The Infinite Zenith

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

Super Cub: Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“Winter forms our character and brings out our best.” –Tom Allen

While their class prepare for their school’s cultural festival, Koguma and Reiko consider buying new work gloves to combat the cooling weather. Initially disinterested with helping out, they overhear their classmates speaking about how motorbikes lack the capacity to safely transport the coffee-making equipment needed for their class activities. Taking this as a challenge, Reiko and Koguma prepare their respective bikes to take the gear, further suggesting to Shii Eniwa, who’s leading the efforts, to prepare a bar in the event they are unable to get the gear back. In the end, Koguma and Reiko succeed in getting the gear. Shii expresses her appreciation by offering Koguma and Reiko coffee, as well as a desire to one day ride a Cub for herself. To get to know Reiko and Koguma better, Shii invites the two over to her family’s café, an eclectic establishment with European and American influences. After enjoying their coffee, Koguma and Reiko begin frequenting the café more frequently, and despite Shii’s embarrassment, ends up meeting both her parents. As autumn gives way to winter, Koguma and Reiko look for ways to winterise their Cubs. Shii has an unused abrasive wool sweater, and after taking it to their home economics instructor, ends up crafting it into a liner for Koguma and stockings for Reiko. With the leftover materials, Shii gets a thermos-warmer out of it. While the liner and stockings are helpful, the winter chill seeps into the bones anyways, forcing Koguma and Reiko to purchase windshields. Despite their initial reservations, the windshields allow the girls to ride their cubs for far longer than otherwise possible, filling Koguma with the optimism that the winter will be fine. Nine episodes into Super Cub, Koguma’s world has been completely transformed: through the decision to pick up the Cub that day, Koguma’s surprised that she’s now more open to people than before, and more welcoming of new experiences.

Super Cub‘s masterful use of colour has always been a fantastic component of this series – scenes become vividly coloured as Koguma makes a new discovery, or shares in a particularly happy moment. This imagery is plainly intended to decisively indicate that this is a moment worth remembering for Koguma, and of late, such moments begin to dominate the series. If colour is meant to denote noteworthiness, then the increasing presence of colour indicates that Koguma is opening up to her world, ever more willing to look forwards rather than inwards. Moreover, these colourful moments linger for longer and become increasingly indistinguishable from more ordinary moments. Altogether, while Koguma herself may not express it visibly or often, Super Cub makes it clear how she’s feeling about her life now. It is indisputable that the Super Cub has changed Koguma’s life, giving her the means to broaden her horizons both in a figurative and literal sense. The possibility that the Super Cub offers, and the attendant responsibility a vehicle demands forces Koguma out of her box, but at the same time, being a smaller vehicle, also allows Koguma to do things at her own pace. Shii’s introduction into Super Cub is a fine example of this: after impressing her and earning her gratitude, Koguma and Reiko slowly spend more time with Shii.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open this Super Cub talk with a landscape still: the visuals of Super Cub remain of a very high standard despite not possessing the same saturation as other series typically would. At this point in time, I’ve not considered doing a location hunt for the series yet: while the series’ setting in Yamanashi is common knowledge, unlike Yuru Camp△, the emphasis here isn’t about travel per se, and Super Cub doesn’t have Koguma and Reiko go on a cross-prefecture tour with their bikes the same way Rin would. Instead, Super Cub‘s journey is inward: by exploring outwards, Koguma’s inner life is vastly improved.

  • Reiko replaces her old MD90 with the CT110, a venerable bike with a long history that possesses a four-speed transmission and 2:1 gear ratio that allows it to excel even when climbing slopes. Reiko goes with a red colour scheme to match her MD90’s, and with its distinct colouration, it is somewhat of a surprise that no one’s alluded to Char Aznable and his legendary reputation for pushing red machines to their absolute limits. The similarities between Reiko and Char end here, with the former being more interested in just pushing herself to the limits, and the latter working to exact revenge for his family’s deaths leading up to the One Year War as a result of political theatre.

