Sk8 the Infinity
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Sk8 the Infinity ?
Being smack in the middle of its episode run as well as apparently between two major story arcs, this week finds Sk8 the Infinity in the right place for a fun little downtime episode! This is a Hiroko Utsumi show, so that means this is also the time to show off an abundance of fanservice of our lovable SK8r bois. Beach trips! Hot springs excursions! Unbelievable attempts to convince me that any of these characters are straight! After all the action of the previous episodes, this definitely feels like SK8 at its most inconsequential in a while, and that's not a bad thing. As Langa points out in this episode, the existence of an uphill means you must have a downhill at some point as well.
This episode isn't totally frivolous either, as it does contain one earth-shattering revelation: Langa is apparently Catholic! Okay, him crossing himself before hoping for the best from a public restroom is mostly just a funny sight gag, but there are still some compelling snippets in this one even as we're mostly here to watch the boys mess around at the beach in what feels like deleted scenes from Free!. There's a follow-up on Reki's ongoing internal struggles with his skating abilities compared to everyone else, particularly the accelerating talents of Langa. We get a real earnest peek into Reki's mindset, wherein Langa rightfully compliments his incredible attentiveness to the details of skaters and the boards they ride, and Reki waves it off as stuff ‘everyone knows’. Reki has his own amazing innate talents, but his debilitating impostor syndrome prevents him from seeing them. It's potentially a question of the world of the sport he occupies mostly rewarding those physical abilities he lags behind in, and I find myself wondering how well that will be followed up on in this show that also really, really likes showing off characters doing sick skating tricks. Perhaps I particularly find myself sympathizing with Reki in that regard, as the only interaction I have with these skating antics myself is assessing and evaluating them.
For now though, the story's focused on Reki's anxieties about his physicality getting him left behind by the other skaters, and illustrating that via him lagging behind in their various skating excursions throughout this episode. The big joke this episode is him being afraid of the summertime scary stories the group hears about, but it speaks to an obvious subtext of how driven by fear his efforts currently are. We saw this mindset codified in the preceding episode, as he recounts his story about losing his friend who quit skating after his injuries. I remain intensely curious about the mechanics behind that, since Reki thinking a friendship can't be maintained without mutual skating enthusiasm would explain his increasing fear that his new friend Langa would skate on without him if he couldn't keep up. It's obvious that Langa already values Reki plenty as a friend and is as impressed by his boarding know-how as he needs to be, as exemplified in Langa recognizing Reki's fear and going back for him as he's hanging back. If we've made good enough friends, we shouldn't have to worry about being left behind by them. Like I said, it leaves a question as to what the actual interpersonal resolution for these two will be if these lunkheads can just make clear how much they care about each other, and why.
The other real movement, story-wise, occurs at the behest of Adam and his assessment of the most shocking addition to SK8's plot so far: A woman who's actually an important character! I joke, and I understand that Utsumi and the rest of her crew mostly have this show existing at the behest of all that boarding beef on display, but that doesn't distract from how conspicuously full of sausage (or Canadian Bacon, in Langa's case) the show's party so far has been. But it is funny to me that Inspector Kiriko Kamata represents the first major lady added to the cast, and her role is apparently an antagonist here to spoil all the boys' fun. Don't tell us what to do, Mom, you just don't understand! We'll have to see how that intertwines with Adam's implementation of the only logical escalation he could bring this show's plot to next: A skateboarding tournament arc!
Everything else about the episode is pretty much exactly what you would want or expect from a boarding bro-times beach break. Even if I question the fact that Joe would want to hook up with any girl instead of Cherry Blossom, it's still funny to watch the others ruin his day by cock-blocking him. And I'm glad to see my increasing favorite Shadow brought along on this transparent fanservice exercise, and since everyone's being a goof here, he doesn't even have to shoulder all the comic relief! Him being the most responsible ‘adult’ of the bunch is amusing, even as he's instantaneously donning his heel-skater face-paint that of course he packed for this trip, just in case. The episode is littered with fun little flourishes of animation that show the crew behind it bringing their A-game even in an ostensibly inconsequential series of antics like this one, with standout bits like Cherry's swatting of Reki or Reki's shakes of fear. But those same flourishes translate to the important illustrations we see as well, the most obvious being the way Langa ends up recreating the skateboard tango Adam previously roped him into, but in a sympathetic way as employs it as a way to help Reki along. ‘Love Hug’ indeed!
So while this was a lighter SK8 episode than previous (not that this is ever a show you should take too seriously), it's still a success. It makes a case for how this series could easily have worked as a ‘slice of life’ skating activity anime and still been as fun as it has. There are still plenty of concepts and characterization to be explored, but as odd as the show's pacing has felt in previous entries, it turns out a vacation didn't even slow things down too languidly! Even when taking a breather, Sk8 the Infinity exudes confidence.
Sk8 the Infinity is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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