Sk8 the Infinity
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Sk8 the Infinity ?
Any pretense of a ‘serious’ character arc, specifically concerning Reki and Langa and their relationship with skating and each other, was soundly sewn shut in last week's episode of Sk8 the Infinity. Yes, there is still Adam's antagonism to be reckoned with, but the very notion of competition as a main motivation for the activity was specifically, in-universe designated as secondary to having fun with your friends, and something only Adam adheres to at this point. Granted this is Adam, who has made his unhealthy coping mechanisms everyone else's problem for at least two generations, so he's still got one episode left to try to rope everyone else into his drama. If you were worried the show would ease up on those kinds of melodramatics for its final outing, fear not, for it begins with a rain-soaked Adam barging into a tailor backed by thunder and lightning to demand a new outfit made for his skateboarding wedding-turned-funeral. Whereas Reki chose ‘Skate’ last week, Adam has apparently opted to ‘Die’.
Like his own offloaded issues, the absurd, violently-violet final-dungeon skatepark Adam puts together as the setting for this last set really comes off as a backdrop for the victory lap SK8 has coasted into at this point. Reki and Langa's issues are soundly resolved, demonstrated oh-so-casually in the way Reki chats with his friend about his impending downhill death-jam. He can't conceive of even Adam skating for any reason but fun at this point—how much harder does the point need to be hammered home? Reki came out of his previous match with Adam feeling fulfilled despite technically losing to Adam, and his discussions with Langa in this episode are more concerned with where they'll go from here after the latter finishes his climactic match. We discover by the end of the episode that said proposition was something as simple as ‘skateboard together’, a fitting resolution for a show that threw so much heady heartache at us over the question of what drives people to pursue a fun hobby in the first place.
This is still firmly the story of Langa and Reki, no matter how much Adam's hang-ups try to hijack its last leg. It's why a brush with one of Adam's ridiculous downhill deathtraps only occurs so Langa can recognize the board Reki crafted for him with ‘FUN’ specifically inscribed on the bottom as meaningful motivation. Even Langa's foregone-conclusion victorious finish is punctuated by him being more focused on leaping into one last loving embrace with Reki before he even wonders who won the race. Maybe the real Love Hug was the friends we skated with along the way.
That isn't to say the whole final battle with Adam isn't incredible to watch. The man had a whole new outfit tailored just for this; he's not going to not make it the most extra spectacle to take in. He brings an upgraded uphill version of his skateboard-smacking ‘special technique’, in a fight that eventually gives way to the two of them boarding so fast that the cameras and eyes of the viewers can't keep up, Dragon Ball Z-style. It's clear that Sk8 the Infinity stopped being a sports show ages ago to become pure shonen action spectacle, powered as it is by the energy of friends believing in you and reframing of being ‘in the zone’ in an athletic sense as a worldly engagement that afflicts those taking the game too seriously. The constant energy of showing these skaters move and jump around then successfully peels away to the reality of why we're really here, as Langa's final leg of the run he extends his hand to Adam for is expressed by all those preposterous presentational effects falling away. All we're left with, then, is the simple view and oddly real-world sounds of two people skateboarding in a place where they really, really shouldn't be. It calls back to the regular skate-park indulgences where we saw Reki teach Langa how to board, symbolizing how our simple snowboarder has brought even Adam back into the regular joys of engaging with this hobby for the fun of it.
If you were hoping for anything from Adam's arc beyond that, that's likely where this finale will come up short for you. He acknowledges that his possessive preferences towards skating partners may have been a smidge toxic, and at least seems to have learned what Tadashi really meant every time he said ‘As you wish’ over all these years. But the oppressive work and home life that his whole skate-vampire schtick was supposedly an escape from are just swept under the rug. Kiriko's investigation of him concludes as a shaggy-dog story with a single phone call, and he seemingly goes back to the manipulative machinations of his political day-job, no muss no fuss. We never even get a full explanation of why he turned out the way he did, SK8 seemingly content to say “Dang, Adam really dove into the competitive elements of skateboarding way too hard, huh? Good thing Langa had Reki and his ghost-dad to prevent him from ever struggling with that!”. It fits tone-wise, I suppose, in a show that doesn't want to get too serious and detract from the fun engagements of its storytelling, and it's only fair that it prioritized for our boarding best bros over entertaining the angsty antagonism of Adam. Still, it leaves everything about that man's story as something of a blind spot, especially as its plotting seemed to be dragging out the slower parts of the show in its latter half.
Is that too much to demand from an anime that very specifically focused on the lesson of having fun first? Probably, and as far as showing off the good times of its best bros, the path that it took was a success. Sk8 the Infinity stands as a show that took its own morals to heart, never letting itself get swept up in taking things too seriously. That might make its story ring a bit shallow in a few places, or extended with artificially-inflated melodrama in others, but it ultimately remained true to itself. The unchecked expression of Hiroki Utsumi and her crew on display throughout this show's run stands as much of a doing-it-for-yourself rail against compromise as any of the highly-illegal skateboard action they were depicting, and as a showcase, it's a success. If this final episode wasn't anything more than one final bow to put on that ridiculously-ambitious package, it really didn't need to be.
Oh wait, my boy Shadow didn't get with the flower-shop girl at the end?! Never mind, this episode completely failed.
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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