WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Sk8:The Infinity Season 1, now streaming on Funimation.
Sports anime often focus on an athlete or their team’s journey to success, highlighting ways to improve and overcome challenges to sharpen their performance. The stories usually culminate in some ultimate competition where they prove their talent, finding glory or grappling with defeat. In Sk8: The Infinity, however, one character escapes the bounds of these series, as his passion for skateboarding exudes poignant messages about happiness.
For Reki, skateboarding isn’t all about training or winning – it’s wholly about the joy the sport inspires. While this sentiment might seem cliche, it’s a message that resonates in a time of overwhelming greatness and intimidating expectation in the sports world. Sk8: The Infinity carries Reki’s inspirational motivation throughout the story, and it spurs deep-rooted friendship and adventure.
Reki’s jubilant passion for skateboarding opens up Sk8: The Infinity, and it remains the heart of the series throughout. He immediately establishes that stereotypical societal motivations for happiness -- being rich, getting into good schools, or climbing social ladders -- don’t appeal to him. Instead, Reki glides through the streets on his skateboard, the exhilaration and splendor of the sport lighting up his life.
When Langa, the new Canadian exchange student in Reki’s class, reveals the slightest interest in skateboarding, Reki has no hesitation in adopting him as a trainee. After Langa is suddenly hired to work at the skate shop where Reki works, they head to “S,” the elite (and discreet) skateboard racing community to make a delivery. There, Langa is unexpectedly challenged to a race and impulsively accepts. Though he had no skateboarding experience whatsoever, Langa stuns everyone with his insane speed and ends up beating Shadow, a talented skater who had just recently beat Reki in a race.
Actually an expert snowboarder, Langa instantly shows a remarkable knack for skateboarding, dazzling Reki and other “S” athletes with his skills from the slopes. Eager to share his core interest with someone with such great potential, Reki takes Langa through all the fundamentals like balancing, pushing and catching air with an ollie. While Langa initially struggles with the different sport, even taping his feet to the skateboard at first, he turns out to be an astonishingly fast learner.
Thrilled to have a new skateboarding partner, Reki starts off as Langa’s coach and number one cheerleader. An aspiring board crafter, Reki even custom-makes a skateboard tailored to Langa’s snowboarder style. Thanks to him, Langa’s eyes are opened to the infinite possibilities of skateboarding and the incredibly fun rush that comes with the sport. However, Reki’s enthusiasm for Langa’s success starts to dwindle as the rookie skater goes on to defeat each new racer who challenges him, while his coach faces devastating losses and injuries to go along with it.
While his new friend and partner goes on to accept one dangerous challenge after another, Reki’s frustration starts to build. The gap in inherent skill between him and Langa becomes evident – not just due to his observations during training, but from how the competitors condescend the imperfect skater who’s slowly falling into the shadows. Reki develops an inferiority complex that starts to consume him, becoming too potent to shake. Losing touch with the fun side of skating, he goes down a heartbreaking spiral of self-doubt and disillusionment with the sport. This inner conflict drives a wedge between Reki and Langa, and Reki distances himself from everyone, refusing to enter the upcoming “S” tournament by Langa’s side.
The reason why Reki starts feeling detached from skateboarding in this part of Sk8 is more complicated than when sports anime athletes have their typical dip in confidence or internal struggle throughout their character arc. For Reki, the “exhilarating” part of skating doesn’t come from determining who’s better in skill or who can finish first in a race. Surrounded by those who are more naturally talented than him and who thrive off of that competitive edge, Reki felt understandably insecure and conflicted due to the stark differences between them. He even calls Langa and Adam “psycho geniuses” for enjoying such high-stakes competition.
It doesn’t help that throughout Sk8: the Infinity, Reki is consistently warned that skateboarding is too dangerous, and he should leave it behind. With major injuries and sometimes deadly accidents happening, the sport is incredibly dangerous, especially at “S” with its hazardous skating course and cutthroat lawlessness. Skating against the legendary yet villainous skater Adam is even more threatening, which is part of why Reki felt so betrayed by Langa’s willingness to keep battling him.
Without Reki’s support, Langa’s skating performance falters and he loses momentum. It’s not until Reki shows up again that Langa is reminded of why he truly loves skateboarding. He realizes that Reki’s love of the sport is what truly drew him in – it’s not about becoming an all-star or pushing himself to compete. That kind of drive is empty without the fun of having a skating partner. After Langa tells Reki how much he means to him and how much more important their friendship is than competition, Reki’s spirit is restored and they agree to keep skating for infinity.
Reki’s adoration for skateboarding is also evident when interacting with the prodigy skater Miya. Though exceptional on a board, Reki notices that Miya appears to have lost touch with the fun side of it after winning so many elite tournaments. He not only reminds Miya of the true purpose of skating but proves himself a caring friend by challenging the conniving skateboarder Adam after he shames Miya for losing a match. As Sk8: The Infinity continues to show, friendship can be a key source of fun in skateboarding.
Unlike many other sports anime, Sk8: The Infinity doesn’t try to push Reki into training until he catches up with Langa and his other highly skilled friends at "S." Instead, the narrative helps him grow as a person who can accept his losses and still maintain that incredible spark of love for the sport. His journey is all about shrugging off the toxic competitive lens, rekindling the fun inherent to skateboarding.