The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Super Cub: Review and Reflection After Three

“You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle, any kind of motorcycle.” –Dan Aykroyd

Koguma is a high school girl with no family, money or hobbies. Her life is a monotonous routine consisting of going to school and returning home. One day, having grown wearisome of struggling up the hill on her way to school, Koguma swings by a motorcycle shop and learns that the owner is selling a green Super Cub for a mere 10000 Yen. Despite the Super Cub’s checkered past, Koguma purchases the bike and secures her operator’s license. Eager to go for a ride, Koguma ends up stuck at the convenience store and learns that her bike’s run out of gas. She switches over to the reserve tank after consulting the manual and resolves to always keep an eye on her fuel levels. As Koguma begins riding more frequently, she encounters classmate Reiko, who rides a modified MD90. As Koguma gets to know Reiko better, she begins looking forwards to sharing lunch with her together, and learns that while Reiko is a model student and admired by all, Reiko’s yearning is to be out on the open road. One day, while discussing potential plans to tour the countryside on their bikes, Reiko realises that Koguma’s got no trunk-top case, and offers to help her get one, free of change. Koguma also learns that safety goggles from the local hardware store will do the trick for keeping the wind away from her eyes while riding. This is Super Cub, the season’s cathartic series that portrays a journey of discovery and exploration. Unsurprisingly, the premise of motorcycles and biking offers a chance to present the series’ themes in a highly visual manner: new horizons open up for Koguma when she purchases a Super Cub. Super Cub itself wastes no time making the change in her life felt. When viewers first meet Koguma, colours are washed out, and her world is as dead as a doorknob. The moment she boards the Super Cub, starts the engine and makes her way home for the first time, Hokuto, Yamanashi, suddenly takes on a newfound life, and the world comes to life.

Standing in stark contrast with most slice-of-life series I write about, which are characterised by rambunctious characters and humour at every turn, Super Cub is a very subdued, slow-paced anime. Koguma speaks infrequently, and her dialogue is characterised by a quiet, hesitant inflection. Indeed, Super Cub feels a great deal like Sketchbook, in which silence and distance are both utilised to encourage viewers to reflect on a moment. From lingering shots of the Super Cub’s engine and chassis, to Koguma’s smiles, Super Cub intends for viewers to really take in a moment and appreciate what’s going on. Further to this, the soundtrack is very minimal, and for the most part, Koguma’s world is quite faded when it comes to colour. The atmosphere is therefore perfect for introspection, and it becomes evident that after buying the Super Cub, Koguma’s world changes entirely. While she still lacks a family and money, the prospect of being able to come and go as she pleases opens her heart up, and she befriends a classmate who’s got a passion for bikes, extending her horizons even further. However, this journey will not be one of unbridled energy, of being pulled out of one’s comfort zone to push new boundaries. Instead, through its quiet aesthetic, Super Cub shows how people can, and will step past their boundaries at their own pace as they are comfortable. It therefore goes without saying that I am enjoying this series immensely, as it represents a departure from the noisier approach that other series take towards portraying tales of learning and living in the moment.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Koguma is Super Cub‘s protagonist, and in her own words, has nothing. Her life is remarkably austere, consisting of going to school and stopping by the grocery store for provisions. While her world is very drab, evidenced by the washed out colours, there is little to indicate that Koguma is necessarily unhappy: Koguma initially rides a bike to school, and she smiles along the way, showing that she enjoys things.

  • However, heading up the incline leading to her school always renders her exhausted, and one day, after one difficult uphill trip too many, Koguma decides it’s time to change things up. One of the biggest questions surrounding how things work for Koguma is finances: she leads a very frugal lifestyle and says that she has no money, but in spite of this, is able to consider buying a motorbike, which is shown to cost anywhere from 1800 to 12000 CAD at the local dealer. There is, fortunately, a simple answer: until official materials indicate otherwise, my guess is that Koguma lives apart from her other family, but they’ve agreed to give her a small stipend for necessities.

  • Because Koguma herself lives minimally, as seen with her choice of meals (rice with instant curry for lunch, and rice with egg for dinner), it is not inconceivable that she’s saved up quite a bit. As such, when the dealer offers her a Super Cub for 10000 Yen (about 115 CAD), she’s able to jump on the decision. The fact that this particular Super Cub seems cursed (having led its previous owners to fatal accidents) doesn’t dissuade Koguma in the least. The community was immediately up in arms over this, suggesting that Super Cub was going down a route inconsistent with its presentation.