  • With the culture festival fast approaching, a hint of Koguma’s life at school is hinted at; she’s quite detached from the rest of her classmates and expresses no interest in helping out, being content to be left alone. When her class runs into a challenge with picking up the parts needed for their exhibition, Koguma has no issue in leaving them to figure thing out for themselves, at least until some of her classmates comment that motorbikes are unsuitable for hauling what they need.

  • At this point, Koguma’s pride as a Cub rider is bent; she and Reiko thus set out to prove their bikes’ worth to their classmates, and after setting up the necessary rigs to carry said gear, they head off. The world takes on colour as Koguma experiences pride in showing her classmates that she and her Cub, despite their outwardly mundane, ordinary appearances, are reliable and can pull things off where needed. With their rigs set up, the assignment proves to be no sweat: Koguma carries the smaller stuff, while Reiko and her bike is purposed for hauling heavier gear.

  • While I’m hearing that most readers consider the colouration in Super Cub to be indicative of Koguma being happy, but I will only confer partial credit for this answer. The colour changes indicate any moment of note for Koguma, and the observant viewer will very quickly realise that as Super Cub progresses, these moments become increasingly common and long-lasting. This simple detail speaks volumes about how far Koguma has come since the series started, and she’s really become more attuned to finding things around her to smile about.

  • With their task done, Koguma and Reiko soon learn that their good deed, born out of a wish to say “don’t underestimate my Cub!” to their classmates, has far reaching consequences in a positive direction. The sum of Reiko and Koguma’s experiences, however, do not in any way speak to what is possible with a Cub, but rather, conveys to viewers that an open mind is what makes memories precious. This is why I have no qualms in dismissing any complaints about product placement in Super Cub: the vehicles themselves are merely catalysts for accelerating growth within the characters.

  • As a result of having made their culture festival a total success, classmate Shii ends up treating Koguma and Reiko to coffee by way of saying thank, kicking off a new friendship. When Shii expresses a desire to ride one, Reiko is gung-ho and encourages Shii, while Koguma suggests that Shii should only do so when she’s ready. My speculations from the previous post thus came to pass: as a result of having watched slice-of-life anime for almost as long as I’ve been using Xcode, there are patterns and trends I can immediately pick out now (rather similarly to how certain exceptions and errors in Xcode cause me no alarm on account of how often I see them crop up and subsequently work out solutions for).

  • This is what I find to make my thoughts on anime standout and distinct from other dedicated slice-of-life bloggers out there: rather than merely reacting to how adorbs something is, I strive to also connect a character’s experiences and discoveries with relevant analogs from real life to make clear how, and why, a given slice-of-life work is successful in what it does. I am particularly fierce about defending slice-of-life anime as a result of the community reception to them when I’d gotten into the genre; back then, people insisted that such series were killing the industry and offered nothing of intellectual value, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I’d argue that a slice-of-life faithfully and consistently saying meaningful things about life hold considerably more value than some psychological-drama or socio-political series that incorrectly use real world models to reach a faulty conclusion.

  • This wouldn’t be the case if the series’ authors had properly researched the principles ahead of time, but if not done properly, attempting to fit a story into an incorrect interpretation of a model creates inconsistency. Slice-of-life don’t deal with this, and for this, I find them to be consistently solid even if they don’t aspire to push new boundaries for storytelling. Back in Super Cub, upon returning to the classroom, Koguma sees Shii in her element and realises that Shii’s small stature notwithstanding, she is a bundle of joy as vast as the summer skies. Her class’ event is clearly a success, and the classroom is transformed into a joyful café, an environment that Shii feels completely at home in.

  • From someone as clumsy as Koguma when it comes to speaking of others, this is very high praise indeed. Shii thus becomes closer to Koguma and Reiko, even joining them for lunch. Shii is voiced by Natsumi Hioka: like Yuki Yomichi, who plays Koguma, I’m not terribly familiar with Hioka’s previous roles. In spite of her size, Shii brings a great deal of personality into Super Cub: of everyone, she most resembles the conventional anime high school girl, being energetic, cheerful and ever-accommodating.

