Here we are with a bit of a late start to the Spring 2021 season, this time we’re taking a look at Super Cub, the latest hobbyist slice-of-life which seems to have become popular in recent years. This time we’re looking at the enthusiast world of Super Cub style scooters from Honda, a niche subject to be sure but one that’s no less interesting.
The great thing about slice-of-life is that it’s a complementary genre, slice-of-life is rarely just slice-of-life by itself; it can be comedy, it can be a romance, and sometimes it can be a drama. Super Cub stands apart by being closer to a drama but lacking any real high stakes. The story and content is about the introspection of our heroine Koguma.
It’s a refreshing change of pace compared to the high-hilarity antics of other slice-of-life shows like Yuyushiki or Lucky Star, but is that enough to make it an interesting watch?
Studios: Studio Kai
Publishers: Bandai Namco Arts
Director: Fujii Toshirou
Premiere: April 7, 2020
Author’s Note: I’m not a motor bike/scooter enthusiast so I’m not really sure what (if any) difference there is between a motor bike and a motor scooter and will thus use them interchangeably. You can yell at me in the comments about this.
Super Cub follows the daily life of the series protagonist Koguma, a young high school girl who lives alone. The first episode starts off with her introspection about how she has no parents, has no hobbies, and has no dreams for the future. The lack of parents is troubling; and for better or worse her circumstances aren’t elaborated on in the first three episodes.
But that’s where the story begins, Koguma is completely alone, her world is colorless and she’s just living each day listlessly. But that all changes one day after thinking about the uphill bike ride to school and she gets the idea to check out mopeds and scooters. After stopping at a small dealership, an old man gives her a good deal on a lightly used Super Cub bike and the reason for the price? Allegedly some of its former owners have died and with only about 500 Km on the odometer, its owners don’t seem to last long. But once again, this is another plot point that’s quickly glossed over much like Koguma’s parents.
But nonetheless, Koguma is rational (or maybe just cynical) enough to not care about the bike’s past and she gladly takes it. The old man who runs the dealership is even nice enough to walk her through getting her license and gives her a helmet and gloves. All the work is worth it though, for when Koguma sits down on her new Super Cub things are a little bit brighter in her life (the series actually increases the color saturation, which has used depressing and muted colors up until now).
Looking back, it feels silly describing the premise; but I feel that anyone who’s found any kind of fulfillment in a new hobby or new possession will resonate with this story. It seems trifling but it’s an honest representation of what it means to find something in your life that really does make things seem a little brighter; and that importance cannot be understated.
This positive change in Koguma’s life is further expanded on when we follow her into her school life. She’s teased, but not mercilessly bullied, in fact it’s a nice change from the over the top bullying that borders on attempted murder that’s shown in a lot of shows and feels more realistic. But after being judged for being poor, Koguma is able to deflect during a home ec class by saying she likes the plainer (and thus cheaper) fabric as it goes well with her new bike. Dropping the fact she has a bike causes the teasing girls to back off as other classmates are somewhat enthused by the novelty of it; and this brings in the secondary protagonist Reiko, a Super Cub enthusiast.
Reiko becomes Koguma’s first friend and fits the cliche role of being the outgoing girl who helps Koguma slowly overcome her shyness, but it’s a slow process. Reiko is also more knowledgeable, experienced, and more invested in her hobby than Koguma, showing off her retro style bike with a custom titanium muffler.
The two become fast friends and Koguma learns what it means to share a hobby and her newfound feelings with someone else. There is a third character that joins the two friends which we see in the intro and key visuals for the series, but she hasn’t shown up by the end of episode three.
Visually, the series has a distinct style with really soft lineart for the characters; it almost feels as if they were taken straight from a manga page but actually animated (not the voiced comic that is The Way of the Househusband). The scenery is beautifully done and Studio Kai readily shows off their background work; the first episode features no shortage of serene moments as Koguma goes about her day.
There is one notable issue with the 3D animation that’s used almost every time a character is on a vehicle (which in a show about motor scooters is fairly often). The 3D models are well done, but they’re poorly animated and mostly just show the girls scooting along on their bikes.
To the credit of Studio Kai, they use the 3D animations as sparsely as they can and even when they’re on their bikes they return to more normal animation during closeups of the characters’ faces. It’s easy to see that the studio really did care about relying on clunky 3D as little as possible.
The music is superb, even the background songs. Nothing stands out as most of it is classical sounding piano pieces but it fits the introspective themes of Super Cub perfectly. It keeps the series slow-paced and thoughtful.
Yomichi Yuki does an excellent job as well voicing Koguma, even more surprising is that this is her first lead role in an anime. With her soft voice and excellent enunciation, she’s reminiscent of Hanazawa Kana when she was just getting popular in the mid 2000s.
Ultimately, Super Cub appears to be the apex of the slice-of-life genre this season, if not this year. While it’s easy to cringe when first seeing the 3D animation, viewers will quickly find it to be an infrequent non-issue. Those who enjoy the quiet moments in slice-of-life series will find a lot to enjoy in Super Cub. But those who need the genre to be carried by comedy or action will be left bored. All in all though, a spectacular series.