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SK8 the Infinity's Howard Wang Talks Asian Rep and Queer Fans Loving Reki & Langa

'SK8's Howard Wang Talks Asian Rep and Queer Fans Loving Reki & Langa

'SK8's Howard Wang Talks Asian Rep and Queer Fans Loving Reki & Langa

One of the stars of the beloved Funimation anime chats with PRIDE about Asian representation and why queer fans love the show so much! 


If you need a wholesome but angsty, drama-filled anime to add to your watchlist, then Funimation and Aniplex's SK8 the Infinity is definitely here for you! 

Telling the story of red-headed skateboard nerd named Reki, his new best friend Langa (the two good bois may or may not be completely obsessed/in love with each other), and their motley crew of loveable misfits who all share a common love of competitive skateboarding, SK8 instantly drew a large LGBTQ+ fanbase upon its premiere earlier this year, and after seeing the chemistry between all the characters (but especially Reki & Langa), it's not hard to see why! 

Just in time for the transition from Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to Pride Month, PRIDE got the chance to chat with voice actor Howard Wang — who plays Langa in the English dub of SK8 — about his favorite anime titles, Asian representation in media, what SK8 means to queer fans, and more!

PRIDE: Can you take us behind the genesis of your career and what made you want to become a voice actor in the first place?

Howard Wang: Ever since I was in early high school, just enjoying anime and video games, and then learning about the people who do the voices in all the stuff I watch. I learned about that, that voice acting was a thing. I did it as a hobby, doing some amateur projects online, and then after I graduated high school and proceeded to try to find a career path, I decided to not pursue it at all. I got my degree in game development and did that as my path because I never thought that acting would be a viable career because it's so hard to get into and hard to make a sustainable living off of it.

Even though I like it, I'm not going to try to pursue it. I still did it as a hobby, even in college. But then life had different plans. So just with the events that unfolded, I was able to coincidentally go to Texas for a summer in Dallas, where Funimation is, and just was lucky enough to get my foot in there. And I guess the rest is history.

What are some titles that were formative for you in your early years that you loved and enjoyed?

Some of my favorites, still to this day, are things like Yu Yu Hakusho. Probably still one of my favorite dubs ever, one of my favorite shows ever. Obviously, the classics, like Dragon Ball was huge. Then a little later in, as I mentioned, the high school years when I was watching a lot more anime and stuff. D.Gray-man was one of my favorites. Life and circumstances were fortunate enough, when I first started doing VO, they were going back to finish the dub after 10 years. So I was able to do a little bit in that, which is really cool.

Can you recall your earliest memory of ever seeing yourself reflected or represented on screen? Do you remember how old you were? What it was about that person or character that you identified with the most? And how did seeing them on-screen make you feel?

I can't really recall a specific instance where I felt like I was being represented on screen because growing up, I was watching a mix of all types of media from different regions. So watching American TV, but also just growing up consuming Chinese programs and stuff, like Taiwan and stuff. So it was just something that I didn't really think about, I guess. I was like, 'Okay. I'm seeing people like me represented on media right away.' It didn't really ever hit me as a defining moment at any point because it's just something I was pretty used to. But I guess, as I became more aware of it and how things are in American media, I guess it is hard to pick out one specific instance. I guess, just for mediums as a whole, just, I guess Western media recognizing and having stuff like anime become more, I guess, mainstream. So just Asian culture being more widely incorporated in the Western world, I think is one thing I noticed, that hit home a little bit.

There are all these ongoing discussions about how representation for people of color is important, and it's only just now that we're really starting to see discussions specifically about Asian Americans in media. Why do you think it's so important, specifically for Asian American kids, to see themselves reflected on screen?

One project that is sticking out to me, that sends, I think, a good message in that vein is The Legend of Hei, a Chinese animated movie. For that project, it was an all-Asian cast. A lot of care was taken for the casting to include, not only just Asian Americans but Chinese American actors in there. I think that's very important, to get that proper representation just because when it comes to casting, it's great to have diverse casting and equal opportunities across the board.

