What Is MatchaBlossom and Why Does It Add so Much to SK8 the Infinity?
We're not alone. Right Kaoru?
Spoilers to SK8 the Infinity (up to episode nine).
So I, like many other fans, I imagine, watched the opening of SK8 the Infinity and thought I had the whole thing figured out when it came to shipping.
The two main characters dancing on their skateboards would be the main ship, the story focusing on their relationship, and while I was right about that, I didn’t realize how hard the show would go when it came to them.
But every sports anime has a variety of will they, won’t they flavor packs, which I immediately assumed would be the man with the sakura blossom-colored hair and the good GAWD muscled chef. That’s the MatchaBlossom I’m referring to, the ship name for these two characters. Much like the main ship, I was right, and much like the main ship, I wasn’t prepared for how much context these two would end up getting.
But arguably, Kojiro “Joe” Nanjo (the Matcha) and Kaoru “Cherry Blossom” Sakurayashiki (the Blossom) surprised me even more than our series leads, and the reason for this might sound a bit odd.
It’s because they’re adults.
Since they’re adults, I thought they’d be relegated to play the part of coach/mentor, which tends to be the case in anime series that focus on younger characters. Generally, when the story’s about a bunch of adolescents, the adults just watch from a distance, give some lifehack advice, and maybe take part in the thing for the sake of training the next generation. Joe and Cherry do offer advice, especially since they helped found S (the name for the underground skateboarding matches) alongside series antagonist Adam, before Adam WAS an antagonist. What makes them stand out, though, is that they STILL take part in S matches, want to BEAT the kids, and even have their own defining character arc-like reasons for skateboarding.
The series not only explores those reasons and shows them having emotional reactions to them, but it strengthens the bond they have with each other—one they’ve, apparently, had for years.
Alongside the bickering. Yes, we got ourselves some bickering men who might as well be married, y’all, one of which is a bonafide himbo who flirts with women, yet only looks like this:
For one particular man:
In honor of the dub hitting THE ULTIMATE MATCHABLOSSOM EPISODE, let’s break this ship down and discuss what makes it such a wonderful addition to SK8 the Infinity.
- The Bickering
When we first meet Joe and Cherry, they’re acting more like spectators to Langa’s beef against Shadow, though Cherry does come to the conclusion that Langa’s probably a snowboarder considering the way he skateboards. Neither man actually skateboards in the first episode, nor do they interact with each other. That comes along in episode two where Cherry goes to a restaurant with one of his clients.
It turns out it’s Joe’s restaurant, and it turns out Joe and Cherry can’t exist in the same space without throwing insults at each other.
I should note that these aren’t malicious insults; they’re the kind of insults you expect from one of the following:
-A lifelong friend who understands that four-eyed food snatcher is a term of endearment.
-An I has a crush, what do?
-An I have loved you for 1000 years, WHAT DO?!
–Or a combination of all of those things.
Joe and Cherry are an enthusiastic yes to all, and you don’t have to do a whole lot of fandom squinting to see it. The series takes its time in getting us there, but wow, it’s definitely an entertaining ride along the way as these two can’t function without making snide comments toward each other. Like. Joe’s two seconds from putting spicy peppers in Cherry’s pasta as a prank.
He actually does that in one of the episode eye catches.
These men are children, and I love it.
- The Subtle Signs
As the episodes go on, you start to notice a couple of things about Joe and Cherry.
Despite the fact that they seemingly can’t stand each other, Cherry is always at Joe’s restaurant, because there’s nowhere else to eat in Okinawa, obviously, why else would he be sitting at the Neanderthal’s counter, wine glass topped off, and using a nearby power outlet to charge his skateboard? This happens after hours quite often, too, the restaurant empty save for the two of them.
Then, when it’s time to head to S, the two just so happen to run into each other.
I dunno, if I really dislike a person, I’m gonna do everything in my power to avoid them. Sure, they put on a good comedy act of name-calling, even tripping each other up in the dirt, yet they somehow always end up watching matches together.
I guess, maybe, that’s unavoidable, right? I mean they ARE 2/3 of the ones responsible for S, so maybe it’s the equivalent of being civil at work. Sure, you could mention how they don’t have to be hanging out at Joe’s restaurant every day, and sure, you could mention how they’ve taken trips together outside of Japan—
Did I fail to mention that?
Yeah, we find out that these two have been to Los Angeles AND Paris together. That’s … quite the collection of passport stamps, I must say. And yes, they argue about those trips, Joe remembering how his instincts helped find Cherry’s lost wallet in Los Angeles, and Cherry pointing out the bar in Paris they went to was good because HE planned their itinerary. Granted, the dub tells us that Los Angeles was part of a Social Studies trip, but Paris, my friends, was not.
Isn’t Paris the city of love?
- The Childhood Friends
It’s all fun and games until you find out you get to add that Childhood Friends tag to your fic HALFWAY into the series. Joe and Cherry didn’t just meet yesterday, nor has it been a couple of months or even a few short years. It turns out these two have been close since, at the very least, high school, and even have an old hang-out spot perfect for reminiscing about the good ol’ days. The old building has marks from when they would work on perfecting their skateboarding tricks, and yes, as to be expected, they would bump fists in the same way Reki and Langa do today.
