Smile Down the Runway
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Smile Down the Runway ?
The fated day has finally arrived and if Smile Down the Runway has done one thing, its prove that underneath all those layers of fabric is an ooey-gooey emotional core. The series hasn't excelled particularly well in its representation of fashion as almost all the technical aspects and designs were relegated to the background. As a recovered Project Runway binge-watcher, that's disappointed me at times but I felt most of my negative feelings dissolve as our Good Boy got his time in the spotlight.
The Geika Festival opens with a who's-who of the professionals, some we've met before and others are new to the show. Toh's grandma is attendance along with Ikuto's entire family. The judging panel is helmed by Geika's principal, the model Sara from the previous challenge, a big wig fashion magazine editor, and another popular fashion designer. They, along with Ikuto's family and Chiyuki and Kokoro's managers, serve as the sideline commentary for the collections. They either add small comments so viewers can fully understand the skill on display or add emotional context for the presentations. This works pretty effectively for both Kaoru and of course Ikuto, but the balance is off for a few reasons.
First, all the contestants are going into this show with something to prove. Ikuto has finally embraced his competitive spirit after nearly dropping out for the sake of others, be it his family or Kokoro. He's firmly decided to give this collection all of his attention so he can show what he's truly capable of accomplishing and hopefully make Toh look like an idiot for doubting him. From the moment he steps through the double doors he, Kokoro, Toh, and everyone else on stage are his rivals for acknowledgement and victory. Like any good shōnen series, I'd expect equal emphasis put on the skills of his competition; that's what makes victory so sweet.
If you'll follow me down a rabbit trail for a moment, some of the best anime competitions I've watched are early matches in Food Wars! and the especially nail-biting matches between Karasuno and Aoba Johsai and Shiratorizawa. The latter teams had a reputation for being undefeated and viewers were able to see on screen just how good the teams were and how that pushed Karasuno to develop new strategies to overcome them. Of course, fashion isn't volleyball but the example serves to show that you can't just say "so and so is good" for a thrilling competition, it needs to shown. Smile Down the Runway stumbles here and it's an unfortunate side effect of its production quality.
Ikuto is one of the last presenters of the day, following the passionate freckled girl Kaoru Kizaki. Her show is heavily influenced by Hajime which means...more red but it's definitely taking notes from Kaoru's own fiery determination. She blends kimono details with non-traditional fabrics like leather. I can imagine how great her designs would look in my head but it doesn't quite come across in the anime itself because the detail simply isn't there. The fabric doesn't move on the runway and the textures aren't rendered correctly. If the judges hadn't said outright that leather was used in the design, the audience wouldn't be able to tell. The problem doesn't stop with Kaoru's collection either. It's easy to surmise that a shortcuts had be taken, thus all the cutaways to bystander chatter, but this feels like the episode where these details needed to be right.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop once Ikuto takes center stage. It's certainly better, but the stiffness of the fabric...and the pretty awful way the houndstooth and other patterns are slapped across the garments feels like a disservice to what the show wants from the audience. We're supposed to be impressed, even astounded, at how Ikuto managed to pull through with his collection—and to a degree I definitely am. Our boy is leaps and bounds beyond repurposing old fabric here and you can see how his first big outfit from episode one hinted at what he's capable of accomplishing. Ikuto is not afraid of color or patterns and decides to turn his show into a worldwide tour of unisex fashion. The designs are great when we get to see them (all 10 looks do not get the same amount of screen time) and he was smart enough to end on a note that some might consider controversial—a great way to get people talking about your collection.
He also integrates the people most important to him in his show: his family. He uses blue lighting for his sister Aoi, an important song as his background music for Honoka, and a unisex style as an ode to his hardworking mother. He let his family know how much their support means to him when he's had to shoulder so much for their sake. It was a pretty beautiful moment (and I'll admit, his mom got me right in the heart here). Ikuto was able to create something he was proud of and for that, it really doesn't matter if he wins or not. We'll still have to see if nervous wreck Kokoro managed to find her footing and how Toh's collection came together next week.
Smile Down the Runway is currently streaming on Funimation.
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