Like any genre of any form of media, shonen anime as a whole can be described by the sum of its parts. When an anime fan is asked to name a shonen title, they will most likely mention a series like dragon balls, Yu Yu Hakusho or Jujutsu Kaisen. Not just because they’re all properties of famous shonen magazines, but because they embody what the genre is best known for: epic fights that showcase the martial arts of the series’ magic system.
Action is a surefire way to grab your audience’s attention and attract your target audience. However, it would be a mistake to assume that all shonen anime are like this. There are just as many where combat is not part of the story at all, in the typical sense. Smile down the runway is such a series. Focused on the world of high fashion, it doesn’t seem to fit the genre at a glance. Despite this “feminine” subject, it has everything a good shonen could ask for, from the characters to the tension it manages to create.
Smile Down The Runway Characters face seemingly impossible odds
The fashion industry is highly competitive on all fronts and the slightest mistake can ruin a brand’s reputation. From Episode 1, Smile down the runway makes this clear to the audience. Before they have a chance in this terrible world, both protagonists face unchanging circumstances in their own way.
Chiyuki has dreamed of being a top model since she was a child, but her chances were ruined when she stopped growing. Standing six inches below the standard model height, her role models brutally told her she didn’t stand a chance. Chiyuki persisted and was eventually dismissed as a reality check. Yet she shows up at every audition, hoping to be allowed back.
Meanwhile, aspiring fashion designer Ikuto thought it was best to let his dream stay a dream. His mother is hospitalized, leaving him and his sisters to survive without her. Money is tight and his sewing skills have helped the family earn money. He wants more, but believes it’s best for his family if he throws his dream away so his sisters can live theirs. Only after meeting Chiyuki and being influenced by her passion does he change his mind. At this point, they share a common feature.
Smile Down the Runway’s Chiyuki and Ikuto are established Shonen protagonists
Stubbornness and determination are qualities so common in shonen protagonists that they are almost a requirement. Black clover‘s Asta will not be content to be less than the Sorcerer King, and The Promised NeverlandEmma will not stop fighting until her family is free. Smile down the runwayChiyuki and Ikuto are the same way about their respective dreams.
Chiyuki embodies this trait in its purest form. Even though she’s been told for years that she’ll never have what it takes to be a supermodel, she’s never given up on her dream. She works on her walk, tries on different clothes and anything else she can think of to show off what she can do. Even when employers reject the sight because of her size, Chiyuki begs for a chance. This is the world she wants to be in and she will do anything to make it happen.
Ikuto, even though he’s still adjusting to going after what he wants, hasn’t really given up yet. At the start of the series, even age catches up with him. If he was a year or two older, he would have encountered less problems than he did. Although he proves his talent by creating beautiful clothes, no brand will hire a high school student without formal training. So he asks for that workout and jumps right in. Ikuto may hesitate and make mistakes, but he never complains or backs down.
Smiles down Excellent Use of Tension and Track Framing
BECAUSE Smile down the runway marks the passion and determination of Chiyuki and Ikuto, the audience can’t help but root for them despite their low odds of success. Although it is the story of achieving their goals, the process has developed with ups and downs; one of them can take a step forward or backward in any given episode. A new character appears who can help or hinder them, or just throw a twist in the script.
On top of that, the way the scenes are paced and framed matches any other glossy anime. The OP shows the lead couple meeting obstacles and overcoming them in a frenzy of fashion work. Ikuto makes a last minute adjustment and Chiyuki walks on stage with purpose, determined to prove herself. These are the two of them in any “battle” that ends. They’re racing against the clock, working with what’s in front of them and adapting when plans go awry. Ikuto’s sewing footage can be as intense as Light’s writing in the Death Note, and Chiyuki’s walk as powerful as Goku finally joining the fight.