SK8 the Infinity is an anime with great potential for mass appeal, but rather than catering to a “general audience,” it’s more a series that crosses over so many different niches that it merely appears generic from a distance. The series combines the thrilling world of skateboarding, the involved races of Initial D, the designer+pilot friendship dynamic of Gundam Build Fighters, the over-the-top characters of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and the nudge-and-wink male “friendships” of Free! If you have a passing interest in just two or more of these elements, there’s a good chance you’ll get a kick (flip) out of the whole thing.
The story: Langa is a half-Japanese, half-Canadian teenager who has just moved to Japan with his mother. Reki is one of Langa’s new classmates, and he’s obsessed with skateboarding—a world that Reki is eager to introduce to Langa. While Langa doesn’t know the first thing about it, the way he approaches this unfamiliar sport reveals another side of him: Langa is actually an expert snowboarder who lost his spark after the death of his father who taught him. With Reki’s knowledge and passion, as well as Langa’s unique talents borne out of his history on Canada’s snowy slopes, the two are poised to take the world of underground skateboard racing by storm. Looming in the shadows, however, is the mysterious “Adam,” an antagonistic figure who is one part Dio Brando from JoJo, and one part flamboyant matador.
SK8 the Infinity fires on all cylinders, providing compelling characters and a beautiful story of friendship, but also a kind of ridiculousness that can only come from trying to portray the high-energy world of extreme sports in as loving and passionate a way as possible. The best episodes offer some of the best animation quality you’ll find in a sports series, and the relationship between Langa and Reki takes a lot of twists and turns that feel natural and personal. It’s the kind of anime capable of bringing a lot of disparate groups together, and it’s just plain fun.