Resident Evil 2 Remake Review

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You know, I remember when the Resident Evil series was itself a shambling, undead monstrosity. After RE6 set everything on fire and REvelations 2 watched it burn, I was all ready for the series to be put out of its, and my, misery. But then Resident Evil 7 miraculously saved the day, and now we finally have the much requested Resident Evil 2 remake, given a surprise announcement at last year’s E3.

After Jill, Chris, Barry and Rebecca cleared out and blew up the Spencer Mansion up in the Arklay Mountains, the zombie and monster-creating T-Virus spreads to Raccoon City, sending the whole town into a state of apocalyptic disarray and flooding the streets with the undead. Into this shitshow come Chris’ student sister Claire, here looking for him, and rookie cop Leon Kennedy, starting his first and only day on the job; far from the backflipping, suplexing, wonderfully awful one-liner spewing super agent he will become. They both seek refuge in the Raccoon City police station, converted from an old art museum, and obviously things go downhill from there. Much like the original, this version has a “scenario” system whereby whomever you play as first gets to the station first and has a relatively slow build up, then after you’ve finished you can play as the other character in a second scenario where they arrive after and get thrown into things head first. The differences between the two, as well as the numerous different bosses, enemy locations, weapons and routes found in Leon and Claire’s runs mean you have four different campaigns to play through, and having beaten all four, it works beautifully. Admittedly I play through games several times anyway, and I appreciate familiarity and predictability, but I don’t think the game is repetitive, especially given its short length and just how satisfying an experience it is, particularly if you’re a fan of the genre and series. The story goes for a more serious tone than some of the more fun, campy games in the series, with more grounded versions of certain aspects and more natural, realistic touches: Ada’s new reason for being in Raccoon City makes more sense, Leon and Claire both swear and decry enemies and the situation, as well as psyche themselves up. Clair now wears a reasonable outfit for riding a motorbike in, and Leon’s wildly different uniform is a result of arriving at the station in his civvies and changing into full tactical gear after encountering the undead. Chief Irons is no longer a theatrical creep putting on a false air of civility; here he’s blunt, violence-prone and direct from the very moment you meet him. It’s never po-faced, but those who are looking for another Jack Baker will be disappointed. The more serious tone meshes with the changes made to the gameplay however.

Those changes to the gameplay are a big part of what makes the game so good, and so effective as a survival horror game. Whereas in the original ammo was plentiful, zombies could be safely taken down without any bother and the game was split into self-contained rooms and corridors, here the game uses one big, continuous map that contains every area simultaneously. No more shots of doors opening to hide load times, but now zombies can and will go through them. You can freely move, and aim over the shoulder to target any part of enemies you like, but zombies now take an extraordinary amount of punishment; multiple headshots will put a zombie down for a time, but won’t kill it. Even the shotgun with its excellent shredding gore effects isn’t guaranteed to do the trick. You’re more capable of attack and defence, and so the game adapts. Lickers, making a triumphant return from the original are blind, and if you’re careful can be avoided. But they hit like trucks covered in knives and can cover huge distances when they leap. Even less direct elements like the original game’s bold, memorable soundtrack that was both comforting and disconcerting in equal measure has been replaced with a more subdued version. You don’t feel safe, you never feel like you have the upper hand. A big component of this feeling is the much documented update to Mr X, a humanoid bioweapon that jumped you at certain points in the original game, exclusively during scenario B. Here he’s present across all four campaigns, and rather than being tied to scripted events once he’s on the scene he’s there for good, and he will pursue you all over the place. He’s not a constant threat; there are times where he backs off and you get a breather for a while, and at this point I’m not intimidated by him at all, but he’s still really well used, and when I first had to deal with him he threw me off my game.

There are some quality of life adjustments, however, just as the above sounds like an absolute nightmare. Defence items make a welcome return from the original REmake; knives and grenades that act as both useable weapons and get-out-of-grab-free cards. While shooting zombies in the heads will chew threw ammo, it’s far quicker and easier to put two to five in their kneecap and blow their leg off. They can still grab you, but the angle of their grab attack is reduced, and they’ll never walk again. This ties into the ethos of enemy encounters in the original games: unless it’s a boss, it’s often better to just avoid a foe. Go round definitively killing everything you see and you’ll be out of ammo and due a restart; this is, at its core, survival horror, just with the increased mobility and improved combat options of Resident Evil 4.

Capcom have knocked it out of the park with this one. After Resident Evil 7 brought classic Resi back into focus, this takes one of the best games in the series, applies some updates and quality of life adjustments and finishes up with a tense, brutal survival horror game. Its a synthesis of old and new: an iconic classic lovingly redone and augmented with a fresh perspective, much like REmake, but with a new combat system that brings another, similarly fresh approach. An excellent survival horror game, an excellent Resi game, an excellent remake of Resident Evil 2, and even this early in the year a game that will surely be a contender for 2019’s best.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review

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Dragon Ball Super: Broly has a lot on its plate. It’s the first Dragon Ball Super movie, and it’s taken on the workload of canonically introducing Broly, Gogeta, Bardock, Gine and the on-screen destruction of planet Vegeta, showing where young Goku, Vegeta and Raditz were at the time. The original Broly is an iconic character but outside of his cool design as a hulking mega-Saiyan, he’s terrible, so he’s ripe for a do-over. Other elements, like Bardock and Goku and Vegeta’s origin story were handled excellently in “Bardock: Father of Goku”, so their appearance here made me wary. Bardock’s my second favourite Dragon Ball character and the trailers showed some changes, but I’ll get into that later.