But then when it comes to specific stories from specific mediums or specific regions, I think it's also still important to have that proper representation. Seeing that and making that more of the norm would definitely be, I think, beneficial especially for Asian Americans. My Asian friends I grew up with, there are expectations and standards that are sort of imposed on us to follow certain career paths. Typically, a lot of my friends would be pressured to go into the medical field or go in some sort of science, or legal, or something. But I think seeing more people like me, who had that sort of pressure but then decided to follow what made me happy and my passions, seeing more and more Asians in entertainment, in general, might inspire more Asian kids to see, 'Oh, this is something that I can do. I'm not just locked into what's decided for me.' Obviously, still, listen to your parents. But it's still your life!

What's the saying? If you can see it, you can be it.

That's a good one.

Where do you think voice acting, especially in anime, fits into that? Do you think the voiceover industry is ahead of the curve when it comes to Asian representation, or is it behind?

Yeah. I would say that voiceover is a little more ahead of the curve when it comes to Asian representation, just because it inherently is an Asian form of media that we're dubbing. How do I frame this? Because it's an Asian form of media and because it's an Asian product, it's not as weird for there to be an Asian person in it, and especially cause in voiceover, you can voice whatever.

In Hollywood and live-action stuff, we're just now starting to see more Asian-centric casting in shows and stuff. It took a while, but we're finally getting our first Asian Marvel superhero. That's, I think, a really big deal. I think in voiceover, especially, even back in the day, there were a few role models in the industry that were the Asian voice actors. It was Johnny Yong Bosch and people like him pretty early on. I don't think there's been much of a lack of Asian representation. Certainly, there could be more, and we're moving into more of that. But I think voiceover is a little more ahead of that.

Is there any media, doesn't have to necessarily be anime, that you think is doing a good job of representing Asian folks? Who are some of your favorite Asian characters or heroes nowadays?

I love comic books, so seeing more Asian superheroes is always great. Shang-Chi is really cool to see. To make a Marvel movie out of an Asian superhero, that's the most moving-into-the-mainstream thing that you can do.

Took them long enough.

Exactly. But there are definitely some other characters that I would love to see get more attention that are some of my favorites. There's a Chinese Superman that I think is really cool, that I wish they would do more with. Let's see. I thought it was really cool when they made Amadeus Cho, an Asian Hulk, a version of The Hulk, which was taking an Asian spin on a very well-established character. I think that was really awesome to see. I know I'm focusing a lot on comic books here. That's a lot of what I consume. But stuff like that.

What's it like getting to bring Asian representation to people through the anime medium?

I think it's great to have that representation across all mediums, including live-action to animation stuff. Just because you can't see who's providing the performance doesn't mean it doesn't matter. So I'm glad there's that attention that's being brought to it lately.

So shifting to SK8 the Infinity, what made you want to sign on to the project? What has excited you the most about playing Langa and getting to bring his story to life? We haven't seen a smaller anime title get as much attention as SK8 has been getting. People immediately latched onto it, which is so wild because it's only 12 episodes and it already has this huge fan base.

Usually when I get auditions, I try to watch the first episode or two if it's available. So I think when I got the audition for SK8, I watched the first episode because that was the only one that was out. I try not to get attached to what I'm auditioning for because I don't want to be too disappointed but after I was done watching episode one, I remember I was so angry because it was so good and I got so attached immediately. I was like, 'No, it's so good. I'm mad at how good it is, and now I'm attached. Now I'm going to audition and I'm going to be so crushed if I don't get it.' I did the audition, and then Langa happened to be the one that I really was drawn to just because there were a lot of similarities between me and him. He's a snowboarder. I could tell right away when I was watching the episode just by looking at the storage thing on top of his car. I was like, 'That's the thing that you put...that's a snowboarder!' I'm a snowboarder. I love snowboarding. I grew up skateboarding. So had that first, and then he's also...well, he's Canadian. I'm not Canadian, but I spent a lot of years in Canada, and some of my best friends have been in Canada. I love my Canadians. So being able to play a Canadian character and use my experience in Canada. I dedicated, I guess, this performance to them because I try to incorporate some authentic Canadianisms that I'm pretty familiar with, into the performance.