  • Shii ends up inviting Koguma and Reiko to her family’s café, a highly unusual establishment named BEURRE. Sporting a mixture of English and American décor, BEURRE also serves Italian and German breads, but has a French name. Discussions in some places immediately suggested that the café is meant to be a stab at Japan’s stances on multiculturalism or similar, but this is almost certainly untrue given the themes in Super Cub. If anything, the café’s distinct menu and décor indicates that there are unusual but notable establishments around, and those who venture off the beaten path will be rewarded. In this case, as Koguma sips her coffee, she’s glad to have met Shii.

  • The brisk autumn weather has Koguma and Reiko in search of gear to keep themselves warm while riding. The swing by a local store to check out handlebar warmers, and Reiko is very resistant to the idea of adding them to her bike on account of their tacky appearance. Instead, she takes an interest in some airsoft guns, prompting Koguma to haul her off. Now that I think about it, Reiko’s personality reminds me of my previous company’s founder, who was similarly outgoing, knowledgeable and excited about new stuff: Reiko remarks that she’s the sort of person who only wants the best and won’t hesitate to pick up something if she’ll have a use for it later, similar to the aforementioned founder.

  • Our dynamic was quite similar to that of Koguma and Reiko’s – whereas Reiko never settles for second best and always wants to try new stuff out, Koguma is more similar to myself, being a lot more conservative with her purchases and only buying something if she’s absolutely certain it will have utility in her life. Ironically, when she comes across a small rice tin meant for camping, she immediately picks it up and, aware of her own words to Reiko moments earlier, changes her mind about how their objective today had been to pick up this rice tin.

  • Eventually, Koguma and Reiko do end up picking up the handlebar warmers, which encase the handlebars with a mitten-like enclosure to keep the wind out. As Super Cub progressed, I began seeing more of myself in Koguma. Frugal and taciturn, Koguma is probably a more exaggerated of how I am in reality: around folks I don’t know, I tend to listen more than I talk, and I speak very bluntly. Of course, experience means I’ve gotten better at conveying my thoughts without stepping on toes, and speaking in a diplomatic fashion to be both honest, but mindful of the feelings of those in the conversation, too.

  • One day, while visiting BEURRE, Shii suddenly becomes uneasy and asks Koguma and Reiko to finish soon so that they can be on their way. When Shii’s father notes that there is no such dinner rush coming, it turns out that Shii is embarrassed about her mother, who’s of European origin. I imagine her mother’s preference for European dresses is probably a bit much. Reiko and Koguma naturally don’t find anything unusual about things, indicating that both are open-minded individuals.

  • Were there to be an equivalent of BEURRE in my area, I’d have no qualms checking it out; having grown up in a country where multiculturalism is not only the norm, but embraced, I’m accustomed to seeing a Peking Duck restaurant beside a Shawarma place, with a German shop across the street. Such a café would, however, impose a unique challenge for me: I’d struggle to pick something off their menu. Here, the distinction in interior décor is immediately apparent: a line can be seen down the floor, splitting the café into the British and American side.

  • In response to Koguma and Reiko meeting her mother, Shii can only pout in classic anime fashion. Shii’s expertise with brewing coffees and cappuccinos mirrors her own aspirations: like GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, Shii aspires to be a barista one day and open a coffee shop of her own. While lacking a motorbike of her own at this point in time, Shii rides an Alex Moulton, a bike of English origin characterised by their small wheels and unique frame design.

  • When the handlebar warmers and work gloves prove inadequate, Koguma and Reiko must turn towards other means of keeping warm. Reiko is adamant about not resorting to use of a windscreen, while Koguma is more open-minded about the idea. However, owing to Reiko’s insistence, Koguma decides to explore other avenues of keeping warm while on a bike. In Yamanashi, having a car would be more than enough for a comfortable ride during the winter, but where I’m from, winters are bitterly cold, and during the coldest parts of the year, where it stays -30°C (-22°F) for up to four weeks at a time, even a car will take ten minutes to warm up to the point where the cabin is comfortable.

