Smile Down the Runway
Episode 9

by Lynzee Loveridge,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Smile Down the Runway ?

Have you ever wanted to prove someone wrong? An authority figure who told you that you couldn't achieve something or a peer that mocked your capabilities? The drive to believe in yourself and obtain a seemingly impossible goal is at the center of Smile Down the Runway this week. Chiyuki is back from a fruitless endeavor in Paris where designers compared her to elementary school children, yet another wound to her pride. Ikuto is preparing for the Geika Festival where he's determined to prove to Itoh that he has what it takes to be a designer. Itoh himself is putting all his work into his designs to show the world that he's more than his namesake.

And then there's Kokoro who has yet to find her own determination to put a stop to her manager's cruel comments. It takes Chiyuki putting a deal on the table to finally give Kokoro an escape route. The two had only met as models at a previous shoot, one where Chiyuki's jealousy led her to tear into Kokoro. Upon their second meeting, Chiyuki realizes that Ikuto's coworker from Hajime's studio and the model are one in the same. There seems like there's some residual jealousy lingering there, but this time it's centered on Ikuto. He's the only person who has sought out Chiyuki for her modeling ability so to learn that he greatly respects another girl, one that squarely highlights Chiyuki's own shortcomings as a model, is a bit much for her to bear.

Regardless, Chiyuki does the right thing by trying to facilitate a way for Kokoro to get out of her modeling contract. She'll have to win the Geika Festival with Chiyuki as her model. This means that Ikuto has lost his muse and throws out his entire "wind" theme that was based around Chiyuki's personality. In fact, he's considering throwing the show all together despite Chiyuki advising him not to because he can't imagine knowing that his win cost Kokoro her own dream. That conclusion doesn't last long though. It turns out his mother is rooting for him and wants to see her kid's fashion design debut. Ikuto isn't about to let his mom down so despite not having any models or any assistance, he starts over from scratch.

In order to put on a good show, Ikuto has to reframe Kokoro, Chiyuki, and especially Itoh, as rivals. Itoh has little faith in Ikuto's abilities and considers him no better than a patternmaker (of which he has a team of 20). I'm honestly a little worried for Ikuto. We haven't seen much of design aesthetic since Chiyuki first turned heads back in episode one. Since then the closest we've seen is his take on a pair of pajamas. Meanwhile we get regular shots of Itoh's workspace throughout this episode as his collection starts to come together and it has some genuine merit.

Last week we found out that the Geika Festival theme was "wa" and it entirely flew over my head that it has an obvious connection to the Japanese era change. The assignment used "wa" as its written in hiragana but Ikuto decides to use the kanji reading for "harmony," the same kanji used for Reiwa. Ikuto's take is to harmonize men and women's wear with a central focus on pants. Yet, the kid apparently doesn't know how to make slacks. He's able to get some help from Rynosuke, a Geika student out to defeat Itoh, and their brief collaboration leads Ikuto to once again throw out his designs.

I have no idea what Ikuto's collection is going to look like, but that's intentional. I think it's fair to say the anime staff want the Geika Festival to be as surprising to the audience as it would be for the characters watching the runway. The episode fast-forwards through the entire creation and preparation stage of the festival, leaving us on the eve of the presentation. Will Ikuto make something fantastic or are we going to get another pair of striped pajamas? Can Kokoro adjust for a much shorter model than she originally had in mind? Will Itoh, the guy with the most honed abilities and resources, pull out ahead? It's honestly hard to say...I want Kokoro to get out of her crappy contract but it's equally hard to believe that the protagonist won't take the whole competition.


Smile Down the Runway is currently streaming on Funimation.

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