The Infinite Zenith

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

Super Cub: Review and Reflection At The Penultimate Episode

“Patience is when you are supposed to be mad, but you choose to understand.” –Unknown

On a snowy day, Koguma is reluctant to go out, but when Reiko shows her a new acquisition (tire chains), Koguma braves the snow to swing by Reiko’s place. Once their chains are installed, Reiko convinces Koguma to accompany her to a snow-covered field, where the pair spend an afternoon doing stunts on the field and share lunch together. Later, inspired by Koguma and Reiko, Shii decides to take a mountain path into town, but falls into a frigid creek while biking and makes a call to Koguma for help. Upon arriving, Koguma pulls Shii from the water and sets her in her Super Cub’s front basket before whisking her away for home. She also asks Reiko to retrieve Shii’s Alex Moulton from the river. After Shii’s had a chance to warm up with a bath, she settles down for curry udon with Koguma and Reiko. However, Shii bursts into tears after it hits her that her Alex Moulton’s been totalled. She begs Koguma to bring her into spring, but Kogama laments that even a Super Cub can’t accelerate the passage of time. Shii thus begins riding a loaner bike to school, and the days begin passing by in the blink of an eye. Soon, winter retreats, and spring gradually returns to the world. However, Shii’s melancholy seems to persist – Koguma notices that she’s lost her drive to work on her Italian café. She realises that Shii had impacted her life in ways she couldn’t imagine after recalling it had been Shii who’d passed her en route to school, encouraging her to get a Super Cub. Grateful to have befriended Shii, and also to help bring the colour back into Shii’s world, Koguma suggests that Shii accompanies them on a ride to Kagoshima, where the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the sun is warm. This is Super Cub on the eve of its finale, a gentle tale of discovery, of ups and downs that accompany learning, and of unexpected friendships that grow as disparate people, unified by a common love, get to know one another better. Here at the penultimate episode, Super Cub has proven to be a slow journey that is quite unlike the more spirited pacing of other slice-of-life series, where energy and curiosity creates much of the excitement. Instead, with its more gradual development, Super Cub conveys a more unconventional experience, which is something that not all minds will appreciate.

Towards its ending, Super Cub chooses to go in a more dramatic direction by having Shii plummet down a slope into a frigid river when she takes a ride up a narrow trail. This sets the stage for Koguma to go in and rescue her; whereas Super Cub had largely been about Koguma’s own discoveries and helping those along the way with her Cub, this final incident seems to be the author’s wish to suggest that particularly strong friendships and large changes to one’s world-views are only brought on by equally extraordinary circumstances. To create a plausible reason for why Shii ends up purchasing a Super Cub of her own and admiring Koguma to the extent that she does, the writers elected to go in a direction that prima facie seems quite out of place in the slow-placed Super Cub. The end result of this is that it gives Koguma a chance to really step back and appreciate what her Super Cub means to her, as well as understand what she means to Shii (and vise versa). Having now saved Shii from a difficult situation, Koguma is similarly forced to reflect on how chance encounters have set her down a completely different path, one where she now has something of value in her life worth looking forward to. While perhaps a bit jarring, having Koguma save Shii unequivocally removes any doubt that Koguma’s changed – she’s resourceful and caring, even if her outward appearance speaks otherwise, and this suggests that as Koguma spends more time with Shii, her heart and manner will begin softening up, as well. We recall Koguma has a very blunt manner because of how little she interacts with others, and since Shii’s personality is the opposite, being a right ray of sunshine that had spurred Koguma on. The ensuing friendship can only be a positive thing for Koguma and Shii as we move towards the future, and like Koguma, Super Cub may seem a little rough around the edges, but the intents are clear enough.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shii has now become a regular part of the main group in Super Cub, and I’ve definitely come to enjoy her presence. It suddenly strikes me that Super Cub could be done as a live-action series and it likely would’ve worked just as well as Yuru Camp△‘s live action: both are set in Yamanashi, deal with a very down-to-earth story and doesn’t require much in the way of special effects. Moreover, the anime’s saturation effect isn’t too tricky to replicate. On top of this, because Koguma, Reiko and Shii lack the over-the-top designs of other anime, their real-world appearances would closely resemble those seen in the anime.