Back when Frieza took control of his Dad’s army and therefore every Saiyan on Planet Vegeta, two Saiyan babies were being incubated. One is Prince Vegeta, heralded by his Father as an all-powerful ruler. The other is Broly, son of Saiyan Colonel Paragus, whom instruments declare could be even more powerful. Of course, King Vegeta’s having none of that, so sends Broly off to a desolate planet full of monsters, citing a potential loss of control and subsequent destruction as the reason. Paragus goes after him and ends up stranded on that same planet. Five years later and low-level Saiyan warrior Bardock and butcher wife/girlfriend/partner Gine send their youngest son Kakarot off to Earth to protect him from the imminent destruction of Vegeta by Frieza, which Bardock thinks is coming because Frieza ordered every Saiyan to return there. Sorry to interrupt the plot section but this seems like as good a time as any to talk about what they’ve done to Bardock. My Bardock, “Father of Goku” Bardock, is a bloodthirsty mercenary who, in the Japanese version calls his infant Son scum for not having a high power level. He flies out to confront Frieza after seeing the future, but it’s a practical desire to keep his race alive, and Kakarot is sent to Earth to conquer it while Bardock is off being betrayed and attacked by Frieza’s forces. Here he’s presented as being unusually attached to both romantic ideas and his own children, and sends Kakarot off for his own safety. Now, this is clearly a designed change in his character, possibly done to make him seem more sympathetic, and adapted from Dragon Ball Minus. While it’s not the version of Bardock I like and I’m sad that version isn’t canon, I can at least understand why the change was made. What’s weird and harder to explain is the brief scene in which Bardock, in damaged armour, is seen fighting back against Frieza when the latter launches his attack that destroys Planet Vegeta. In Father of Goku, he saw the attack coming and mounted a desperate offence after everyone he asked for help blew him off, and his armour was damaged in an earlier fight. Here he goes from sending Kakarot off to the next day suddenly being in damaged armour opposing an attack he had a hunch about but didn’t literally see coming, so what happened there?

Anyway, back in present day Bulma and Frieza are both after the Dragon Balls for amusingly vain reasons, and after the latter steals them they all end up in the arctic continent. A pair of Frieza soldiers named Cheelai and Lemo come across Broly and Paragus and take them to Frieza, where he offers revenge by proxy to Paragus, through the medium of the apparently super powerful Broly. Goku and Vegeta, having travelled with Bulma meet Broly, a mammoth fight breaks out, that’s basically it as far as the plot goes.

There’s good and bad to Broly, and I’ll start with the bad because there’s only one. To begin with rather than being the “Legendary Super Saiyan” he’s able to harness the power of Oozaru in his normal body, which lets him keep up with Super Saiyan God Vegeta. That’s an interesting angle and plays into his new personality, which I’ll elaborate on in a sec. Unfortunately the bad part is that when he finally does go Super Saiyan he retains his non-canon counterpart’s pupil-free berserker form, which now canonically belongs to Kale, and even has her “Rapid fire green energy blasts in all directions” attack. To have a different take that separates him from Kale then walk it back in the span of his introductory film is disappointing. Anyway, on to the good. The new personality I mentioned has two main traits. When he’s not fighting Broly is a gentle, calm man with stunted social skills, when he’s fighting he’s basically an out of control feral berserker; having spent his entire life living on a desolate planet full of monsters, being crafted into a weapon by his abusive, revenge-driven Father who fitted him with a shock collar to keep him under control, he’s understandably not the most stable of people. Given the other version’s backstory, this is infinitely better. This Broly is far more relatable and interesting, and has real potential if they fold him into future episodes of Super. His design is much better too, with the interestingly sourced pelt wrapped around his waist, human Oozaru form and a character that actually has room to grow, rather than the bloodthirsty, one-dimensional maniac he was in his original guise. He also has a good relationship with Cheelai and Lemo in their limited screentime together, and I’d like to see all three when DB Super comes back.

The animation, both in terms of movement and visual splendour are absolutely phenomenal. It looks better than the entirety of DB Super, which was no slouch, and even its 3-D scenes look good. The colours and characters’ expressions are lighter and softer, and the whole thing moves with a sort of playful confidence, especially when Goku’s on screen, that makes it an real joy to watch. Alongside sewing the seeds for potentially strong character and story beats going forward, it’s just an extended bombastic fight where Goku, Vegeta and Gogeta take on Broly, with all the spectacle Dragon Ball is known for. As for Gogeta; he’s an interesting contrast to Vegito, last seen fighting Fused Zamasu. Alongside a unique move that’s definitely going to be his Level 3 super in DB FighterZ, he seems to have more Goku in him than Vegeta. Where Vegito’s special attack is a Final Kamehameha, Gogeta uses a Kamehameha. Where Vegito refers to himself as a fusion of Vegeta and Kakarot, Gogeta refers to himself as a fusion of Vegeta and Goku, a name Vegeta refuses to say. Presumably if Vegeta can get over how dumb the Fusion Dance is the two of them can have a potential advantage over future enemies, which I look forward to seeing, even if I do prefer Vegito.

Overall, DB Super Broly is great. It makes changes to Bardock that I personally don’t like at all, as well as changing Goku and Vegeta’s backstories, but new characters Cheelai and Lemo are good (particularly Cheelai, more of her please), the whole thing is a beautiful, exciting, fun piece of Dragon Ball goodness and most importantly, the canon Broly is infinitely more interesting and likeable than his original counterpart. It’s a good watch, and I can’t wait to see what they do with Broly going forward.

Edit: In the dub version Gogeta refers to himself as a mix of Kakarot and Vegeta. My review is based on the Japanese version, where the subtitles said Goku and, having gone back to check, I didn’t hear him say the word “Kakarotto”, so I don’t know what’s going on there and why they made that change in the subbed version.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Netflix The Punisher Season 2 Review

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Punisher season 1 was, on the whole, pretty good if a bit heavy on conspiratorial exposition and light on, well, punishing. The Punisher is my favourite comic book character so I’m glad he’s getting some attention, but for me Frank is at his best when he’s just going out at night killing criminals. My favourite Punisher comic (and comic in general) is Jason Aaron’s PunisherMAX, a twenty two issue series about an older Frank battling the Kingpin, but I’m a big fan of self contained stories with a mini story arc where a criminal becomes known to Frank, he plans to deal with them, he deals with them, he moves on. That is not what either season of the Netflix show have gone for. Season one was about the various players involved in the death of the Castle family and Frank trying to stay off the grid while looking into it with fire-forged ally Micro and ending in brutal fashion with a dead CIA agent and his ex-best friend Billy Russo having his face straight up ruined. Season two, in contrast, is half stripped-down character piece and half attempt to get a more traditional Punisher story going. Bear in mind that this review will contain spoilers for this season, so I’ll do a little wrap up now for if you want to go in blind. It’s a bit long; a lot of it could definitely be cut down, there’s surprisingly strong character moments for Frank, Madani and even Billy of all people, the way he’s handled is good. The fights are good, there are some really dumb moments that are terribly contrived, and the ending is good but parts of it are rushed. There, that’s the spoiler-free version. Spoilers abound from now on.

