I don’t know about you, but for me, manga is the one medium that can explore real-world themes that I would normally find boring, and make me like them. Shokugeki no Soma– about cooking- to ACT-AGE– about acting- are two great examples. But what about something I wholly resent- like the fashion world? Well, there’s a manga for that, too, and it’s called Smile Down the Runway. This blog is my overview of the first three volumes published in English by Kodansha Comics.
This manga is basically two underdog stories in one: Chiyuki Fujito, who wants to be a fashion model, but is too much of a loli, and Ikuto Tsumura, who wants to be a fashion designer, but is too uneducated. But you know, with a little hard work, and a lot of nakama power, they can live their dreams (Spoiler alert: They succeed because they tell you as much right on the first page)!
All I can say is, “so far, so good.” Smile Down the Runway’s plot progression has been really simple, almost like a sports manga such as Haikyuu!! There isn’t as much focus on infodumping assorted fashion jargon as there is on getting the job done, which might be off-putting to some people.
And speaking of off-putting… despite the unusual premise, Smile Down the Runway has been fairly generic thus far. This is most emphasized in the characters. Chiyuki and Ikuto are mostly similar, with the only difference being Ikuto’s lack of confidence (but hey, they at least have good chemistry, and THAT’S what matters). There’s also a third character, Fumiyo, who is aspiring to be a fashion journalist. She seems to act as the audience surrogate for those who are going into this perturbed by the fashion world (and will presumably grow to like it along with the reader (also presumably)). But yeah… these characters are really uninspired.
However, the biggest problem I have with this manga is that it hasn’t really dived into the psychology of the fashion world, at least thus far. While I’m glad that it hasn’t pulled any of that model-on-model drama BS in those “reality” TV shows ( not yet), you don’t really get any idea of the mindset of people in this field, as opposed to something like ACT-AGE. I mean, it’s literally a world where people’s entire character is judged based entirely on how they look, which sounds straight up immoral from my perspective. What kind of background does one have to grow up in, and what do they need to be influenced by, in order to view the world this way? That’s what I want to know from this manga.
On the plus side, the art is great. The author seems to capture the expressions of fashion models well, and create some nice-looking clothes that somehow feel colorful despite it being in black-and-white. There are also some surprisingly juicy double-page spreads. I recommend reading this digitally so that you can snip some desktop wallpaper (fair use for personal purposes).
Current Verdict: 7.5/10
Smile Down the Runway is pretty good. It has potential to be something truly special, but for now, it hasn’t really done much with said potential. Given its sports-like formula, it could be appealing to shounen fans (bizarrely enough), but I’d only recommend it to those with a wide-open mind.