–Anita Mui, 將冰山劈開 (1986)
Koguma accepts a courier job that sees her ferrying documents between her high school and another school in Kofu. She takes her bike in for maintanence, and later purchases a rain coat to keep dry during the wet Yamanashi summers. Later, Reiko invites Koguma over to check out her place, and Reiko shares with Koguma her summer: it turns out that Reiko had taken up a job surveying road work up the slopes of Mount Fuji, and, inspired by the fact that other Cubs had made the journey, attempts to do the same. The tough mountain trails end up destroying her bike, but undeterred, Reiko intends to buy a new bike. In the meantime, she suggests that Koguma go for her full motorcycle license and helps her to upgrade the Super Cub’s engine. When a school trip comes, Koguma is excited to attend, but develops a fever on the morning of the trip. She recovers and decides to catch up to her classmates, stopping at Mount Fuji’s fifth station along the way, and although she receives a reprimand for doing so, nonetheless is allowed to join the class. After sharing her day’s adventures with Reiko, Koguma and Reiko unwind for the evening, and the next morning, sneak off to ride together. Reiko remarks on how venerable Super Cubs are, and Koguma wishes that she could live in this moment forever with her Super Cub, hoping nothing will change. Here at Super Cub‘s halfway point, Koguma’s world begins to expand as she becomes more familiar with her bike. At its halfway point, Super Cub continues on with its gentle pacing, portraying Koguma’s experiences with great detail and finesse to convey to viewers how Koguma feels with every setback and its attendent discovery. This in turn really allows viewers to feel like they’re there with Koguma, rooting for her every step of the world and bringing her joys to life.
As she encounters new challenges and deals with them in turn, Koguma becomes more resilient, more capable of dealing with unexpected adversity. However, Super Cub warns viewers that Koguma is not to be complacent: while Reiko mentions that the world opens up with a bike, there are also some mountains that cannot be conquered, not without skill, experience, determination and the hardware to do so. While Koguma spends her summer delivering letters between two schools and gradually growing comfortable with her bike, Reiko had foolhardedly attempted to see how far she could take her bike. Unsurprisingly, the rough terrain and Reiko’s inexperience results in her bike being totalled, rendered inoperational. The sharp contrast between Koguma and Reiko’s summers is meant to show that even the means for conferring freedom and liberty have their limits. Some things simply can’t be conquered at one’s current level, and this particular barrier is only overcome with patience and the resolve to work out solutions. Koguma, demonstrates to viewers that she’s certainly aware of her limits, and while she’s much more open-minded, to the point where she creates new memories of her own when she decides to use her bike to catch up with her classmates’ outing, she also knows not to scale Mount Fuji; instead, she takes pride in being able to start the journey and begin seeing what’s possible. In this way, Super Cub suggests to viewers that a part of exploration means being mindful of what the limits are, and continue to grow and learn within these constraints until there is an appropriate time to step outside of one’s comfort zone and begin something new.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Right out of the gates, Super Cub‘s fourth episode had the more sophomoric viewers wondering why a job would just coincidentally line up with Koguma such that she’d be able to make some cash and occupy her otherwise idle summer days. The answer to why such a job would exist is absolutely and utterly irrelevant: the reason why Super Cub tips the scales in Koguma’s favour is so she’s not listless during the summer. A job gives Koguma focus, and with time, as she improves, she comes to look forwards to making the trip between her school and a nearby school.
- I’m not going to name anyone, but seeing the same people griping about every bit of minutiae in Super Cub each and every week grows tiresome real fast. Slice-of-life anime in particular falls victim to this, with people taking to complaining about aesthetic decisions, lecturing the characters as though they were a concerned parent or qualified instructor, picking apart everything from how the process by which characters do things is somehow wrong, to why the rationale behind why they make certain decisions is supposedly unsound. I fail to see any worth in doing this: unless one’s intent was to prove how much smarter they were than the writers (and the efficacy of this is dubious at best), there’s no interesting discussion to be had by challenging the story at every turn.