So there are two villains this time around: Billy Russo, who’s meant to be Jigsaw but doesn’t have the name or the face, and John Pilgrim, who’s a lot like the Mennonite from PunisherMAX; a devoutly christian hitman with a sick wife forced to return to New York to deal with Frank. This version is willing to use modern technology, so he no longer sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s eerily calm at all times, even when being stabbed and shot, and the main difference is this one has a Neo Nazi History of Violence thing going on, complete with brutally murdering his old gang. I’ll be frank (no pun intended): he doesn’t need to be in the story. He’s there to pursue a teenage girl because she has blackmail photos of the gay Son of the powerful Schultz couple, who are trying to take over America by making said Son President. Frank runs into the girl, whose name is Amy, in a bar staffed by a woman named Beth with whom he sleeps and develops a genuine emotional connection, only for her to be shot, dropped off at a hospital and never heard from again. One could argue that Frank needs a reason to keep Amy around, and that reason is the pursuing hitman, but Amy and Frank develop a Father-Daughter relationship as the series goes on and genuinely seem to almost even love each other by the end, so he could have just run into her, saved her life and kept her around for that. Pilgrim is pretty good as a cool, calm killing machine but his whole side of the story slows things down. There’s a lot of waiting around actually. Frank repeatedly espouses the virtues of being pro-active and taking the fight to them, but he only does so after a long while of not really doing much at all. For most of the season he isn’t even dedicated to going after Billy; he eventually has a sit-down with Madani and Curtis where he finally decides to do something, after completely messing up his chance to kill him. Before the season came out I saw a really cool promotional image of Frank in the skull vest standing on a street in broad daylight, but that actual scene is ridiculous. Basically Billy gets a bunch of disgruntled veterans together to form a gang, they pull a robbery and Frank kidnaps one of them, tortures him and steals his mask and jacket as a disguise. It works, he has Russo in his sights and instead of shooting him he yells “RUSSO! RUSSO!” then stands there taking off the jacket and mask. The next time he’s on screen he’s hiding behind a car, because people are shooting at him, because he stood there like a lemon. It makes Billy freak out and ties into his constant nightmares of a skull-emblazoned figure disfiguring him, but the way the scene plays out is farcical. Speaking of Russo, considering what Frank did to his face he looks fantastic. He has scars, but they’re conveniently placed thin ones that don’t make Ben Barnes look any less handsome. He should have no face left, I don’t know what he’s worried about. That aside, Billy does have his moments, particularly when he’s overwhelmed with grief and despair because of his memory loss, being hit particularly hard by the fact that the last thing he remembers is being a Marine and still being best friends with Frank. I was also pleasantly surprised by how his arc ends. No dramatic showdown, no monologue: he’s gravely wounded by Madani and is finished off by Frank alone in the room where Curtis holds his support group. Double tapped mid sentence. That’s one of the two best things about the ending, the other being the reveal that months later Frank is now a vigilante back in the skull vest and leather coat gunning down crims. Finally, after two seasons, I’ll get the Punisher series I want, provided season 3 happens. The rushed part I mentioned earlier is how the Pilgrim story is wrapped up: Frank fights him and lets him live, teleports into the Schultz’s house, kills the wife and convinces the husband to kill himself. Job done, rushed, anti-climactic end to a drawn-out story that didn’t need to be here. It’s not all bad though, Frank’s arc is basically finishing off coming to terms with who he is and his true nature, and getting his allies to come to terms with it too. He’s a natural born killer: his wife knew it, he knows it, he’s far beyond a normal life, even if he lets himself forget that once in a while. His arc is more subtle than the other characters’, but it’s the strongest.

Anyway, enough about plot, how’re the action scenes? Pretty good overall. The stand outs are a brutal bar brawl in the first episode in which uses a belt in a way I’ve never encountered before to put several knife-wielding assailants on their arses, and a scene that starts off Assault on Precinct Thirteen and quickly turns into Wolfenstein, as Frank runs off into the woods with an assault rifle and ends the siege by gunning down everyone involved. With one hand broken. There are more fist fights than I expected actually: Frank only uses a gun when he has to really, which is another way this version differs from the comics. Jon Bernthal continues to be excellent; his take on Frank as a hot blooded, roaring berserker contrasts his more personable ease with civilians. It’s a very different take but that’s the power of adaptation. He makes the role his own and if this show is cancelled like Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil I’d like to see his Frank folded into the MCU.

Overall I liked Punisher season 2, and even though quite a lot of it could be trimmed down I enjoyed it more than season 1, on reflection. Frank feels a bit looser and more able to just ruminate on who he is and what his life has become, his relationship with Amy is strong and when Billy’s being used properly he’s an effective antagonist. Now roll on season 3, I want vigilante Frank.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

 

One in the Chamber: Thoughts on the Resi 2 Remake’s One Shot Demo

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So this is unusual: a demo for a game that lets you do whatever you want within a time limit, and upon completion becomes unusable. It’s something I’ve not seen since the PS3 let you play as much as you wanted of a full game for one hour before buying it. Anyway, this is the form the demo of the upcoming Resident Evil 2 Remake takes: you get half an hour, and that’s it. I’ve actually had an hour with the game, because I played the demo on both PS4 and Xbone, and I’m going to give some general impressions of it, just what I think of the game going into its full release on the 25th, which I’m very much looking forward to.

Turns out you can play it more than once if you beat it in fewer than thirty minutes, so I’ve done four runthroughs and two starts that were stopped by the in-game clock. You can beat the demo in no time at all if you move quickly, and even when I stopped to smell the roses I beat it with time to spare. It’s very much an appetiser to whet your appetite for the full game. Everything that happens here I’ve seen before in various sites’ gameplay footage, so what’s important is how it felt to actually play through these events.