  • I’ve opted not to enter the fray for myself: internet wars are always troublesome, and I’m a little too old to be dealing with that sort of thing. I will simply note that Koguma accepting the Super Cub anyways despite its checkered past shows that she’s ready to get into something new. She subsequently picks up her operator’s license and returns to the dealer ready to make her purchase. Koguma is shown as getting her license very quickly, but I am reminded of how quick it was to pick up the Class VII operator’s license back home: we only need to take a simple written exam and pass a basic vision screening.

  • Of course, owing to the way things work, we must wait for the provincial services to mail us our license card, and until then, use an interim license to operate a vehicle. Since takes no more than two weeks, but the intrim license, being a sheet of paper, is a pain to carry around. Koguma doesn’t appear to have that problem: after securing her license, she’s back at the shop, and ready to roll. The quiet nature of Super Cub and Koguma’s own personality always gave the impression that something unpleasant might befall her.

  • It ultimately took the full length of the first episode to dispel this sense in me. When Koguma ignites the Super Cub’s engine for the first time, her world is thrown into colour. That Koguma’s world was merely subdued, rather than monochrome, indicates that while she was never melancholy or depressed per se, her world was very monotonous, with little to look forwards to. The immediate splash of colour that livens up the scene speaks volumes to the idea of possibility, as Koguma’s world suddenly opens up to her. Haunted bike or not, this marks a turning point in her life, and suddenly, the girl who has nothing now has a Super Cub.

  • As though to reiterate and emphasise the idea that Koguma isn’t depressed in any way, she smiles often and warmly throughout Super Cub: whenever a moment catches her fancy, Koguma breaks out into a smile that is charming and infectious. I’ve come to greatly appreciate these moments, as they show that despite Koguma’s biting words about her situation, she’s still able to spot the joy in a moment, and has taken the very first step of finding happiness anew.

  • It should go without saying that the Honda Super Cub should not be confused with the Piper PA-18 Super Cub, a twin-seat, single-engine monoplane with forty years of history. Had Koguma picked up a Piper Super Cub instead of a Honda Super Cub, this anime would’ve likely been about a flying circus. For that, I still need to finish watching The Magnificent KotobukiSuper Cub is about bikes and open roads, so I imagine that this series is going to place an increased emphasis on the riding aspects of Rin’s adventures in Yuru Camp△.

  • The same night after she buys her Super Cub, Koguma is seized with a desire to suddenly go for a night ride, and decides to swing by the convenience store to explore her newfound freedom. However, she’s gripped with a terrifying situation when her Cub refuses to start. A customer leaving the store drops his change, and this reminds Koguma of the operator’s manual the dealer had placed in a box on her Super Cub. Upon consulting it, she learns that her Cub’s out of fuel, but has a reserve tank for such situations. Moments later, Koguma is back on the road, en route to the nearest gas station.

  • With a full tank, Koguma breathes a sigh of relief. I learned to fill a vehicle up long before I learnt to drive, and I recall that back then, fuel was less than a dollar a litre. Today, thanks to the federal carbon tax, it’s about 1.21 CAD/litre, and on average, I go through about 40 to 50 litres every two weeks. The carbon tax is one of the most maligned aspects of our current government, although I feel that a large part of it stems from poor communication about what the tax is intended to do. In practise, I’m largely neutral towards it – it’s had the effect of increasing the cost of gas, but on the flipside, the government issues all Canadians with a rebate. The idea is that those who use more carbon-emitting resources will pay for it, but those who are under a certain quota will get money back. Of course, I would prefer research be done on alternate energy sources on conjunction with policy, as policy alone doesn’t always address underlying causes of problems.

  • While Koguma’s world has expanded with her acquisition, things are about to become even more interesting. After arriving at school on her Super Cub for the first time, she contemplates announcing to the class that she’s got a bike. Koguma is voiced by Yuki Yomichi, a YouTuber and voice actress hailing from Hokkaido. With no other titles in her resume besides Super Cub, she’s completely new to the realm of voice acting, but as Koguma, she plays this shy, quiet character exceptionally well, capturing all of Koguma’s thoughts and feelings in a compelling manner.

