Episode 12, “Super Cub,” heralds one final season with our trio: Spring, which still is crisp and cold, though there's no lingering snow as Koguma looks out her apartment window. Far away from Hokuto City, there are cherry blossom blooming, signaling change, and a trip for the trio as they head to go see the blooms together. Their goal? To go as far as they can to see the blossoms, and seize Spring in their own hands, with their own eyes and high spirits. In many ways, this opening monologue about the flowers -done, of course, by Koguma- is beautiful table setting for what definitively feels like a finale. It's also a pleasant way to ease viewers into one last adventure with the Cub Trio.
Post-OP, the girls head to Beurre, sipping on coffee ahead of their trek. Shii's father presents them with komisbrot, a dark, German rye bread that holistically, was used as military provisions for soldiers because it has a very long shelf life, as well as plenty of Vitamin B1. Ahead of their trip, Shii's mother looks rather worried. It makes sense, given the events of episode 10 and episode 11. Still, Shii isn't alone: she has two of her best friends, plus… they've all got their trusty rides. They'll come back safe and sound, and hopefully, full of cherry blossoms and adventure. And so, we're off: the girls cruise through Hokuto City's downtown, angling towards Shizuoka where they'll see their first round of cherry blossoms, if they choose. After that, they'll keep going for as far as they can.
A lot of the first leg of the girl's adventure is piano instrumentals and the sound of their bikes puttering along the road as the girls meander further and further from Hokuto City. There's very little talking -none, really- until they take a break, allowing Reiko and Koguma to check their cubs for any damage. It also gives the girls a moment to decide the next leg of their adventure. Then we're back to upbeat piano montages as the girls make their way through a variety of rural towns, stopping occasionally to rest and enjoy the local flavor.
It's not until the girls stop for lunch that we get another conversation, which is held over slices of komisbrot topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon. It's definitely a step up from the rice Koguma planned to make, and makes their trip feels a bit more special. Plus, it's nice to see all of the girls back in true form after having such a harrowing winter. Bread consumed, we're back off, heading towards Nagoya City, which is far more urban and populated than little Hokuto. Then we're in Mie Prefecture, then Shiga, with the sun at the girl's back. They pass by Lake Biwa and finally… head to a hotel for the night. Then they wake up and do it all over again.
The bulk of episode 12 is quiet moments, as so much of this series has been. It's the hum of cub motors, the rushing wind, the piano instrumental, and the iconic OP leitmotif when things get really cheerful. It's nights spent crowded in a single hotel room as a cheap business inns. It's the sound of tires on pavement. It's lots of little moments until the girls chat with one another, only to repeat that beautiful series of sounds all over again.
A lot of episode 12 is also, for lack of a better term, travel porn. It's beautiful vistas and landscapes and rural Japan. It's cruising past major natural landmarks like Lake Biwa and the Tottori Sand Dunes. It's cruising through Kanto and Kansai. It's the simple joy of seeing somewhere new. And I love it. It feels like what this series has been building towards since episode 1. Episode 12 is, also, seeing Koguma happy. Seeing her grin and escape the boundaries of her lonely life. It's seeing her move through another phase of her on-going battle with depression as she, Reiko, and Shii fill up the gas tanks of the cubs, pick a route, and ride without a care in the world. Each kilometer is the farthest Koguma's ever gone, and it's amazing to be right there with her and her friends, chasing adventure and cherry blossoms as Spring rolls over the landscape.
When the girls finally seize Spring in Kagoshima Prefecture -the southernmost Prefecture that their cubs can physically take them too- it feels like a quiet victory. And as Koguma recalls Shii's tearful plea to rescue her from Winter, it feels like now… the girls can move on from the terrifying heartache of Shii's accident, especially now that she's safe and sound. As the wind blows cherry blossom petals around, there is this distinct feeling that the kids will be okay. And not just okay: that they, like the cherry blossoms, will bloom and grow and keep growing together as they ride their cubs and look towards adulthood. Even though that story is yet untold, you know that they'll be okay, that this is the first of many adventures.
By the time the girls return to Hokuto City, the cherry blossoms have come, chasing the hum of their cubs as they herald Spring back home, filling the air with the soft scent of flowers and the chiri-chiri falling sound of swirling masses of pretty pink petals. It's as if they carried Spring back in the fallen petal Shii catches near the end of episode 12, welcoming the change of a season -and the start of a new school year together- as they move on from her traumatic event by moving through the trauma that they all carry from that night.
