A train pulls into the station. It is nighttime in a small town, and everyone is asleep as Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 floats gently through the air. The alarm sounds, and the music stops. Another day begins for lonesome high schooler Koguma, who struggles out of breath to cycle the hill to class. She is the girl with nothing: no parents or friends to love, no dreams or ambitions. Her world is washed out and grey, despite her youthfully rosy cheeks. On her way home later, a boy on a scooter passes her pertly for the second time that day and something in our heroine snaps. She turns around and heads toward…a motorcycle shop. She has had enough of life passing her by. And so begins this delicate love story of a girl and her Super Cub 50cc Honda motorbike. The bike has a morbid past, having been involved in the deaths of three people, but this means it is affordable for our impoverished protagonist. She is unfazed and only asks, when given a free helmet and gloves as part of the sales promotion, how many deaths they caused. The rest of the episode is devoted to her growing affection for the bike and determination to learn how to drive and maintain it properly—which ironically leads to her being stranded without gas at the conbini in the midnight hour! But the trusty owners’ manual saves the day by revealing to our plucky mc how to activate the reserve fuel line. On her way to school the next day, she reflects on how her much her life has changed—now she has her Cub.
This episode was such a delight! It’s rather serious and earnest, but I have a feeling that this has been done deliberately in order to convey the full impact of the transformation that is taking place in Koguma’s life. It brings to mind the revolutionary influence of the invention and mass production of the bicycle on the lives of women across Europe and North America in the 1890s (the so-called “bicycle craze”), lending them both geographical and social mobility—just as the Super Cub promises to do for isolated Koguma. The next episode, “Reiko”, hints at some actual human companionship coming her way as well, meaning that this could very well turn into the Spring season’s heir to Laid-Back Camp, which would be most welcome. Like our favorite camping series, Super Cub features some stunning background artwork and a clear love for the region, Yamanashi Prefecture’s Hokuto City. It also displays some outstanding attention to technical detail: the sound design—by which I mean the sound effects—is remarkable, and the color design adds considerable depth to the story and characterization. Each time Koguma takes a tiny step closer to her new, fuller life with the Super Cub—when she first sits on it, then when she starts it, and again when she overcomes her first mechanical problem at the conbini—the desaturated colors of her washed-out world intensify suddenly, exploding onto the screen with the brightness of Springtime and the promise of new life that it carries. Powerful indeed. Honda is also providing official consultation on the design of the motorcycles. Will Super Cub become the new Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? I’ll certainly be watching, and hoping for the kind of transformation for Koguma that we’ve seen with Rin-chan.
Super Cub can be streamed on Funimation.