Photo taken by Faith Orcino.

Organizers of CRX 2019 invited several members of the press to interview “Mob Psycho 100” director Yuzuru Tachikawa, character designer Yoshimichi Kameda and protagonist Mob’s voice actor, Setsuo Ito.

Q: My question is for Tachikawa-san. Tachikawa-san, do you ever identify with your characters? For example, Mob doesn’t say much but he’s a very compassionate and kind person. You don’t see it from his expressions.
Director Yuzuru Tachikawa (via translator): For me personally, I usually express what I’m feeling right away. I don’t really keep my feelings pent up and keep that stress building up like Mob does. So it’s kinda like the opposite for me.

Q: Do you have any behind-the-scenes moments or making-of times that you can share?
Character Designer Yoshimichi Kameda (via translator): They had a kind of last minute rush during the second season’s 13th episode where they had to do a last minute recording for some of the lines to fill up the rest of the episode. So he had to come up with a script on the fly and schedule recording sessions so they could get it.

Q: (For Kameda) You have worked on several titles as a key animator such as “One Punch Man”, “Tatami Galaxy”, “KILL la KILL” and “Doraemon”. With exposures to different animation styles, what was one key aspect you learned from the previous series you worked on and enhanced “Mob Psycho 100”?
Kameda: Actually because I worked on “One Punch Man” and of course “One Punch Man” kind of had the super vision of Murata-sensei but I got used to ONE-sensei’s style of art. Because I got used to that, I was able to carry that over to “Mob Psycho 100”. Especially the design of the characters’ faces, it was very similar to the design of “One Punch Man” so I was used to creating that style. And the difference to “One Punch Man”, the difference in animation from scene to scene was so different that I got used to having a more consistent style for “Mob Psycho 100”.

Q: (For Tachikawa) What was the inspiration behind further fleshing out Tsubomi’s character in the anime by featuring her in more scenes rather than briefly?
Tachikawa: (Laughs) So basically I didn’t initially have that intention to have her fleshing out as much as I did but she served a really good purpose in order to flesh out Mob’s character a little bit more. To have that visual change on screen because her scenes left that much of an impact, it actually, more than her character itself, you come to understand Mob a lot more due to that interaction.

Q: Do you consult ONE-sensei during the creation of the show? And if so, what is it like working with him?
Tachikawa: During the initial production, especially for the first season, we had a sort of meeting ahead of time to discuss with ONE-Sensei how the outline should look like and what we wanted to do going forward. Of course, we consulted the source material to have a good game plan for what we wanted to do. But when it came to the second season, of course he did you know a sort of final check to make sure everything was up to par. But we didn’t have any sort of specific meeting and didn’t consult with him on a day-to-day basis. In the case of during production, if there was a big difference between an idea we came up with or a plot point, then in that specific case, we would consult ONE-sensei to make sure or ask him for any ideas. And ONE-sensei is actually very nice and understanding to what goes behind the production of anime so he understands there may be some differences. But he’s actually very supportive and I guess overall I just want to say that he is just a very nice person to work with.

Q: Mob acts differently than your typical protagonist. Especially like in a lot of superhero or shonen comics, the goal for the protagonist is to get stronger, more powerful. In this case, it’s like the reverse. He’s basically trying to suppress all this power. Also, he doesn’t fit the typical image of a “cool protagonist”. So what do you find intriguing about Mob as a character and what is it about him that resonates with fans so much?
Kameda: So actually Mob, I see a lot of similar characteristics to explore in my own personality. He doesn’t really express what he’s thinking out loud. He kind of keeps it pent up and part of it might be because he doesn’t really have confidence in himself. He wants to sort of find what his place is and really as a result, he doesn’t have that confidence to express himself. So overall, he’s just sorta like a very nervous middle schooler and I see sort of very similar characteristics in how I really express myself. I don’t really express myself. I don’t really express out loud often times. So it’s very easy for me to relate with him and as a result, create his character.
Tachikawa: For me personally, Mob of course has a very strong power within him. But if I were to say one or the other, it’s something that he doesn’t really need or that he doesn’t consider necessary to be part of his life. Like everyone that’s in middle school, a middle school boy, he wants to be popular with the girls. And of course, when I was in middle school, I felt the same way. So to me to create his character, this sort of balance between wanting to have a normal life and to be a really popular middle school student with this sort of power within you, it’s really easy for me to relate to that.
Mob’s Voice Actor Setsuo Ito (via translator): For me, it’s like Mob’s growth over these series, it’s not sudden. It doesn’t take place like this giant instant scene that happens where he turns from one character to another. His growth takes place with visual change over time. One example of that is the bodybuilding club. He exercises, he puts on muscle and as a result, you can see the efforts he put in transpire into resultable actions. That is just one example of how what you see on screen, the scenes that you see allow his character to change and that’s what I personally really like to visualize, witness that transformation overtime.