  • During home economics class, Koguma begins working on a bag for her helmet and gloves. Quiet and reserved, Koguma’s classmates regard her as a bit unusual, and their words about her aren’t exactly kind, even if they’re not outright insults. Koguma typically ignores her classmates and pay them no mind, so their remarks don’t exactly bother her, but it did show what Koguma’s life at school is like. Her days of being alone, however, come to a close when her home economics project catches the attention of fellow classmate Reiko, who takes a keen interest in Koguma after learning that Koguma is a fellow biker.

  • Reiko is voiced by Ayaka Nanase, whom I know best as Sakura Quest‘s Yoshino Koharu and Hibike! Euphonium: Oath’s Finale‘s Mirei Suzuki. Reiko brings to mind Hibike! Euphonium‘s Asuka in manner and grace: both are vociferous and energetic. Studious, athletic and beautiful, Reiko comes from a well-off family. She’s the antithesis of Koguma in every way, being outgoing, friendly and cheerful, but despite the vast disparities in their personality, Koguma feels a connection to Reiko because of their shared interest in biking, rather similarly to how Rin and Nadeshiko came to be friends in spite of their opposite personalities.

  • Reiko rocks a modified MD90: the base motorcycle has a 50 cc engine and was extensively used by the US Postal service. However, since Reiko’s extensively modified her bike, its performance exceeds that of the stock model. As a dual-sport motorcycle, the CT110 is robust, being suitable for both urban and off-road usage. Besides an improved engine, Reiko’s also added a large metal box for carrying cargo to her bike, allowing her to bring gear for extended trips.

  • For Reiko, even just sitting on her bike gives her a sense of liberation, that the world is hers to explore, and this is why she begins to haul Koguma out to the bike shelter during lunch breaks; until now, Koguma had heated up her lunch and eaten in the classroom. Koguma’s choice of food mirrors her austere lifestyle, although I will note that I am similar to her in that most days, I have sandwiches and tea for lunch. I choose the sandwich for its ease of consumption, and the fact that I can have the major food groups in a convenient package without needing to microwave it. By comparison, Reiko’s eating a loaded ‘dog from the school’s canteen: I would hazard a guess that the colourful sandwich speaks to Reiko’s own outlook on life, being neatly packaged but full of excitement.

  • The events of Super Cub are set in Hokuto, Yamanashi: this town of forty-seven thousand was formed in 2004 from the merger of Hakushū, Nagasaka, Sutama, Takane and Mukawa. Mukawa is where Koguma lives and attends school: like Yuru Camp△, I imagine that a little bit of elbow grease with the Oculus Quest in the Mukawa area would allow me to find every spot seen in Super Cub with ease. With that being said, the locations seen now are quite unremarkable, and I imagine that as Super Cub progresses, there could be more exciting destinations to check out – for the time being, I have no plans to do location hunts for Super Cub just yet.

  • Since Super Cub makes it a point to portray Koguma preparing her meals, placing an emphasis on how aside from cooking the rice, her meals are usually heat-and-serve, I imagine that as Koguma presses on with her journey, she’ll also begin eating better, as well. One’s diet is often tied with their well-being, and folks who eat well (loosely defined as consuming the right variety, quality and quantity of foods) report better mental health on top of feeling better physically. Koguma’s meals give her just enough nutrients to get by, but I imagine that she’s not getting the most out of her food. Meeting Reiko likely will change this – while Reiko wonders if Koguma is actively enjoying her meals, the latter initially has no response.

  • I imagine that the choice of setting in Yamanashi was deliberate: the combination of decently-sized urban areas and remote mountain creates a sense of quiet that sets the tone for introspection. Here, Reiko stops at a viewpoint from which Mount Fuji is visible: the sight of Mount Fuji is what compelled Nadeshiko to bike all the way to Lake Motosu from Nambucho, and I imagine that this spot is probably Wada Mountain Path Miharashi Viewpoint, with Kofu being the town below. Assuming this to be true, Fuefuki Fruit Park is a mere nine kilometres to the east.

  • While there’s a homeliness about Koguma, her smiles are warm and sincere. Watching her light up like a Christmas tree was a large part of the appeal in Super Cub: small victories in her day serve to make an otherwise unremarkable day extraordinary, and it shows that, bit by bit, Koguma’s world is changing. What makes her journey especially noteworthy is that Koguma took the initiative to start something new herself – in most anime, it is usually at a friend’s urging or witnessing something special that the protagonist kicks off a new adventure. Meeting Rin leads Nadeshiko to camp, and watching the light music club play convinces Yui to join the light music club. However, there is no such catalyst here in Super Cub.

