There are very few anime titles that center entirely around the professional modelling and fashion/design industries (in fact, I can only think of one, that being 2005’s fascinating Paradise Kiss). This fact alone was all I needed to prompt me to give Runway de Waratte/Smile Down the Runway a go. So, how did it measure up?
At first glance, I’m not sure I cared as much for Runway as I wanted to. It doesn’t feel especially deep nor even especially realistic, and Chiyuki isn’t exactly the most compelling of characters. To say she’s one-dimensional and narcissistic would be an overstatement, sure, especially as she doesn’t seem in the least malicious with it, but she does certainly come across as rather shallow and self-absorbed – even if she’s not intentionally unkind, that kind of personality is more than a bit cliché when paired with wannabe models. Self-confidence doesn’t always have to equal self-obsession. To top it all off, she’s of course depicted as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty who comes from a rich family and has therefore never needed to deal with any real kind of hardships in her life (and no, not being tall enough to qualify for Paris Fashion Week does not count as a hardship).
However, just when I was about to complain that Ikuto, Chiyuki’s quiet and unassuming fashion designer counterpart, would have made a far more interesting main character… the series kind of explicitly made him one? I was literally moaning out loud about it when this happened on-screen, making that particular complaint a moot point. If the series does indeed decide to give him the same amount of attention as Chiyuki, and if it also decides to give Chiyuki some genuine hurdles aside from her height along the way (because I can tell you from firsthand experience, there’s far, far more to the modelling industry than being tall and looking pretty), then Runway de Waratte might just end up being a lot more interesting than I initially gave it credit for.