As much as any studio out there (KyoAni and Shaft are in the same ballpark, though with lesser appeal for me) Bones seems to have an identity. Not so much a matter of studio culture but an on-screen persona, a feeling that imbues most of their work. And that’s pretty remarkable when you consider how diverse Bones is in genre terms – they started out (spun off from Sunrise) as a sci-fi (especially mecha) house but as anime changed so did they, by necessity. No matter where they venture, their personality somehow manages to shine through – even with an adapted property like HeroAca (a good fit to begin with, but nevertheless more “Bones-y” as an anime).
I don’t give a rat’s tail about ollies or trucks or wheels, to be honest. Skateboarding is a pastime that never held much appeal to me even as a kid, when I did participate on occasion but mostly out of a sense of expectation. Snowboarding likewise (I prefer skis, especially the Nordic kind). But when Bones does something they don’t half-ass it, and so it is with SK∞. I find the momentum of this show quite persuasive – it’s so unabashedly genki about its subject that it sweeps you along in its wake. And dammit if it isn’t making the minutiae of the subject almost interesting at times.
It doesn’t hurt that SK∞ looks great either – another Bones trademark. The “S” race (beef!) last week was a stunner, and while this week is mostly about grinding out beginner basics (and slams), those were still depicted in really striking fashion. I especially liked when Langa got on the board all cool like, and then had to ask Reki for a push. This episode also does a rather nice job of depicting the growing friendship between Reki and Langa. If you’ve ever been a teenaged male you probably vibed with this, because that feeling of bonding with somebody over a shared passion is pretty unique. Was it Citizen Kane? No – but it was charming and very endearing.
Skateboarding is tough (and painful) – even I know that much, from experience. Stopping and turning are hard. I confess I never really thought about how different it is from snowboarding, especially since the same schoolboy superstars always seem to be good at both. Langa quickly sports a pretty impressive spate of boo-boos, which rather worries his mom, especially when he uses the old “I fell down” excuse. Except this time it’s true – a lot. And in Reki he has a pretty good teacher, driven by his desire for a friend his own age to share his love of the sport with.
As for the rest of the cast, we go a level deeper on pretty much everyone who seems important. All the adults here have day jobs and for them, skating is pretty much a secret life. Shadow is a florist (yeah, figured to be something like that). Angel is a calligrapher, as we know, and Joe apparently a cafe owner. And then there’s Chinen Miya, who looks to be about 13 (that’s old enough to go to the Olympics in this youth-dominated sport), who’s apparently a national team hopeful for Japan (and possibly half-Chinese, based on his name).
It’s all pretty lighthearted by design, and that’s fine by me. It fits with the premise, and fits with the Bones personality – perhaps surprisingly so, given the writer and director. So far I think SK∞ is succeeding very handsomely at being exactly what it’s setting out to be, and it deserves a lot of credit for knowing exactly what that is and not getting distracted from the goal. I’m not seeing enormous potential for hidden depths here, but I think the series will be just fine without them even if that’s the case.