  • Because of this, Koguma is able to start her journey on her own terms, at her own pace. Everything that happens subsequently results from her taking these modest first steps forward, and as such, all of the learnings she makes will be the consequence of her own motivation. It’s a pleasant thought, to know that one can have such profound experiences whether they’re solo or with a group, and in Super Cub, Koguma’s becoming friends with Reiko is seen as the result of her willingly taking those first steps. When Reiko mentions the benefit of having a trunk-top case for her bike, she realises that she could probably get in touch with a contact who has a spare box lying around.

  • Before going to grab the trunk-top case, Reiko asks that they swing by the grocery store first and pick up some sweets: by habit, Koguma’s inclined to go without the bag, but Reiko steps in and states that Koguma will be taking the bag, too. I initially felt that this could introduce a bit of a challenge for Koguma, who doesn’t spend more than she has to, as well as suggesting that Reiko could be a bit pushy when the moment calls for it. Such a combination could be the setup for conflict, but I am quite happy to report that on this count, I was wrong.

  • As it turns out, the candies are a gift for the fellow who’s trying to get rid of an old bike, and as thanks for allowing them to take the trunk-top case, Koguma gifts him the candies. The moral of this is that judgement shouldn’t be passed on a character’s actions until after there is sufficient context. While I aim to write my blog posts with this in mind, when I’m watching a series for the first time, I am still susceptible to reacting to things in the moment. This is why I never live-Tweet my reactions to things – a reaction to a moment may prove inappropriate moments later, once the context is given, and the advantage of having a blog means being able to fairly assess everything that I see, without being unfair to the writers and characters.

  • There’s a certain satisfaction from doing things for oneself, and here, Reiko walks Koguma through removing the truck-top case from an old bike that’s being sold for scrap. Reiko contemplates salvaging the windshield, but this windshield has clearly seen better days; it’s become brittle from exposure and cracks when touched. However, the trunk-top case is in excellent condition, and in no time at all, Koguma manages to unscrew the screws holding it in. She and Reiko thank the fellow, return to school and installs the case on Koguma’s Super Cub.

  • As it turns out, one of the teachers had caught wind of the fact that Koguma had a Super Cub, and he happened to have a spare front basket for her. Koguma thus leaves school in possession of two new storage additions – Reiko notes that things can have a habit of just turning up in the moment and help people when they least expect it, and she’d personally had experiences where, tired of looking for a part, ended up buying it, only for someone to appear and say that they’ve got a lead or the part in hand. This speaks to life’s unpredictability and is Reiko’s way of suggesting that Koguma keep an open mind.

  • While riding home, Koguma decides to push her Cub up to an exhilarating 30 km/h (the speed for most playground zones), only to find that things become a lot colder. She discovers that her own helmet has mounts for a face shield after finding a QA inspection slip, and the next day, she asks Reiko about helmets. Reiko’s helmet is a more sophisticated one, and when Koguma inquires about the price, Reiko states that the price of a helmet is whatever price one places on their own safety. With this in mind, the fact that Koguma’s helmet passed QA is meant to be reassuring to viewers, that Koguma’s going to be fine, and is simply looking for a solution to keep the wind from her face.

  • Reiko decides to help Koguma look for face shields she can mount onto her existing helmet, but gets a little carried away in looking at various other helmets, which are outside of Koguma’s price range. Serendipitously, a contractor working on the library is wearing a pair of safety goggles, and when Koguma asks him whether or not those are rated for riding a motorcycle, the man replies that he’s seen people do so all the time. A good pair of bike goggles goes for anywhere from 40-80 CAD in my area, but with a bit of ingenuity and open-mindedness, Koguma works out an alternate solution that works for her price range.

  • She thus sets off for the local hardware store and picks up safety googles for a comparatively inexpensive 12 CAD, along with a bike chain to assure her bike’s safety while unattended. With this, Koguma is able to now visit a wider range of places without worrying about the wind getting in her eyes, or her bike being stolen. The stage is therefore set for adventure, which I imagine that Super Cub will focus on in the coming episodes. I have plans to write about this series: since I’m now back to a regular work schedule, I can’t guarantee I’ll be anywhere as efficient as I had been with Yuru Camp△ last season, but I will try to be consistent and see about offering unique insights.

