Smile Down the Runway
Episode 8

by Lynzee Loveridge,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Smile Down the Runway ?

Ikuto has been afforded quite a few opportunities in the pursuit of his fashion design dreams but none of that counts for much when he's faced with financial hardship. Unlike the other characters we've encountered over the course of the series, Ikuto and his family live paycheck to paycheck and anything that upends the very delicate balance of their income and costs could strip Ikuto of his dreams. He doesn't have the luxury of a wealthy grandmother with an established fashion line or a dad that owns a talent agency. He's just a high school kid that managed to catch the eye of the right people.

Like most of us cogs in the corporate system, catching the eye of the right person really translates to "exploitative labor opportunity" as Ikuto quickly finds out. Saddled with about US$5,000 in medical debt that will be due once his mother is released from the hospital (suspend your disbelief here), Ikuto has his back up against the wall. He fully intended to quit Hajime's studio and start up working for Itoh's brand launch while preparing his own line for the Geika Festival. Now any funding he planned to use for his pieces needs to go to his mother's bills and he only has a month to round it up.

Itoh's a wealthy guy and he sees Ikuto's in dire straits. He offers to hire him full time and cover the cost if only he'll abandon any aspirations for designing and work as a patternmaker. He finally shows the darker side of himself that we first got a glimpse of back in Hajime's studio. Itoh doesn't just want Ikuto to take him up on his offer, but he wants to convince him to resign himself to patternmaking because he has no talent for design. I don't think Itoh truly believes this but he made similar statements during his evalutation of Ikuto's pajama design. This is more likely a move on his part to eliminate some of his competition from the Geika Festival by taking advantage of Ikuto's financial situation. Ikuto has to figure out whether to solve his looming shorter term problems by abandoning his future prospects.

Ikuto was, of course, being ridiculous by trying to give up nothing. He can't keep thinking he can win on a professional level by repurposing old clothes. You could look at it as an unfair financial barrier set up by the school itself that it expects its students to have the disposable finances to participate in this competition. One way to "keep out the poors" is to make sure they never had a leg to stand on to begin with and that's how talent like Ikuto's never sees the light of day; the barrier of entry to artistic endeavors ensures it.

Ikuto is understandably frustrated by his circumstances and quickly learns that Itoh's attempt to exploit him isn't a unique one. He's barely out the door before Kokoro's manager shows up and tries to pay him off so he'll ask Kokoro to model in his show, something that might convince her to give up her aspirations as well. While grappling with the fact that adults and the fashion industry sucks, Ikuto finally encounters one adult who isn't looking to get something out of him in exchange for money. Chiyuki hit another dead-end while in Paris and her dad wants Ikuto to cheer her up by asking her to model in his show, something he already intended to do anyway. Oh also, they want to put Ikuto's design on the market after there was a barrage of public interest.

When it's all said and done, Ikuto ends the episode with a cool two million yen (about US$18.5k) and a better understanding of how hard he's going to have to work to get a leg up on all these rich kids. Sometimes things just are too good to be true and he might want to start questioning the motives of others' philanthropy before accepting their offers.

As an aside, buddy might want to check some of his righteous anger before it starts spilling over into his personal relationships. Otherwise he's going to end up just like Hajime.


Smile Down the Runway is currently streaming on Funimation.

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