  • While Koguma is reluctant to head out on a snowy day, since her Cub’s by no means equipped to deal with snow, Reiko manages to persuade her anyways. In Yuru Camp△, Yamanashi’s snow is what led Saki to call Rin and ask her to stay a few extra days in Shizuoka until her grandfather could pick her up, speaking to how treacherous the roads can get, and Koguma, presumably having lived in Yamanashi for quite some time, would likely be aware of this. When she sets off, Koguma struggles to safely get her Cub down the private road, but once she hits the main road, things become smoother for her.

  • Super Cub shows that the solution Rin would’ve likely employed, had the story called for it, would be tire chains for her Vespa. Chains work by increasing the tire’s surface area and corresponding traction, allowing the wheels to grip the ground more firmly and transfer the force to propel the vehicle forward. However, chains can fail, and typically, they are recommended for use only with lower speeds (50 km/h or lower). In my neck of the woods, there are no specific laws that require chains to be used (or prohibiting their use), but people can get a traffic citation if it is found that their use of chains is causing unreasonable damage to a road surface.

  • With their chains equipped, Reiko and Koguma decide to head to a secret field that Reiko’s particularly fond of. Having the chains dramatically increases stability even on snowy surfaces, allowing the pair to climb up the mountain switchbacks that lead up to the field that Reiko is so fond of. The tenth episode ends up being one of the most relaxed and easygoing episode in Super Cub – Koguma has nothing else on her mind and is able to really have fun in a bigger way, quite unlike anything she’d previously done.

  • The folks at AnimeSuki, in their infinite wisdom, have suggested that Koguma and Reiko are riding around on a frozen lake’s surface and therefore, are doing something incredibly boneheaded. For the purposes of discussion, let’s suppose that Koguma and Reiko are indeed on a lake or pond with a maximum depth of three metres. Then, using the Ashton Ice Growth Prediction Method, and working with the assumption that the mountains are an average of 4ºC cooler than the valleys of Yamanashi, where the winter average low is -3ºC, we can go with an average temperature of -7ºC or so. Supposing the temperature holds constant for a week or so, the ice thickness of a pond would reach about six inches.

  • Since it’s winter, we can suppose that even with a bit of variation in the temperature, there’d be enough time for six to seven inches of ice to form, and this thickness is satisfactory for supporting a Super Cub (which has a dry mass of 55 to 90 kilograms depending on the model), and assuming Koguma herself is around 50 kilograms or less, the total mass doesn’t exceed what is safe for six inches of ice. So, even if Koguma and Reiko had been horsing around on a frozen lake, assuming that Reiko had measured the ice earlier, they would’ve been fine anyways. Of course, owing to the terrain, it’s clear that this is no frozen lake: bumps in the land indicate this is a field.

  • While Koguma’s always played it safe with her Cub, here, she is able to let loose and really just ride around on the makeshift ramps for some air time. Until now, we’ve not seen Koguma this relaxed or willing to do tricks with her Super Cub. The vivid blue skies show that Koguma is completely at peace here, completely immersed in the moment, and given how far she’s come in Super Cub, I’m content to watch her have a bit of fun.

  • As thanks for sharing with her this experience, Koguma offers Reiko half of her lunch. Koguma is still evidently unaccustomed to sharing – her mannerisms and attitudes understandably come from her limited budget, and she usually only buys just enough for herself, since she doesn’t have the funds for extra. Reiko is very understanding of Koguma, though, and is likely just pulling her leg. Jokes notwithstanding, the pair share food and drink under a brilliant winter day, whose colour palette is precisely what I’m accustomed to seeing for up to eight months of the year.

