Smile Down the Runway
Episode 1-2

by Lynzee Loveridge,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Smile Down the Runway ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Smile Down the Runway ?

Chiyuki Fujito is privileged with a capital P. She's a conventionally attractive high school girl with a modeling career that allows her to appear in magazine advertisements and catalogs. Her dad owns a fashion design house and modeling agency that he named after her. But Chiyuki isn't happy. It looks like her dreams of representing her dad's agency (and thus herself) on the runway during Paris Fashion Week will be impossible. She's just not tall enough.

Height (and weight) are major factors in a potential runway model's career. The stats aren't common; many high-end fashion brands specifically seek out women over 5'9 and under 120lbs. Which, after looking at those numbers, you might understand why the expectation for fashion models is heavily scrutinized. In Chiyuki's case, she's too short at 158 cm tall (or 5'2). Even women who were considered short by modeling standards are still between 5'6 and 5'7. The shortest model I could find that represented major brands on the runway is Devon Aoki at 5'5.

Chiyuki's determined though, in a way that feels just a little self-indulgent. She comes from a life where she's rarely told 'no,' her magazine modeling and beauty means she's popular in school and she certainly has access to money. It's hard to root for her initially because she has access to all kinds of opportunities except for this exact, specific one due to her height. She's also, to put it bluntly, completely out of touch with what it means to actually struggle.

The same can't be said for Ikuto, a kid who comes from large family (by Japanese standards) and has an ailing mother. Ikuto wants to go to fashion design school but doesn't have the money to afford it, besides he's decided to sacrifice his dreams in order to provide more opportunities for his siblings. Chiyuki and Ikuto's personalities seem like they'd never work. His demure personality puts him at risk of being taken advantage of by Chiyuki who, while not intentionally malicious, is too selfish to really consider others before herself. You can see this when she lies about Ikuto's design catches attention but she feels like it would hurt her reputation to admit that it's student-made. She also more or less expected that he'd just supply the outfit to her.

Side note: I've watched enough Project Runway and America's Next Top Model to know that you'd never show up to a modeling call in that. Tyra Banks would have a fit. I wonder if it'll come up later because, while eye-catching, you might notice that the other models in line are wearing neutral color tops and pants. That's intentional. A designer wants to be able to picture you in any of their clothes and appearing in something too stylized will throw that off.

Regardless, Ikuto's design and Chiyuki's misstep in identifying it as part of her dad's brand inadvertently gets Ikuto the job of his dreams without the needed diploma. It also gets Chiyuki a contract at her dad's modeling agency. So far their relationship is mostly symbiotic; it's not that they necessarily like each other but Chiyuki can supply Ikuto with opportunities he'd never have access to and in return he can furnish her with killer clothes that keep her in the limelight. And as a designer that spotlight will eventually be on him, too.

Wait, did I say "job of his dreams?" See, the other thing that the fashion design industry has a reputation for is being a hot bed of shitty, abusive personalities. Smile Down the Runway doesn't shy away from this but it also doesn't seem interested in calling them out either. Putting up with an abusive work environment is treated like a trial by fire; if you withstand it you'll earn the respect of your mentors. Assuming you don't die from overwork first. The second episode seems comfortable allowing Ikuto's new boss Hajime to overwork his small staff and throw around insults because he's famous, stressed, and doing something important. This point is reiterated briefly when a fashion magazine editor and a writer attend Tokyo Fashion Week together only for the younger employee to be told her "best clothes" were ugly. All this stuff is abusive for a work environment but anime really loves that "work hard and earn your shitty boss' respect so they treat you like a human" angle.

So, pardon me but I couldn't help but snicker when Hajime's show starts to fall apart and it's revealed that he doesn't make clothes, he's a designer. This is the equivalent of walking into any place of work and selling yourself as idea guy, which honestly doesn't translate into the fashion industry. You can't successfully design clothes without an understanding of how different fabric moves, is gathered, etc. Presumably Hajime did go to fashion design school where he'd learn all of these skills so it's insane to me that he wouldn't be able to alter his own gown. He obviously knows the different kind of stitches; he chews Ikuto out for providing the incorrect one. The only thing I'll cut Hajime slack for is freaking out when Chiyuki showed up. It's the day of the show and he certainly would have asked the modeling agency to send a model of a certain height to avoid the situation he's in. It's crappy to put him in a situation where he'd have to make major alterations backstage for a model that's probably half a foot too short.

Smile Down the Runway presents a unique change-up to shōnen formula but some of the worse parts are still there. I want to see Ikuto rise to prominence in his chosen vocation and for Chiyuki to succeed (while learning to be a better person). I don't want that to mean I have to watch adults get stamps of approval for being assholes and driving their workers to an early grave as some sort of necessity to achieve greatness. That philosophy needs to be taken out to pasture.


Side note: I'm still not entirely sure if Hajime's assistant was suggesting Chiyuki eats LESS than two meals a day and that's 'working hard' or what. Everyone's blushing like it's a huge compliment that she has a ridiculously small waist. Guys.

Smile Down the Runway is currently streaming on Funimation.

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