"When we act, we wear a very fragile, easily broken, glass-like mask. No matter how well we perform the role, no matter how excellent our acting is, if our mask is broken... our real face is exposed.
Maya Kitajima is an Ordinary High-School Student who sees herself as plain-looking, boring, clumsy and good for nothing. After getting a small part in a school play, she discovers a love for acting, largely because it allows to become someone else. In the face of opposition from her mother, she runs away from home to take up a scholarship offer to an acting school in order to follow her dream.Maya's potential for acting is noticed by former actress Chigusa Tsukikage. Before an accident on stage that left her heavily scarred and with ongoing health problems, she was considered the top theatrical actress in Japan, if not the world. She owns the right to a legendary masterpiece play, "Kurenai Tenyou" (The Crimson Goddess). The playwright considered the title role so difficult that Chigusa Tsukikage was the only actress capable of performing it, and gave her full rights to the play.Since her injury over 20 years ago, Tsukikage has been teaching acting while searching for an actress to take up the role and resurrect the play. The play hasn't been performed during that time, since Tsukikage is such a perfectionist that no-one has been able to live up to her standards. She sees potential in Maya, and thinks the time to resurrect the play may come soon. Especially since she's finally found a girl just as obsessed (one character describes it, justifiably, as "pathologically" so) with acting as she is...However, Maya is not the only young actress Chigusa has her eye on: there's also AyumiHimekawa, daughter of a famous director and a top actress. Ayumi is beautiful, graceful, and has been acting professionally since she was 5. She's got everything Maya doesn't have, but they share a love of acting. Not to mention, Ayumi also wants to succeed on her own, refusing her parents' help, to prove everyone that she's not a Daddy's Girl...During the play's original run, it played to over 300 packed houses. The major theatrical companies aren't about to sit back and let that kind of profit potential go to another company. Some of them will stop at nothing to get their hands on the rights, but Tsukikage isn't about to hand it over.This series started as a manga in 1976, and is considered one of the classics of the shoujo genre. It's been turned in to three anime series (two for TV and an OAV series), a theatrical play, a dorama, and even a Noh play. The ending of the series is still open, with the mangaka, Suzue Miuchi, only recently returning to begin wrapping up the series. Known in France as "Laura ou la passion du Théâtre." Very popular in Europe.The 2005 TV series was licensed by Section 23 Films, but only the first half of the series was released, with the company admitting they were not releasing the rest of the series due to extremely poor sales.The series is highly influential and has been running for 30 years with no end in sight. Being an older shojo series, Glass Mask is extremely tropalicious (even without considering the contents of the various plays that happen throughout the story) and the manga suffers from quite an extreme case of Seinfeld Is Unfunny. Many of today's shoujo tropes were developed by Glass Mask and it was the hundreds of shoujo that came after which played out the tropes until they became cliches. Some newer readers may think that the art is ugly or strange but this is more of an issue with taste since they may the be unusued to pre-1990s styles and Glass Mask is often considered having one of the best vintage shoujo styles. Due to Glass Mask's age and fame, it is often referenced to in various other media, many with similar themes such as Star Project to works without any similarity at all like Yuru-Yuri. It is often the animanga that other animanga talk about. However, the series never reached American shores. It is often considered an obscure one in America unlike the popularity it enjoys in its native Japan and Europe and so these references tend to fly over the heads of American audiences.
This show provides examples of:
Always Someone Better: Deconstructed. Ayumi considers Maya her superior in all but technique as far as acting goes, while Maya thinks Ayumi outclasses her in everything. Drives much of their competition.
Awful Truth: Being an actress isn't like lying in a bed of roses, dear Maya.
To be fair, Maya never expected it to be. She just fell into acting without many expectations. And in volume 5, her colleagues even observe that the more unfortunate circumstances get, the more energy Maya seems to have to counteract them.
Baddie Flattery: Hayami to Maya. He usually means it, and she's usually surprised because she thinks he does, too.
Blank White Eyes: Played straight and inverted; characters get this look when they're surprised, but also in moments of intense concentration.
Book Dumb: Maya can memorize not just the lines, but the actor's gestures and poses from a 3½-hour play in one sitting, but can't remember a math formula to save her life. Lampshaded in one internal monologue where she states she just isn't interested in things like math.