  • As the girls continue riding their bikes and ramping off piles of snow, they begin warming up to the point where they can take their jackets off. Where I’m from, winters are rarely warm enough for me to do that – while -16ºC is downright balmy after a week of -35ºC, it’s still cold enough to catch a chill, so I tend to leave my coat, scarf, gloves and toque on unless temperatures rise above -2ºC. I imagine that in Yamanashi, with their comparatively mild winters (no match for Real Canadian™ Winters, at any rate), one could stay reasonably comfortable outside without a full winter coat.

  • Speaking to Koguma’s changes, when Reiko begins throwing snowballs at her, she retaliates by using her Cub to kick up a cloud of snow like a snow blower, overwhelming Reiko. Super Cub is, in every sense of the word, a true slice-of-life anime whose lessons come not from anything grandiose or life changing, but rather, an appreciation of the smaller things in life. I therefore stand by my thoughts that Super Cub is not too different from 2007’s Sketchbook in that both series portray particularly standout moments in the characters’ lives in an otherwise minimalist setting.

  • This approach allows viewers to really focus on what’s happening in a given moment and what it means for Koguma; while perhaps not connected together in a narrative sense, the various moments and Koguma’s thoughts on them show the gradual shift in her world views. Having her and Reiko spend an afternoon just riding around with no destination in mind shows that Koguma’s become more open-minded and more willing to live in the moment, whereas previously, she seemed to be just going through the motions with no clear destination.

  • As the sun sets, Koguma and Reiko head for home. Such a sight evokes memories of home; in Alberta, it’s winter eight months of the year. For the bitterly cold and dark days, winter is my least favourite season. However, in the past year, thanks to working from home, I’ve found that my distaste of winter waned, and it becomes clear that far more than anything symbolic, my dislike of winter comes purely from the impact it has on my commute. As Super Cub demonstrates, with the right gear, even the cold of winter can be mitigated somewhat.

  • Koguma ends up picking up a waterproof snowsuit so she can continue riding even in Yamanashi’s most bitter weather. Snowsuits are no joke: a cursory glance finds that a decent one goes for around 170 CAD. They’re intended for use when one spends a sustained amount of time outside, and the price tag demonstrates that by this point in time, Koguma’s become pretty serious about getting as much out of her Cub as possible.

  • One evening, after returning home from BEURRE, Koguma gets a call from Shii. It turns out that she’d suffered an accident and had fallen off the trail into the river below. Without skipping a beat, Koguma immediately heads off, with an inkling of where Shii might be. As she travels along the dark, narrow road, the terrain becomes tricky. What followed resulted in some of the most immature and disappointing discussions surrounding Super Cub to date, with people lecturing both Shii and Koguma as though they were in a position to do so. While Shii and Koguma might not have made the best decisions given the circumstances, I found the moment was meant to show that in spite of her manner, Koguma cares for those around her.

  • Going from the terrain, the biggest danger Shii would’ve faced was hypothermia: being immersed in cold water for extended periods of time will strip heat from the body and create a highly dangerous situation. Immersion in water at 10°C will cause death within an hour, while freezing water can kill in fifteen minutes (if the cold shock doesn’t happen first). Folks feel that because Super Cub does not necessarily conform wholly to what is counted as realistic physiology, the anime was irreparably ruined here and saw fit to deliver endless complaints about the choice to use such a moment. Things were exacerbated by the fact that Koguma appears quite unsympathetic to Shii’s situation when she asks Shii to climb out of the ravine herself and subsequently slaps sense into her.

  • However, first and foremost, we recall that Shii and Koguma are still high school students, and the parts of the brain responsible for rational, reasoned thought involved in making long-term decisions and careful assessments don’t fully develop until one is 25-30. An adult would see fit to assess Shii’s condition and only extract Shii from the water if it is safe to do so, then keep her warm until medical first responders arrive. Conversely, if Shii’s state could not be ascertained, it might actually be better to leave her retrieval to the specialists, since there’s no way of knowing how injured Shii could potentially be. Koguma, being a youth, wouldn’t have the cerebral cortex for that sort of assessment and decision-making. As such, I do not have any problems with how things unfolded here.