  • Conversely, yesterday, we hit our warmest day of the year yet; temperatures soared to 32°C (90°F), and we ended up cooling off with fresh watermelon. Compared to the extremities that characterises the arid Alberta foothills, Kofu’s temperatures aren’t quite as varied, but even then, when the thermometer hovers a few degrees above zero, the effects are noticeable: even with the caffè corretto (coffee with grappa, a brandy), the chill of a late autumn’s day is only just kept at bay. The anime is careful to warn viewers that only a small amount should be added. This marks the first time that Shii’s eaten lunch with Reiko and Koguma, but they swiftly welcome her to join them.

  • When Shii learns that Kuguma and Reiko are looking for something warm for winter, she figures she has something in mind. To speed things up, Reiko offers to take her along on her bike, but since this is Shii’s first time, she immediately feels that even at lower speeds, the world’s moving much too quickly. This isn’t a novel phenomenon: a decade earlier, forty kilometres per hour had been the speed I was most comfortable with as a new driver, but in the present day, I’m typically found at around ten kilometres per hour above the posted speed limit on major thoroughfares, save anywhere there are speed traps. A few days ago, a local law passed to fix the speed limit in residential roads lacking a median to forty kilometres per hour. I welcome this change, as it will make things safer for residents (and for the most part, residential roads are too narrow for higher speeds anyways).

  • It turns out the solution Shii has is a large wool cardigan made with a raw wool that’s only been given the minimum processing. The characters refer to it as abrasive wool, but I imagine this is a bit of wasei-eigo, since abrasive wool refers to steel wool, which is composed of stainless steel or bronze. Such a material, while a marvel of engineering and is an excellent scouring agent for cleaning tough surfaces, would naturally result in a most uncomfortable material as clothing. Conversely, the barely-processed wool cardigan proves warm enough for Koguma to accept it (I’d be happy to hear from folks familiar with tailoring to learn what the proper term is). However, no one in present company has the know-how of properly handling the cardigan, and the pressure doubles in the knowledge that it is made of a very high-grade material.

  • In the end, the girls race back to school and ask their home economics instructor to do it; she accepts since it’s to help her students, and because she’s excited about working with the wool, too. In the end, besides the liner for Koguma and stockings for Reiko, there’s enough leftover materials for Shii to get an adorable thermos cozy. The girls are all smiles, having brought new life into something that Shii otherwise would’ve only rarely had the chance to wear. It typifies Super Cub‘s messages about being creative: even on a limited budget or with constraints on resources, one can nonetheless find ways of achieving what they sought with an open mind and a willingness to adapt.

  • I again relate my story of having transformed an eight-year-old PC into a machine that will last at least another few years though a bit of elbow grease – the modifications I did to the operating system’s environment had prevented all updates and voided my EULA, and I’d hesitated to do a clean install on the virtue that I lacked the external media needed to back everything up and the original activation codes. With a bit of persistence and patience, I ended up finally making the jump from Windows 8 to Windows 10 (owing to how the update works, Windows 8.1 ended up being the shortest I’ve ever had an operating system for, totalling 15 minutes). It took a weekend to get my machine back up, but between the dramatically improved start times and the fact I’m now able to play Cold War, I am satisfied that my desktop should be okay for any DirectX 12-only titles.

  • The fact that Koguma’s jacket liner, Reiko’s stockings and Shii’s thermos cozy are made from the same source also serves as a wonderful symbol for the fact that while each of Koguma, Reiko and Shii might be different, they each share a common love for the Cub. Thus, when they look to their respective liner, stockings and cozy, the three are reminded of their friendship with one another, as well. For Koguma, the liner proves effective up to a certain point. The time has come for Reiko and Koguma to make a tough decision, and while they initially shake themselves out of it, the desire to ride their bikes even during the Yamanashi winter outweighs their original reservations.

  • The attachment Koguma and Reiko had been so reluctant to install was a windshield, which Rin had gratefully accepted from her grandfather ahead of her trip with the Outdoor Activities Club to Izu. Going from Reiko’s reactions, I would suppose that she’s displeased by the aesthetics, and this reminds me of a friend and coworker I worked with long ago – being an even bigger Apple fan than I am, he made it a point to never buy a case for his iPhones, arguing that the iPhone’s sublime aesthetics deserved to be shown in all its glory. While the iPhone is indeed an engineering and aesthetic marvel, I value utility over style and precisely make it a point to get a case whenever I upgrade.