Atmosphere:

It lacks the choking, tense stillness of REmake, instead going for chaos localised in a small area, which fits the situation really well. In this small section of the game it doesn’t feel like anything’s going to suddenly jump out at you; its a consistent throughline of medium peril and the corresponding level of horror. The RE engine, which as we know is excellent at modelling filth and grime, has the R.P.D covered in gore, dirt, water and smashed architecture. It all feels familiar; with the exception of a few changes it’s the same station, it’s just cloaked in darkness and looks a whole lot better. The only problem is that unfortunately at this point it doesn’t feel scary. Hopefully that’ll change with the full game. But still, the rain, the zombies banging on the windows (they can get in if you ignore them), and how the zombies themselves all look, move and sound really sell this situation. I’m slightly disappointed by the more effect the more action-orientated gameplay has on the atmosphere, but this is only a small section of the game.

Control scheme and U.I:

It’s over the shoulder shooting a la 4, 5 and 6, but feels simultaneously loose and precise. Leon has free movement rather than having to move forward first, then have a direction added to it like he had in 4, and the camera can be moved a full 360 degrees around him. He has a quick turn but I never needed it, there’s a combat knife that acts as both a weapon and a reusable escape from grapple button a la REmake, and the inventory and environmental interaction are the same as they were in Resident Evil 7. Leon’s got a torch now that he turns on automatically and can hold with the Mathilda, which is just as well given how dark the R.P.D is. There are light switches around, but some of them need fuses, and if they’re present in the demo I didn’t find them. Having the same U.I and inventory as Resi 7 feels quite comforting actually. It’s like an acknowledgement that 7 is what saved the series, and the bedrock to build any future games on going forward.

Shooting:

At worst I used a whole magazine to kill one zombie, when I could hit the bloody thing. At best I was popping off headshots like John Wick. Headshots aren’t instant kills though, as is well documented at this point: zombies will soak up bullets and keep coming, so it’s often better to avoid them in the spirit of the early games in the series, which is helped by the new locational damage letting you blow their legs off without much effort. It also lets you do ghastly things to their heads and torsos, to the point where you wonder what they’re even going to bite you with and where your newly consumed flesh is going to go. One time I blew a big fat zombie in half with the shotgun. It was glorious. Anyway I actually really like that the zombies soak up bullets; I like the idea of them as just big, unthinking meat shields driven by hunger that you have to physically cut down, like flesh-eating trees. It makes them more of a problem, and encourages the player to work on swiftly dodging around them. The shooting itself is good, but lacks the snap and heft (depending on the weapon) of Resi 4. It feels like Resi 7’s quite light shooting but with the added oomph of the spectacular gore and dismemberment that 7 didn’t have.

Graphics:

It looks really good. Especially the zombie whose face has been turned into raw beef mince barely held together by an almost-cleaved off jaw bone in what was originally the Licker hallway.

Anyway that’s the demo out the way, and now a quick word on the upcoming full game:

Hunk and Tofu are in it, as shown in the trailer that concludes the demo. I’ve never unlocked their scenarios so I’m looking forward to that. Much like the demo for Devil May Cry 5 it’s not altered my thoughts on the full game at all because I was already really looking forward to it and still am, it’s just given me a chance to actually play it myself for a little bit. I’m a big fan of Resi 2, I love Resi 7 and I’m glad they’re using its engine for this remake, which I originally hoped would play like REmake, but I think the direction its taken is really promising. It looks good, it plays well, and all the footage of later parts of the game, particularly the sewer and the encounter with Chief Irons look fantastic. It’s out in two weeks and I can’t wait.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

 

In For the Long Haul: Mob Psycho 100 II

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Mob Psycho 100 caught me by surprise. I was already a fan of One Punch Man, created by the same author “One”, and so expected it to be at least worth a go. What I wasn’t expecting was something better than Saitama’s struggle to find a suitable opponent: a teenage boy with subdued emotions trying to live a normal life in spite of his incredible psychic powers and the off-kilter world he lives in. It had beautifully animated and scored battles between Espers, sure, but it was the human element that sold it. Mob (so nicknamed because he doesn’t stand out) truly taking to heart his mentor Reigen’s teachings to never use his powers to hurt anyone else, the way his powers are linked to him feeling intense bursts of emotion, good and bad, and how they manifest physically; it was all touching and, despite the psychic powers, relateable. Also it’s funny.  Season 1 was really good, and now season 2 is here, or as it insists on being called: Mob Psycho 100 II.

Episode 1: Ripped Apart ~Someone is Watching~

YOUR LIFE IS YOUR OWN. New Op’s really good, but a little bit more conventional than the previous season’s. I preferred the counting and rising feeling in “99”, but 99.9 is really catchy and still has the same sort of tone, so I’m into it. The episode itself deals with a multitude of events, firstly Mob and Reigen fighting a ghost called “Wriggle Wriggle” that’s possessed a farmer’s field. I love the dynamic between the two, with Reigen being the bold, quick on his feet conman exorcist who talks his way into situations, then steps aside to let the genuinely psychic Mob handle all the heavy lifting. Here, upon realising that Wriggle Wriggle is remotely controlling the nearby plants, Mob wonders if he can do the same and so rips control of said plants away and turns them into two giant fists. Reigen talked his way into 30% of the farmer’s coming harvest as payment but it doesn’t work out so he instead gets a bunch of equipment to do some gardening of his own. Mob’s share is broccoli seeds, and upon Reigen’s suggestion uses his powers to almost instantly grow a pot of cherry tomatoes. They taste terrible though, because of course they do: food doesn’t work that way. The meat of the episode focuses on Mob’s potential growth as a person: first through the machinations of Newspaper club member Mezato who, in order to prepare Mob to lead the cult she’s part of, has him run for school council President and claims it’ll attract the attention of his beloved Takane. It doesn’t go well: Mob being Mob, he freezes up and doesn’t say a single word for his allotted five minutes. It’s not all bad though; his performance attracts the affections of a girl named Emi, who asks Mob out and although it’s revealed he says no, they still walk home together everyday. Unfortunately however it all turns out have been based on a dare, though Mob doesn’t seem to take it badly. After Emi’s friends rip up the novel she wrote Mob drops to his knees and begins collecting the pieces. When he and Emi are alone and the wind carries the pieces away he reveals his powers to her: using them to bring the pieces back and reform them into a book shape. An unseen, nearby Takane quietly comments “Smooth”. Emi uses the idea of a high school student with psychic powers to start a new book and comments that Mob is “Amazing”, implying that perhaps actual feelings are now present.

