FIRST LOOK: Super Cub – The slowest anime may hide something subtle and deep

Koguma lives a lonely, empty life – but in subtle moments we learn that, perhaps, she yearns for a little more color.

I like slow anime. I had a good time with Spice & Wolf which moves at a pace that could put a person to sleep, and Natsume’s Book of Friends is a great time despite being as meandering as a Peanuts comic strip. I recently added Yuru Camp to my list of favourite anime shows. That being said, though, Super Cub is really testing the limits of just how slow an anime can be before becoming totally unwatchable.

Not that Super Cub is unwatchable, mind you. In fact, I’m really liking it.

I picked up Super Cub after seeing its ratings spike on MyAnimeList (again, not that ratings are the end-all-be-all of anything). It went from being a solid mid-sixxer to somewhere in the high sevens in the span of four episodes. I found that rather curious. This show must have really picked up, I thought. And so I picked it up, too.

Watching Koguma make new friends and uncover more and more of the world on the back of her Super Cub is a slow-burning pleasure akin to what you’d get from Yuru Camp.

This is a very soft-spoken, lonely show. The first episode does a good job setting this up. We watch protagonist Koguma go through her school day as she explains to us how she has neither family nor friends, nor dreams or aspirations or hobbies or anything that would resemble an actual, healthy life. The animation is slow and deliberate, though the line work is thin and sketchy (and very, very beautiful, I might add.) The color is extremely dull, with all the vibrancy sucked out for shades akin to driven snow. Very little happens in the first episode, to the point where i’d honestly call it boring and rather deserving of a six out of ten stars since gunning for a deep and emotional show isn’t really an excuse for having nothing happen in your pilot episode. 

A little past the halfway mark on this pilot, however, she passes by a motorcycle store, where a Super Cub is being sold at a terribly cheap price. Koguma is on it in an instant. The shopkeeper walks her through how it works before relinquishing it to her. We see her bike home on her new ride – and suddenly the color is back in the show. We see, for the first time, a smile on her face, and we’re made to realize in that instant what this show is setting out to do. It’s a story of recovery – my favourite.

The next few episodes are more of this on repeat as the world opens up for Koguma. We see her make her first friend – Reiko, a fellow Super Cub enthusiast whom Koguma sees not as a friend but as someone with a shared passion for motorbikes, which she holds in deeper regard. We see her take on side jobs, earn her first paycheck, meet new people and uncover new places and run her moped ragged for the very first time as she travels down a rainswept highway in rural Japan. In each scene her smile grows larger, the music swells, softly and subtly, and the colors burst and brighten as if the world itself is coming into life around Koguma. That’s what I imagine Super Cub is ultimately about. It’s about how Koguma finding color in the world after what has clearly been a difficult life, riding on the back of her Super Cub toward new, more vibrant horizons. If that’s the direction Super Cub plans on sticking with, I’ll definitely stick with it until the end.

As Koguma’s smile grows wider and wider, so too does the world around her grow brighter and more vibrant.

One thing I’d like to point out with Super Cub is it totally feels like a paid advertisement for Honda. It’s weird. I get that the Super Cub is a Honda-brand moped, but holy crap, the logo is everywhere. If this wasn’t sponsored by Honda, I’d be surprised. So, as an advocate for carbon-free transportation, I do have to warn people going in about the very blatant brand placement that happens in this show.

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