I’m gonna wake you up early cause I’m gonna take a ride with you.
We’re goin’ down to the Honda shop, I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do.
Put on a ragged sweatshirt, I’ll take you anywhere you want me to.
So sang the Hondells in their 1964 hit “Little Honda” (originally written and released by the Beach Boys the previous year).
In Super Cub, high school girl Koguma discovers that her purchase of a Honda Super Cub motorcycle will indeed take her anywhere she wants it to, and that truly, you do meet the nicest people on a Honda.
This article is a part of AniTAY’s Spring 2021 Early Impressions series, where our authors offer their initial thoughts on the new, prominent, and exciting anime from this season!
First gear, it’s all right
When the series opens, we meet Koguma, who’s living a muted, washed-out existence alone in Yamanashi Prefecture.
She rides her bicycle to school alone every day, where she sits in class without talking to her classmates, and eating a lunch alone.
After weeks, perhaps years, of struggling up hills to school and home on her bicycle, she decides to go look at scooters at a local shop. She’s distressed to see that the prices are well out of her range, until the shop owner takes pity on her, and shows her a lightly-used Honda Super Cub 50, at a price of only 10,000 yen (slightly less than $100 US). Koguma sits on the Super Cub… and the colors of her world suddenly brighten for a moment.
She enquires as to the significantly low price, and is told:
This doesn’t put her off, and after earning her scooter license, she is able to pick up her motorcycle. She drives it home, where she can’t stop admiring it, and thinking about it.
I’d better turn on the lights
So we can ride my Honda tonight.
Koguma eventually takes a late night ride to the convenience store, where she encounters a situation faced by many new drivers: She has accidentally run out of gas and can’t get home. Luckily, she remembers that the shop owner made sure to put the bike manual in its holder, and the manual comes to the rescue (not for the last time!) in showing her how to switch to the reserve fuel. She makes it home, only to fall asleep in her front hallway, just waking up in time to get ready and ride her Super Cub to school.
Second gear, lean right
The second episode opens where the first left off. Koguma arrives at school on her motorcycle for the first time. In school, she finds that nothing is really different than the day before, although we also focus briefly on one of her classmates, in a bit of foreshadowing.
Everything changes in sewing class, however, when in response to some teasing from classmates about the amount of material she’s taking, she reveals that she’s planning to make a bag big enough to hold her helmet and gloves for her Super Cub. This revelation attracts the attention of her classmate Reiko, who wants to see Koguma’s bike. Reiko, it turns out, is a Cub enthusiast.
Reiko owns a Cub of her own, a souped-up Postal Cub, which she eagerly shows off to Koguma.
The show makes a point to focus on Koguma going straight at a large intersection on her route to and from school that day and the next morning. The next day, Reiko turns down another classmate’s invitation to sit and eat lunch together in favor of practically dragging Koguma outside so they can sit on their Cubs while having lunch.
Reiko explains how her Cub makes her feel like she can go anywhere she likes, as far as she likes. When Koguma notes that she hasn’t really gone far yet, Reiko notes:
Pondering this conversation on her way home from school, Koguma makes a decision — and turns right at the intersection.
Out past the gas station and convenience store from the previous episode, she finds a supermarket, where she spots her usual lunch options for cheap, and takes the opportunity to do some grocery shopping. She notes that she’s gone somewhere new, done things on the way home from school she hasn’t before, how she’s found unknown places and unknown streets where she never would have gone otherwise. As she reflects on this, we see Reiko and her Cub at a scenic overlook, while Koguma finishes by noting how she can’t wait to see where she goes tomorrow.
Third gear, hang on tight
If you like “comfy” / “chill” shows such as Yuru Camp or Houkago Teibo Nisshi, then Super Cub looks poised to fill the gap left in our lives by the end of Yuru Camp Season 2 last season. I’m not familiar with the source material, so it’s hard to say if “no parents” and “some people were killed” are potentially looming black clouds ahead. Either way, I’m certainly looking to see where it goes. Per the show’s synopsis, they appear to be heading towards an after school club, presumably leading to Koguma opening up more, and finding out more about the world and herself through the power of a motorcycle brand that has sold over 100 million bikes, making it the most-produced motorized vehicle of all time.
(Side digression: If Jay Leno, and James May, who rode a virtually identical, if older, Honda Cub 50 in a race across Tokyo, and Wikipedia all call the Super Cub a motorcycle, then a motorcycle it is, not a scooter.)
It seems clear that the question “how far will my Super Cub take me?” from the end of the first episode will be the underlying theme for the entire show. (Also to be explored: will Koguma learn to relax enough to go fast enough to not have cars and trucks blowing past her in/near town?)
We also have the contrast between the seemingly-introverted Koguma, and the more outgoing Reiko. While this may seem reminiscent of that other set of Yamanashi Prefecture-based high school girls in Yuru Camp (crossover when?), in Super Cub, we see Koguma wonder if Reiko will talk to her again, and more importantly, we see her take the first step in saying good morning to Reiko in the classroom. While Reiko has lunch with Koguma and they talk more the second day, it’s not a case of “instant extrovert, just add first friend” for Koguma. By contrast, back at the beginning of the first day of riding her Cub to school, Koguma imagines how it might go if she suddenly stood up and announced her motorcycle purchase — and shrinks back from the idea that her classmates might mob her in response.
Visually, the series has so far been fairly straightforward. Quite a few shots of the same set of roads, the school, Koguma’s apartment. The bikes, perhaps even more so than the girls (with the exception of Koguma’s crooked smile), are the real stars of the show, with loving attention paid to their details.
Music-wise, we’ve been treated in both episodes to classical piano compositions, carrying us through some of the quieter parts of the show. At other points, there’s not much if any music at all, giving that extra feeling of being alone even around other people. The opening and closing songs are nice enough, if not particularly memorable (yet), while the ending features some fantastic illustrations turned into animation.
Faster, it’s all right…
When I first read about the series, I thought “girls doing a motorcycling club… eh” and was going to give this a pass. But I reconsidered and decided to give it a chance. And so far, I’m glad I did — I’m now looking forward each week to seeing where Koguma’s motorcycle will take her, both physically and in her personal life. One thing to note — despite the fact that this is a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show (and seriously, that crooked smile that comes up so much on Koguma’s face as she admires her bike, and the brilliant smiles on Reiko’s as she talks about feeling like she can go anywhere, are both fantastic), this is not a comedy per se. But a “comfy” slice of life-ish show, with mostly low stakes and some occasional drama (probably), seems right up my alley this season, and maybe it will be for you too.
We’ll ride on out of the town
To anyplace I know you like.
The images, music and lyrics, and ad slogan in this article are all believed and intended to be Fair Use under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act (17 USC § 107).