- Titles: Runway de Waratte, Smile Down the Runway
- Genre: Drama, slice of life, school, fashion
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Ezo’la
Chiyuki is going to be a fashion model. And not just any fashion model. She’s going to be a top fashion model and she’s going to walk the runway during Paris Fashion week. After all, this has been her dream for as long as she can remember. And she’s worked hard for it every day of her life. And her father even owns a prestigious label named after her. Milles Neiges – Chiyuki, get it! In any case, fashion runs through Chiyuki’s veins, it’s practically her right of passage. So what could possibly stop her now? Oh yeah…genetics… On the other hand, Ikuto has no business wanting to be a designer. What could this boy out of nowhere with no connections or pedigree ever hope to accomplish in the fashion world? Why is he even interested? What could he possibly bring to the table? Oh, yeah…genetics. This is the story of someone who had everything except one, and someone who only had one thing.
I’m not sure if any of you know this but I like fashion. A lot. I have favourite designers, I follow fashion shows. I have murky opinions of silhouettes and fabric integrity. I also get strangely annoyed when live-action shows put actors in the same room in outfits for two completely different temperatures. Buffy use to do that all the time. You had Buffy in some tiny spaghetti strap cotton tank, looking all summery and sweet, talking to Willow in a wool sweater. One of these actresses is terribly uncomfortable and might pass out. Why do that? Am I the only one who is bugged by this? Wait, I might have strayed from the point here a bit…
I didn’t think I had heard of Ezo’la studios before I sat down to write this review. Turns out they’ve done three series, including Smile down the Runway and I’ve seen one of the other two (Happy Sugar Life). So I’m actually kind of an expert on Studio Ezo’la… (Did I spell that right?)
Smile Down the Runway (and Happy Sugar Life was also that way) is a series that focuses on stills. You’ll see, the screencaps I took all look great. The character designs are conventional but well put together. So if you look at the images, specifically the characters, it’s a great production.
However, the backgrounds suffer a bit. Most of them are rather bland and there are very few extras so the world seems a little lifeless. And mostly, the animation is slightly below average. It’s janky and often resorts to slideshows instead of actual movement. I should say that considering the setting and story, I don’t think this was a big deal. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the show in any way. But it was noticeable.
Another thing that was very noticeable is the studio’s fondness for giving us close-ups of eyes whenever they want to really bring out a character’s emotions and intensify a scene. Very eye-heavy show. I added a lot of images to my Anime Eyes board.
Story & Characters
In many respects, Smile Down the Runway is a paint by numbers professional drama. But that’s also unusual for an anime. It’s really a series that is first and foremost about going after your dream job. And that’s kind of refreshing, even if in practice it felt like a school club drama. We don’t see anime exploring ambition mush, outside of wanting to be the next Hokage, or I wanna be the very best, Like no one ever was.
There are a lot of things that just don’t quite work about Smile Down the Runway. The characters are a bit flat. They are almost entirely defined by their ambitions and I understand how that helps the premise but it does make it more difficult to relate to them.
It should be noted that despite early indicators (and my own summary), I would say the protagonist of the series is Ikuto rather than Chiyuki. The series spends much more time with him and we get to know him, and his family more than anyone else. Which made it a bit jarring when the perspective was brought back to Chiyuki in the final episodes after not having seen her for so long. This could have been done better.
I have mentioned drama a lot. That’s because Smile Down the Runway isn’t satisfied with the tension and conflict brought on by the high-stakes world of haute couture. Oh no! It has to throw in serious personal and family drama for all major characters. If you think that 12 episodes doesn’t seem like it would allow enough time for that, you wouldn’t be wrong.
Lately, I have watched a bunch of shows that do that. I mean throw in some deep personal drama into a crowded story that doesn’t seem to need it. And I think I might have grown somewhat accustomed to it. Some do it better than others. In Smile Down the Runway, I would say that the drama itself didn’t bother me (that’s already a pretty big win considering it did get a little melo here and there) but that I do think some of the time devoted to it, would have served better elsewhere.
All I know about Chiyuki really is that she has always wanted to be a model, she was taller than I am now when she was 10 years old but she’s still way too short for the profession which she finds frustrating. That’s literally it. Ok, I know what her character design looks like. It looks like this. OK, now you know as much about Chiyuki as I do. And she is one of the leading characters.
With all this said, I still enjoyed Smile Down the Runway. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch another season. I enjoyed it like one might enjoy a soap opera. I am very aware of all the flaws in the series. Both on the production and storytelling side. However, it also has certain qualities that appeal to me. The character designs, the setting, the out of nowhere drama that speaks to the teenager in me. I think that’s worth something. I would say that if you weren’t interested in Smile Down the Runway before, there’s no need to run out and watch it. But if you were, you’d probably like it.
Side note, this is something I rarely say but I think Smile Down the Runway would work better as a manga. I might look into where I could get the volumes.
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy fashion and pretty pretty anime kids.
My favourite character:
- Every time anyone mentions “Paris” – take a sip
- Every time Hazime threatens someone with death – take a sip
- Every time anyone gets told they won’t make it – don’t listen to them
- Every time there’s fashion narration – take notes
- Every time Tsumura blushes – awwwww
- Every time Hazime doesn’t wear his glasses – take a sip
- Every time anyone cries – there there
- Every time Chiyuki calls Tsumura weird – take a sip
- Every time Hazime is mean – sulk
- Every time someone tries to get someone else to quit – take a sip
- Every time we see Tsumura’s mom – worry
- Every time Ikuto charms someone – take a sip
- Every time Ciyuki loses her temper – cower
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.