「これは君の物語」 (Kore wa kimi no Monogatari)
“This Is Your Story”
Runway de Waratte – aka Smile on the Runway – has been my longstanding guilty pleasure. Although Studio Ezola is a name that doesn’t ring any bells, who wouldn’t be happy to see one of their favourite manga being brought to life? A quick run down of the premise is that Chiyuki Fujito has dreamed of becoming a fashion model since she was a child. However, in spite of her good looks and the fact her father owns a distinguished modelling agency, her short stature poses a significant obstacle to her aspirations. Her father fires her from his agency and everyone pretty much tells her to give up.
Ikuto on the other hand has the confidence and belief of his loved ones, with regards to becoming a world class fashion designer. However, he comes from an extremely poor family. Ikuto cannot afford to save up money to attend fashion college, because his mother’s medical bills need to be paid for, and his younger sisters require immediate financial assistance to further their education. Despite his own dreams, Ikuto is willing to sacrifice himself because his family mean the world to him. To surmise, their meeting and subsequent collaboration allow them to overcome these obstacles – with Mille Neige finally granting Chiyuki an official contract after years of rejection and Chiyuki’s father personally requesting Ikuto to become one of his designers while offering appropriate financial compensation.
What were my initial impressions? Frankly, mixed. But also relieved. It turned out pretty decent and could have been a lot worse.
Let’s get straight to my biggest gripe. They went with an anime original introduction – spoiling that Chiyuki and Ikuto have already succeeded and are fondly looking back upon their journey. None of this ever happens in the manga. At present, 100+ chapters in, there’s been absolutely no hint as to whether they will make it or not. Which is extremely problematic. Viewers will therefore operate on the assumption that Chiyuki and Ikuto have already succeeded 8 years into the future – completely eliminating the high stakes and emotional gravity throughout the story. Their struggles will no longer be trials and tribulations that can make and break their potential career in the fashion industry. And that absolutely sucks. But it is what it is. As such, I can only ask people reading this to consider that bit of information as ‘Fake News’ peddled by the evil animation studios.
My sincerest praise, on the other hand, is how the animators and voice actors have successfully captured the essence of these characters, bringing sparkle and life to their depiction. They captured emotional contrasts extremely well – e.g. when Chiyuki despairingly realises her hypocrisy in telling Ikuto that his dream are probably impossible, so I have extremely optimistic hopes for how they’ll fantastically portray models on the catwalk, as well as the highs and lows that these characters will be going through.
With the first episode out of the way, I would understand if people dropped or passed up on Runway de Waratte. It isn’t exactly mind-blowing and focuses on a niche interest which isn’t popular in the anime community – excluding the cosplaying diaspora. When was the last time you saw a well-dressed person at an anime convention who wasn’t a cosplayer? Yeah, I thought so too. Not to mention even those cosplays can be undeniably questionable to say the least.
So then comes my task as a massive fan of the source material. How can I sell people on this unassuming story which I really care about? Frustrating as it is, I would probably have to undersell it. Higher expectations generally lead to disappointment, while you can only be pleasantly surprised when you forgo any expectations in the first place – as I did when diving into this series. For that reason I will ask you all to temper your expectations, because your mileages will inevitably vary on an individual basis. However, to explain the over-arching concept: Bakuman but replace manga with fashion. If you’re a fan of character-driven narratives following people who are passionately chasing their dreams, and if you’re open to being pleasantly surprised, then this should definitely be one to keep an eye out for.