Chiyuki Fujito is an aspiring model whose dream is to take part in Paris Fashion Week; however, she lacks the proper height to even be considered for the simplest of modeling gigs. Similarly, Ikuto Tsumura is a poor high school student who wants to design clothes, but he has instead decided to skip college and head straight into the workforce to support his family.
When the two cross paths, they come to the conclusion that no matter how difficult it may seem, they will do what they can to achieve their goals and prove that one's circumstances do not determine their course in life. And so begin both of their journeys, destined to meet again on the runway.
The first serialized work of the fledgling mangaka Inoya Kotoba, Runway de Waratte (Smile at the Runway) is a captivating work that narrates the encounter between Fujito Chiyuki, a girl who aspires to become a supermodel in spite of her detrimental stature, and Tsumura Ikuto, an unassuming boy with a hidden attachment to making clothes. As each person finds encouragement in the other to continue pursuit of their ambitions, each confronts people who offer both ominous discouragements and impelling guidance. Regardless of whether their efforts brings them closer or further away from their dreams, the challenges that the characters took upon themselves are undoubtedly humanizing
endeavors where each comes to realize his/her own inadequacies through supplementing for the flaws of others.
“True beauty is born through our actions and aspirations, and in the kindness we offer to others.”
There exists no greater complement to this manga than the words of South Sudanese-British model and designer Alek Wek. Amidst an era in which violent melees and cheesy romance dominate novels, films, and games alike, Runway de Waratte serves as a cherishable reminder that human virtues dazzle in the mundanity of everyday life with comparable, if not greater, brilliance than within the supernatural and melodrama settings. In applying shounen concepts to a genuine modern industry, the manga has successfully created relatable and simultaneously extraordinarily inspiring characters within a surreal setting. Be it the grouchy mentor who stubbornly adheres to his ideals regardless of criticism, or the father who hardens his heart to reject his daughter's ambitions, not a single persona is conceived superficial, nor is he conveniently imposed to shoulder the story line alone. The result of such portrayal of relationships is the blurring of distinction between protagonist and antagonist, between adversity and opportunity. The artistic rendering of thematic scenes and dialogues only serves to further elevate the struggle of the characters beyond mere physical or the mental conflicts, amplifying them into passionate messages that truly speaks at the audience.
Occasionally happening upon magnificent works like Runway de Waratte is what sustains my conviction in manga as a potential medium of quality literature as opposed to a source of cheap entertainment. Indeed, it is a fascinating epiphany to witness how a well-composed story compels one to care so much for a subject one has no knowledge of. Reading the manga is an experience nothing short of mind-blowing, and I was reminded, yet again, how slight the line between fiction and reality truly is.
Runway de Waratte is technically about Fujito Chiyuki, a girl who is too short to become a model, and Tsumura Ikuto, a boy who wants to be a fashion designer, but seems to have given up on it. Originally, I thought this manga would be more similar to a shoujo style- with romance, school life, and drama, but it turns out Runway de Waratte is set up in a shounen way, complete with battle and training(?) arcs. It's a very engaging story, and it's evident how much hard work both of the main characters put in to realize their dreams. I use the term
both main characters loosely, however, as it seems like the plot forgets Chiyuki halfway through. Currently speaking (up to chapter 37), Ikuto is the main focus, and as fascinating as it is, I do think Chiyuki's storyline should be explored more.
There is a good reason the art is rated so highly on this manga for me. Firstly, it is aesthetically pleasing to look at, however, good art in a manga should not just look appealing, but it should carry the attitude and the drive of the characters as well. It's amazing how dynamic the art can make sewing look, or how the character's will flows through their movements. The most interesting thing about the art are the eyes and the body positions of each character, and how that can reflect what the person is thinking and feeling.
I wish I could rate this category 10/10. I really do. All of the feelings and conflicts feel very realistic and there is character growth. However, while Ikuto's character is amazing, and you could see his character arc and how he was changing as a person, we barely get to see Chiyuki (Again, as of right now at chapter 37). Chiyuki has less time than many of the background characters, despite being listed as a MC. I hope to see more of Chiyuki and her struggles as well, because her problems (hinted at in chapter 36-37) are quite interesting as well.
This manga is really unique. It's rare that a manga can make me feel this excited about anything, but I think what makes it really special is the way that the stakes are real for the characters, and it shows the amount of work they have to put in. It was really enjoyable to read, and I can't wait for the next chapter.