Overall, really strong start to the new season. I was a bit slow on the uptake because I didn’t bother to watch a recap or anything, but after a quick visit to TV tropes I know who everyone is again, and I remembered the major events well enough. Starting off with the key elements: Mob and Reigen, psychic powers, Mob’s attempts at leading a normal life and how he deals with people and everyday events means it was a solid foundation to build the rest of the season on. It was a great re-introduction to the world and its characters. I’m happy Mob Psycho 100 is back, and I look forward to next week.

Episode 2: Urban Legends ~Encountering Rumours~

This episode has everything: Mob in a lovely jumper, Tiny Reigen, well-animated action, comedy, a man who flashes children… wait a minute, that took a bad turn. Due to a lack of steady exorcism work Reigen declares that he and Mob are going to pursue any leads pertaining to urban legends; setting up a tiny table on the pavement with a little sign on it, because Reigen “Didn’t think this through”. The legends they seek are Red Raincoat, the Human Faced Dog, Dash Granny and the Queen of them all: The Dragger. They take a case to deal with them all, and after being challenged by a local psychic named Shinra, rope him into their search. Reigen and Mob find the Human Faced Dog; actually a regular dog whose face has been drawn on by some shitty kids, whom Reigen hits before cleaning the dog’s face like the best boy he is. Meanwhile Shinra accidentally makes himself sound like a paedophile before tackling and fighting Red Raincoat, him being the aforementioned man who flashes children, in a brief parody of 2-D fighting games which was rather amusing and took my mind of the weird swerve the episode had taken. I’m not opposed to the plot point or how it was handled, and Red Raincoat was quite swiftly murdered, it just felt really weird and out of nowhere. Anyway the Dragger is very much real, powerful and out for blood, and the ensuing fight scene between her and a Dimple-possessed Shinra was good. I also like how the seemingly genuinely insurmountable issue of Reigen, Mob and Shinra being unable to beat her because they’re scared of her and have bought into her legend is negated by Mob actually not being scared of her at all, and quickly eradicating her. Finally they go in pursuit of Dash Granny, on whom Mob’s powers have no effect! …because she’s also just an old lady going for a run. She does manage to crush Mob’s spirit though, because he runs every day with the body improvement club and she trounced him good and proper.

Great episode; funny, beautifully animated, good focus on Reigen’s manipulations and softer side when helping Terror the dog (for whom he bought bones and shampoo with his limited funds) and again, Mob really did have a lovely jumper. Weird turn with the flasher but again, I think it’s an issue or anything, it just caught me off guard when everything leading up to it had been pretty light really.

Episode 3: One Danger After Another ~Degeneration~

The new Op’s really grown on me, especially the wave of rising and falling characters, and the shot of Sakurai destroying the thrown fuel tanker mid-air. Song’s really good too, and as much as liked the counting element of 99, I think I prefer 99.9. Anyway, this episode focused on Mob’s caring nature, the conflict that arises from his enhanced perspective, and his relationship with Reigen. After setting up a website for the exorcism business last episode, they get three jobs in one day, with the result being a planned exorcism of a ghost family for three brats who find their very presence worthy of re-death, despite Mob insisting they mean no harm. Mob laments that if he were to take the side of the ghosts he’d have to attack the human customers. Reigen realises that Mob has an equal foothold in both the human and spirit worlds, a unique position that has the potential to cause him a great deal of stress that other people can’t understand. Reigen’s genuine care for and understanding of Mob is the best part of the show for me; the 100% gratitude was one of my favourite scenes from season 1, and I love to see their relationship continue. Similarly, I really like the scene where two bigger kids try to mug Mob only for one of them to be stopped by Dimple, then Ritsu, then the Body Improvement Club. It’s nice to see Mob’s friends helping him out, and that his relationship with his brother is fully repaired after what happened last season. Good episode, always happy to have a lot of Reigen.

Episode 4: Inside ~Evil Spirit~

Hoo boy. So Reigen and Mob answer the call of a wealthy businessman who’s gathered a whole room full of psychics to help his possessed daughter. Reigen gets the first crack at her after destroying everyone else at rock paper scissors (including a lovely shot of him standing victorious on a mountain of defeated psychics), and works out from dialogue cues and her word choices that she is indeed possessed, flying in the face of the assembled psychics, including a supposed big-shot, who all believe her story of an abusive father. But possessed she is, and obviously no one present can pose any kind of threat to her (besides Reigen and a new special move: “Anti-possession knee strike”, following in the glorious footsteps of “Anti-esper dropkick” and my favourite; “HYPNOSIS PUNCH”). Dimple reveals that the spirit is of ex-helpful psychic turned assassin Mogami Keiji, who tried to absorb the former forty years ago in an attempt to become the ultimate evil spirit. Mob comes up with a high-risk strategy: use an out-of-body experience to enter the girl and free her, while Dimple possesses his body to keep him out of trouble. Reigen naturally warns against this, but Mob’s previous efforts are fruitless. Mob pulls it off, but inside is bested by Mogami, who reveals the source of psychic powers is human emotion (hence Mob’s explosions), and in order to grant him a change in perspective and potentially greater power, sends him on a sort of vision quest in which he is a normal boy with no powers, as the episode ends.