Q: (For Ito) He joined the series as a voice actor and as a stage actor for Mob. What was that experience like playing the same character in two different capacities?
Ito: Actually for me, I was playing the same character for the anime and the stage play. So within me, the emotions that I expressed were very similar. I got to understand Mob from both scenarios. But the difference was that the people I was working with were different when it came to the stage play versus of course working with the anime. The atmosphere of being on stage, the surrounding people was quite different. And for that, I’ll elaborate a bit further. Of course for the anime and recording in a booth with all the other voice actors, I don’t see the audience that potentially are viewing the production. But for the stage, you’re in front of an audience. And to me, if I were to put myself in Mob’s shoes, that would be a very unique circumstance to be in front of a huge audience of people to do that. I guess that would be something that I would have experienced from doing both roles.

Q: (For Kameda) As an animator, what is the most unique or rewarding part of working on “Mob Psycho 100”? And do you have any cuts or sequences of animation that worked that you liked?
Kameda: So actually, I got to do the key animation and the outline for the promotional videos that came out for the first season of “Mob Psycho 100”. I did that by myself so I really got to determining the movement style of the characters, how faceted from one scene to the next.  Then I got a huge variety of people to see it. People’s reactions were “Oh, this style of ‘Mob Psycho 100’.” They have that visualization in their head that this is kinda what they expected for “Mob Psycho 100” to turn out to be. As a result, that gave me really confidence in carrying that style over to the actual series. So say the probably most rewarding for me was the initial promotional video that I worked on.
So you got to be translating how this was going to define the animation from very early then.
Kameda: Yeah, definitely. You know as he was of course very involved with the first season as the animation director. He got to oversee different parts of the key animation. As a result, everything was kind of a setup for Season Two where he got a huge input on how the scenes were directed. Having to be able to have that influence on what “Mob Psycho 100”, what you think about in your head when you visualize “Mob Psycho 100” animation was very rewarding for him.

My Question: Did any of you believe in psychic powers or the supernatural before working on the show?
Kameda: “I love UFO.” He wants to go to New Mexico to see UFO’s. Also want to go to Area 51.
Ito: I haven’t personally seen or witnessed psychic powers or supernatural in real life so I can’t really say I believe in them in reality. But I’ve actually seen a lot of media, or consumed a lot of media related to the supernatural.
Tachikawa: For me, I am a family man. I’m married, have a child and so I have sort of a belief in a higher power to make sure things go a certain way. But I haven’t really witnessed that in real life. But I like to think of it as that if there’s something watching over, that there’s sort of a way that things will sort of go in the right direction to make sure everything in my surroundings is good for us. I like zombies.

Q: (For Tachikawa and Kameda) So in “Mob Psycho 100” [season] 2, it features a staggering amount of action scenes for a TV show. It seems that the show was able to consistently deliver really incredible action scenes week to week. Given that TV shows schedules are often very tight, what challenges were presented in order to maintain such a high quality par week to week?
Kameda: Firstly, we have a really good division of labor when it comes to the direction of different parts of the anime. And definitely the quality of the animation goes to the animation director who took the responsibility for making sure he’d see, especially the action scenes turned out as good as they did. We never left each other behind. We were always there to have input. So for me personally, I would always have an open line of communication with the animation director to make sure that everything was as great quality as it could be.
Tachikawa: For me, firstly, I would have to say that “Mob Psycho 100” is the kind of work that has a very big berth of its design and contents. So I actually encourage a really free and creative style. My job personally is to check the visuals to make sure everything is aligned with the overall image that we have going for the show. But my directive style is to leave it up to the staff for them to have their own creative input to what goes in each part of the scene. In at the end, I would say that it’s an accumulation of of everyone’s creative input.

Q: (For Ito) You were casted to play Mob despite having only a few experiences in voice acting at the time. What was that experience like to suddenly become the main character of a big story like this?
Ito: Definitely I would have to say First Season, First Episode, going into that recording booth, I was really nervous and sort of all these emotions running through my head. I didn’t sleep all the night before that first recording. And right before the recording of the first episode, the main cast was announced and the rest of the cast members, the seiyuus were really senpais for me in the industry and I really looked up to them. So the feelings, I didn’t want to be an inconvenience or burden on them or holding them back from them doing their best [was] strongly echoing in my head. I would say by the time probably around Episode Eight of the first season, I was probably able to fully sleep the night before the recording.

