Super Cub ‒ Episode 11

3 months ago 41

Episode 11, “A Distant Spring” picks up with episode 10's cliffhanger pretty immediately. Makes sense, given the dire nature of Shii's call to Koguma. The music picks up with an unsettling series of string chords that change between minor keys -the most prominent sounding like a D-minor, which can convey a melancholy vibe. All of this plays as Shii desperately begs for help. Thankfully, Koguma and her super cub are on the way. Suitable, the song chosen is Vivaldi Four Seasons: Winter, a song which is typically performed in D-minor. It is, in many ways, the only song I can imagine for this moment.

Koguma carefully picks her way along the road, which is both icy and dark, skidding her way towards Shii as the music swells. It's a really well done scene, and feels genuinely anxiety-inducing, even if we know, thanks to the power of the OP, that Shii will be okay. Koguma happens upon Shii soon enough, finding her half immersed in chilly spring water. She drags her to land, laying her on the rocks and eventually, slapping Shii awake. Finally, her newfound friend shivers back to life, and Koguma starts to construct a way to get Shii back up to the road. It's a really strong opening: perhaps the strongest to date, and that's saying a lot when you consider the table setting the premier did.

Koguma acts quite smartly, once Shii is on land. She decides that the best course of action is to get Shii-chan back up to her bike and into a hot bath before getting her back to the cafe and her family. She also calls Reiko, who reacts with similar shock, which, in its own way, bolsters Koguma and gives her a bit of quiet vigor as she rescues Shii. There's actually a good amount of “comedy” threaded through this opening, especially towards the end when Koguma finally, finally, plops Shii into her cub's front basket and rides off with her. Perhaps “comedy” isn't the right word: there's genuine anxiety in Koguma's actions because well, her friend nearly froze. While there's no implication of “to death”, Shii is far from well... perfectly fine. Hence Koguma offering up tidbits of false hope in the way of lightheartedness. Though... “lightheartedness” doesn't fit either. It's more like Koguma is putting on a brave face so she keeps her head, given Shii's weakened condition and how she's approaching the situation.

Post-OP, the twosome are back at Koguma's apartment for one. Kogma instructs Shii to get out of her wet clothes, and even assists her. Now isn't the time for modesty: Koguma is explicitly focused on getting Shii warmed up, and getting her wet clothes washed and dried. Mere moments later, Reiko arrives, having hauled Shii's bike, and… gosh, is it busted. It's a wonder Shii didn't end up hurt even more, a wonder that Shii's still here with us. This is cut with a flashback to a conversation with Shii's father, who was the one that “pushed” the Alex Moulton bike on her. He mentions that Shii is trying -so hard- to be like Koguma and Reiko. Perhaps that reckless side of her is what partially resulted in this incident, though it's hard to blame her for wanting to be like her friends.

Things lighten up almost immediately, as so many events often do when peril isn't imminent, and really, when emotions are frayed Now that all the girls are together, the music returns to a chipper major key as the girls plot an impromptu sleepover, complete with a nice bowl of curry udon. It leads to a sweet scene where Reiko raids Koguma's fridge, finding hard-boiled eggs to top all of their ramen with. Koguma attempts to be stoic, but ultimately, it's clear that she's glad to fill her apartment with a bit more noise and warmth. Yet as upbeat as this leg of the episode is, it's hard to shake the anxiety over Shii's accident.

Then Reiko just comes out and cuts the tension. She tells Shii that her bike is done for, which leads into a very quiet, pensive scene of her crying while washing the dishes. The sound of the faucet almost just covers up her sobbing… until Koguma goes to dry the dishes as a form of comforting Shii, and letting her just… feel. A bowl symbolically overflows as Shii finally starts to react to her accident, begging Koguma to make it Spring, to take away the bitterness of Winter with her newfound freedom and super cub. Yet realistically, Shii knows this can't happen. But that doesn't stop her from yearning to be past this pain. It's so bitterly relatable that I felt the corners of my eyes start stinging in sympathy.

The next day, Shii is returned, safe, sound, and dry, to her mother and father, both of whom are overjoyed. As a reward for rescuing Shii, her parents gift Koguma and Reiko a free pass for coffee and sandwiches for the next year. It's a little thing, but feels extremely kind. Looks like they'll be haunting the café more and more, which like, yes: I love the café and both of Shii's parents so much.