Then actually getting the part of Langa. They sometimes don't tell you who you're playing and they didn't tell me at that time. I was like, 'Hey, can I inquire? Who am I playing?' They're like, 'Oh, you're playing Langa.' I was like, 'Yes!' I was so excited going into it. It was a great time.

Are you on Twitter or Instagram? I'm sure you saw, people who were really freaking out over...I know the full line is, 'Reki, my love of skateboarding is because of you.' But people are specifically chopping out the 'Reki, my love' section of that dialogue. It's been all over my timeline. People are loving how queer and how lovey-dovey it sounds. What are some of your reactions to that?

I mean, I did post a tweet to just, you know...pause for effect. I love seeing people's reactions. I think I stopped on TikTok for a second. I don't use TikTok much, but I was just searching. I was like, 'How's the SK8 fandom reacting?' I looked at it. I was like, 'Very good.'

They fricking love it.

I'm glad.

The series has a major LGBTQ+ fan base, and they took to it really quickly. What's it like being a part of a smaller project title versus something big? You're in Attack on Titan, a bunch of other big projects. What it like being a part of a smaller project that means so much to a community that is still marginalized?

For me, because the director of SK8 also directed shows like Free and Banana Fish. I never saw those as small projects, because Free, to me...I loved Free when it came out. To me, it was huge. So I guess, to me, SK8 was a big project. And clearly, because it has such a huge following. I was talking to Damon Mills, who's also in SK8. We both auditioned for it. We were talking about it. I was like, 'Dude, this can be big like Free, and then also like Yuri on Ice.' I was like, 'I think this will explode.'

You did work on Yuri too, right?

Yeah, I sure did. I was a Chinese character, so that comes back full circle. That was one of my first roles and I was really glad I got to do that and represent the Chinese character more faithfully. But yeah, SK8. There was no difference between that and a big project like My Hero Academia or something, because to me, SK8 was a big project.

If a second season happens, what do you hope to see as far as Reki and Langa's relationship? Or anything, in general, you want to see?

I hope they snowboard. I hope they go somewhere. Either they go to Mount Fuji or something, they go somewhere where they can snowboard. And then I would love to see the flip in Reki and Langa's dynamic, where Langa's teaching him to snowboard instead of the other way around. And maybe there's a plot twist and Reki is amazing at snowboarding. Something like that.

I want a kiss. That's what I want to see.

So a lot of the criticism that gets thrown against inclusive and diverse anime, TV shows, movies, comic books, etc, is, especially when representing people of color, queer people, is that, 'Oh, they're pandering,' or it seems 'unnatural,' or it's 'forced.' What is your response, especially since you're an Asian American actor, to criticism like that?

I guess my response to that is, things are changing. Things are getting more accurate, more inclusive. And people who say it's forced are probably just...maybe think a little harder about it, about why things are going the way they are.

Are you hopeful for the future of Asian-American representation in media? Not just anime, but also in other forms of animation, in live-action? What kinds of projects do you want to see greenlit in the future so that the Asian community worldwide can see themselves represented?

I think it's going in a good direction right now. I think things are definitely picking up in terms of representation in the media. I think the industry of Asian media worldwide is growing, which is great to see. I know Chinese animation is getting way bigger globally. It's just kicking off. And seeing movies like The Legend of Hei getting the proper representation treatment, being in a movie from China, I'm hopeful. I hope that continues, especially because there's more and more stuff coming out from Asia in general, not just Japan. And I hope the trend continues. I feel like it looks pretty bright.

SK8 the Infinity (both subbed and dubbed versions) is currently streaming on Funimation

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Raffy Ermac

Digital Director,

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and digital director of Out Magazine. The former editor-in-chief of PRIDE, he is also a die-hard Rihanna and Sailor Moon stan who loves to write about all things pop culture, entertainment, and identities. Follow him on Instagram (@raffyermac) and Twitter (@byraffy), and subscribe to his YouTube channel

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and digital director of Out Magazine. The former editor-in-chief of PRIDE, he is also a die-hard Rihanna and Sailor Moon stan who loves to write about all things pop culture, entertainment, and identities. Follow him on Instagram (@raffyermac) and Twitter (@byraffy), and subscribe to his YouTube channel