At its core, the anime SK8 the Infinity is an anime about love for hobbies, people, and the self. The story begins as a daring skater named Reki teaches a new kid in his class, Langa, how to skateboard and compete in an intense competition for the sport called “S”. Through “S” Langa discovers a new passion that connects him to friends, opponents, and (most importantly) parts of himself that he had previously lost. SK8 the Infinity starts by asking, “Do you know what true happiness is?” and Langa’s journey seeks to answer that question.

In comparison, the main villain Adam, the “Matador Of Love,” couldn’t be more different from Langa. He is just as passionate about skating and going up against others on the racetrack, but his love is poisoned. Where Langa respects his opponents, Adam seeks to hurt them, putting skaters in the hospital as he searches for his “true Eve.” Langa’s love for skating and those in it is pure, while Adam’s has been poisoned and rotten. By examining the love Adam & Langa each expresses, we can see how Sk8 makes love a prominent theme within the work.

For Langa, his community-focused love of skating wasn’t always there. At the start of the anime, he’s mourning the death of his father, unable to feel any passion for snowboarding which he shared with his lost parent. Through a series of events, his redhead classmate Reki shows him skateboarding, which lights a fire underneath the blue-haired teen. Langa grows exceptionally good at it, beating high-level professionals with amazing skill, but soon learns that true skating isn’t just getting on a board: it’s riding with good friends by your side, and having fun while doing it!

His relationship with Reki is a big part of this. He is taught by the redhead, and along the way, Reki is not only great at passing on his skills; he also has a huge amount of passion for skating. The redhead also wants people to skate for the right reasons: for love of the sport, because it’s fun! He presses this into Langa and also teaches him to care for one’s rivals, such as when Miya enters the scene. The two form a close bond as the blue-haired newbie improves. Reki already knows what his “true happiness” is: his pure love for skating. With that, he teaches Langa and guides the blue-haired protégé to his own “true happiness” too.

This is shown in Langa’s beating heart, which is a recurring sound throughout the series. It starts as a thrill in the first episode, when Snow (Langa’s racing name in S) races Shadow and feels a surge of passion as he rides down the track, something he wants to capture again. When Reki tells him that the ollie will let him master other skating techniques, and that the sport can unlock “a world of possibilities,” Langa’s heart beats loud—he “wants to enter that world.” As he races more people, we continue to hear his heart beating after races, and he asks himself early on, “What is this feeling?” This is worth noting because of Langa’s lack of feeling due to the death of his father. As his mother says, “He’s been like a shell of himself ever since [his dad] passed.” This is shown when the series starts with Langa’s lack of emotion when he talks, and his flat tone of voice. As he skates more, he gets more expressive, and his voice is able to reach more vibrant inflections. So, “What is this feeling?”

Langa loses the ability to hear his heart pounding when he and Reki have a falling out, but when they come back together again, he regains it. He begins being only “able to see the track ahead of [him], or where the race is going,” until he makes things up with Reki. Then, his passion returns. And so, Langa realizes, “This feeling… It was just like this back then [with my father] too… That’s why when he was no longer here, I lost sight of how fun it was. And it’s the same for skating! It’s who I skate with that defines my feelings!” He’s finally learned what Reki has been trying to teach him: that one’s ultimate goal in skating shouldn’t be just to beat everyone. It should be to enjoy time with those like you who enjoy the sport. As the redhead says, “It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. We’re still your friends who love to skate.” That’s the fundamental core of his love for skating, which he passes onto Langa. This helps heal him after the death of his father, and lets him regain his love for sports and ability to connect with others. As Langa says in Episode 2, “After my dad died, I didn’t snowboard in Canada either. But, after getting on a board again, I can say: right now, I’m having fun!”

