I’m in kind of a dangerous place writing about Runway de Waratte at the moment. It happens when personal experience colors our perspective on a story, but the problem is that we can’t divorce ourselves from that connection. In lightweight fluff or fantastical works it may not matter much. But when a series deals with realistic subject matter in a serious way, that’s when our own experience becomes the lens through which we watch it. And that’s certainly the case with Runway de Waratte.
It may sound odd, but this series is reminding me quite a bit of Watamote. Tonally? Not remotely. But in this very important sense – there seems to be a similar gap in how its perceived based on the effect described above. With Watamote (speaking of the anime now) what some saw as absurdist comedy those with close experience with depression saw something quite different (and much more painful). And what some people are dismissing as melodrama in Runway, those who’ve lived through similar circumstances may recognize as disturbingly familiar.
I’m not saying either interpretation is wrong, because in the end a fiction has to take responsibility for either being universal or not. But there’s something those who experience it know which those who don’t just don’t get, no matter how much they say they do – money is everything. Not if you have enough of it – you can afford to wax philosophical about time or pursuing your passions. But when you never have enough, the need to have enough colors literally every decision you make. Not because you want it to, but because you have no choice.
Japan has a very good public health system. If it didn’t – if this story were set in the United States, for example – the roughly $4500 Ikuto is in crisis over would probably be well into six figures. But unless you’ve been there you have no idea what an impossible mountain of debt $4500 can sound like. Because it is. And the sad truth is, there will never be any shortage of people who try and take advantage of those who are desperate. And add “talented” to that? Good luck. Fuck Toh, honestly – he pounces here like a wolf on a rabbit. He has money – he’d never need to work if he didn’t want to, and certainly could work in his grandma’s empire if he wanted – but it never occurs to him to help Ikuto because he can. This represents an opportunity, no more and no less.
This is the real pathos of Ikuto’s situation, honestly. He deserves the chance to be selfish – all kids his age do. We all deserve the chance to try and live out our dream. But no matter how much his mother pushes him to do it, need always intrudes itself. I thoroughly respect Ikuto for telling Toh to eff off, and even more for turning down Ishigaki’s even more tempting offer (which in her case, I believe she actually thought would benefit everyone). But the hard truth is, the path Ikuto chooses isn’t ultimately going to be any more successful. All he’s doing is working himself and stressing himself into the ground and leaving himself unable to be creative. Welcome to the reality of those who don’t have any advantages.
It had occurred to me, of course, that Fujito would be in a position to help Ikuto if he wanted to. And of course I’m frustrated that Ikuto is so reluctant to ask anyone for help (not that it did him much good when he did). Yanagida probably would have done what he could despite his gruff manner, but I don’t think he’s in a position to as a struggling startup with no silver spoon. But he did help, in his way (even if he tried to pass the credit to Kokoro) – he told his old boss what was happening. And what we see next is another truth only those who’ve ever been in a position of true need know on the visceral level – it’s impossible to overstate how much it means when someone in a position to offers genuine help to someone that deserves and needs it.
Fujito does have a condition, sort of – but it’s hardly one to quibble over. He just wants Ikuto to be a friend to his daughter when she needs one. I could fault Fujito for not paying something to Ikuto up front when he always planned to execute his design, but in his defense he didn’t know what was going on. One could also fault Fujito for not exercising a little nepotism on Chiyuki’s behalf, but the thing about her struggle is, as unfair as the barriers she faces may seem, whenever she leaps she always has a net. Ikuto has no net – only hard ground below him. Fujito can afford to let Chiyuki struggle “for her own good” because for her, a roof over her head and some sort of job are never going to be concerns. It’s tough love to be sure, but I do think it’s love.
Two million Yen is not that big deal to Fujito. Not because he’s obscenely wealthy (just comfortable I suspect) but because it’s an investment he knows he’ll make back and then some. But to Ikuto, it’s life itself, and opportunity. When Ikuto asked Fujito if he thought he’d be a fashion designer one day I thought he might have said “you already are” – what else do you call someone that designs an outfit and sells it to a major label for production? Fujito sees, surely, that Ikuto’s potential represents an opportunity for Chiyuki too – a chance to excel with a vision that’s suited to her strengths as a model. They’re a fated match, these two – each facing a mountain of obstacles and complementing each other perfectly.