As a fairly new fan of anime, I trust my BFF who introduced me to the genre and she has never steered me wrong. So when she put Sk8 The Infinity on my radar, and a bit under the weather after my first Covid-19 vaccine, I made an account on Funimation and watched.
The series follows Reki, a second year high school student who loves skateboarding, and Langa, a student who has just returned to Japan from living abroad. Reiki is quick to befriend and introduce him to “S,” an extremely dangerous skateboarding race that takes place in an abandoned mine nearby. Despite having no skateboarding experience Langa finds himself more and more involved in “S” and the wild characters that take part.
But the bond the two share over skating takes precedence over any sort of rivalry.
Above: “Shipping and sports anime go together like two boys creating an infinity symbol with their fists to signify the fact that they’ll skate together forever.” via The Mary Sue.
The Mary Sue: “We gotta talk about SK8 the Infinity’s finale, and how we Renga shippers (aka: those who ship the two leads, Reki Kyan and Langa Hasegawa) won big at S this last Saturday. Reki came to terms with the fact that it’s okay that he isn’t like Langa and the others as long as he’s enjoying skateboarding. Once he caught up to Langa, the two skateboarded together, with Langa confirming what we already knew—he enjoys skateboarding the most when he’s with Reki. Langa goes on a monologue where he unapologetically admits all of this to Reki, making him completely flustered, but Reki agrees that he wants to skate with Langa for infinity.”
// sk8 spoilers
— miko ❥ reki kyan’s manager (@rekiIovebot) April 3, 2021
The twelve episode series tells the story two teenage boys, Reki, a spunky high school sophomore who loves skateboarding and a shy transfer student Langa, who moved to Japan after the death of his father. Already a snowboarder, Langa (with Reki’s help) becomes one of the best skaters in town, rising up the ranks to become the one to beat at S — an underground racing event at a forgotten mine. Langa’s sudden rise to fame draws the attention not only of fans and friends like Joe, Cherry Blossom, Shadow, and Miya but also enemies, like Adam — a legendary and flamboyant skater who sees Langa as the perfect match, not only in skating acumen, but marriage material.
Polygon said of Sk8: “Sports anime can be exciting, endearing, optimistic, emotional, and in some respects, way better than actual sports. But many shows fall into a tired trope: having a protagonist who is really good at their respective sport from the very beginning. Which makes SK8 the Infinity so refreshing. The show has a sports prodigy, but Reki, theprotagonist of SK8 the Infinity, isn’t the prodigy himself — and it makes all the difference.”
Sk8 has a character for everyone to identify with. Reki is the outgoing goofball with the heart of gold, Langa is the shy handsome type, Joe, is the muscle stud, Cherry Blossom, the confident techie, Shadow, the big brother, and Miya, the annoying little, while Adam is the picture perfect personification of a put-together politician, who in reality is just a huge OCD freak. Every single one of them is a gifted athlete and to be honest, every single one of them looks like the kind of guy you’d want to bring home.
Whereas easier dramas might portray Reki as jealous, SK8 the Infinity depicts the skater and Langa’s shared passion having naturally changed and deepened alongside their friendship. After winning several races against big-time skaters, including going toe-to-toe with the mastermind behind “S,” a masked skater named Adam, Langa is no longer content with just skating; he needs more. Langa is now in it for the thrill of pushing himself to the limit just because he can, facing increasingly more dangerous opponents because he now knows that he has what it takes to catch up to them. But he might also lose his friend in pursuing a view of skating that Reki cannot follow himself.
Creator Hiroko Utsumi is no stranger to queer storytelling having served as a director on Free! a series, about swimmers and Banana Fish which featured a cannon of multiple queer characters.
In 2018 Pride asked: “Why do LGBT people love anime?” Most of answers were centered around the acceptance not just within the animations themselves, but also within the communities that enjoy them — especially cosplayers. “This is one of the only places I feel comfortable dressing as a female,” says one of the fans.
The homoerotic/BL undertones of the series have inspired many pieces of fan art including the on below —inspired by one of the last lines of the season where Adam is putting a collar (meant to symbolize a ring) and his assistant Tadashi (aka Snake) whom Adam is clearly in love with while the other characters of Joe, Cherry Blossom, Reki, Langa, Miya, and Shadow watch — confused.
While the first seven episodes of Sk8 are available in English, episodes 8-12 (including a special recap episode 9.5) are currently only available in Japanese as the Funimation is simulcasting the series for North American while it runs in Japan. It really is one of the most beautify and engrossing anime series I’ve seen in a long time.
Sk8 Infinity is an original series from director Hiroko Utsumi (Free!, Banana Fish), writer Ichiro Ohkouchi (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, Lupin the Third Part 5), and with animation by BONES (My Hero Academia, Mob Psycho 100).
It’s a combination the likes of which we’ve never seen before especially given the subject matter.
Watch the trailer below.
All images featured are © bones / Hiroko Ut