by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Super Cub ?
Episode 11, “A Distant Spring” picks up with episode 10's cliffhanger pretty much immediately. It makes sense, given the dire nature of Shii's call to Koguma. As Shii desperately begs for help, 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 lends the scene a melancholic vibe. Suitably, 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.
Thankfully, Koguma and her super cub are on the way. 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-made scene that 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, lays her on the rocks, and attempts to slap her awake. Her newfound friend eventually shivers back to life, and Koguma starts to devise a way to get Shii back up to the road. It's perhaps the strongest opening of the show to date, and that's saying a lot when you consider the table setting the premier did.
Smartly, Koguma 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 tends to Shii. There's actually a good amount of “comedy” threaded through this opening, especially towards the end when Koguma 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 death, Shii is far from perfectly fine. Hence Koguma offering up tidbits 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 crucial her actions are at the time.
Post-OP, the pair is back at Koguma's apartment. Koguma helps Shii get out of her wet clothes. Now isn't the time for modesty: Koguma is solely focused on getting Shii warmed up, and getting her wet clothes washed and dried. Moments later, Reiko arrives while hauling Shii's bike, and… gosh, is it busted. It's a wonder Shii didn't end up even more injured. 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 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 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 have her own time. 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. 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 returns – 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 small, but extremely kind gesture. Looks like they'll be haunting the café more and more, which is definitely a good thing. I love both the café and Shii's parents so much.
Things return to normal, except now, Shii's riding a mamachari, which is a popular “granny bike” that you've probably seen in nearly every 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, why they don't react more emotionally, or 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 supervise Shii in the bath, or why she didn't maybe show a bit more mindfulness. These are definitely things that could detract from your enjoyment of this episode, though I personally didn't mind them, 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 as empathetic as she should be feels like how a realteenager would've acted, 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 the scene without talking. My favorite quiet moments from episode 11 include Shii washing dishes and crying, the gentle scratching of mechanical pencils on paper during the final exams, and the wind blowing as Koguma's world fills back in with color as she recalls that moment in episode 1 where she was huffing uphill on her bike and Shii passed her by. Then again, I treasure every single quiet moment in Super Cub, especially in episode 11. They really add to the emotions conjured up by this episode.
All in all, Episode 11 is an excellent follow-up to last week's cliffhanger episode. Shii's development feels incredibly authentic, 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. It's 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 a realistic portrayal of 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 while humming the earworm OP. I have a lot of complicated, complex feelings about it, all of which need to be shoved into articles. I yearn for a second cour, another set of twelve episodes next season, next year, or however long it might take. Yet I know that letting go is what must inevitably happen. And to a degree, moving on, and moving towards something else, are the series' central themes. 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.
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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