Waku-waku. Excitement. Smile Down the Runway episode 11 continues the Geika Fashion Show by shifting the focus of the event onto what many in the audience have been looking forward to the most: the runway show for Hasegawa Kokoro featuring Chiyuki. With nothing but the vague theme of ‘wa’ (わ) to go on, Kokoro decided to theme her clothing collection on this idea of excitement, and with the way her character had been built up in recent weeks leading up to the event, I was intrigued to see the result. You could say I was feeling rather waku-waku about the chance to see how it all turned out.
Last week we finally had the veil lifted on Ikuto’s fashion show, an impressive collection that also managed to capture what makes the series so engaging and made the initial concept of the show so appealing. While it glossed over its bogged-down plotline in favor of a later-sharp focus on the show itself, the series has always shined when it put the passion for fashion and the industry at the forefront of the series. While I was disappointed the storylines it had set up in the weeks prior weren’t further implemented into the episode, I rather enjoyed the episode as a whole for bringing this feeling back to the series.
This episode raises the bar of quality further, arguably providing the audience with the best episode of the series to date. Not only does Smile Down the Runway interweaves the rival personalities and dueling passions of Kokoro and Chiyuki into a mesmerizing fashion show that lives up to its name, but episode 11 of the series also delivers by finally giving fans closure on the many plot threads that had been established up to this point while putting passion at the forefront of everything it sets out to achieve.
Smile Down the Runway episode 11 is given the title ‘Promise’, and for all the ‘excitement’ of the show is the intended effect Kokoro wants her fashion collection to have on the crowd at the event, the perspective we’re given as an audience places much more emphasis on this idea.
To cast our mind back to episode 9, their unlikely collaboration came about as part of a promise – you could say a gamble – where Kokoro’s modeling manager agreed to allow her to follow her dream as a designer if she was able to win the fashion show using Chiyuki as a model. They promised to work together to create the ideal collection that could allow this to happen, both of them having something to prove.
For the first half of the episode, we mostly see the creative process behind the collection showcased and developed. While we briefly saw the pair of them at work when the focus was primarily on Ikuto and the creation of his collection, we mostly steered clear of their work, and this is the first time we as an audience are given the chance not just to see the collection in its entirety but the process that went into its creation.
The entire creative process for the collection is built on promises. We see Chiyuki and Kokoro establish the boundaries and conditions of their promises to each other, and the promises made to each other to help on parts of the collection as required to make it a success. A promise from Kokoro assures Chiyuki she will make the clothes that allow her to shine, a promise from Chiyuki confirms she will listen to any requests for her to amend her walking style and presentation provided Kokoro promises to walk alongside her down the runway at some point during the show.
This insight into the creative process also reinforces character traits that are paid off in this week’s episode. We see both Kokoro’s insecurity and her ability to stand up for herself, contrasted by Chiyuki’s determination to prove people wrong and her hunger for success. These are traits that Smile Down the Runway has spent many weeks drilling into viewers, yet in episode 11 we see them brought together and placed at the center of the conflict, rather than making our characters a passive participant in the events they’re involved in (as seen with Ikuto in episode 8). They both have different goals and personalities, yet their passions and anger are both directed at people that push them down and leave them with a point to prove, and this results in the pair of them funneling this into a grueling, frank process of pointing out the other’s flaws as they work to create the best show they can.
Transforming the Runway
This all culminates in the second half of Smile Down the Runway episode 11 with the fashion show itself. Even with this look into the creative process and the request for Kokoro to walk alongside Chiyuki in the show, the show retains it’s ‘waku-waku’ feeling by surprising audiences with the unusual direction the show went in.
To create a show that does something this bold and inventive that keeps the attention of a demanding crowd requires a unique approach, one which requires passion and dedication for the fashion design process. As a result, the excitement of the show comes not from the initial bold designs of the outfits themselves but how they bend and augment themselves as the show goes on.
The surprising twist Kokoro chose for her show is for her outfits to transform as the show goes on. Rather than leaving the stage for a new model to take the runway in a new outfit, clothing changes were done on the runway itself as the clothes were amended and altered live on stage as new outfits were formed from the ashes of the last.
It’s a unique idea, but one that requires clever framing and emphasis to portray the desired shocking impact of the collection to the casual viewer. Dramatic angles emphasize how the clothes change and the perspective chosen as Chiyuki walks down the runway drawing the eyes to the previous outfit’s most recognizable design elements to showcase how the costumes have changed to achieve this. Once this is established, even as multiple outfits are flicked across the screen in a matter of seconds, the effect is just as powerful.
Mix this with the impressed reactions of the audience, the slow shift from Kokoro’s manager, the clever way the height of the model was de-emphasized until Kokoro’s appearance to further accentuate Chiyuki’s performance, and the closing outfits which play on the relationship between Kokoro and her manager and the rivalry between these unlikely partners, you have a recipe for success.
The fashion show, and in turn, the episode, succeeds by betraying expectations while building upon everything which came before it. The audience having their expectations of a petite model betrayed (alongside their ability to wear a variety of outfits that maybe aren’t necessarily associated with the oft-cute femininity associated with smaller women) alongside the transforming outfits and payoff to the storyline between Kokoro and her manager are all tied together by their desired impact coming from their ability to surprise those around them. It’s a wonderful effect, and it elevates the episode above last week’s episode and episode 3 as the strongest episode to date.
Smile Down the Runway Episode 11: Deserving of a Standing Ovation
Smile Down the Runway episode 11 is a triumph of the storytelling the series has attempted to achieve with mixed results up until this point. Just as we approach the series finale, the storylines of Kokoro and Chiyuki finally give viewers an insight into what the series can achieve at its peak, and though I can’t say previous episodes have been poor, it leaves me wishing the series had maintained this level of quality for the duration of its runtime.
However, even with a mostly-flawless episode here, I’m left concerned about whether the series can keep up this level of quality going forward. Episode 11 of Smile Down the Runway brings the Geika Fashion Show to a crescendo, yet it doesn’t bring it to a conclusion, with Toh’s fashion show still to come next week. So far, I feel we haven’t been given enough of a reason to care about their character to care enough about their show. I fear the goodwill the anime has built this week is set to evaporate.