- I will leave this topic on the remark that those folks shouldn’t be watching slice-of-life anime at all if their objective is to try and show other viewers how much cleverer than the writers they are, but if such folks are around, it’s better to tune them out and pay them no mind. The whole point of slice-of-life anime is to present a process of learning, or to give an emphasis on the mundane, things that viewers might otherwise overlook or take for granted in their everyday lives. Why Koguma’s school just happens to have a posting of this sort doesn’t matter: the fact is that in taking up this job, Koguma is given a chance to see that with a bit of elbow grease, she can improve her financial situation.
- At the beginning of Super Cub, Koguma had given the air of someone who is utterly defeated and resigned themselves to monotony. With her Cub, however, Koguma begins stepping out of her comfort zone, and although she still spends a fair bit of time with a downcast expression on her face, with her world lacking in colour, whenever she’s on her bike, Koguma feels at her happiest, removed from the worries of the world. Her first delivery to the other school in Kofu has her passing by a spirited girl (presumably on the track and field team), speaking to the gap between Koguma’s world and the world of someone who’s a great deal more active.
- During one of her trips, Koguma gets rained on by a Yamanashi shower, leaving the other school’s teacher to wonder if she’ll be alright: Koguma looks as though she’s on the verge of tears herself after the delivery, and makes to buy a raincoat. The raincoat Koguma picks out costs 5980 Yen (66.45 CAD): while perhaps not as steep as the high-end rain coats (which can go for 200 CAD), this is about three days’ worth of income for her, but she wisely decides to make the purchase.
- The point of this episode can therefore be seen as a reminder of how self-driven learning is highly effective, especially when one is given the freedom to do so at her own pace. This is how I learn best: everything that I know about iOS development and Swift was self-taught, and although there have been numerous situation where requirements means picking up a new SDK or API up quickly, I’ve now been around the block long enough to know how to approach a problem. Similarly, since Koguma is learning at her own pace, she is able to feel more in charge of a situation and handle things accordingly.
- Thus, when the next time Koguma heads off on one of her deliveries and another shower appears, This time, she’s better prepared for the shower and pulls over to put her new raincoat on. Arriving at her destination dry, Koguma smiles warmly. It was especially rewarding to see the payoff in this segment of the episode: this is precisely why Super Cub went out of its way to write a job just for Koguma. I’ve long held that the take-away messages in a given anime far exceed realism, and progression can invoke a suspension of disbelief so long as there’s a valid contribution to character growth.
- With her job, Koguma begins to accumulate the mileage on her bike. She takes it in for maintenance and an oil change, learning that she’s able to do the oil change for herself. While the parts are securely fitted, making it hard for Koguma to unscrew the cap to the oil line, she eventually manages to get the cap off, drains the oil and replaces it on her own. As Koguma does so, colour fills her world anew, speaking to the joys of learning to do things for oneself.
- The constant shifts in colours in Super Cub speak volumes to Koguma’s feelings, but it also is a metaphor for how certain moments are more memorable, than others. The mundane moments in Super Cub are still coloured, but the saturation is much lower. This is meant to show that there is still life in Koguma’s world, but it is rather more unremarkable. The real world, after all, while decently colourful, isn’t saturated like a painting or HDR photograph would be. Then, especially special moments are vivid precisely because it’s memorable.
- Use of colour in Super Cub stands in stark contrast with shows like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, Yuru Camp△ or Non Non Biyori, where the saturation is cranked up all the way and suggests that in such anime, it’s petal to the metal for conveying joy and energy. Super Cub chooses to show how life has both uneventful and exciting moments with its use of colour, and here, Koguma visits Reiko at her cabin. It marks the first time Koguma’s ever hung out with a friend, and the moment resembles something out of a nostalgic oil painting I might find at a mountain arts store, or perhaps the Western Oasis exhibition during the annual rodeo.
- Reiko’s cabin is befitting of her style, being tidy and well-organised. That Reiko lives on her own suggests that she can be seen as a parallel to Koguma, although it soon becomes clear that for Reiko, the lifestyle that she leads is by choice rather than circumstance. She recounts that all her life, it felt as though something had been walling her in, and upon learning to ride, these walls finally fell away. Since then, Reiko had been pushing herself further to see what’s possible with her bike.