Captain Obvious: Many of the people watching Ayumi or Maya act feel compelled to state out loud what the actresses are doing for some reason.
Catch Phrase: "She's like a different person!" Also many variations on "What a scary girl." Said about Maya by many people who know her both on and off stage.
Celebrity Is Overrated: Deconstructed. Maya loves acting, but isn't in it for the fame. In fact, she's completely unprepared for it, being naturally somewhat shy, at least when she isn't on stage. She never actually gives up fame, but is partially protected by the simple fact that most people think she looks — and certainly behaves — completely different in person than she does when she's in character.
Class Trip: Inverted, in a way. Ayumi specifically comments on regretting being too busy with her career to go on it.
Clear My Name: Averted. After Maya is framed for a scandal by Suzuko aka Norie, she's blackballed from the entertainment industry. Rather than attempt to reveal the frame, Maya simply presses forward and finds a way to start back in theater. The one who actually reveals the frame is Ayumi.
Doing It for the Art: In-universe example. Kuronuma gets stuck without work for a while because of this, and almost loses The Forgotten Wilderness for the same reason. Maya's in the same boat, although in her case it's the ridiculous lengths she goes to in practice.
Driven to Suicide: Masumi's father, Hayami Eisuke, drove Ozaki Ichiren and his Moonlight theater troupe to bankruptcy to obtain his theater, the Crimson Goddess play and very likely Tsukikage for himself. Eventually Ozaki hung himself, but not before he bequeathed the play to Tsukikage. She went on to build her career on its success and refused to ever hand the play over to Eisuke's company, Daito Art.
Dysfunction Junction: Maya and Masumi to some degree. Tsukikage has a tragic past. Ayumi, who has had a wonderful life but is cast as an imprisoned, vengeful princess who witnessed her mother's execution for treason, goes out of her way to live horribly to get in to the role.
Empathic Environment: Maya and Ayumi eventually reach levels of acting ability that allow them to essentially generate this in the audience.
The Game Never Stopped: A variation of this is done in one of the auditions. The actresses, including Maya and Ayumi, are auditioning for the role of Helen Keller. For the last stage of the audition, they're left in a room and told to "wait as Helen". After a while, the fire alarm goes off, and all the girls react to it, except for Maya and Ayumi, who thereby "pass" the audition. A moment of Truth in Television, as a similar trick was pulled on actress Patty Duke when she auditioned for the same role.
Generation Xerox: Hayami Masumi and his father Eisuke, Maya and Tsukikage - even though the parties in both case are not blood-related. Eisuke eternally pined after the Crimson Goddess that Tsukikage once played and Tsukikage herself but could not have her, and Masumi falls in love with Maya, one of the candidates for Crimson Goddess, although he's more lucky in that Maya also falls in love with him. Maya and Tsukikage started their career similarly (Maya lived with a single mom who didn't support her passion and Tsukikage was an orphan until Ozaki adopted her), and both are involved in a May-December Romance - Maya with Masumi, and Tsukikage with her teacher Ozaki.
Important Haircut (Ayumi is typecast as the Princess early on. When she finally dedicates herself to training for the Crimson Goddess, she takes a double role as both The Prince And The Pauper, she cuts her hair for the roles. Also, played with in the designs for the new series: compare Ayumi's original Ojou Ringlets hairstyle with the more simple wavy hair she's given for the 2005 TV series)
Incurable Cough of Death: Haru. It *is* actual tuberculosis, and she likely could have been healed if only she had the money to afford *real* treatment (instead of just being locked away in a country house by Hayami), and didn't go hitchhiking in the rain searching for Maya. Somewhat subverted, since in the end the main cause of death was being hit by a car. Also, played straight by Tsukikage.
In the manga she was in an actual hospital, not locked away in a country house. Hayami just paid the doctors there to keep them from leaking information about Haru's whereabouts to the press or them saying anything about Maya to Haru. Whatever her sickness was, it can be assumed she did receive treatment for it in her time at the hospital.
Instant Expert: Averted. Sakurakoji decides to learn how to carve hotoke [Buddhist statues] for a role. He finds a master to study under, but is still only a novice by the time they start rehearsing the play.