And not only does he have a pure love for skating based on enjoyment and friends, he’s also a natural at the sport. Langa turns out to be a skating protégé that can do things on a board that not many people can. In this way, he’s similar to Adam, and even finds himself drawn to the Matador Of Love for this reason, chasing the thrill of the sport as he searches for the feeling inside. This is part of the reason why he and Adam are a good match, and why Adam wants Langa to be his Eve: they love being risky, doing dangerous things for the thrill of it, all for the love of skateboarding. Langa does these things out of respect for those he’s skating against, because he wants to give his opponents everything he’s got while showing his passion for skateboarding with amazing moves. Adam, on the other hand, does these things in order to hurt his opponents, all in the name of what he considers “love.”

Ainosuke “Adam” Shindo, had a very different skating journey from Langa. His poisoned love of the sport wasn’t always there; once, it was pure. When he was a young child, a crying Adam was approached by Tadashi Kikuchi, a boy who worked at the Shindo household. To help him feel better, Tadashi offered to teach Adam how to skate, and Adam reached out and put his hands on the board, accepting the offer. Tadashi taught him to skate, and at that time, his love for skating was pure. He did fun tricks on the board just for the thrill of it. As Adam’s teacher says, “He loved the board, and it became Mr. Ainoske’s only outlet, his lifeline to another world.” However, his skating turned poisoned for a few reasons.

First of all, his upbringing by his aunts quickly influenced his time on the board. Those three women taught him that to love somebody is to beat them into submission, to hurt them for their own good, all to create a stronger bond. He is taught to see abuse as an act of love. As he grows up, he brings that to his skating, giving dangerous challenges to those who he “loves,” all to give them a trial by fire so that they can be his equal partner in “love.” Or his “Eve”, as he calls them. Secondly, as Tadashi’s quote stated, skating became Adam’s only outlet from a tough, stressful life. He was being raised as the successor to the Shindo family name, and his only time to seek passions other than politics became his time on the board. As his only way to let off steam, it became his way of expressing his abusive love to others, and releasing his anger as well.

This is how he meets Cherry and Joe in high school (currently, they are rivals of his). In their teen years, their relationship starts as adversarial, because Cherry and Joe are investigating Adam’s daring skating races with others. But the three are able to sort things out, and end up skating together. Adam is able to see them as friends, people he can trust. They have a healthy bond that doesn’t involve his trials of abusive love. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come out during his skating, though. Adam continues his search for his perfect match, his “Eve,” and his violent methods result in many casualties. Cherry and Joe are both very concerned about this, but before they can do anything about it, disaster strikes.

Adam’s father burns his board, trying to force his son to quit skating entirely and focus on his political career. Tadashi witnesses this, and he tries to help, but when Adam’s father yells at him, Tadashi stays in his place as a servant, saying, “I have no opinion on the matter.” This betrayal sets Adam back on his previous path, and as an adult, his total number of skaters hospitalized goes to at least twenty. This all in the name of love, to find his Eve, because of how he was taught that abuse and love are one and the same. His relationship to skating is a toxic one, driven by hurting other people in order for him to find somebody for him to “love.”

Adam has been searching for his Eve for a long time, even back when he knew Cherry and Joe in high school. It shows that he wants a connection to somebody else, a true bond with another person, a relationship. He wants to have “a world that belongs only to us” with another, so that he can escape his real responsibilities on the skateboard, with a person who is close, forever. Him latching onto Langa, a high school student, as his Eve, is slimy, but Adam will justify anything in order to find his Eve. This is why he takes Langa to “The Zone” in their first race—it’s a world of only them, and nobody else. Langa feels his heart beating as he is pulled into it, but this time it feels different. He sees the dark “Zone” for just a moment before returning to reality. And before Adam can truly pull him in, police come and stop the skating race.

Langa and Adam’s journeys culminate in the final episode, “To Infinity”, their final race against each other. It is here where Adam shows the true depth of his abilities, revealing himself to be equally as skilled as Langa, even when making jumps in the air, which is normally Langa’s unrivaled specialty. Once they land, Adam takes Langa back to The Zone. Here, Adam asks Langa to be his Eve, offering Langa various things that he himself longs for most: the ability to not need to rely on others, and to leave one’s boring life behind in order to lie like royalty in the competitive world of skating. This serves as an embodiment of Adam’s toxic and poisoned version of love, that not needing anyone except somebody who can reach your level of skill is the best way to live.

