Koguma is a bit of an introvert, and with a dead father and an absent mother, she has noone else to rely on. After starting high-school in Hokuto (on a stipend covering living and schooling expenses), she happens upon a bike store. The old man who owns the place offers her a Super Cub motorcycle at a price she could actually afford. With this added mobility, Koguma finds her life greatly expanded both on a physical and interpersonal level as not only can she travel wherever she desires, but she also now have something she can bond with other people on.
There is a very noticeable feeling of liberation when you first earn the license to operate a motorized vehicle that this show nails so incredibly well. Granted, I've never really owned a moped or a light motorbike myself, so mine came from when I aquired my driver's license for a car, but my point -- and the show's by extension -- still stands. It's worth noting that at the time period between me turning 16 (legal age for driving mopeds and light motorcycles) and 18 (legal age for getting a driver's license for cars and heavier motorbikes and... well, pretty much anything else with an engine that isn't very job specific), even mopeds weren't necessarily cheap or easy to come by, and the ones that were tended to be more trouble than they were worth. You also didn't need a license of any kind, though that was changed not long after I had my own driver's license at 21 (28 years ago at the time of writing); now you at least need to take the theory course, if not necessarily applying for an exam.
Koguma isn't the first soft-spoken female character I've seen in anime starring (mostly) girls, not even those who aren't as much shy and easily embarrassed as just not very chatty. She kinda just appears in the show, and the only reason I know about her backstory is because I've read about it. Much like a certain camper in another show that I count among my favorites, she has a rather dry wit and tends to value her alone time. You could probably argue that in Koguma's case, it's more self-inflicted, as she doesn't have Rin's wonderfully supportive and colorful family. She spends most of the time in the first episode speaking to herself as a way to focus, but also keep the audience in on her thought processes as she navigates the first hurdles to bike ownership. Her soft-spoken attitude does not mean she isn't afraid to speak her mind, though, which is something I really appreciated about this show. That, and she has a wonderful sense of sarcasm that never gets truly meanspirited. Just humorously dark, like when she was told the reason the Cub was so cheap -- it had apparently been involvied in a situation where people got killed, so when the old man working the bike store brought out the free helmet and gloves, Koguma asked him how many deaths those had caused.
So of course, the first friend she makes is a good bit different. Reiko is a good deal more outspoken than Koguma, and in fact can be a bit pushy at times. She is a good deal more conscious of her own image, which leads to her being harder to convince when it comes to putting things on her bike that might affect her "cool" status. She is basically the show's mouthpiece when it comes to the show's obsession with promoting the Super Cub, and her influence is definitely spreading. Hilariously, she is a huge nerd when it comes to the Cub, and her own is a very different model than Koguma's Super Cub. Also, unlike Koguma, she isn't above setting challenges for herself, like wanting to conquer a mountain on her cub.
And Shii-chan makes the third member of our trio. She doesn't show up until the halfway point, but that doesn't mean we don't get to know her very well. She slides into Koguma and Reiko's life like a warm glove, her mild eccentricities a good fit for both Koguma and Reiko, but also her parents. Shii lives at a nearby diner that's an odd cross between German and American styles, and Shii herself is trying to muscle in on that with her own Italian preferences. As embarrassed as she is about her parents, they have a great family dynamic going on, with her two parents extending their circle to include the two girls their daughter made friends with. While most anime has teenagers as their leads, I love it when shows extend their hand by having very positive portrayals of supportive adults, Koguma's lack of parents aside. This also extends to the teenage boys in class; they're sort of just there, but none of them are portrayed as girl-crazy horndogs, which I also appreciated. In fairness, this is becoming much less common in anime. That, or I watch less harem shows than I used to.
You could probably make a point in the Cubs being the major player in Super Cub, because lord knows Reiko can't shut up about them for any length of her onscreen time. More than that, most of Koguma's earnings that doesn't involve food and utilities go towards her Cub. Since her ownership is still a bit of a learning journey, however, that is to be expected, and I do like that as dependent and level-headed as she is, she doesn't instantly turn into an expert about everything at the drop of a kick stand. (She's a quick learner, though.) The adorable Super Cub nerdery also extends to the kind of equipment you will probably need at some point, depending on your location; like windshields or protective clothing. It's not super deep stuff, though, so don't come into Super Cub expecting a lecture on the history of Super Cubs. Most of the stuff the show goes into, like Shii's bicycle or the things Shii's father make for her daughter and her friends are only briefly explained.
And, once again, we have ourselves a show high on scenery porn. In this case, however, Super Cub takes it a step further by letting the color and light dictate the mood. It's generally a quiet show, but the start is even a bit gloomy, as if to let us in on Koguma's solitary lifestyle. The scenery isn't as constantly... well, scenic, since the show is about Koguma going to school, so the uplifting colorful moments are more like a reward you grant yourself after a day of school or work, or in Koguma's case, for increasing your social circle, which also expands your horizons in its own way. The highlight is a trip the girls make at the end of the show, where they go on a little roundtrip outside of Hokuto -- to places like Nagoya, Biwa prefecture and Shiga -- all real-life locations, which is also something that's becoming more and more common in anime. I mean... I recently reviewed Let's Make a Cup Too, which even goes into local specialities of said place, but I digress. If I can enjoy the scenery so much despite never having been there, how great is this going to be for people who has?
I'm not going to moralize about some of the things that happen in Super Cub that raised some shackles and prompted Kadokawa to make a statement. Part of that is that I simply didn't know you couldn't ride with a passenger until you've had your license for one year until I read that myself. And partially because while what Koguma did in the beginning of episode 11 might've been considered reckless, it was a serious situation. For all I might hold teenagers to a higher standard sometimes, however unfairly, I think it falls under the show's sense of realism that Koguma would do this, however carefully she would have to go about it.
The animation is also pretty damn good. Maybe not on a detail-oriented level -- Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid this is not -- but the show does a decent job at meshing its cel animation style with its 3D CG, and the direction gives the girls' driving scenes the appropriate room to breathe. The background work is pretty immaculate, especially seeing as it sets the mood with either its sharp colors or lack thereof, depending on the mood it wants to set. There are times when the show gets kind of weird in how the character just sorta look like they're frozen in place, but it's not a huge deal when it otherwise looks so good.
The music is a bit more quiet than what I'm used to, although once again, it does a really good job at setting the mood. It probably doesn't lend itself to listening as well as the soundtracks of shows like Aria or Sketchbook, but it does fit this show perfectly, even when it's borrowing from other sources. (Vivaldi, anyone? Claude Debussy?) Just as often, though, the show just lets the sound speak for itself.
It's getting kind of crowded on the top, but I'm fine with that. In fact, a lot of slice-of-life shows has somehow found itself on my favorites list, and Super Cub just casually rode in on its bike and parked itself there; through its wonderful portrayal of introverted people being allowed to come out of their shells on their own terms, its love for travelling and mode of transportation and mild nerdery, and certainly also the lovely scenery on display. Super Cub comes highly, highly recommended.
An expertly crafted ride through adolescence by way of motorized vehicles. Not to be missed. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The girls have two accounts of doing something illegal with their bikes (that teenagers might not necessarily consider in the heat of the moment), so if you are in the habit of easily getting up in arms over things like that, you might want to avoid watching this show. Outside of that, this show is a quiet slice of life, so there's literally nothing objectionable about it outside of its mildly shill-ish tone about Cubs.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Wakanime (European)
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Super Cub © 2021 Studio Kai
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