Speaking of explosions, Mob’s finally moving towards one, which I realised last episode hasn’t happened yet, so that’s good. Mogami has promise as a villain who has a potential connection to Mob through their shared powers and experiences, and the scenes with him dolling out arse whuppin’s with the possessed Minori’s body are great. Similarly, it’s not given much screentime but the hand-to-hand fight between Minori-Mogami and Dimple-possessed Mob looks fantastic, much like when Dimple possessed Shinra in episode 2, and it’s interesting to see a more expressive version of Mob’s face. Great episode again, I know I tend to focus on Reigen but he’s the best character in the show, and this episode was no exception. Interested to see where the next episode goes.

Episode 5: Discord ~Choices~

Mob spends six months in a drab, grey, letterboxed world in which he has no powers and new transfer student Minori mercilessly bullies him, his teacher slaps him in the face and no one stops him being mugged. It kind of reminded me of an Evangelion dream sequence, only more straight forward, less nightmarish and with a happy ending. Basically Mogami is trying to make Mob learn the lesson that life is a never ending series of horrible, cruel bullshit and giving into negative emotions is the far superior option. This almost works when Mob retaliates against his bullies, but Dimple appears to snap him out of it, and Mob doubles down on what he’s learnt over the course of the series: that people are capable of good, can change, and that he’d much rather help people, ’cause Mob’s a nice boy. Mogami attacks with white, humanoid blob monsters, again reminiscent of Evangelion, and Mob finally explodes with 100% of what seems to be general positive emotion rather than a specific, named one. It also turns him into a bishy, for some reason, and he destroys Mogami’s presence before waging war on ever evil spirit Mogami gathered together, spurred on by a desire to rescue Minori. It’s Mob, vs spectral evil in a ruined city, with the former powered by the desire to do good, it’s fantastic. Also just before returning to the real world he breaks through his limit and hits ???%, which turns him into a sort of benevolent shadow monster. He rescues Minori, who reveals that the version of her in Mogami’s world is accurate before tearfully and repeatedly apologising to Mob. She and her Father discuss him later and come across the website for the Psycho Helmet club. Finally Mob and Reigen eat food acquired  from Mob Donald’s, which I have numerous questions about but will keep them to myself, and the latter refused any reward money because so many people were injured, which he can’t deem a success.

Really solid two-episode arc, both episodes work on their own also, and having Mob finally explode, and reaffirm his values as a kind, helpful individual who doesn’t use his powers on other people felt good, and again, called back that 100% gratitude scene from Season 1. Reigen really got through to Mob when he described psychic powers as being like a knife, and in that regard they should never be pointed at another person, and it’s touching to see Mob continuing to take that lesson to heart. Good stuff.

I apologise for another long gap between entries, I’m working through some stuff at the minute, but I will endeavour to return to a weekly schedule from now on

Episode 6: Poor, Lonely, Whitey

It’s the Mob/Reigen break up, caused by Reigen overselling an attempt to make Mob sacrifice his social life to focus on his exorcism job. Mob realises that he follows Reigen too blindly and should take some time to hang out with his friends in the Body Improvement Club; a bunch of earnest, kind-hearted beefcakes who genuinely care about Mob, and the Telepathy Club, who are also there. By the end of the episode it looks like Mob isn’t having quite as much fun with them as he thought, but for the most part the space seems to be doing him good. It’s certainly working for Reigen, who uses it as the kick up the arse he needs to grow his brand and become far more popular, so much so that he ends the episode about to take part in a TV interview, with the old man psychic from episode 4, who got Reigen involved as revenge for the latter kneeing the former in the chest. It ends with that revelation, and him mentally predicting Reigen’s downfall.

Good episode, really dramatic character development for Reigen, but one that makes sense and fits his character. He’s always been the charismatic go-getter type, he’s just been content to stick to his role as a shiftless con man when he’s clearly capable of so much more. Taking his split from Mob as a sign he should get used to being on his own and even use that spark to reach new heights is a good angle for him, and if the two do rejoin forces I’m interested to see how their relationship will change. In that regard it’s also nice to see Mob stand up for himself; act on his feelings and do what he wants to do.

Episode 7: Cornered ~True Identity~

This has been a long time coming, I feel. After Mob and Reigen parted ways last episode, the inevitable happens: Reigen is caught out and shown to be just faking his psychic abilities. The televised interview features a live exorcism, which Reigen believes to be all an act, and so keeps using his special moves and various exorcism techniques waiting for the possessed boy to pretend to be cured, but he never does. The old man, Jodo, takes the reigns and simply states that the boy isn’t really possessed, and the facade is dropped: it was all an act, but Reigen was approaching it from the wrong angle. He was supposed to reveal it was all an act, and that would somehow prove his powers exist. Suffice to say, things spectacularly fall apart. He’s branded a fraud and a criminal, people add made up stories to the real ones, he anonymously comments that “Reigen’s actually the real deal” and people see through it immediately, it’s a mess. As a “Fraud is exposed” story goes this is, frankly, delicious. Obviously I didn’t relish it, I love Reigen and seeing people turn on him is hard to watch, but it’s far more interesting, and ironic, than just having an actually possessed person that Reigen can’t deal with. Reigen had the right train of thought, just on the wrong track, and that’s a neat idea. He eventually hosts a press conference at the suggestion of a mob (no pun intended) of reporters camped outside his house, and uses the opportunity to at first turn on them aggressively, then answer all their questions honestly and concisely, except for the big one: does he have powers? He spaces out and remembers his first meeting with Mob; a young man troubled by powers he can’t always control, comforted by Reigen’s simple reassurance that psychic abilities don’t make him any less human, and that as a human he should just strive to be a good person. Every microphone, camera and light in the conference is hoisted into the air, Reigen’s reputation is instantly repaired, and he leaves, where he runs into Mob and is told that he is a “Genuinely good guy”. Friendship repaired, multi-episode, emotionally heavy arc finished, tears wiped away. Great episode, I think it’s important to his character going forward that rather than remain outed as a fraud, the lesson Reigen learns is that he treated Mob poorly, and that’s what needs to change. Reigen’s current lot in life is integral to both him as a character and his role in the show as a whole, so it makes sense they didn’t make any permanent changes to it. They managed to have him fall from grace and climb back up in the span of one episode very naturally though, it didn’t feel like a cheap reset. Hopefully he and Mob’s relationship will be stronger than ever now.