  • A lack of understanding in brain development and chemistry thus causes some folks to immediately jump to conclusions (“that’s not what I’d do!”). With this in mind, Koguma’s decisions were unsound: rescuing Shii herself means disregarding the fact that since it’s dark, she herself could become injured, and moreover, transporting Shii, who’s probably weakened from the ordeal might worsen any injuries that had occurred. However, Super Cub is not aiming to be a realistic portrayal of emergency management: the hazardous scenario presented is purely meant to create a dramatic moment that cements the moment where Shii and Koguma really become friends as a result of their shared experiences.

  • The motivation for choosing this page quote is therefore simple – almost all of the discussions I have seen for Super Cub disparage Koguma and the series’ lack of realism. However, all of these assertions are made without any semblance of patience, nor a desire to understand why the author chose to take such a path. Someone with compassion and understanding would take a step back and acknowledge that while what Koguma chooses to was very risky, the moments were chosen for the narrative’s sake. Koguma is clearly still inexperienced when it comes to dealing with people, let alone people in emergency situations, but this requires that viewers be understanding and patient with Koguma, since the moment was meant to be a learning process for her.

  • If folks watching slice-of-life do not accept that they’re watching youth earning their stripes and demand that said youth are every bit as experienced and rational as adults, then genre is evidently not for them. It is a pointless exercise to try and talk down on anime characters, since the characters are written to convey an idea across: any meaningful discussion to be had surrounding a characters’ actions would entail considering whether or not the author’s choice was effective, and if not, what (reasonable) alternatives would’ve been appropriate. Super Cub begins returning to its usual aesthetic shortly after, once Shii’s had a chance to warm up, and here, she reacts in embarrassment when Koguma nonchalantly handles her clothing.

  • To Shii’s surprise, Reiko is also at Koguma’s place, and she’s made herself at home already. This is the first time Koguma’s seen friends over: she’d previously visited Reiko’s cabin, and befitting of her personality, is very quick to make herself at home. After both Reiko and Shii warm up, they find that Koguma’s prepared a curry udon for them. The gaps in the characters’ mannerisms is a reminder that Koguma is somewhere in the middle: less shy than Shii, but less bold than Reiko.

  • One moment I particularly related to was when Reiko pulls a few hard-boiled eggs from Koguma’s fridge, to her annoyance. While Koguma reluctantly allows this because Shii’s around, the fact is that the eggs were labelled, indicating likely when Koguma had intended to use them. After Reiko pulls the eggs out, an irate Koguma can be seen looking on disapprovingly, even if she says nothing. Despite the relatively lack of dialogue, the composition speaks volumes about Koguma’s personality. This is something that Super Cub had always exceled with, in being able to do more with less.

  • The evening’s events only really begin to sink in once Reiko notes that Shii’s bike is totalled. Overwhelmed with emotions, Shii begins crying and begs Koguma to rescue her from the long dark of winter. As with other slice-of-life series, Super Cub makes extensive use of colour and lighting to convey things that dialog and body language alone do not. Indeed, winter is the most despairing time of year, when light and warmth are both in short supply. For Koguma, even a Cub isn’t enough to overcome winter and make the spring come any sooner.

  • The feeling of overwhelming loss was felt, and seeing Shii, who is normally cheerful, energetic and always walking with a spring in her step, really drove home how much this moment impacts her. Shii, while disinterested in her bike earlier, had become a lot more inquisitive and outgoing after meeting Koguma, Reiko and their Cubs. To lose her bike now is to lose a part of herself, and she worries that Koguma and Reiko will leave her behind. Koguma, however, isn’t much of a people person and isn’t able to spot this; this is meant to show that as far as reading and comforting people go, Koguma has much to learn.

  • In the aftermath, Shii’s parents express their utmost gratitude for having looked out for Shii and bringing her home unharmed. While Koguma is a bit more reserved about things, Reiko seems unabashedly excited about having a free pass to BEURRE’s coffee and baked goods. I suppose that this does feel a little disrespectful, but it also speaks to the quality of BEURRE’s wares and creates a bit of a disconnect in the moment, which is critical in conveying how much Shii’s spirits have fallen since she lost her bike.

