Mob Psycho 100 is a fun series.
Centered around the story of Shigeo Kageyama, aka Mob, the overpowered psychic youth who just wants to live his life, Mob Psycho 100 wows its audience in multiple ways. Animation-wise, it’s fantastic, conceptually, it is intriguing, and its characters are engaging and fun. That being said, our main character is not quite like most other series.
Mob’s a very interesting main character- he’s not designed to be very attractive, he’s not funny for the most part, and comes off as disinterested, when other main characters are passionate and engaged. He’s an odd one, and I think, given his odd personality, and very restrained nature, he’d be quite an interesting person to psychoanalyze.
Now, this post is going to be a LONG one. There is a lot to explain about Mob’s psyche, but that just makes it all the more interesting. Hope you’ll join me for the ride- let’s get into the psychology of Shigeo Kageyama.
Who Is Mob?
So, let’s first take a look at Shigeo, before attempting to do any in-depth diagnoses. Just who is he, and why?
What can be noted first, just from the outside, is his rather bored expression. He is not a very emotive kid, and even when there are immense circumstances, and everyone around him is angry, he, despite comprehending what is happening, does not outwardly react, at least, for the most part. He’s kinda just…doing his own thing.
He is also powerful, immeasurably so, but throughout the series, he doesn’t seem very willing to use his power. In fact, it almost seems like he goes out of his way to avoid doing so, remaining seemingly apathetic and emotionless, simply to ensure he doesn’t lose control. However, at points, he has huge emotional outbursts- oftentimes triggered by stressful situations, such as when his brother is being threatened. Combine this behavior with his immense social awkwardness, general kindness, and immense care for his family, and you have an individual who’s just asking to be psychoanalyzed.
However, what I also want to note is his relatively young age- he’s only 14 at the start of the series. This, psychologically speaking, is of huge importance. It can be easy to forget sometimes, but at Mob’s age, it’s certainly possible to have complex, logical thoughts, that he certainly does express, but he’s not exactly certain of his identity yet. He’s not a Light or a Tomoya, he’s not in that high-school and beyond age that most action anime tend to focus on, and as such, he is still in a much earlier phase of psychological development- but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Now. What we have is an adolescent who certainly has emotion, but just doesn’t show it much. He expresses fear of losing control almost constantly, leading to a more dull, apathetic life style, but still yearns to experience life normally apart from this. For all intents and purposes then, barring his emotional outbursts to stressful situations, he would just be a normal guy- just a bit calmer and more mellow than most. So then, what does this all mean?
Freud, Repression, and Moral Development
I believe, at its core, Mob’s unique emotional situation can be described best in the ideas of Freud, father of psychoanalysis, and Lawrence Kohlberg, and his stages of moral development.
Freud is well known for his theories revolving around the unconscious, using a well known comparison to an iceberg to easily visualize it- the consciousness is what we see on the surface, while the unconscious is far more vast, and what we do not see. This iceberg, in turn, is divided into the Id, Ego, and Superego, or Instincts, Reality, and Morality respectively, where the instincts, and much of one’s morality, is unconscious. It is in this unconsciousness where we see primitive desires, frightening and scary events, that are locked away, and in particular, “repressed.”
I’d like to focus on that aspect, as Mob certainly appears to have a “repressed” memory, that we see very plainly in the 5th episode of the anime. When pushed to the edge, choked to unconsciousness by Teruki Hanazawa, he refuses to use his powers, to even get angry, thinking of the time he lost control, and badly injured his brother’s bullies. The extent of this injury remains unknown, but I feel confident in saying that the “locking away” of emotions that Mob feels is linked to this event. It is certainly normal to be a bit cautious about letting one’s emotion’s slip, but the extreme level to which Mob takes this mentality is what makes it evident that what we are dealing with is repression, and a true psychological oddity. However, this isn’t exactly new, or difficult information to process, it’s all but confirmed in the series itself. The effect of this memory, however, is what I’d like to focus on- specifically, in how it’s developed his morality.
Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory, regarding the stages of moral development throughout life, that I feel is very applicable to Mob. Kohlberg’s theory accounts for six stages:
- Obedience and Punishment Orientation
- Self-Interest Orientation
- Interpersonal Accord and Conformity
- Authority and Social-Order Maintaining Orientation
- Social Contract Orientation
- Universal Ethical Principles
The first two are common mostly in children, although can also be exhibited in adults- simply put, these two are defined by selfish desires, and morality based only on how they are punished for their desires later. The 3rd and 4th stages deal with adolescence to adulthood, which generally constructs morality by observing societal views of right and wrong, despite consequences. Finally, the last two stages deal with individuals as being separate from society, and the creation of ethical principles that are independent from societal bounds. These stages in particular, are far more abstract, and some theorists believe that many people just never reach this, while some reach it rather early. I explain this, because it is clear where exactly Mob lands on this scale, based on information in the anime.
