Mob Psycho 100’s Unique Art Style

How Mob Psycho pushes boundaries and breaks the anime norm

Mob Psycho 100 is a feel good show. It’s a classic coming of age story about an average shy middle-schooler who also happens to be a psychic. Not only is this show full of exciting fight scenes, witty humor, and lovable characters, but it also features a unique art style that is one of the hallmarks of the show.

screenshots featuring the show’s eccentric style

The Mob Psycho team, which included ambitious new artists as well as seasoned veterans, were allowed to experiment and push the boundaries of animation.

We’re aiming for visual ideas that haven’t yet been seen in anime; Mob Psycho will ideally be like opening a box of very fun surprises.
— Director of Mob Psycho 100, Yuzuru Tachikawa

But innovation comes with risks. Though Mob Psycho’s art style has garnered a lot of attention and praise, it is also hard to get used to, especially for people that are very familiar with the anime genre. A common criticism is that the characters look crude and boring.

But the character design in Mob Psycho stays true to its source material. Mob Psycho 100 is based on web-comic originally written by ONE, a “manga artist for fun,” who wasn’t very artistically gifted but had a knack for good stories. ONE started his manga career by posting a series called One Punch Man on his own website, which got redrawn and adapted into an anime after going viral. When Mob Psycho was going to adapted into an anime, studio Bones (a large Japanese anime studio) made the decision to make the characters closer to how ONE originally drew them, which helped set the tone for the show as well as open up new possibilities.

Screenshots from the Mob Psycho 100 web-series

Mob Psycho 100 is a fun and playful show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The art style perfectly reflects the tone of the series. While a lot of anime shows feature are afraid to be “ugly,” Mob Psycho fully embraces it. The simplistic nature of the character design, although kind of crude by anime standards, also allow for flexibility. The animators are able to contort character’s faces for exaggerated emotions or quick gags. This is more common in western animation, like scenes in Spongebob where they cut away to a close up ugly version of character’s faces, but many anime shows choose to keep their characters attractive at every frame.

Left: scenes from Mob Psycho, Right: more generic looking anime

Though the base characters are a bit bland, Mob Psycho 100 makes up for in its incredibly fluid and over the top animation. One of the ways the animators accomplish is through the use of special effects. Mob is a real psychic who works for Reigen, a fake psychic who runs a shady “Spiritual Consulting Office.” Many of their adventures involve encounters with spirits and other-worldly beings. To properly convey these scenes, the animators use special effects that utilize neon colors, mixing different patterns and textures. The end result is psychedelic, even overwhelming at times, which ties in perfectly with the show’s psychic themes and just makes the show so cool to watch.

Besides trippy effects, another way Mob Psycho 100 makes the spirit world stand out is through the use of mixed media. One example featured in the show is an animation technique known as Paint-on-Glass animation. The basic idea is manipulating and pushing around slow drying oil paint on a sheet of glass and capturing each frame with a camera. This technique is notorious for being extremely difficult and time consuming, so they added Tokyo University of Arts graduate to the team to pull it off. The end result is surreal and stunning, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

example of paint-on-glass animation from the show

Then, there are the action sequences. Any good shounen (popular genre of anime literally translated as “young boy”) show will be full of killer action scenes, but Mob Psycho 100 takes it to another level featuring tracking shots and dizzying camera angles that make you feel in the middle of the action. Though these fights often involve psychic powers which are obviously impossible, the way each each action seems to carry weight and affect the environment makes the fights feel incredibly real. As the stakes get higher and higher, the animators have to find a way to make each fight feel somehow more dramatic than the previous. This is accomplished through attention to details, such as by inserting frames in between that appear rough and pencil sketched.

Whether you’re looking for a new show to binge or you’re an anime connoisseur, Mob Psycho 100 is worth giving a chance, even if the art style is unorthodox.