Instant Fan Club (most of the big-name actors and actresses, including Ayumi and Maya)
In with the In Crowd: After Maya ends up working with Daito Entertainment, against her will, her new manager cuts off her contact with her old friends in a way that is designed to make them think this has happened.
Joshikousei: The company Maya is working for at the time tries to play up the high school actress angle to generate more publicity for the movies and TV series she's currently appearing in. Maya responds to this rather poorly and ends up scaring the reporters during the interview.
Tsukikage and Ozaki can give them a run for their money, though. She realized she loved him when she turned sixteen, by that time Ozaki was already married for a long time and in his thirties.
Mysterious Past: Averted. All the major characters get their pasts explored.
Mysterious Protector: Maya's anonymous fan, "Murasaki no bara no hito" or the "Purple Rose Person", sends Maya encouraging notes and bouquets of purple roses, along with an escalating scale of other helpful gifts.
Nepotism: One of Ayumi's biggest goals is to avert it, winning her own stardom without the help of her parents and silencing critics that would say she can't do it on her own.
Never Got to Say Goodbye: Maya finds out that her mother died after being separated from her for several years. Their last meeting involved Haru disowning Maya for preferring to accept the scholarship to Tskukiage's school instead of staying at home and help her.
The Tsukikage/Ozaki romance ended this way. He hung himself while she was still sound asleep.
No Ending: Since the manga still isn't finished. Unusually for anime, the writers didn't just slap their own ending on the story.
Ojou: Ayumi. Deconstructed in the way this affects both her (lots of people think Ayumi is using her parents' fame and wealth to further her career, but Ayumi will have nothing of it) and Maya (one of the reasons Maya thinks Ayumi is superior to her).
Shiori is a more traditional one.
Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Maya has been in this situation twice, firstly with Yuu (a straightfoward example) and later with Hayami (who coerced her somewhat, but the scene plays out romantically).
Parental Abandonment: Maya's father died when she was young, and her mother effectively disowns her when she leaves to become an actress. When Haru was willing to meet up with Maya and ask her for forgiveness, she died. Tsukikage also got this one.
Perfect Health: Lampshade hanging. Maya gets cast as Beth in Little Women, but has difficulty with the final scene since she's never been sick. She then goes out of her way to get sick so she can play it right. Her timing on this isn't that great, leaving her playing the role with a 40℃ temperature.
Perpetual Poverty: Averted. A significant portion of the series involves many of the main characters living in extremely cheap apartments and working part time jobs while trying to keep enough time available for acting practice. This changes with their current level of success.
The Rival: Ayumi and Maya. Ayumi actually is better than Maya in many areas, having more experience. Especially in the area of dance, giving her a grace that Maya simply cannot match. She's also determined to win fair and square, and respected Maya from their first meeting.
Sadist Teacher: Both Tsukikage and Kuronuma fit this role, for most of the people who fall under their tutelage. Maya and Ayumi are unusual in being just as crazy as these two, so they like it and only consider them to be Stern Teacher.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Maya and Hayami. And they still are... a pale example compared with Tsukikage and the author of Crimson Goddess, Ozaki Ichiren.
Take Our Word for It: Averted, in that the "Crimson Goddess" is merely talked about during most of the series, but near the end is fully detailed. Tsukikage even puts on a performance, with Genzo as narrator and the male lead.
Thirty Second Blackout: Averted. A blackout that happens during a play lasts until after the play is over, using a collection of flashlights to light the stage.
To Be a Master: Arguably; playing the 'Crimson Goddess' is not a world-wide obsession, but certainly is within the acting world.
Training from Hell: Just about every role for which Ayumi and Maya prepare. Lampshaded, in that just about any character other than Maya, Ayumi and Tsukikage think it's insane, and occasionally say so. Often to the three in question.
Transformation Sequence: Anime only. Apparently the director thought mere acting wasn't exciting enough, and had to come up with a fancy "putting on a mask" sequence to visualize it.
White-Dwarf Starlet: Averted in Tsukikage, who left the stage at least partly for health reasons and is still both known and popular, and some of the current top actresses have been her students. She proves more than once in the series that her acting is just as good as it used to be.