So as of Sept. 13, 2020, we have been diving into alter-egos in our D&D class. I was actually going to start this blogsite off with the horror game, Soma, but seeing how our current subject is over alter-egos rather than clones/copies, I think Mob Psycho 100 would fit better for now.
Unlike the other pieces of media I have planned, Mob Psycho 100 is meant to be more therapeutic than terrifying. It’s classified as a Shonen (a genre of anime that is typically angry young men screaming at each other while avenging their dead families), but doesn’t really fit the category. It’s much more light-hearted and silly, but still carries deep, emotional themes as it tries to reflect modern, everyday real life. The protagonist, Mob, is a young boy that is purposely written to have overpowered psychic abilities. These devastating powers are directly linked to his emotions, so he has to constantly suppress all happiness, sadness, rage, etc. to spare the world around him — at the cost of his mental health and emotional growth. This really unhealthy, especially for a 14 year old middle schooler. The people he interacts with throughout the series will intentionally aggravate him to witness his abilities, and thus, he has to try to restrain himself from lashing out. There’s a lot more to the series but that is one of the main plots. The main themes of the show are the power of empathy, maturity, change and self-love, but is still relevant to the D&D class because the main character’s entire drive to develop as a person stems from his fear of his “other self”. This supposed alter-ego is the product of all of Mob’s suppressed emotions, and is his own biggest villain as it attempts to break out every now and then.
First, I want to talk about just Mob’s alter-ego, the all feared “???%” — what it means, what it represents, how it relates to alter-egos, and who is really the alter-ego.
So what is “???%” and why is it called that? In the series, it’s more shown then directly explained, and knowing how his powers work can help better understand the alter-ego. Essentially, Mob’s psychic powers are tied to his emotions. Every second of every day, Mob has to actively suppress his emotions, but just like any other human being, they build up gradually, starting from 0% and spilling over at 100%. Anything hitting 100% is openly, consciously expressed — tears, a yell, a simple glare, etc. The audience is shown rage, sadness, gratitude, and many other emotional states, both positive and negative. However, he’s still trying to hold back even at 100%, so this implies that his emotions can go even way further beyond if he stops restricting himself, and that is what ???% is — an emotional value so strong that it is unknown. If Mob were to cease all conscious direction, lose all self-control of himself, ???% would be freed, unleashing years of buried anger, sadness, shame, and many more emotions that would wreck the world. It’s almost like a whole other personality, an other identity, and that’s the antagonist alter-ego for this story.
So I noticed that in a lot of media, including MP100, alter-egos are usually split in to “bad” and “good” selves. This is usually the case in most alter-ego-driven stories, but I wonder why that is? What are these “selves” made of that always makes them so vile and so unlikeable that we have to hide them from society’s eyes? Looking at ???% (bad), we can describe it to be impulsive, violent, selfish, emotional, and unethical — everything that Mob (good) isn’t.
Mob prefers to use his abilities to defend, block or suppress an attacker because he’s aware of his psychic strength, and doesn’t wish to hurt anyone. ???%, on the other hand, still knowing of its destructiveness, completely lashes out with all its rage and power at whatever provokes it without any rational thought or regards to its surroundings. So engrossed in its emotions, it isn’t able to even listen or speak to those that approach it. It’s assumed that it acts the way it does because of its wish for freedom of expression (which we know it can’t have because of the way Mob’s powers work).
As you can see, this self is quite troublesome, and is the essence of what Mob fears most about himself, thus why he tries so hard to change. In a way, you could argue that Mob himself is the alter-ego. He tries his best to wear the mask of a normal, middle school kid, even if the mask he wears isn’t exactly the character he wishes to be — as long no one gets hurt, even if his own mentality deteriorates it’s enough. An alter-ego was made to not protect the self, but rather to protect everyone else.
However, the emphasis on self-control, especially over impulsivity, reminds me of Sigmund Freud’s iceberg theory for some reason. If many other “true selves” are like ???%, an overemotional, violent being fueled with hormones and animalistic, selfish behavior, then it leads me to believe that whatever alter-egos are trying to hide are related somehow to the unconscious.
If you’ve never heard of this, basically, it’s a very popular psychoanalytical theory that claims the human mind is mainly divided into what is conscious (ego) and what is unconscious (id). The conscious is what makes us self-aware, rational, moral, empathetic, and law-abiding in fear of consequences. The unconscious is the source of all our motivations — it’s what makes us emotional, impulsive, violent, hypersexual and disgustingly selfish as human beings. It’s not something to be ashamed of; I think it’s natural, but having a strong conscious is something to definitely exercise.
I think that alter-egos are related to the conscious, as they are masks that we want the world to see and accept, while inner-selves are related to the unconscious, sides that are selfishly-driven — we’re ashamed of them and feel that they would likely be rejected by society.
But this is probably why characters who use alter-egos are seen as a huge threat — especially ???%. The state of ???% seems to be a literal manifestation of Mob’s unconscious, making it the most free, unbridled version of him. It knows of his deepest pains, memories, and resentment, even those that Mob doesn’t consciously admit to or want to remember.
There is a boy who chokes out Mob in the earlier episodes, and after a bunch of other events, the two actually become friends. Mob doesn’t seem to consciously hold any grudges for the fight, but much later, when ???% comes out, it recognizes the boy and begins to strangle him in rage — mirroring their first encounter and expressing Mob’s suppressed resentment towards him.
So again, I ask, are alter-egos really just conscious masks to monitor and hide the unconscious mind? Seeing how one of the show’s main themes is “self-control over privilege” and “taking the hard, empathetic path” to deal with situations, it would make sense that the primal alter-ego be the ultimate villain. Honestly, that’s the vibe I’m getting from MP100 and a bunch of other media, and maybe that’s why the “inner self” is so scary. They’re linked to the most impulsive, animalistic sides we have of ourselves, something we possibly all have as humans beings. And some of us may not even know of that other side, as it may be unconscious.