  • With the passage of time, winter begins to retreat as sun returns to Yamanashi. Final exams come and go, and for the time being, Shii rides a conventional bicycle that is ill-fitting. Koguma and Reiko both notice that the spring in Shii’s step is gone, and in a monologue, Koguma feels that the traits that made Shii shine appear to have faded; when asked about her Italian menu project, Shii only responds that things are on hold. It would appear that Shii’s on the precipice of a slippery slope; I mentioned this previously for Slow Start, where life is a game of momentum.

  • Motivation obeys the laws of inertia, and people who lose motivation can find it difficult to regain their momentum once it’s lost. That was precisely what had happened to Hiroe, and for Hana, it was through friendship she was able to rediscover her step. Given Super Cub‘s themes, it stands to reason that with Koguma and Reiko around, they’ll end up helping Shii in some way and get her old spirit back in no time at all.

  • Admittedly, watching Super Cub has been a bit of a melancholy experience – the anime itself is spirited, joyful and warm, dealing in the happiness surrounding keeping an open mind and new discoveries, of exploring and trying one’s strengths on their own to see what’s possible, but there’s precious few people around to talk about the show with. Being a slice-of-life series, Super Cub can be a bit trickier to write for, but the flipside is that there’s enough going on so that one could swap stories of parallel experiences in response to what happened in the episode, creating fun discussions.

  • We’re very nearly at the end of the spring season: besides a finale post for Super Cub, I am looking to write about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo (another underrated anime from the season), HigeHiro and 86 EIGHTY SIX. Before these finales happen, Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash released earlier, too, so I am looking to wrap my thoughts up on that one. We’re also now just under a week to the Steam Summer sale, and having finished Black Ops: Cold War, I am looking to seeing if DOOM Eternal will get a decent discount. It looks like my desktop is capable of running it on ultra settings with good framerates, which means I’ll be able to continue on from the journey I started in 2016.

  • Before then, I’d have to finish writing about Super Cub‘s finale, and that means wrapping up this post first. Towards the penultimate episode’s end, Koguma and Reiko offer a suggestion to lift Shii out of her slump, and for her troubles, suddenly recalls that while Shii always looked like she’d aspired to be as adventurous as Koguma, it turns out that Koguma had long admired the diminutive but spirited Shii and probably wanted to befriend her, but never had the courage to do so – a flashback to the first episode shows Shii powering up the same hill on her bike that Koguma had struggled to make it up. After Koguma realises this, her world floods with colour anew.

  • Realising that Shii indirectly inspired her to buy a Cub and set her on the path to becoming friends, Koguma finally understands what friendship is: it’s a bond of trust, empathy, compromise and mutual respect. This is the moment that speaks most loudly to what Koguma has been missing all this time – as she becomes more aware of those around her, the lonesome Koguma begins to realise what she’s gained as a result of spending more time with people. With this post in the books, only one episode remains for Super Cub. It’s been a meaningful and quiet journey, every bit as contemplative as Rin’s solo travels, and I am looking forwards to where the newly-formed friendship between Koguma and Shii will see them go.

An incident as dramatic as a fall into the river, and the subsequent falling action suggests that Super Cub has passed its climax, the tensest of moments, in its story. By demonstrating that Koguma is able to handle emergencies without missing a beat, viewers are assured that whatever adventures (and the unexpected things that accompany them) may present themselves, she’s ready to handle them, whether it be reigning the excitable Reiko back or walking Shii through something she’s never seen before. I therefore anticipate that Super Cub‘s finale will likely have Koguma and Reiko help Shii to get some new wheels – it is evident that Shii has come to greatly treasure her unusual bike, as it reminds her of her newfound friendship with Reiko and Koguma, and with plans to visit Kagoshima, a 1300 kilometre journey requiring a minimum of sixteen hours to traverse one-way, it is improbable that Shii would bike this entire distance on her loaner bike. Having said this, covering such a journey in one episode is unfeasible, and further to this, Shii also needs to earn her operator’s license before any road trip can be had. As such, I anticipate that the finale will be about getting Shii set up for a life-changing journey with Koguma and Reiko, not as a follower, but as a peer. Shii’s new wheels would signify a transformation of sorts, and set the stage for the story to continue: much as how Koguma herself had transformed after getting her Super Cub, the changes she experienced are now beginning to be imparted on Shii, as well, representing a transfer of knowledge and of a great love for one’s hobby. In this way, Super Cub has completely succeeded in presenting its themes, although admittedly, going from the limited discussion out there of this series, it stands to reason that more folks could stand to give this series a go owing to its portrayal of how newfound freedom, and its attendant responsibilities, change people’s circumstances for the better as they get to meet more people.

