This’ll sound like a really obvious statement to make, but I’ll make the statement anyway just for the sake of what will follow: it’s really amazing how your tastes can change throughout your life. When I was in my teens and twenties, when it came to anime, I was mostly drawn towards anything to do with space and science fiction; Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo, Trigun, Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, Big O, etc. However, in recent years, I’ve found myself becoming interested in more “down to Earth” anime which are often categorized as being a “slice of life.” They’re stories of normal people doing normal things.
Shows like K-On, Non Non Biyori, Yuru Camp, and the one that I want to take the time to talk about now: Super Cub. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t too interested when I read the synopsis:
Second year high school student Koguma doesn’t lead a very interesting life. She has no parents, and no friends nor hobbies to keep her daily life busy. One day, she acquires a second-hand Honda Super Cub motorcycle and rides it to school. As time goes by, not only does Koguma have a new adventurous life, but she also forges new friendships in the process.
That doesn’t sound too special, right? Well, I couldn’t be more wrong… or, should I say, my friend Nekospectre couldn’t be more right! After all, he was the one who recommended it to me. Actually, to that point, and at the risk of making another obvious statement: it’s amazing how two people can enjoy the same thing and yet they both connect with it on an emotional level in two totally different ways. For Nekospectre, who is a motorcyclist, it brought back memories of their first motorbike and that feeling of freedom and endless possibilities which it can provide on the open road when you’re young. For me, as someone who only knows enough about their car to get from Point A to Point B, I enjoyed the show more so from the fact that it really spoke to me in terms of my depression and anxieties.
As the synopsis for the show points out, the main character, Koguma, has a lot going against her in life as she has no parents. Which, in a way, is probably one of my only real critiques of Super Cub in terms of its storytelling; at least in the anime. In the anime it’s only given a mere mention that she has no parents, with no real explanation given as to why, whereas in the manga its explicitly stated that Koguma’s father died when she was young and her mother “disappeared” before Koguma entered high school. Therefore, Koguma now lives alone and lives off some sort of monthly “stipend” or “scholarship.” Although, again, there’s no real specifics given on how that works exactly or where it actually comes from in turn.
Such can sometimes be my love/hate relationship with “slice of life” anime, as they’re often presented “in media res” without much information given beyond the proverbial “slice” from that particular part of someone’s life. Then again, in this case, maybe it’s just more an issue with the manga to anime adaptation; which itself is a tale as old as time. Regardless, and despite the shallow depth of context, what’s important to note is that Koguma lives alone, doesn’t have much money, nor any friends. She’s shy, timid, reserved, and depressed due to her “uninteresting” life. So much so that the colors of the show will reflect her mood.
Which, honestly, is something that I didn’t pick up on right away. I mean, I did feel like a lot of the colors in the show were quite “muted” and/or “dull,” but didn’t think too much about it until they just suddenly “brightened” up during certain scenes. I then realized that this happens whenever Koguma is happy, as if the cloudy grey dullness of her depression is given way to the rays of sunshine from her contentment. Such occurrences happen more and more frequently, as the show goes on, all starting from when she comes across and eventually purchases a second-hand Super Cub for cheap from an old local mechanic.
It’s through the purchase of said Super Cub that Koguma is finally able to “open up,” both in terms of making new friends and seeing more of the world beyond the walls of her small apartment. Despite a rather simple premise, that I dismissed at first, it ended up finally resonating with me, as I said before, in many ways. First, and foremost, I can totally relate with those feelings of isolation and seeing the world through a foggy grey cloud. Depression will often keep you from letting anyone in or even letting yourself go out; you feel nothing but a sense of hopelessness and that nothing will ever change, no matter what you do.
That’s why it’s so important to embrace and latch on to things that can elicit such colorful emotions from you, especially if you can share those feelings with someone else and create a tight bond in the process; those are the ties that bind us together, much like Koguma’s Super Cub. I mean, in a way, we all have our own “Super Cub.” Which is to say there’s something in our lives that can make us happy, that connects us with other people, and broadens our horizons. It can be a motorbike, an anime, a video game, or any other common interest or hobby. I mean, I certainly would not have most of the friends that I have, nor would I have travelled to certain places to visit them or gone to conventions, etc. if it weren’t for specific interests that we shared in common. That previous sentence might need to be added to the “obvious statement” list, but I think it’s still important to state.
I say that because, unfortunately, sometimes our anxieties can get the better of us to the point where we begin to doubt our “abilities,” question our “place,” and make us wonder if we truly “belong.” This is something that I have struggled with a lot throughout my life, and so it was another connection that I felt with Koguma. Despite the fact that she made a friend named Reiko, who is an expert on Super Cubs, Koguma still struggled to “fit in” and was reluctant to open up to Reiko at first. Perhaps it was a bit of projection on my part, due to the ways in which I often feel the same in similar situations, but I got the sense that Koguma felt a little “out of her league.” However, thanks to Reiko’s help and the “power of friendship,” Kasuga was able to overcome her doubts and take control of her situation no matter the bumps in the road. So much so that, eventually, Koguma is able to pass on the knowledge that she learned from Reiko to another new friend, Shii Eniwa, whose just beginning to get into Super Cubs by the end of the show. The student becomes the master.
Ultimately, I think this is why my taste in anime has changed quite a bit over the years. After all, the “ties that bind” most “slice of life” anime together is that they often revolve around clubs or friends who come together over specific hobbies and interests. It’s that sense of belonging that I really strive for in life. A place to call “home,” I guess, if not just a feeling of overall acceptance. So much so that, for some time now, most if not all of my dreams (and some nightmares) have involved finding myself as a stranger in a strange land, feeling “lost,” and trying to find my way “home.” I’ve yet to do so, either when I’m asleep or I’m awake, but I think what I really need to do is to just remember the immortal words of Buckaroo Banzai; “no matter where you go, there you are.” Basically, I need to be comfortable in my own skin.
As I said before, I’ve made a number of friends thanks to common interests but I regret how often I’ve also slowly distanced myself in time, or failed to even connect with someone in the first place, due to such personally perceived insecurities which have wrongfully convinced me otherwise. If anything, Super Cub has helped to remind me that you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and just be yourself, because you never know who you’ll meet or what new experiences will present themselves to you both in turn. Although, that said, shared interests are really nothing more than just the catalyst to friendships; they don’t ultimately define them, nor should they. As Koguma reflects at the end, “if you sit back and do nothing, a Super Cub won’t help you… you have to have a desire of your own.”