Episode 8: Even Then ~Continue Forward~

You know, based on the preview I was expecting this to be a breather episode. Salt Middle School has a marathon coming up, Mob’s going to try and place in the top ten and ask out Tsubomi, that’s a fun episode. Ultimately things don’t go according to plan; Mob collapses and doesn’t finish the race, but he was doing really well and persevering, rather than using his psychic powers to cheat; he made a real effort. Ritsu placed ninth, Tsubomi seemed to fancy someone else but it turned out to not be the case, everything was looking pretty sold. Then a villain turns up at Mob’s house, sets fire to it and apparently murders his Mother, Brother and Father. It’s unclear if it’s them because the bodies are all twisted and burnt, but the sight is enough to make Mob’s emotional percentage count skyrocket; well past 100% into glitchy ???% territory, and that’s how the episode ends. Jesus Christ. Not sure how I feel about this to be honest, I think I’ll need some time to ruminate. As I said it’s not definitive that the dead bodies are in fact the Kageyama family, but then I don’t know who else they could be. We’ll have to see next episode I guess, either way, I enjoyed this episode and I’m eager to see where it goes from here, because I was really not expecting this at all.

Episode 9: Show Me What You’ve Got ~Band Together~

Okay, so Mob’s family are fine; the member of CLAW who came to the house wanted to recruit Ritsu into a battle against the members of CLAW from the ending of season one against the rest of the organisation who are planning world domination. Mr and Mrs Kageyama are on a spa trip, so they’re fine, the burning of the house and dummies left to burn were a trick to get Mob angry enough to pose a serious threat, which he does in the opening sequence that shows what happens when he’s at a constant, controlled 100%. He decimates two espers who were on their way to attack his house, and after being picked up by Sakurai and Koyama from CLAW, stops their car in an instant and then upon being told they’re taking him to Reigen, levitates said car and flies it to their base. Fortunately Reigen calms Mob down by telling him he’s certain the Kageyamas are safe, because Reigen is the best and I’m so glad their relationship is fixed.  This is where the episode gets a bit messy. So the head of CLAW is planning an attack on Japan: 600 espers vs 600,000 armed Japanese police officers and soldiers. A foreign contingent of CLAW lead by a government plant is planning a mutiny, which is then foiled by the top five of CLAW, who seem to be acting entirely on the orders of the boss and he doesn’t care what happens as long as he and the five are okay. They’re all against the members of CLAW from season one, who are currently holed up with Mob, the psychic kids from season one, Reigen and Teruki, who ends up trying to save the Prime Minister from a blind esper who is bulletproof, can predict people’s movements well enough to dodge a rapid series of gunshots, and can teleport. I realise I’ve used the word a lot already, but it’s a three to four-way CLAW civil war and there’s a lot to get through in this one episode. Multiple factions with different motivations all rapidly introduced and engaging in combat for different reasons. It reminded me a little bit of the “Save Bakugo” arc in My Hero Academia, but that was given a lot more build up, and kept things more streamlined and concise in terms of groups and motivations. Plus it had All Might in it. Sweet, sweet All Might. It’s not a bad episode by any means, but having been quite leisurely in terms of pace so far it feels like things have suddenly jumped up several notches, like they intended to spread it over multiple episodes and have now realised they’ve run out of time (I’m not saying that’s the case, it’s just an example). The psychic powers are still beautifully realised, Mob’s controlled 100% and the new blind villain were both really cool, I just hope things slow down a bit next episode.

Episode 10: Collision ~Power Type~

The CLAW on CLAW brawl continues, with Reigen, having been spurred on by his insurance company refusing to pay out for his torched office, coming up with a plan to take down head of CLAW Suzuki. Splitting their group into two, one half lead by Teruki will create a diversion involving flying police vehicles and the other half will sneak into the sewers. It’s all going well until the former is set upon by a sizeable claw force and Terada apparently outs himself as a spy, and the latter runs into Shimazaki; the blind, teleporting, bulletproof esper who can predict people’s movements from last episode. Having rushed through the set up last episode, this one feels better paced. The focus is more on everything happening back with Reigen, Mob and Dimple; Reigen dealing with a CLAW incursion with a spray bottle full of a curse that causes extreme drowsiness and Dimple having to possess the sleeping Mob to fight off muscle-bound Shibata, to no avail. The episode’s peak is the Body Improvement Club catching a falling Mob out the air, trying to defend him from Shibata and President Gouda acting as a physical barrier between the two, telling a sleeping Mob how inspiring his refusal to give up is to the entire club, and how he gives them courage. The pay off is Dimple possessing Gouda to temporarily put Shibata on his arse, with Mob finally waking up and putting him out of commission. Good episode, the CLAW stuff is less interesting to me than everything to do with Mob and Reigen, but Suzuki, The Ultimate 5 and particularly Shimazaki are cool villains so I’m looking forward to the two groups meeting.

Episode 11: Guidance ~Psychic Sensor~

This was a great episode. Mob’s brother Ritsu and Sho Suzuki, son of the CLAW leader arrive at the final showdown before anyone else, and Sho races in to face his Father, stopping only to gloriously suplex Hatori. Mob, having awoken in the last episode, comes across and engages with Minegishi, who has control over plants. The fight is rendered moot when Mogami’s spirit is accidentally released, who neutralises Minegishi and insists that Mob balance his loving, forgiving nature with the ability to be hard on people, before leaving. If it sounds like I’m rushing through this it’s because I want to talk about this episode’s MVP: Shimazaki. All I could think of during his scenes was that if they ever made a Mob Psycho fighting game he’d be my main. His permanent easy-going smile, his slick teleportation power and his brutal approach to combat make him my favourite villain in MP100 so far. He spends the episode fighting against Teruki and the CLAW rebels, effortlessly giving them a hiding until Teruki starts to predict his teleports and works out his weakness: he can only dodge attacks he sees coming. Once he’s distracted he’s got no hope; they turn the tables and just kick the shit out of him. But it turns out he has one final move left: “Mind’s Eye”, in which he finally opens his eyes to reveal black sclera and red pupils, zones in on all the espers present and takes them all down. He only relents when he senses Mob’s overwhelming energy, and is caught off guard by Reigen’s greatest special move yet: “Self-Defence Rush”, in which Reigen isn’t really certain if it’s actually self-defence, so he yells it just in case and throws out a flurry of punches. Of all of Reigen’s glorious special moves, this is my new favourite hands-down. It’s just so him. That gets Shimazaki thinking that he’s under attack by an esper who can hide his power, and the final coffin nail is driven in when he reveals that he was just in this to have fun, which results in Mob looking like he’s about to murder him on the spot. He wisely teleports away. All the while Sho has been struggling against his Father, who reveals that he’s been building up energy reserves for twenty years, and travelled the world to find out whether world domination was a realistic goal. The episode ends with Mob taking Mogami’s advice to heart, and apologetically telling his assembled allies that if they were to join him they’d just get in his way, as he ascends the tower for a confrontation with Suzuki.

