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 okay, but I don't think it deserves all the praise that it garners in the previous two reviews, so I've decided to offer my two cents. I don't mean to offend any fans of this manga with this review, but with the anime coming out, I thought I might offer a different perspective.
Runway de Waratte immediately surprises you with a rather unconventional premise: fashion. Perhaps an obscure topic, runway models are rather unexciting, even in real life. A quick glance at the cover art might convince many people that this is a shoujo-type manga. But then again, Ballroom e
Youkoso was about ballroom dancing, and it was a fairly entertaining shounen, so I decided to have a little faith.
Runway de Waratte is about a rather generic shy teenage boy named Ikuto with a surprising talent in clothing design and a short girl named Chiyuki whose dream is to become a model in the Paris Fashion Week. They meet by coincidence, he makes her a dress which explodes into popularity, and they are both recognized for their talent and embark on their journey to achieve their dreams.
I find that their meeting is based on a lot of coincidences and unlikelihoods, and the first few chapters seem a little too long in unnecessary parts and too short in the important ones, but the beginning of the story is enough for me to be interested. The only problem I forsee is that they run out of new ideas to drive the plot, as fashion is not something that incites exciting fights. Conflict drives the story, but there is not much room for conflict here. Especially with a publisher like Shounen Magazine, where longer projects tend to dominate, I fear that his manga will become very boring, very fast.
The story focuses on Ikuto's "struggle" to keep him dreams, projects, and family afloat, but it doesn't feel like much of one because every problem seems to resolve itself in a neat and perfect way. Chiyuki has several internal conflicts, most notably "I'm not cut out to be a model because I'm short," to which one might ask, how does her personal growth affect the outcome of this circumstance? The answer is not really clear, making it difficult to tell if the characters are getting better or if society is becoming more accepting. It's not a bad story, per se, but not what I would normally expect from shounen.
It looks nice, focuses on the right things, but can be a little inconsistent at times. The character designs are not particularly flashy or unique, which seems to me like a bold choice for a story about fashion, but I'm not usually one to complain about the art.
In terms of character design, I must admit that Ikuto looks like a wimp and Chiyuki looks like a typical pretty girl. This is accurate to the manga, so I can't really make any negative comments.
While making my way through this manga, it has suddenly struck me why it does not work as a shounen. One of the most basic premises of popular shounen is hard work and determination. Perhaps they are products of particularly good friends or a hardened will to save loved ones. Maybe they come from a desire to become something great, to be revered and relied upon by others. Most of the time, it is a mixture of many things. Whatever it may be, there is often a clear goal in mind and a clear driving force.
Runway de Waratte poses none of these things. Ikuto is driven purely by impulse; a poor boy running on the fumes of a dream that is not his own. His own so-called "dream" is to become a fashion designer, but he needs to support his family. Yet by some stroke of luck, he is noticed by some professionals and decides to completely disregard the plan to pay for his sisters' schooling and gets swept up in Chiyuki's goals instead. I simply don't see any logic in his actions. Why is he doing this? Is he earning enough? Is his job stable? If we could focus more on the realistic problems in his life, he might have been a more realistic and relatable character.
Especially in fashion, things do not go right just because you try harder or work harder. Ninjas, heroes, pirates, alchemists, hunters... they all get better through practice. But fashion design is based on reading and predicting trends, and sometimes just dumb luck. (Clay bricks from Supreme are sold for up to $1k.) Success in fashion is not always a linear trend, but a series of ups and downs. This means that there isn't much room for physical growth, only personality. Many shounen manga cleverly weave the two together, leading a character to be more confident and mature as he/she grows stronger. They also often fall into a bout of depression before bouncing back up again, more powerful than ever. Except in fashion, there is no way to measure power, taking away from the thrill of watching a protagonist rise from the ashes. In other words, the life of a fashion designer is boring, and this manga doesn't really succeed in making it not so.
In this aspect, focusing on Chiyuki's character would make a lot more sense. In the conservative environment of Japan, all of her motives would make sense (although a quick Google search reveals that most agencies do accept shorter models). Her familial affiliation with the career gives her incentive to be a part of it, and her internal struggles are interesting but still relatable enough to appeal to its demographic of teens who often feel like their parents control their lives.
Unfortunately, Ikuto is the central focus of the manga, which is why I gave it a rather low score.
Of course, this score will vary amongst readers, but I personally did not particularly enjoy Runway de Waratte as much as I would have liked. Action shounen is known for being packed of stupid action, varying arcs, and explosive fun. Shounen that is not action usually replicates these kinds of emotions in some way, whether throughs sports or even normal high school life. Had it appealed to a different audience, I do believe that Runway de Waratte would have worked great.
A manga that I'd like to reference here is Bakuman, which is about two aspiring manga artists who begin their journey as teens and end them as men. Bakuman is fun and exciting, but throws in tension and plot twists throughout the story. Despite picking a topic like manga writing, it still manages to be mostly interesting throughout and throws in the friendships and rivalries that shounen lovers enjoy. It is easy to relate to the main characters, and the manga provides a semi-realistic insight into the world of manga development.
Runway de Waratte takes a slow-paced approach to shounen and a superficial look into fashion, leaving me somewhat bored with the story and no more invested in fashion than I already was.
Runway de Waratte had some potential: an interesting premise and a good introduction. However, I really don't see the widespread appeal of a shy and weak main character with only one noticeable flaw (lack of confidence) and nowhere really to go besides up. There is no pressure, no tension, no threat of loss or death. There is no time limit, no bounty on their heads, no friend or family to save. It's just a simple journey up, from nothing to something. I am personally not opposed to these stories (see Hunter x Hunter) but I don't believe it works out in this particular case due to a lack of pressure and external conflict throughout the rest of the story.
Finding Runway de Waratte was like opening up the first box of pizza to see sardines. Now, there are plenty of dishes that use sardines well, but I really don't like them on pizza. I'll toss the box aside and open the next box, which has pepperoni, and I'll take that pizza instead, because I like pepperoni pizza. People might try to tell me that sardines are actually really good on pizza, and that I should try it, but I will politely decline. Trying a new food is a good experience. Trying a stupid mashup of two things that do not go together is not.
TL;DR - It doesn't contribute any noteworthy ideas or unique thoughts to the manga pool. Interactions range from stiff to hyperrealistic. Fashion, despite playing a large role, is not very fleshed out or defined as a standard for growth. Despite starting out with some potential, I do not believe there is is a lot of room for improvement overall.
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.