Sk8 the Infinity
Episode 9

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Sk8 the Infinity ?

As the skaters of Sk8 the Infinity run past each other in rad beefs continuing the tournament this week, I find myself having to ask: Is Sk8 the Infinity running away with itself? The show's a blur of jockeying, criss-crossing plots at this point, all layered over that trademark skateboard action we're here for, and the uneven priorities mean that some of the points the show wants us to ponder have scarcely progressed. It's still coasting by on showing off the skating, but only barely in the moment, and its commitment to constant escalation in that department may have reached a breaking point with this very episode. There's a fine line between keeping the audience on their toes and just throwing them off completely.

What's still working great about the show is finely on display in the first half, featuring the beef between Langa and Joe. The crazy skate superpowers are still coming, like Joe's ridiculous power-planking maneuver for extra speed. I also love the confirmation that Joe's all shredded specifically for shredding purposes. And there's a keen characteristic arc illustrated on Langa's side, tied in with Reki's role in this episode, as his revelatory encouragement for his boarding beau seems to make clear to Langa just who it is he's really skating for, and why. It's an energetic motivation that makes it that much more thrilling to see Langa's wild power-copying of Joe's technique at the end propelling him to victory, or the affection he has for the board Reki made for him. It's all an effective rounding of the ongoing arc between the two before the inevitable big boss battle against Adam.

Which is why it's so frustrating when Reki immediately regresses again upon witnessing Langa's victory that his encouragement was responsible for. Seeing the story double back on its own astute theme of the fulfillment gained from supporting amazing athletes, either through indecision or a lack of direction, absolutely kills the confident momentum that has been so instrumental to SK8's enjoyable energy up to this point. It also creates a vicious irony: that Reki's inferiority complex makes for the least interesting part of the show at this point. I don't know if the pacing of the plot is dead-set on resolving their connection only after we've finished piecemealing the parallel that the show is clearly building with Adam, but all it results in is both storylines feeling dragged out in different ways.

That's actually not fair to Adam's side here, since we do get some tantalizing context for what was lost as far as his character goes, even as the story continues to dangle the real turning point in his past in front of us like a carrot for a skateboarding horse to chase. The flashbacks to the youth of him, Joe, and Cherry demonstrate how Adam at least had the potential for genuine ‘love’ apart from his abusive expressions of it in the present. We're shown a man who was completely willing to let his closest friends know who he really was as a sign of how special their bond was at the time, and through the magic of SK8's utter commitment to a lack of subtlety, made aware of how his current persona, a masked madman obfuscating his methods and motivations, is a reversal of that. Joe and Cherry's remarks had always told us that Adam had changed, and while we still aren't clear on the why, the flashbacks this time do a very strong job of illustrating what that change entailed, and what kind of person was lost.

The series obviously wants to pin the concept of ‘loneliness’ as something of a culprit in the turnaround – some still-undefined disconnect between Adam and his friends corrupting him in the same way the persistent split between Reki and Langa threatens to turn the latter into Adam's partner/successor. But as well-illustrated as the difference between the past and present Adam is, that driving idea is nothing the show hasn't made clear for weeks now. It's leading to an increasing ‘get on with it’ feeling, and that's lethal to the enjoyable pacing of a show that's entirely about the tangible feeling of momentum and movement. As a counterweight, SK8 seems to prefer pure action escalation, climaxing this week's episode with Adam demonstrating how far gone he is now by taking his board straight to Cherry's face. But as much as I'm sure we all were blown away by that moment in SK8's “Holy crap did that just happen?!” style, my takeaway afterwards is decidedly questionable.

I feel like SK8's escalation has worked up to now by focusing, naturally, on the skating itself. Adam's absurd rolling kabe-dons and Love Hugs were great because, at the end of the day, they were still skateboarding tricks. Smacking a guy in the face with your skateboard isn't a trick, it's just smacking a guy in the face. I do get the conceptual idea: Adam disregards Cherry's skating at this point to such a degree that his counter to him is to not even engage with him within the skating framework. But does that raise too many questions in the grand scheme of things? What's to stop other competing skaters from dropping any attempt at racing and starting a fight with their opponents at this point? Will the whole structure of ‘S’ simply devolve into a Fight Club now? I know logic is something we threw to the wind with SK8 pretty much from the get-go, but this might be the escalation that finally breaks my suspension of disbelief, simply because of how for its own sake it clearly is.

Is it a choice of desperation to cover for other shortcomings? There's no denying that SK8 looks a little rougher around the edges than usual this week. Things are stiffer, with more gaps and shortcuts in the animation, and characters looking less detailed in places. Combine that with the series taking a break for a recap episode next week, and there's definitely the sense that this production may have started to run away from its crew. To that end, I genuinely wish them the best in using the extra week to catch up. I just hope that the plan for the actual plot can stabilize as well as the board-balancing act of the artistic elements of the production.

Rating:

Sk8 the Infinity is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.


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