- This is what gives the page quote for this talk: the lyrics are from Anita Mui’s “Kicking Icebergs Aside“, a 1986 song based off Sandra Ann Lauer’s In The Heat of the Night. While foreign language covers typically cannot capture the aesthetic of the original, Cantonese covers always seem to retain respect for the original while adding a new flair things, and I absolutely love Anita Mui’s songs. Back in Super Cub, having had nothing but basic curry rice and egg rice, Koguma decides to whip up okonomiyaki when sharing her first dinner with a friend: it is shown that Koguma can hold her own when it comes to cooking, suggesting that were it not for budgetary constraints, Koguma would eat a little better,
- As Reiko and Koguma share dinner together, Reiko recounts her summer: like Koguma, Reiko had taken up a job with the aim of scaling Mount Fuji, having been inspired by folks who were brave and foolhardy enough to do so. This is that cryptic reply to Koguma’s question earlier, during which she replies she was going “somewhere near, yet far away”. Super Cub thus depicts what Reiko did during her summer, helping road crews with construction and using her bike to scout ahead. Reiko capitalises on this to see how far she can ascend on Mount Fuji.
- However, each of her attempts fails: whether it be hitting extremely rough terrain or succumbing to altitude sickness, victory eludes Reiko. In spite of this, Reiko continues to push forwards, feeling that success would allow her to fulfil a promise of sorts to both herself and Koguma. As the summer wears on, Reiko draws closer and closer to her goal, but ultimately falls short during a particularly rough run. This last tumble proves too much for Reiko’s MD90, which is totalled in the process. While Reiko’s actions were meant to show how determination has its limits, and it is presumably the case that Reiko was probably exaggerating for Koguma’s sake, the fifth episode left some viewers a trifle disappointed.
- These individuals argue that Reiko had no right in surviving falling off her bike with that frequency and not be hospitalised .Again, these complaints feel like complaining for complaining’s sake: while Reiko’s attempts to conquer Mount Fuji are a bit noisier than the typical atmosphere in Super Cub, it also offers insight into the sort of person that Reiko is. One of the crew on the construction team had indicated to Reiko that for some things, brute force won’t cut it. This is something that my martial arts club taught us: against physically potent opponents, one will not find it fruitful to resist their force, and instead, must flow with their force to create an opening.
- This is something that is probably beyond Reiko, and while admirable, folks with a bit more maturity will immediately see the crew’s wisdom: Reiko is trying to square off against Mount Fuji with brute force, but per the crew’s words, Mount Fuji can be conquered differently. He means for Reiko to enjoy it in her own way, rather than trying to fight the mountain. Reiko’s the sort of person who never turns down a challenge, and while admirable, this can also be to her detriment, since she’s so focused on succeeding that she may fail to see alternative approaches.
- Koguma’s Super Cub is apparently famous for its history, but par the course for such a series, the actual story behind it is more mundane. It turns out that of the previous owners, one drank himself to death, one moved after incurring debt that he could not easily repay, and the third simply sold after his license was revoked. Koguma’s Cub thus has zero fatalities, and is, by all definitions, a regular Super Cub that has found a loving owner. This wasn’t too surprising, since Super Cub isn’t that sort of series. I opted to downplay these stories initially, feeling them to be tertiary to the main themes in Super Cub.
- Seeing Koguma’s desire to expand her own horizons, Reiko suggests that she go for her full license, which would allow her to operate a full-on motorcycle. Like Canada, engine displacement determines what a two-wheeled motor vehicle is classified as, and with summer drawing to a close, Koguma does indeed go for her full license and takes up Reiko’s offer of modifying her engine, which allows her Super Cub to maintain safe speeds on larger roads. With her engine improved, Koguma feels as though she could now go even further than before.
- There is certainly joy about modifying and playing with one’s gear: while I’m no biker, I am a bit of a computing enthusiast, now that I think about it: a computing enthusist builds custom computers with hand-picked parts for the job. While the traditional enthusiast has no qualms dropping big bucks on high-end parts, I represent the a subtype interested in optimising performance and cost, choosing parts that do precisely what I need it to do extremely well. My current rig was built a smidgen over eight years ago, and while it is outclassed by even mid-range machines, the fact that it can keep up is because of the fact I’d built it to last, and periodically do modifications to ensure the machine stays powerful.
