “always being right”. On the contrary, Reigen is a great comedy character because he’s assertively wrong about so many things, and he knows it. But he has the power to convince everyone he is right, so he can’t help but use his greatest talent compulsively, leaving him alone in his head with the weight of all the things he doesn’t understand. No matter how deeply Reigen might care about telling the truth and being a good person, he’s only human. He’s bound to make a mistake or find himself forced to bend the truth to protect himself in a cold and slippery world. Whether by accident or on purpose, Reigen has gradually turned his life into a pile of lies and incongruities he can’t keep straight, but people always believe him anyway, so he never gets the chance to grow from his mistakes. Everyone assumes Reigen knows what he’s doing, so nobody gets close enough to see how empty he actually feels. He’s the only one who knows that he’s lying. He’s the only one who “knows” that he’s a bad person.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an absolute nightmare to me. 28 years of this unique mental isolation has already gotten Reigen addicted to the confidence of others, the closest thing he has to some objective metric that he can’t be that bad, he can’t be that lonely. However, no amount of adoration can make Reigen accept that he’s a good person, because his talent for making people believe everything he says will leave him feeling like the bad guy when he inevitably says things that aren’t true, with all the painful consequences that follow. If Reigen believes it’s not possible for him to be a good person, then he’ll flip the script on the advice he gave to Mob and use his talent to become a real “somebody”: the greatest psychic of the 21st century!

Reigen lives off the confidence of others like a drug, and the money is just a side benefit he needs to get by, which is why he cares so little about cash compared to popularity. The real long con is just convincing people that he’s a good person when he secretly believes that’s impossible, and that’s why his post-Mob golden age is just setting him up for a greater fall. Even if his ventures are more altruistic than they were before, he’s still depending on a steady income of smiles to keep his self-worth afloat. Reigen is still so miserably alone that he thinks the regulars in his favorite bar must be his friends because they smile when he gives them free life advice. They’re basically just clients he doesn’t charge, because he’s getting paid in confidence instead.

Naturally, Reigen’s barfly “friends” abandon him the second he gets cancelled on live TV. After trying to exorcise a perfectly healthy child actor for 30 minutes in a cruel prank at his expense, the supposed psychic’s silver tongue is powerless to stop the world from seeing the truth. At long last, Reigen’s worst nightmare has come true. Everybody, everybody, everybody knows he’s a big fat phony. Now the whole world can see the version of Reigen that he’s hated and feared in his quiet apartment every night. Mob has rightfully left him behind, and the more fickle mobs Reigen relied on to justify his existence are rushing to paint him in the worst light for their own entertainment. Previously satisfied customers flood social media with all of Reigen’s saddest little shortcomings. The media swarms his house and pressures him into a press conference. Internet detectives unearth his dweeby high school yearbook photo! It’s a long way down a mountain he was never going to reach the peak of, and at rock bottom, far away from all the lies he’d been using to climb to nowhere, Reigen manages to find himself again.

One especially smarmy reporter at Reigen’s press conference whips out a copy of the confidence man’s old graduation essay. “You wrote ‘I want to be somebody.’ So why did you become a psychic?” he asks. Reigen’s mind rushes back to that alleyway, where he puked up a virgin lemon sour on his birthday, as he felt himself disintegrating from all the same anxieties he’s had since childhood. You’re a phony, you’re a liar, you’re nobody, you’re nothing. If he really wanted to escape those voices in his head, why did he leave his honest sales job for a career that relies on lies? All the fame he attained and all the confidence he stole couldn’t change him into something he wasn’t. At the height of his success, Reigen still didn’t feel special himself, but he kept going because there was one special thing about playing psychic—it was Mob.

The solution to Reigen’s confidence addiction is not popularity. He could become the greatest psychic in the universe, he could even acquire real psychic powers somehow (he briefly did in the season one finale!), but the voices in his head would remain as loud as ever. Reigen only felt like somebody when he became somebody to Mob. This kid wasn’t just another smile to give him confidence, and he wasn’t just another positive review online. Mob was special—not because of his psychic powers or even because of his goodness—but because he was special to Reigen. That’s all a friendship is: two people who are special to each other, and it doesn’t matter if anyone else in the world thinks they’re special or not. There may be a 14-year gap between them, but there’s not much daylight between Mob and Reigen in terms of emotional maturity and social experience, so of course they became close friends! These two had a connection that no amount of approval from the entire world could replace, and Reigen threw it away out of fear that Mob would find him out or leave him behind. Now both of those things have happened anyway, and who knows how many other people Reigen has alienated in his futile pursuit of confidence.

Now at his lowest point, Reigen has to wonder if Mob is even watching this press conference. Why would he, after the way Reigen treated him? The incredible talent that’s kept Reigen from growing as a person has been stripped away from him, and with no power to talk himself out of this situation, he searches for the right thing to say. He shuts out all the judgmental faces in the crowd, all the voices in his head, all those humiliating e-mails from his mom. He simply thinks of what he needs to say to the one person who’s special to him. It doesn’t matter if anyone else understands.

“You’ve grown up so much. You know that?”

Naturally, everything works out just fine for Reigen in the end. We’ve gotta get back to telling Mob’s story for the rest of the season, so the titular angel in a bowl cut swoops in to save his master from behind the scenes, and Reigen plays off the chaos effortlessly, with his fast-talking mojo restored alongside his reputation. Now completely drained of confidence and wiser for the wear, Reigen knows he has to clear the air with Mob. If he’s not a great master psychic to his pupil anymore, who is he?

It’s a perfect ending to Reigen’s two-parter and the perfect start to a better friendship between them. I don’t have any more clever or fitting way to conclude this tough-love letter to one of my favorite anime characters, but pushing myself to write again has helped shrink the nameless void inside my own heart. All the good people I know are too hard on themselves, so if you’ve been feeling like nobody in this horrible year, just remember that you are special to someone. Even if it’s just one person, that’s all you need to live. It’s all you need to grow.

Mob Psycho 100 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.


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