  • With the goggles, 30 km/h suddenly doesn’t seem too fast anymore, and this moment signifies how Koguma’s slowly learning to run after mastering the art of walking. Able to travel faster now, Koguma hits the accelerator with a grin on her face. Being able to travel faster changes everything, and although Koguma still isn’t hitting the same speeds as a car, she’ll at least be able to keep up on a longer road trip with those she travel with.

  • The third episode concludes with Reiko giving Koguma her phone number, allowing the two to stay in touch more easily. This single act sets Koguma thinking, that in this moment, she’s made more than just a friend; she’s now become closer to someone who shares her interests and has a contact in her, someone she can ask for help from and share concerns with. This is a watershed moment in Super Cub, as Koguma now has someone to really share in her hobby with. Her path is no longer one of loneliness, and the stage is set for increasingly exciting experiences now.

  • With the first three episodes in the books, I’m definitely enjoying Super Cub – I’ve made it a point to, each and every anime season, watch at least one series that is a slice-of-life about self-discovery and open-mindedness. This season, I’ve also got Yakunara Mug Cup mo on my plate as well, although because this series has half-length episodes, I’ve opted to go with a similar setup as I did with World Witches: Take Off! – one talk at the halfway point, and the one more talk when the series is done. I’m also watching Higehiro and 86 EIGHTY SIX for this season, and on the manga front, my copies of Harukana Receive‘s sixth and seventh volumes have arrived, so I will be starting that party shortly. Finally, on account of an unprecedented sale, I decided to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Modern Warfare 2: Remastered. Both games have been on my radar for some time, and I rather look forwards to starting those, as well. With the latter, it means I’ll finally have played all three of the original Modern Warfare titles.

Three episodes in, Koguma’s journey begins slowly but steadily; Super Cub‘s made clear its objectives, and as the series continues, viewers will see what lies ahead for Koguma as she reaches further as a result of a fateful choice to take a step forward and do something different. Unlike most series, where fateful encounters spur characters out of their routine, Super Cub is unique in that Koguma takes the lead in trying a new activity, and for it, opens up her world of her own accord. This is a valuable and legitimate message, since there certainly are folks who are self-starters and end up instigating their own journeys. Regardless of whether one’s own curiosity sets them down this path, or if others catalyse this, the outcomes are inevitably the same: an open mind for hitherto untried experiences is how meaningful memories are created. The gentle pacing and style in Super Cub precludes any sort of conflict or drama, so I anticipate that the anime will incrementally build up Koguma’s riding skill, the knowledge she has surrounding bikes, and the scope of her adventures. Koguma’s experiences do remind me of when I’d first learnt to drive a decade earlier. Back then, 40 km/h was too fast for me, and I’d be exhausted just from covering the distance between home and campus. Today, driving is as intuitive and natural as whipping up a ham and cheese omelette or setting up a single-view iOS app from scratch. It therefore stands to reason that as Koguma learns more about her Super Cub and becomes more confident, her world will continue to become increasingly colourful, joyful and meaningful.

4 responses to “Super Cub: Review and Reflection After Three

  1. allthefujoshiunite April 24, 2021 at 15:29

    This series has become one of my favorites this season ~ The serene and beautiful atmosphere you described flows well and although minimal, it doesn’t lack in any way. I also enjoyed how Reiko is friendly enough to break the ice and get the relationship (and the plot) going, and isn’t overbearing in an uncomfortable way. Fitted right in with how the show is slowly sailing.

    Finding a hobby you love brings along a community you can interact and grow with, similar to blogging. In that sense, Koguma’s experience felt close to what I have experienced here ^^ Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith April 25, 2021 at 13:19

      I’d never thought about the parallels between Koguma’s introduction into riding a Super Cub and blogging: that’s an excellent comparison! I imagine that a lot of bloggers did indeed start out the same as Koguma, with little more than a desire to explore and making the investment into the tools and technique to do so. I started writing for myself and certainly didn’t expect to become a part of such a wonderful community, so if real life is a reliable indicator, I think we can reasonably expect Koguma to become more open and expressive as she spends more time with Reiko!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Fred (Au Natural) April 24, 2021 at 20:33

    I rode a motorcycle for many years and can attest that it indeed difficult to remain depressed on a motorcycle.

    Like

    • infinitezenith April 25, 2021 at 13:22

      I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before (where I’m from, we require a dedicated license to do so), but I can definitely understand why a motorcycle or bike is so liberating. Being out on the open road is such a pleasant experience, and even with a car, there’s a certain joy about driving along a quite road reaching towards the horizon under a prairie sky 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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