Super Cub - The Complete Season review, feature image

Review: Super Cub – The Complete Season (Blu-Ray)

Super Cub sounds like the name of an old cartoon about a cute bear being a super hero. Given this is an anime-focused site, let’s consider it in the spirit of The American Rabbit, a Toei production from the 80s I watched on repeat as a kid that probably needs a re-watch before I watch it with my son because the 80s was a wild time.

But we’re not here to reminisce on the shifting sands of 80s children’s animation – we’re here to talk about one of the most delightfully chilled-out anime series to come out this year with Super Cub – The Complete Season.

In Super Cub – The Complete Series, loner high school student Koguma comes to the conclusion one day that riding a bicycle up steep hills in semi-rural Hokuto is for chumps and decides that getting a motorbike is rad. In ditching her push-bike for the iconic Honda Super Cub she finds her once-small and isolated world gradually broaden as her independence leads her on a journey of self-discovery, finding the joy getting lost in her new hobby and meeting some like-minded friends on the way.

Super Cub - The Complete Season review, Kagome and Reiko on Kagome's Super Cub

I tend to go in reasonably blind where practical for reviews. Super Cub – The Complete Series kind of gave me a feeling of – what would Miyuki and Natsumi from You’re Under Arrest be like if they were friends in high school? Turns out there’s a bit of truth to that, but only if taking a really broad reading of the story.

Though if we’re being critical, is there really a tight story in Super Cub? Is it s focused narrative? Is there a purpose?

In practice it’s a really interesting mix of ideas, and potentially what makes it engaging is the fuzziness around it’s focus.

On the surface, it’s a story about Koguma deciding to move on from her push bike to a light motorcycle, specifically the iconic Honda Super Cub. There’s a meticulousness to the discussion and representation of the Cub, to the point that I’m now spotting the damn thing everywhere in anime and video games with an angle on everyday life in Japan. Replaying the greatest video game of all time frequently sees one of the locals burning around Dobuita and Sakuragaoka on one.

Seriously – see the first screenshot in the above. Bam, Super Cub.

Honda’s credited quite heavily in there as well, explaining how the Cub’s handled across the show.

Super Cub - The Complete Season review, Kagome and Reiko's Super Cubs

So does this mean it’s an anime about being a Cub otaku? In a way, I guess it could be given the extensive discussions around Cubs and customising them to suit the rider’s conditions.

Then there’s the story which focuses incredibly heavily on the mundaneness of daily life for Koguma in her home town, going to school and catching up with friends. So does this make it a slice of life drama about the daily grind in a regional town?

Super Cub - The Complete Season review, Kagome ready to ride

But then you need to consider the core cast. Koguma lives alone and isolated in an apartment block nursing a heavy case of social awkardness and loneliness. But throughout Super Cub – The Complete Season she learns the value of independence, taking pride in her passions and that hobbies and interests are key elements of forging social connections. So is it a voyage of self discovery?

My personal take is that the final of these is what Super Cub is trying to settle as its core theme, with the obsessive attention to the mechanics of the motorcycle acting as the objective drive the narrative leverages to tell its story. The slice of life and slow pace becomes the means with which we experience Koguma’s experiences and growth, but in setting the energy it goes against the grain of so much contemporary audio-visual storytelling and complements the structure of the TV series perfectly.

There was something almost meditative about each episode, and I loved the confidence the team brought to the production of marrying these various elements without relying on fan service or larger-than-life scenarios to break the atmosphere it pulled together so well.

Super Cub - The Complete Season review, Reiko working on her bike

Super Cub – The Complete Season as a result won’t be for everyone. It demands patience from the viewer, but rewards it with a lovingly realised story that speaks to how a journey for something as niche as nerding out over a Honda Super Cub can lead someone to rediscover themselves, forge an identity and appreciate the environment around them.

For the local Blu-Ray release, Super Cub – The Complete Season runs across 2 discs and is bilingual to satisfy both camps. Encoding looks great too. The extras include the usual creditless ops/eds and promo gear, but there’s also an extensive featurette watching the production team as they do location research which demonstrates just how much effort they put into visual design and explains why it feels so grounded. It was unexpected, but so awesome – I love this kind of behind the scenes stuff, and comparing the real-world locales against the production shows just how well they nailed it.

Super Cub - The Complete Season review, Koguma, Reiko and Shii

Super Cub – The Complete Season does an amazing job of pulling together a contemplative slice of life story that feels so uniquely Japanese. Granted this won’t be on everyone’s radar, but it’s a sleeper hit waiting to gain a cult following in the years to come!

Radness scale:

A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.