4 responses to “Super Cub: Review and Reflection At The Penultimate Episode

  1. Fred (Au Natural) June 18, 2021 at 20:26

    An adult would have called 911 or the Japanese equivalent. The show should have had Shii be injured in a way that she couldn’t get up. It does not make sense that someone would lay in inches deep water without a serious injury.

    There’s quite the contrast – intentional I’m sure – between the shy Shii and the free-spirited Reiko. One freaks out that another female is hanging up her undies to dry while the other walks in almost nude and hasn’t a concern. One of those very rare panty shots that actually mean something to the plot. And this, along with the eggs, tells us a bit about the Reiko-Koguma relationship. Someone sure feels right at home.

    I do have a nagging suspicion that Koguma has a touch of Asperger’s.

    Like

    • infinitezenith June 20, 2021 at 12:12

      I’d imagine that Shii was wearing cotton of some sort, which soaks up water like a sponge and becomes very heavy for it. Back when I was learning to use the washing machines and threw cotton towels in haphazardly, the machine would start jamming and required that I clear it. I was surprised how much the towels weighed when soaked all the way through. Given this, and the assumption that Shii doesn’t look like she’s got much in the way of physicality, I would believe that the combination of exhaustion and cold weather leaves her stranded. All I’ll say on this is that I have no definitive stance on whether or not the situation was realistic, and I’m not bothered by this quite to the same level as the rest of the internets.

      Next up, I rather enjoyed the contrasts there: it’s anther sign that Koguma is a middle-of-the-road individual, outgoing enough to help someone like Shii out, and taciturn enough to draw energy from someone like Reiko. I myself felt a twinge of irritation that Reiko just took the hardboiled eggs without getting a greenlight from Koguma first, so I wonder if, had Reiko asked, Koguma would’ve been more understanding.

      Finally, as far as I can tell, from what remains of my BHSc days of reading papers, I’m not too sure if Koguma could be classified as such. This is purely because while she may have some of the traits as defined by the DSM-V, Koguma’s internal monologues demonstrate an ordinary understanding of figurative language, and while she displays irritation if things are disturbed, she has enough social intelligence to keep this to a look of displeasure. Finally, Asperger’s itself is a field being actively researched, and because definitions vary greatly, it’s hard to really ascertain whether or not Koguma can be definitively said to have Asperger’s. As they say in the field, further evidence and study is needed to draw a conclusion!

      Like

  2. David Birr June 19, 2021 at 06:15

    I have to admit, I freaked at the words from your summary, “…sets her in her Super Cub’s front basket before whisking her away for home.” My immediate thought was, soaked clothes + winter temperatures + riding the front of a hurrying vehicle = horrific wind chill!

    Like

    • infinitezenith June 20, 2021 at 12:19

      I fear wind chill: in my side of the world, it can be as low as -40°C for two weeks at a time when wind chill comes into play. This brings to mind Les Stroud’s Norway 10-day special, where he’d been soaked from snow and sweat while trying to ascend the mountain and, because of cold weather, was genuinely worried for his life. As such, when it came to <emSuper Cub, the only thing I can hope for is that the trail entrance seemed fairly close to Koguma’s place, and it was a ride of five minutes or less!

      Like

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