- My update over to Windows 10 from a setup that had all of the user profiles redirected, and switching out my original GTX 660 SC for a GTX 1060 have greatly extended the life of my machine, and like Koguma, I immediately appreciate what a little resourcefulness can do for one’s experience. By the sixth episode, Koguma is greatly looking forwards to her class trip, but ends up falling ill. While she’s initially dejected after realising she’s recovered, Koguma recalls that with her Cub, anything is possible. She thus goes on a daring trip to catch up with her classmates: this is something the old Koguma never would’ve done.
- Reiko is impressed that Koguma is taking such an initiative to make her own memories, and here, speaks with her while at Gotemba. If memory serves, it would’ve been four years since my trip to Japan. Heiwa Park in Gotemba was among the places I visited, and that morning had been gorgeous, save for a layer of cloud obscuring Mount Fuji. I’m not sure I visited the exact park that Reiko’s calling from, but I do remember heading to Lake Yamanaka for a yakiniku lunch, then swinging by Oshino Village and then heading up to the Fifth Station at Mount Fuji.
- I only have a few photos from the Fifth Station, mainly because we didn’t stay too long here, and most of my time was spent getting photos of my family. It had been quite overcast at the Fifth Station, so it was tricky to actually get a close-up shot of Mount Fuji and the surrounding buildings, so I ended up checking out the shops instead. Yama no Susume also visited Mount Fuji during its second season, but owing to altitude sickness, Aoi had to stand down from her ascent. Kaede accompanies her while Hinata and Kokona ascend to the top. In the aftermath, Aoi falls into a depression, but rediscovers her love for hiking not long after. I’ve heard folks wishing for a Super Cub, Yama no Susume and Yuru Camp△ crossover on account of the fact that all three series now deal with mountains and the outdoors to some capacity.
- However, I imagine that such a crossover will remain a concept at best, least of all for the fact that reconciling the artwork between the different series would be quite tricky. The smirk here on Koguma’s face was adorable: upon reaching the Fifth Station, she remarks that she’ll spare Mount Fuji and conquer it some other time. In these moments, hints of Koguma’s true personality comes out – far from being downcast and melancholy, Koguma can be confident and capable of looking forwards, as well. Her day’s trip has been quite relaxing thus far, and she makes excellent time, projecting that she’ll actually be able to rendezvous with her classmates earlier than expected.
- Halfway into Super Cub, it becomes apparent that the soundtrack is of a fine calibre. I would’ve very much liked to have listened to it, but a little bit of investigation finds that it will release on August 25, which is a very long ways off. Tomohisa Ishikawa’s music for Super Cub is excellent, and while the anime is very quiet, strategic use of music, like the shifts in colour, really bring out the emotional tenour of a moment. To put things in perspective, Violet Evergarden: The Movie gets its home release on August 4, ARIA The CREPUSCOLO will release on August 18, and Kiniro Mosaic: Thank you!! premières on August 19.
- With the extra time on her hands, Koguma decides to pull a Shimarin and heads for the coast to admire the ocean as the sun begins setting. Koguma subsequently heads back and pulls into the ryōkan‘s parking lot right as her classmates arrive. Reiko smiles in pride as their classmates express surprise that Koguma had the nerve to pull off such a stunt. The teachers immediately pull her and Reiko aside to reprimand them and decide to let the two off the hook. Of course, Koguma totally doesn’t regret anything, and decides to talk to Reiko in private about her eventful, enjoyable day.
- In the quiet of the onsen, away from the teachers’ ears, Koguma shares her story with Reiko. She initially gives the impression that she’d climbed the whole of Mount Fuji, leaving Reiko quite skeptical, but Koguma reveals that she’d only reached the Fifth Station to try out her Super Cub’s new engine. Reiko is nonetheless pleased, happy that Koguma has really begun stretching her wings. After unwinding, Koguma heads for dinner, where she savours the sashimi the ryōkan serves for dinner. Her smile says it all: while she may be accustomed to a minimalist meal, Koguma has by no means lost her enjoyment for things in life, and in fact, the fact that more expensive, unique meals are uncommon for her makes them all the more special.