When I tell you I cried, I cried.
Yet this isn't the most beautiful part of the episode. The most beautiful part is when Shii reveals that she got a cub of her own. Specifically: she gets a light blue Little cub, which ironically, matches her hoodie and suits her shorter statue perfectly. Perhaps that's why she bought it, though the episode doesn't go to any length to say so. That's just my idea, and personally, I think it's a cute one. Now, Shii can go anywhere, and while her Alex Moulton bike took her places, she has freedom to cruise further, to go further, to go at the same pace as her two best friends.
When I tell you I sobbed, I mean I sobbed, open mouth, gasping for air, tissues clutched in my hands as I forced myself to keep on typing and reviewing until the credits rolled one last time. God, I love Super Cub so, so much.
In many ways, this is the best way for Super Cub to end. It's a beautifully optimistic series about hope, about depression, and about the power of small acts of kindness and taking a chance. While we don't have the novels and manga in English, I easily see myself sinking into purchasing them as soon as I can. I'm hungry for more of Koguma's adventures, for more of her friendship with Reiko and Shii, for more of the joy of simple, mundane things like riding a motorbike and going to see somewhere new. I love mundane thrills: I live for cups of tea, for meals and travelling to a new place to see something specific. Mundane delights are so much more powerful than, say, something big and spectacular. That's a flash in the pan, a firework in the night sky: travelling somewhere new and spending time with friends? That's the kind of beautiful everyday memory that lasts forever. And isn't that what Super Cub is celebrating, at its core? Friendship, and healing, and the kindness of others. Those beautiful, impactful memories that are the spice of life, that help us all find the kind of adventure we long for, be it a trip to the secondhand shop or riding bikes with your friends.
That's what makes this a banger -albeit, a quiet banger- of a finale. It's seeing weeks -in-show, basically a year- of growth gel together in a beautiful moment where the girls celebrate Spring and return back home to keep being friends and keep growing together. It's seeing how vibrant this episode is, how the colors pop, how Koguma has slowly opened up and now, knows that the world is a place with love and happiness. While Koguma most certainly will have her bad days -as so many of us living alongside mental illness do- she will almost certainly have good days, and even great days like the entirety of episode 12. And better? She's no long alone. She has her friends, her community, and her Super Cub to help guide her through even the worst of days. And gosh, if that doesn't just do it for me in the end, and make me cry all over again.
As I close my time with Super Cub, I think back to the premier. In it, very early on, I called Super Cub “THE anime of Spring 2021,” which is absolutely is. I'm even further quoted on the Super Cub Wikipedia for saying that, “[Super Cub] is the anime to watch this year,” with the additional flavor text of me saying that episode 1 was “a masterpiece of a premier...full of a lot of truly beautiful moments where…[the art and colors]...come together to make really striking, evocative scenes.”
And I imagine, at the end of this series, that some of you might be wondering, “Mercedez, did Super Cub stick the landing? Do you still stand by that claim?” I imagine that even with my ratings over the past few weeks, that might not be enough to cement my very early praise. So, let me answer you question, if anyone out there is asking.
I most definitely still stand by that claim, and actually, feel more sure than ever about my thoughts. Super Cub is one of the best anime this year: I firmly believe I'll feel that way in Summer, and in Fall. I'm sure on December 31, 2021, when I publicly share my Top 5 for the year, Super Cub will be either 1 or 2. It depends on where I place it against Idoly Pride, which is another show I love. But somehow, I sense that Super Cub will stay with me well beyond 2021... especially when I fork over a couple hundred yen for the premium Blu-Ray boxset this year.
I have a lot of thoughts now that we've reached the end, but my biggest is gratitude. I feel an overwhelming abundance of satisfaction, of happiness, of joy at being able to cover Super Cub. Thank you for following along with my week to week coverage of this very special series. I feel honored to have been able to write about it, to share my own little special, quiet moments with everyone who has read or engaged with my articles. While it's hard to let Super Cub go, I know this won't be my last rodeo with reviewing here on ANN. For now, I'll end my article with a promise to see you next season with Summer 2021's line-up. I'll also end it with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite children's from Dr. Seuss's Oh The Places You'll Go, with a very little twist:
You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your own Super Cub is waiting, so… get on your way! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the person who'll decide where to go.
I wish you all the adventure and kindness this world can offer you. For now… see you next season, everyone!
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.