  • In the end, Koguma and Reiko both cave and end up asking the clerk to order windshields compatible with their respective machines. I got the sense that Koguma had been interested in windshields, but simply lacked the funds to install them; it was only Reiko who opposed the idea on account of aesthetics. In the end, since Koguma goes for it and figures she could cut back on food costs, Reiko ends up picking up a windshield for her CT110, as well. Both get their windshields installed right away, in the parking lot of the shop, and in no time at all, the pair’s biked are road-ready.

  • Whereas Reiko has already been tinkering with her bikes for performance and utility, Koguma’s comparatively new to the process, but in spite of this, her Super Cub has seen several upgrades over Super Cub‘s run: after Koguma adds storage, she later changes out the engine and now, has a windshield as well. I’m no mechanic, but seeing Super Cub definitely helped me to appreciate why people are so fond of customising their vehicles and getting the absolute most of their ride. On my end, I completely lack mechanical skills to modify or upgrade a car, but being a computer enthusiast, I have no qualms about RAM and GPU installations, swapping out of hard disks and getting cooling solutions wired up. My old desktop was completely built with utility in mind, but for my next machine, I am considering a fancier case and LED lighting options, as well as dispensing with a CD drive and memory card reader in favour of additional hard drives.

  • With the windshield, Koguma realises that the bitterly cold Yamanashi breeze is no longer a concern. She pushes her Super Cub up to sixty kilometres per hour and marvels at how comfortable the ride is, recounting in a voice-over that the experience was magical, and how that day, they’d ridden long into the evening. Koguma’s world lights up and remains this way for the remainder of the episode. That these colourful moments are now more frequent and more long-lasting speaks volumes to how much Koguma’s outlook on life has changed. She remarks that her Cub has allowed her to speak up, speak with new people and do things that were previously thought to be out of reach.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with another landscape shot as Koguma rides back home under the evening skies. We are entering the last quarter of Super Cub now, and I’m excited to see where things wrap up. This time around, I’ll be doing things slightly differently – since I did not do a post for the first episode, I will return in two weeks to first write about the series leading up to the penultimate episode, and then quite separately, do a post after the finale’s aired. Having found that I can get these posts out in a timely fashion, I don’t expect that this will be too tricky to pull off. With this being said, I ask that readers be patient with me this month; I am expecting to write quite a bit about Black Ops: Cold War, since Higurashi: SOTSU begins airing in July, and Cold War‘s environments will allow me to talk about aspects of GOU in greater detail than would be appropriate for the standalone post I’ve got for GOU.

Shii’s addition to the cast creates a newfound dynamic among the cast – Shii is utterly in awe of Koguma and Reiko’s bikes, often looking to Koguma for answers where Reiko’s tendency to joke around or exaggerate leaves her in doubt. In Super Cub, Shii’s role is denoted by her diminutive stature: Koguma is taller than Shii, and Reiko is tallest of the three. Each character’s physical presence seems to correspond with their familiarity with the Cub, with Reiko being the most relaxed and experienced, and Shii being a novice. Koguma, then, stands in the middle; she’s still a learner, but has accumulated enough experience to impart her own knowledge on Shii, where Reiko might otherwise be irreverent or joking. As such, with Super Cub entering its final quarter, the story is beginning to speak of the same themes that Non Non Biyori: Nonstop covered; the passing of the torch and how everyone begins their journey differently means that learning is an infinitely varied experience, and towards the end of Super Cub, the series’ aims will be to show the sort of positive impact Koguma herself has on others through taking up riding – learning and teaching has made Koguma’s world more colourful, and while she might’ve started out with nothing, having an open mind will make everything that she sought within reach, bringing newfound warmth and colour into her world in ways that she’d never imagined possible prior to purchasing her Super Cub.

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