And then… things are back to normal, except now, Shii's riding a mamachari, which is a popular “granny bike” that you've probably seen in nearly ever single slice-of-life anime. It's jarring, but feels authentic and intensely relatable. After all, awful, horrific things are so often bordered and boxed in by the mundane. Tragedy and normalcy go hand in hand. As the girls find their day-to-day stride again, their friendship starts to morph. More and more, Shii starts to lag behind. She stops working on her Italian bar, starts offering up non-committal smiles that don't reach her eyes, starts to distance herself from Koguma and Reiko. Ironically, it echoes Koguma's own characterization early on. Thankfully, that's not how things will end for the girls. There's a bright future ahead, and one final season -Spring- before we leave the girls in Hokuto City next week.

I'll be frank: I think this episode will probably divide fans. I won't say how exactly because I don't know and I don't engage with fandom in forums much, but I can imagine that folks will leave this episode feeling some emotions, whether they're positive or negative. I think that's fair: there's an argument to be made as to why the girls don't call for an adult, for why they don't react more emotionally, for why they don't pick up on how traumatized Shii is. I think there's a lot to be said for why Koguma didn't supervisor Shii in the bath, for why she didn't maybe show a bit more mindfulness. There's definitely things you could focus on, though I personally didn't, both in my watch and as I was writing my review.

What I'll say is that I think this episode perfectly demonstrates how being a teenager can be: sometimes, you don't do the smart thing, or the right thing, or the perfect thing. Being a teenager is messy, and I really appreciate the space Super Cub gives to messy emotions. All too often, young women are expected to have eagle eyes, to notice every intricate detail and react in proper ways. This, of course, bleeds into adulthood: it can't be helped, when that's the expectation. Seeing Koguma flub and not be the most empathetic kid feels like a realteenager, especially one who's living with deep depression and may not have the emotional capacity to respond in a kind, "smart" way.

As always, there's lots of space built into the sound design for quiet, liminal moments where the girls move through a scene without talking. My favorite quiet moments from episode 11 include Shii washing dishes and crying, the gentle scratching of pencils -specifically, mechanical pencils- on paper during the final exams, the wind blowing as Koguma's world fills back in with color, as she remembers that moment in episode 1 where she was huffing uphill on her bike, and Shii passed her by. Then again, truth be told, I treasure every single quiet moment, especially in episode 11. They really add to the emotionality of this episode.

All in all, Episode 11 is excellent. It's a really powerful episode ahead of the finale, and an excellent second part to last week's cliffhanger episode. Shii's development feels incredibly dynamic, as does the grief and frustration with her trauma from the accident. It's not perfect, by all means, but it is a really impactful episode that wrung tears out of me for sure. Shii's reluctance to reach out to the girls until the very end feels like how most people react in reality: intensely painful, completely understandable, and achingly familiar. While I knew I'd like this episode -because I'm determined to be the number one Super Cub stan in North America- I didn't think I'd go so hard for it. But honestly, seeing such an authentic episode about how teenagers cope with life-altering change -especially teenage girls- was such a nice way to resolve episode 10's cliffhanger that I have no personal complaints.

It's hard to imagine that after next week, there will be no more Super Cub to watch. It's hard to let this show go. It's even harder to keep myself from buying up all the manga and light novels, though that's a completely separate, and personal, problem. But that's just how deeply Super Cub has affected me. I genuinely spend a lot of time each week reflecting on it, humming the earworm OP,. I have a lot of complicated, complex feelings about it, all of which need to be shoved into articles. I wish for -and long for- a second cour, another set of twelve episodes next season, or even next year. Yet I know that letting go is what will, inevitably, happen. And to a degree, moving on, and moving through to something else, are critical messages in this series. I know that Super Cub will have to end. So… for now, I'm going to really let myself get excited for next week's finale Super Cub Wednesday, and for the cherry blossoms that will come with Spring.

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Super Cub is currently streaming on Funimation.

Mercedez is a JP-EN localization editor & QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who also writes & reviews at Anime Feminist and But Why Tho?. She's also a frequent guest on the AniFem Podcast, Chatty AF. This anime season, she's all about Super Cub, which is great because she's also reviewing it here on ANN. When she's not writing, you can find her on her Twitter or on her Instagram where she's always up to something.

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