Sk8 the Infinity
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Sk8 the Infinity ?
Sk8 the Infinity is not a “smart” show, we know this. Sure, the sheer amount of moving parts means there's plenty to reflect and speculate on, and it is inherently driven by the concept and ideas it's presenting. But most of the time, its priorities lie so obviously in barreling ahead with its impressive confidence to arrive at the – however poetically-articulated – point of “Skateboarding is cool and fun”. That's worked wonderfully so far, but it also has the odd side effect of making the show still somewhat easy to underestimate, particularly when you're coming at it from the viewpoint of a stuffy critic looking to pick apart its articulations or choices in narrative beats. And that's also where the show, like someone who's been riding a board their entire life, demonstrates that it knows exactly what it's been doing, and this supposedly not-smart anime ends up making a fool out of you.
For the initial two-thirds of this week's episode, SK8 and everybody in it almost seems to have forgotten how it finally got to the point it's at. Seeing Reki and Langa enthusiastically back together is a relief, of course, even as the framing since the previous episode has made clear the looming threat Adam still poses to both of them. I had thought escaping his influence on how and why they skated was the entire point of this previously drawn-out character arc, so when Tadashi delivers a shamelessly-romantic calling card nominating Reki to beef against Adam in the tournament, accepting said challenge seems like the absolute worst possible choice for our favorite redhead to make. It comes across as bizarrely-ignorant of Reki in regards to what happened to him last time, not to mention being at odds with where his characterization has landed by this point.
All that stress and strife and previous protracted feuding with Langa seemed to have culminated in Reki's realization that skating for the fun of himself and his friends and loved ones should be the only reason he partakes in the activity, damn anyone else's positions on the matter. As such, even apart from his previous trip to the hospital seeming to slip his mind, you'd think Reki should have no interest in what Adam wants from him. It's a motivational upset so brazen that even the characters in the story called it out – which, in retrospect, should have been the first clue of the series' understanding of what it was really doing. But instead, I could only find myself recoiling in shock when the best explanation the still-recovering Cherry could come up with was that Reki straight-up forgot how things went against Adam the last time. The boy has presumably bailed onto his head a few times since then, but that's still no excuse to deploy this kind of drama-forcing plot amnesia to carry us through the penultimate episode.
It means that all of this, to the untrained eye, makes Reki come off as naive more than anything. Yes, he has the stated more-in-character long-term goal of getting to compete with Langa in the finals, and I'd be lying if I said that the setup doesn't pique our interest in terms of seeing exactly how this is going to play out. But it's still backed by a sense of frustration, an understanding that Reki's just going to get wrecked to fuel Langa's motivation at this second-to-last stage. It's nice to see Reki's love for the sport reignited as he dives into his apparent pro strats for taking on the Final Boss Of Skateboarding, but we must presume, structurally, that there's one last lesson learned that skating for fun doesn't need to intersect with outlandish, life-threatening indulgences you've already barely lived through once before.
And then, friends, the joke turns out to be on my doubting ass, because Reki ends up being 100% right!
Again, it should have been so obvious in hindsight. Reki hurling himself into the beef with Adam has nothing to do with Adam and everything to do with Reki taking inspiration from Langa's own approach to skateboarding to broaden his horizons for the sport. It's apparent in the way he immediately knows to cut through Adam's Love Hug, to cruise without fear into a new experience the same way Langa did with skateboarding itself. It's not reckless, it's simply the only option someone with this dedication to the sport can take for themselves, most significantly symbolized during the beef in Reki intentionally sending himself boarding down the very mountainside Adam was trying to hurl him over. Reki is presented with the immortal decision between ‘Skate or Die’ and he chooses to Skate! New vectors of fun can only be found by pushing your limits, not out of any latent self-destructive tendencies, but simply because the indulgences of your other friends inspired you to try your next crazy, stupid idea. It lays down the foundation of the lesson it seems Adam can hopefully learn by next week's final episode.
Overall, it's an upset perfectly in-line with the show's absurd logic. This is a series where Adam's strategy of bashing people in the face with a skateboard is regarded by the populace of ‘S’ as a genuine ‘technique’, complete with Miya devising and declaring a counter to it which consists of avoiding getting bashed in the face with a skateboard. Even Reki's ultimate move to near-victory is predicated on him successfully predicting the weather to utilize some Chekov's rain-wheels that were shown off earlier in the episode. SK8 was always operating on confidently clarified story parameters, and any Doubting Thomases like myself flailing at perceived issues like character logic or thematic regression just weren't galaxy-brained enough to see it. But being wrong in that way is a great problem to have, since we are rewarded with seeing Adam satisfyingly get owned over and over before pulling only the most hollow of victories against Reki out of his ass. Even though he came in second, Reki didn't just truly beat Adam in the way that matters, he handed an L to all of us still questioning him and the story at this point.
Sk8 the Infinity is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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