Q: Were there anything you wanted to do in Season One that you couldn’t, whether for logistical reasons or something else that you managed to squeeze into Season Two? Like something that you wanted to carry over?
Tachikawa: First season was a build up of Mob’s personality where really he didn’t want to use his psychic powers actively on his own. He used them to protect others around himself or he used them to defend himself from enemies. So in the second season, we really had the opportunity to showcase a huge battle scene where he fought giant monsters, enemies of unproportionate size and this was something we  were really looking to build up to.
Kameda: For me, there were tons of new characters in Season Two and one character that stands out that I really enjoyed creating personally was this character named Shinra Banshomaru. He’s kinda like large in stature and he has a very imposing presence on screen whenever he shows up. One thing that was kind of similar in “Doraemon”, in the movie for “Doraemon”, I created a character called Gian. I got a lot of influence from creating that character in doing Shinra Banshomaru’s character and that was a lot of fun for me.

Q: (For Tachikawa and Kameda) With the new OVA [that] has an original story, was it easier or more difficult to cut loose from the manga?
Tachikawa: For the story of the OVA, we had little supervision from ONE-sensei but he left it up to the staff and we felt though since we had already created Season One and Two, it was engraved within us how we understood the characters within the universe of “Mob Psycho 100”. So we were able to really create a story from how we really felt the characters would interact and how their personalities resonated within us.
Kameda: For me, for the OVA, I was responsible for the character design. One thing I had a lot of fun doing was deciding what kind of clothing that character would wear and designing the outfits. As a new character came who was something that I had a lot of fun working with as well. And I realized that in making that character within that universe of “Mob Psycho 100”, you can have a wide variety of character designs and then fit within the universe. One example is Tsubomi who has her unique style compared to the rest of the characters. I took inspiration from the voice actor as well as the surrounding universe  and kinda put my own inspiration into it to have that character fit within the universe. So look forward to it.

Q: (For Tachikawa) Your opening animations including “Mob” and “Death Parade” have really distinctive styles and driving energy to them. I’m curious if there’s any references or inspiration that helped you develop that style, whether animation, film, TV, or anything else?
Tachikawa: So definitely for me, more than actual visuals of the opening, what took the most time was coming up with a concept of how I wanted to have the opening play out. So with the first season’s opening, I kinda pictured opening a toy box and kind of entering this world, this kind of crazy world of this toy box and from that I took inspiration from different illustrations and input those ideas into that opening. Then at the second season, I already had sort of a pre-engraved concept of how I wanted the openings to look and so I used everything that was built into that point including the promotional videos, the illustrations and other concept art to come up with the idea for opening for the second season.

Q: (For Ito) What was your most memorable or rewarding moment of playing Mob in the first two seasons?
Ito: One thing is definitely being able to come to America and see all of you. That’s a huge part of it but I would have to say as for most rewarding is just being here to actually see the reactions of the fans face-to-face. But of course, this is the same in live events that I do in Japan or if I go to do promotions overseas, to actually be in front of an audience to see people’s reactions to how much they enjoy and experience the show is probably the most rewarding for me.

Q: So Reigen’s voice actor (Takahiro Sakurai) is a veteran voice actor. During “Mob Psycho 100”, did you guys develop a similar student-mentor relationship?
Ito: “Yes.” Sakurai-san is someone that I’ve looked up to for probably since I was seven or eight years old. I saw him in anime and I looked up to him ever since. He’s sort of like this huge figure for me in the industry and when I joined, I was really a newbie seiyuu and he gave me lots of advice. I learned so much from him and maybe you can see in “Mob Psycho 100”, he’s not really like a master in the true sense to Mob, but to me, he is definitely a shisho- master. 

Q: (For Tachikawa and Kameda) The series is great at balancing humor, action and a message of kindness. That’s a lot to fit into a story. How does their team kind of execute this balance?
Tachikawa: This is something of a special trait of “Mob Psycho 100”. You could have a serious scene that has a character development and suddenly lead into a gag or joke scene. And for us, it was really important for us to maintain the balance of this throughout the series. So the most important thing that we had to pay attention to was during the editing process when we had to cut parts of a scene or little pieces and import other pieces in to make sure everything fit within that balance that we were looking for.
Kameda: For the animation part, especially during the animation scenes, I would do them while reading the manga. Let’s say there was a joke that showed up in the manga. I would consider what’s the importance of this joke. How does it really play into this scene? And as a result, I would decide whether it was something that would take place like during the action or it was more like not as much action taking on visually while that joke was taking place. It’s not something that was super conscious about but I made sure that everything fit within the balance of what I was going for.

Many thanks to both the CRX team and the “Mob Psycho 100” crew for allowing us to talk with director Yuzuru Tachikawa, character designer Yoshimichi Kameda and voice actor Setsuo Ito.

The first two seasons of “Mob Psycho 100” and its two OVAs are available on Crunchyroll for streaming. 

While the next physical Crunchyroll Expo will be held in 2021, the event will go digital this September 4th-6th! Check out V-CRX’s website for more information and where you can register for free.