Mob is a 14 year old: in other words, he is in the middle of his adolescence. This would put him around stages three and four, which, based on his behavior, makes a LOT of sense. According to Wikipedia (a research paper this ain’t, sorry) at stage three, “conforming to the rules for one’s social role is not yet fully understood.” One confirms to social rules because they want to be “good,” because they want to have good, better relationships with others, and ultimately, they wish to go along with social standards.
Surprisingly, Mob does adhere to this: we see that throughout the story, Mob deals a lot with social isolation, and has had to deal with the consequences of having huge psychic powers. From his repressed incident, to social awkwardness as a result of his emotional repression, Mob is still trying to find out who he is. He wants to not be defined by his powers, and instead tries to take up running, in line with a “normal” good thing about society. He enjoys the talents of the “normal” people, and goes so far as to deny himself the usage of his powers in order to be “good.”
However, this doesn’t yet explain what exactly goes on in the regulation of Mob’s emotions. We now know why, psychologically speaking, why he would want to not use his powers, and what this restraint does to his view of what is “good. ” But there’s still one more step to go: and that involves going into Self-Regulation Theory.
This theory lies at the heart of Mob Psycho 100, and is a predictor for basically every decision that Shigeo takes during the series. It’s a theory that has been studied by many a psychologist, although for Mob in particular, we’ll look at a study by one Roy Baumeister, who divides it into four steps.
1. Standards: Desirable behaviors.
We can see that for Shigeo, his standards- his view of what is good, is stereotypically “normal” behavior.” From wanting to join a school club, to not wanting to use his powers at all, only when absolutely necessary, we know that he sets strict standards on himself. In fact, in the anime, there’s two very clear reasons for these standards: Shigeo’s mentor Arataka Reigen, and his childhood crush, Takana Tsubomi, who both teach Mob from a young, impressionable age, that having powers doesn’t make him any better than anyone else. Of course, there is still the big event to consider, that made these standards so much more clear to Mob.
2. Motivation: Desire to meet standards.
His motivation, and the finalization of his standards, come from one source in particular: the incident with his brother’s bullies. He mentions many times throughout the series that he doesn’t want to hurt people, doesn’t want to lose control, and this moment from Mob’s childhood is the reason why.
3. Monitoring: Looking out for situations that may entail breaking standards.
Of course, this directly leads to his monitoring of the situations that lead to the potential
breaking points- the 100% emotional levels, when he loses control. Episode 3 shows it, Episode 5, 12- any conflicts that Mob has, even when he is pushed to his absolute limit, if Mob’s conscious, then he is painfully aware of his emotions. This awareness leads to a sense of controlling the situation. Similarly to when we think of our breathing rate, we feel the need to control it intentionally, just like how Shigeo considers his emotions.
4. Willpower: The strength to control urges that lead to those situation.
Finally, we see that Shigeo needs willpower to resist the natural desires of his emotions. He knows that he can get angry, he knows that he might have to save the lives of his friends someday, and even if it makes sense, because of his moral standards, his fear of hurting others, he stops. Shigeo’s willpower is exceptional, precisely because he thinks about them all the time. Roy Baumeister acknowledges this- that willpower can be improved, simply by exercising it more and more.
One last thing I’d like to mention- there are times throughout the story of Mob Psycho 100 where Shigeo lets loose intentionally, knowing he has to. However, this just reveals that Shigeo has one more standard that he holds, in even HIGHER regard than his standard of normality. This standard is the safety of his brother.
His brother’s bullying is what caused Mob to blow up in the first place, Mob instantly goes after the man who kidnaps his bother in the middle of the series, and in rescuing his brother, Mob lets loose his power on other humans, going full out from the start. In this way, it can clearly be seen that, altogether, Mob has an immense level of care for his loved ones, that supercedes his desires to repress himself, and his moral standard of being “normal,” even if he regrets having to do so. That’s just an interesting thing to note: that the standard selflessness that Shigeo exhibits, the “standard selflessness” that many people expect from a protagonist, has a lot more depth to it, a lot more significance, than meets the eye.
Mob is actually stupidly complex. From a Freudian standpoint, it’s clear that he has some repressed issues to talk about: namely, his repression of when he lost control against his brother’s bullies. Speaking in regards to moral development, Mob still has yet to develop moral principles that apply to all individuals, and is still at the point where he acts for the sake of the safety of others, because that is what he considers best for the society he lives in. And of course, Mob regulates his emotions, because the standards he has built up from a young age lead him to do so.
Shigeo Kageyama is a hugely interesting character- at least, from what I’ve seen in the anime. This research, personally speaking, gave me a much larger appreciation of a character who, in many ways, seemed to make sense. It took a long time to compile this information together, but I enjoyed it- and I hope you were able to learn a bit more through this as well!