- I had a very similar dinner at the Heritage Inn on my first night in Japan – the evening meal was exquisite, and absolutely delicious. The cuisine of Japan does feel like an ocean away now, and with restaurants returning to takeout-only, it does seem like an eternity before I can go grab some okonomiyaki or katsu. With this being said, I absolutely have no qualms about the restaurants I have ordered take-out from: earlier this week, we ended up picking up dinner from my favourite Cantonese restaurant in town, featuring classics such as sweet-and-sour pork, crispy chicken, stir-fried seafood vegetables, yi mein and authentic Hong Kong-style wor-wonton. I’d forgotten how good a properly-made wonton soup is: this restaurant’s wonton soup is excellent, including char siu, whole prawns, scallops, cuttlefish, chicken.
- The next morning, Koguma and Reiko sneak away from their classmates to go on their own tour of the area. Reiko had secretly brought her own helmet, and what happens next is a pivotal moment in Super Cub: Koguma takes Reiko on a ride. While seemingly trivial, this moment captures the extent that Koguma has changed. While Reiko had been driving Koguma until now (in a metaphoric sense), that Koguma’s matured and learnt enough to give Reiko a ride signifies that Koguma is slowly, but surely, changing.
- As Koguma and Reiko soar along the coastal highway, the colours are more saturated to mark this as another memorable moment in Super Cub. Unlike the winter drives of Yuru Camp△, Super Cub‘s setting during the summer and early autumn means that Yamanashi and the surroundings are still verdant, creating a vastly different atmosphere than what is seen during the winter. The level of saturation here suggests a warm, but not uncomfortably hot day, perfect for taking the wheels out for a spin.
- Whereas I started this post with a bit of a frown at how lacking most discussions on Super Cub out there are, I conclude with a smile on my face. The smiles of Super Cub are absolutely adorable, and it is perhaps unsurprising that Koguma’s name in kanji, 小熊, translates to “little bear”. I am very fond of bears, as they signify power, but there’s something about bear cubs that make my heart melt, and as a child, I loved watching Little Bear. With this post in the books, I’m now caught up on all my seasonal anime posts for the time being. I’ve been making progress in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and I take back what I’d previously said about the anime. I’ll be looking to write about this one soon, and in the meantime, will be looking to wrap up both The Division 2‘s Mercury manhunt, as well as finish off a post for Modern Warfare 2: Remastered‘s second act and wrap up the third act.
With Super Cub halfway through, one major character still has yet to make an appearance. Reiko now’s become a familiar face in Koguma’s life, offering support and advice where required, and colouring Koguma’s life in a way that wouldn’t be otherwise possible. Slice-of-life anime typically introduce new characters to mix up the dynamic and drive new discoveries: at this point in Super Cub, Reiko’s become a friendly, familiar face to Koguma, acting as a mentor of sorts for Koguma. However, it would be valuable to have Koguma take the initiative and pass on her own experiences with confidence, as well. Such a dynamic would not work with Reiko simply because Reiko’s been biking for much longer than Koguma has: while Koguma mentions she was able to go up the side of Mount Fuji on her Super Cub, Reiko is immediately aware that Koguma’s trip would have been nowhere near as gruelling as her own. Conversely, with a novice, Koguma’s story could become the balance between adventurousness and safety, inspiring a new rider to explore more thoroughly. Super Cub has not disappointed in any area thus far, and it does feel like Koguma could stand to gain additional maturity as she shares her journey with someone besides Reiko. For now, however, Super Cub foreshadows this by having Koguma give Reiko a ride, which is a change in roles as Koguma is the one who’s got the initiative here. Unsurprisingly, I’m looking forwards to seeing what lies ahead for Super Cub: despite its quiet, contemplative mood, Super Cub is captivating and exciting in its own right. Something new lies around every corner, waiting for Koguma to find it, and with her warm smiles at every new discovery, Super Cub gives viewers plenty to look forwards to.