As we get further into the series, the two pivot from regularly spending time at Joe’s restaurant to finding each other at this spot. They’re much softer toward each other in this space. There’s a severe lack of name-calling as they talk about more serious topics—namely, what’s going on with the other founder of S, Adam, and the fact that they were all friends back in the day.
- Adam and (not) Eve
Is that an ex-boyfriend I detect?
I mean, no (but yes).
When we fully see the old dynamic between the three S founders, we see it in Cherry’s POV. This whole time, whenever Adam’s been brought up, Cherry’s been extremely bitter because of how much Adam has changed over the years. He and Joe were both friends with Adam, but Cherry’s the one more visibly angry about him 1) ignoring his attempts to challenge him, and 2) becoming as abusive as he is.
Adam used to think they were special, something that deeply affected Cherry.
Now Adam won’t acknowledge either of them.
This adds an unexpectedly angsty layer to MatchaBlossom, since both of them are trying to get through to Adam (though I personally believe Adam and Cherry were dating, and Cherry’s got some lingering feelings, while Joe just wants Cherry to get some much-needed closure).
I wasn’t expecting all of this from characters who I assumed would be advisors for the kids going off on vividly animated skateboard adventures. These kinds of storylines of the guy who faces an old friend who’s changed for the worst doesn’t always happen with adults when the main characters are high schoolers. You kinda expect Reki or Langa to be the one who knows the now dangerous skateboarder who used to be kind because it’s SUCH a big plot point.
But it’s Joe and Cherry.
And it leads to some pretty devastating results.
Cherry’s the one who gets to face Adam, and Joe rushes to his side, trying to say … something, but not able to come up with any words. Cherry kickstarts their bickering, and after so many episodes the bickering, suddenly shifts from being comical to a sort of coping mechanism. The bickering is familiar and routine, and a way to calm the tension before the big match.
It’s at this point that I also realized, from the way Joe is so concerned about the match, that maybe he wanted to go up against Adam so Cherry wouldn’t have to. This can be because he just cares about Cherry’s feelings, or because he doesn’t want Adam to hurt Cherry the way he hurts all of his opponents or both.
As the match begins, leading to a surprisingly stoic Adam, we see a flashback with them all as friends. In that flashback, it’s clear that Cherry was very fond of Adam. Unfortunately, it’s also clear that Cherry’s so convinced that the old Adam is in there somewhere that he believes that Adam would never hurt him.
It doesn’t work out, Adam straight up slamming his skateboard into Cherry like it’s a baseball bat, figuratively (and literally) shattering whatever remained of their relationship.
It’s a harsh lesson to learn, and one that’s pretty impactful to me since everyone involved is an adult. While it’s crucial for kids to learn that some people do, in fact, change for the worst, adults need to learn that, too. Sometimes, you can’t get through to a person you used to care for, and trying to reach them will only leave you broken at their feet.
But that’s when it’s important to realize what you already have in front of you.
For Cherry? That’s Joe.
- The Resolution
Throughout the series, leading up to this match against Adam, Joe has been focused on one vital message: Don’t end up alone.
He tells it to Reki when Reki’s upset about his place as a skateboarder and his relationship with Langa.
He encourages Langa to go after Reki, pushing them toward working things out.
And he tells Cherry (more than once) that Adam’s skateboarding by himself out there.
Cherry doesn’t get it at first, but what Joe means is that Adam has distanced himself from everyone, not just the friends he had. Even if Adam is talented, he always resorts to underhanded, vicious methods when it comes to winning. We (the audience) know Adam’s abusive backstory, but there’s nothing indicating that Joe and Cherry do, so in Joe’s perspective, Adam’s destroying any semblance of support and happiness.
Joe and Cherry don’t have to end up like that, though.
While Joe does have this passionate monologue about how they aren’t alone because they have each other, I’d like to think that Cherry understands that. Otherwise, why else would he sneak out of the hospital to go to the very place that, obviously, gives him comfort?
If you’re watching the dub, the latest episode ends on this tender moment of Joe pouring them both wine glasses and toasting to them not being alone while Cherry sleeps.
If you’ve watched the sub and, therefore, finished the series, you know there’s more to come with these two, but since this is celebrating the dub episode, I’ll end it here.
MatchaBlossom is a ship I wasn’t expecting in this series, but it’s one that I will be in love with for a long time. Watching the slow burn growth from “men who pick on each other” to “surprise, they’re childhood friends, this is a ship years in the making,” to, “yes you knew they cared for each other but you didn’t know they cared THIS much” is wonderful, and there’s so many directions your imagination can take this.
Do you delve into the obvious Hurt/Comfort of Cherry still trying to get through to Adam and paying the price for it?
Do you have fun with the level of sometimes literal Hair Pulling these two administer when they’re arguing over who left the biggest tip when they spent the evening in Paris?
Do you go soft and acknowledge how Cherry just instinctively ends up at Joe’s place? How he lets himself be vulnerable around him when talking about his thoughts in regards to Adam?
My friends, welcome to a wealth of ship potential. Reki and Langa were already a bountiful pairing, but if you’re looking for adult men with years of history together that’s turned into first-grade-level name-calling and gentle whispers of their real names when the other is in trouble, this is the ship for you.
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