When you hear the term “skateboarding anime”, what images spring to mind? Perhaps a protagonist performing some gnarly stunts over a fifty-foot gorge. Maybe some tutorials on how the tricks enacted on screen can be re-enacted at home. When you hear the term “skateboarding anime”, any number of different ideas would make for an interesting yet predictable premise.
Surely, nobody put “skateboarding” and “anime” together and ended up imagining a borderline BL Bishounen with deep and endearing characters. Let’s see just how SK8 managed to perform a Frontside 360 Ollie onto our hearts.
The Surprisingly Good Story
SK8’s story is so much better than it had any right to be. While the premise is simple—a group of friends competing in an underground skateboarding competition—it’s the interesting character dynamics that keep these similar races on this same course from becoming stale too quickly. One of the key components of this is the face of the show, Reki. Reki has so much passion for skating oozing from every pore in his body that it becomes difficult not to want to bust out the decades-old skateboard you bought after five minutes playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. His love of the sport is infectious and this virus spreads not only to the people around him but to us as viewers as well.
After Reki meets Langa—a Canadian-born half-Japanese snowboarder—the two quickly become the talk of the town. Together, they compete in order to take down Adam, the undefeated king of the skate park. Along the way, we run into several other competitors including Miya the child prodigy, Joe the muscle-bound ladykiller, Cherry the sophisticated calligrapher, and Shadow the wild and crazy florist. Each character has their individual reasons as to why they skate and why it is important to them and, over the course of the season, we come to truly care for this group of people conducting a traditionally delinquent activity.
Such Good M8s
One thing that propels SK8 to infinity and beyond is the excellently crafted ensemble cast. While not everyone can have as much development as our lead pair, that doesn’t mean the secondary cast isn’t given time to shine by any means. While Joe and Cherry are perhaps reserved for another time, Miya is a great exploration into the child prodigies of the world. Being so talented at something but alienating the people around you, is something incredibly realistic and painfully heart-wrenching to see play out on screen. It was very uplifting to see him find friends in Reki and Langa. Miya as a character is evidence that SK8 was not just shoe-horned together by a bunch of bigwigs trying to make an easy buck off of a gap in the market. Regardless of its means of conception, SK8 clearly had a lot of care put into it, and it’s these small inclusions that make it so.
One of the biggest surprises was SK8’s treatment of its main antagonist, Adam. While he first appears as a braggadocious psychopath wanting no more than to destroy the hopes of those who race against him, we learn a lot about his restrictive childhood and his stressful adult work environment. He is not inherently a bad person but more a product of his surroundings. You know a skateboarding anime is intriguing when, after the first episode, you become interested in learning to kickflip, but after the seventh, you begin philosophically questioning the morality of man as we know it!! With Shadow providing great comic relief and Shokichi the shop owner acting as the voice of reason amidst so much testosterone-filled showboating, the cast of SK8 managed to tick a lot of boxes when it comes to creating dynamic characters. We are definitely looking forward to being introduced to even more when season two drops!
The Elephant in the Skate Park
So, the big elephant in the room with SK8, and one that cannot be avoided when reviewing the series as a whole, is the relationship between dual protagonists; Reki and Langa. While they start out as nothing more than homies, their relationship blossoms into something truly special. Reki becomes disheartened by Langa’s natural talent when it comes to skateboarding. Not being able to reach the same heights himself, he comes to resent Langa and the rest of his crew for outperforming him. Langa, on the other hand, is not one to make waves and dislikes causing stress for anyone. After the passing of his father, he came to find a void in his life, becoming unable to find excitement in the things he once loved. Needless to say, with the stubborn Reki refusing to back down and the more timid Langa refusing to pipe up, there was worry that their friendship might have met an immovable impasse. Luckily, Reki realized that his actions were unwarranted toward such a good friend and he made the decision to put his jealousy aside for the greater good.
Reki and Langa had always been best bros over the series but, as each episode aired, they seemed to become a lot...closer. Be it a lot of emotional shouting before a heartwarming reunion or “accidentally” driving your skateboard into the other to cause a collision—thereby sending you toppling into the others’ arms…it’s all very, very suspicious. Yes, Reki was attracted to the girl on the boat but...very, very suspicious nonetheless. All of this resulted in fans across the globe crying out for Reki and Langa to become a couple by the series finale. The writers knew what they were doing and definitely left enough breadcrumbs for us to all follow along the Yaoi love train. However, it seems that this is not the story SK8 wanted to tell. It would have been easy to slap a kiss on the end credits to appease the fans (looking at you Rise of Skywalker), but SK8 did what it sought out to do and nothing more. It delivered us a thoroughly interesting skateboarding anime (the first of its kind at that) and went down in history as an incredibly entertaining sports anime. These twelve episodes had no need whatsoever to include a romantic relationship between its protagonists.
But season two, though...
If you were in the market for a generic skateboarding anime to vicariously live through, then apologies, but this is not the anime for you. SK8 is so much more than a sports anime about skateboarding. With its great characters, interesting plot developments, and fluid animation, it can be enjoyed by anyone; fan of the sport or not. What did you think of SK8? Who was your favorite character? Let us know down below!