Spring 2021 is a season packed with really solid titles, ranging from the highly anticipated To Your Eternity to Fruits Basket the Final to Zombie Land Saga Revenge and even Moriarty the Patriot Season 2. It's a loaded season, full of, like I said, anticipation. Then, there's Super Cub, quietly waiting for you to notice it. And trust me, I noticed it, enough that I watched episode 1 the day it dropped, cried, and then watched it again multiple times since my inaugural watch.
So, allow me to guide you into Super Cub, which I'm going to declare THE anime of Spring 2021.
Episode 1, “The Girl with Nothing” is a masterpiece of a premiere. As the kids say, that's the tweet. However, let's expand that into something more. Ahem.
Episode 1, “The Girl with Nothing” is a masterpiece of a premiere that introduces viewers to Koguma, a girl with nothing: no friends, no family, no hobbies, and honestly a fairly spartan apartment. She spends her days as a high school student living in rural Hokuto City, silently making her way to and from school. For the most part, that means waking up, eating, go to school, coming home, eating and sleeping. It's immensely lonely, and that loneliness cuts through until she buys a Honda Super Cub with a somewhat fraught history, and her world blooms into color. Most of the episode is spent with Koguma slowly realizing that her world is, after so long, opening up. It's beautifully executed, to the point that I was brought to tears multiple times for this very sweet kid who just… has been so alone.
Yet Episode 2, “Reiko” is where Koguma's world truly opens up. Even though her Super Cub brought color back into her life, she's still a rather closed off kid, wrestling with immense depression and the abject nothing she has in her life. Now that she has her Cub, she's starting to smile again, and even starts to see how limitless the world can be on the back of a bike.
Episode 2 is also where Koguma gains a new friend who, coincidentally, has a bike of her own. However, it's not a Honda Super Cub: it's a Super Retro , which is —indeed— what Japan Post bike riders use as they cruise around delivering the day to day mail. Together, they slowly start a tentative friendship over the course of the second episode. It's one that viewers will definitely want to see blossom into a more complex friendship.
Even the soundtrack, which previously consisted of atmospheric sounds, fleshes out with a cheerful piano and flute combo that echoes Koguma's growing enthusiasm for her new Cub. This is an enthusiasm her classmates share in a deeply touching scene where they crowd Koguma and press her for questions about her new ride. Thrillingly, this is only the start of Koguma's world changing for the better, and it's all thanks to her new Honda Super Cub.
The animation for Super Cub is, quite frankly, very cute. It's not necessarily outstanding: you're not going to find intense, eye-smarting detail, nor high budget character design. What you're going to find is a style that matches its teenage protagonist, and animation that really captures the solitude that the titular girl with nothing feels in her day to day. That being said, there's a lot of truly beautiful moments where the colors, the slightly sketchy style of the lines, and the more earth-toned colors come together to make really striking, evocative scenes. These are definitely one of Super Cub's strengths, though the show employs them only when they're needed and when they count the most.
There's also so much liminal space in Super Cub's premiere episode. What I mean by that is that there's all of these tiny, little moments of Koguma existing in solitude that painstakingly highly how little she has in her world made of one. I'm not sure who's handling sound design for the series, but whomever is doing that crucial behind the scenes work is a truly skilled individual, playing with all the ambient noises rural Japan can offer.
Most of these sounds are ones familiar to my own four years in rural Japan. The chuckle of a creek and the zipping sound of wind over grass. The rising, itchy, screaming cries of cicadas. The click-click-click-click of a one-speed bike chain going downhill. The subtle sound of steaming rice and the pleasant snick of a rice cooker opening. The hum of classmates talking. The mournful piano plucking our strains as she moves about the world.
Then, the times where the music drops out completely, immersing Koguma in her thoughts.
Super Cub feels like this season's dark horse, and we're only two episodes in. I know that's preemptive, but I'm fully going to call it: this is the anime to watch this year if you don't watch anything else. Much like Winter 2020's Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, it feels like an anime that fans will overlook and circle back to after the season. However, I caution you about missing out on watching this week to week. While Super Cub might be good in a binge, I think there's a lot of value to sitting down every week and taking twenty-four minutes to sit with Koguma and this series' depiction of depression and just… exist.
I know I certainly look forward to this very thoughtful series. Hopefully, you've got room on your list for Super Cub. If not, then make some: you're not going to want to miss out.
Super Cub is currently streaming on Funimation.
Mercedez is a localization editor & QA, pop culture critic, and a writer who also writes & reviews at Anime Feminist and But Why Tho?. There, she gushes about idols anytime someone lets her, which is… not often enough. 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, where she's always up to something.