As I said at the start; great episode. Shimazaki is easily my favourite villain in the whole series. I love his powers, his demeanour and how he’s finally vanquished, both by CLAW teamwork and Reigen being able to sneak up on him because he doesn’t have any powers. Mob learning that he has to be hard on people sometimes is important, and I look forward to seeing how that changes his personality going forward. It’s slightly reminiscent of One Punch Man now in that no matter what battles take place you know Mob is eventually going to get involved and make everyone look like twats, but in addition to sharing OPM’s knack for a strong supporting cast it does some brilliant character work with its lead. Good stuff.

Episode 12: The Battle for Social Rehabilitation ~Friendship~

At this point I’m noticing who everyone is in the opening, and how different groups of them are fighting as they are in recent episodes. Anyway, we get Serizawa’s backstory: his out of control powers and alienation made him a shut-in, until Suzuki took him under his wing and gave him the umbrella he always carries. Whenever Serizawa feels anxious, which is all the time, he can pretend that being under the umbrella is the same as being back in his bedroom, thus keeping his severe anxiety in check. He’s fiercely loyal to Suzuki for turning his life around, but Mob reaches 100% friendship and shows Serizawa he knows how he feels, and listens to him air his issues, namely that despite his loyalty he’s deeply disturbed by all the violence, especially Suzuki battering his Son Sho. Speaking of which, Mob finally confronts the leader of CLAW, and attempts to talk him down by extolling the importance of interacting with other people, and people making up for each other’s shortcomings in a sort of patchwork “let’s all get by” way to live, which is very sweet and well thought-out, but gets him nowhere. Thankfully Reigen arrives to bluster through several plays in rapid succession: fire a gun (!), pretend he has four different ways to win, ask to join forces, punch Suzuki in the face (classic) and finally surrender, none of which work but good on him for having some variety. Serizawa saves Reigen from a lethal energy blast, and finally Mob reaches 100% Rage and after severing the top of the tower to avoid collateral damage, engages Suzuki, who is using a mere 10% of his power.
This episode moved at a quick pace, and I put that down it being the penultimate one of the season, something I suspected a few weeks ago. Serizawa’s backstory hit close to home, and I’m glad his character arc was resolved the way it was; peacefully and by making friends with Mob, who’s continue to grow as a person. Reigen had a lovely line about one of Mob’s greatest strengths being his ability to tell people exactly how he feels, and I loved his attempts to talk down Suzuki by bigging up human interaction. Speaking of Suzuki, I liked when he rushed at Mob, declaring “I recognise you as my enemy”, that was cool. I liked Reigen’s desperate attempts to salvage the situation, and was pleasantly surprised that Mob didn’t empower him and have him sort everything out again. As much I as adore that scene repeated use would cheapen it. Good episode, looking forward to the finale.

Episode 13 (Season Finale): Boss Fight ~The Final Light~

Suzuki’s only regret is that he has boneitis.

It’s Mob vs Suzuki in the final showdown; the former briefly getting way too into the whole thing and having to calm down, and the latter gradually releasing more of his power supply. My opening joke is in reference to Mob getting fed up of his appeals for peace and unity falling on deaf ears and violently twisting Suzuki’s limbs, seemingly with intent to just put him down for good. Fortunately for Mob, Suzuki breaks free, only to be bombarded with skyscrapers, which are much less lethal. The fight goes on like this until Suzuki releases too much energy and explodes in a huge, mushroom cloud-creating blast, which Mob counters by asorbing as much energy as he can and letting a barrier deal with the rest. As much as he dislikes Suzuki, letting him die alone would be too sad, and he’s committed to the idea that “people need other people”. This whole sequence reminded me of Devilman Crybaby, but with a far more positive outcome. Suzuki survives and is taken prisoner by the government, all the other espers involved in the fight have to move on to new lives, and the broccoli seeds in Mob’s pocket from way back in episode one sprout into an enormous broccoli the size of a building, which Reigen suggests he and Mob just forget they saw. Speaking of Reigen, he finally got a new office in an insurance payout, and the episode, and indeed season, ends with he, Mob and new recruit Serizawa welcoming a client.

I’m glad Mob’s way of ending the fight was to stick to his compassionate principles, and his foray into gleeful violence was just a hiccup. It hints at the darker side of his personality and powers as seen when he reaches ???%, but his good side wins out. As an episode it was quite direct in ending the arc, concluding Suzuki’s designs on world domination and tying off Mob’s growth into a more well-rounded person with both a kind heart and the will to tell hard truths. As a season, MP100 II has been fantastic. The only real problem was episode nine having such a rushed pace, but even then it was still enjoyable. Mob had some good growth this season, as did Reigen; his fall from grace and subsequent climb were important to his character. Episode five where Mob’s trapped in that psychic nightmare is really interesting, the urban legend episode was fun, and the whole CLAW war was great, especially Shimazaki. Also the Body Improvement Club are absolute treasures and I’m glad they continue to be involved.
Mob Psycho continues to be one of the most consistently enjoyable anime around; beautifully animated, good balance of action scenes, goofy humour and emotional weight and with strong characters with solid development. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed season 2, looking forward to season 3. Might read the manga in the meantime.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18