The Zone is single-colored, black or white, an unfeeling place cut off from reality—just like when Langa was separated from reality after his father died, and he could find no joy in snowboarding. At first, Langa appears to be trapped there. But he comes back from it when he sees the word “Fun” on the back of his new skateboard. That makes him think of his relationship to skating, and thus reminds him of how it has connected him to people he treasures. He remembers his healthy love of the sport, and is able to save himself. When he leaves, smiling and laughing at the fun skating he is doing down a cliff, he sees snow, and a vision of his father snowboarding ahead of him. His dad turns to him and asks, “Are you enjoying yourself, kiddo?” Langa smiles and says, “Yeah, I really am, Dad.” His father may be gone, but his passion for the board, the love for it that he was taught, has been revived. Langa remembers the bonds the sport of snowboarding and skating have taught him, and uses these to try and save Adam.

When Langa leaves The Zone, Adam panics, heartbroken that the one he saw as his true equal at last abandoned him in his favorite place, the one he thought would bring Langa closer. Adam concludes that, “It was all a lie. Eve never existed in the first place.” He comes to the conclusion that Eve is false, and the truth is that he has only emptiness, along with nobody else in his life to lean on. But Langa pulls Adam out of The Zone, and tries to save the Matador Of Love by getting the man to face what he really, truly wants. Langa confronts Adam’s desires, and points out that even though Adam claims that he needs nobody in his life, his desperation for Langa to come with him says otherwise. Adam, enraged by this, attacks him, and the two fall to the ground, unable to get up for a moment.

The crowd cheers for Snow when he starts to get up, wanting Adam to be utterly defeated and left behind on the track. Just like Adam has always been left behind, and has left others behind in his wake. But instead, Langa goes up to Adam, offering the man his board as he begins to stand. Langa offers a healthy love of skating, a pure love, one that gives kindness to opponents and offers the fun of the sport just because it exists. These are all things he learned from Reki, and here, those teachings reach their final form. Langa doesn’t battle Adam like Cherry or Joe wanted to, but offers kindness instead. This reminds Adam of when Tadashi taught him how to skate when they were children, and Adam’s mask falls off. He’s no longer blinded by a toxic worldview, but can see a brighter, better way to live.

All so they can skate together, because the sport is best experienced with others, even at the highest competitive level. Adam is resistant to this at first. He says as they continue the race that “if you don’t win, you won’t be loved,” but remembers when he was with Tadashi. He wasn’t a champion then, but was loved anyway by a friend. He and Langa skate as one, together on the track, and are neck-and-neck at the finish line. Snow ended up winning, but truly both of them won something that day.

When Adam leaves the race, he runs into Tadashi, and tells Tadashi that he remembers their childhood days, things he “thought [he] gave up long ago,” but he remembers what he learned from his old friend. Adam learned not just how to skate practically, but how to skate with a pure heart. And that’s worth more than winning any kind of tournament. As for Langa, he is embraced by Reki, and by the many skaters he met during his entire journey, the community he made during his time with the sport. The show ends with Langa’s pure love leading to a race with Reki: this isn’t a race out of angry competition, but comes from a strong bond between two close friends (and, in my headcanon, boyfriends). The beginning of the series asked the question, “Do you know what true happiness is?” And now, Langa truly does. As he states at the end, “[Now,] I understand true joy.”

In Sk8 The Infinity, skating is about more than just the sport—it’s about love for oneself, the opponents, and the thrill of the race. Langa was taught pure love of skateboarding—it helped him reconcile with his grief, and find his passion for the board again. Adam’s love for skating had been poisoned by an abusive understanding of love, but the compassion of another helped him find out what liking skating really means. They both learn to do it because it’s fun, and to treasure those around them.

I hope these things are explored further in Sk8 the Infinity’s OVA & 2nd season. The possibilities for future content are endless. But no matter what we see next, I know that we’ll see the characters continue skating for the only reason one should pick up the sport: Because they love it!

Editor: Nicole Mejias