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Manga / Glass Mask

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Tsukikage, Maya, Masumi and Ayumi
"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.
Rei Aoki

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 rights 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 Ayumi Himekawa, 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 to 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 Shoujo manga. It's been turned into three anime series (two for TV and an OAV series), a theatrical play, a drama, 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. The 1984 anime TV series (directed by Gisaburo Sugii, who is primarily known as a renowned director of anime feature films) is known in France as "Laura ou la passion du Théâtre" ("Laura or The Passion For Theatre") and in Italy as "Il grande sogno di Maya"; it's also been dubbed in Spanish as "Quiero ser actriz" ("I want to be an actress") and aired under that title in Venezuela. Very popular in Europe.

The 2005 TV series was licensed by Sentai Filmworks, 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 content of the various plays that happen throughout the story) and the manga suffers from quite an extreme case of Once Original, Now Overdone. 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 be unused to pre-1990s styles and Glass Mask is often considered as having one of the best vintage shoujo styles.

Due to Glass Mask's age and fame, it is often referenced in various other media, many with similar themes such as Star Project, to works without any similarity at all, like YuruYuri. It is often the animanga that other animanga talk about. However, the series never reached American shores. It is often considered an obscure manga 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.

In 2018, the original 1984 anime was finally released for streaming on HIDive.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Unlike in the other animated adaptations, Hayami is blond in the 1984 TV anime (although the pilot film for the series depicted him with black hair).
    • In the 90's OVA, Ayumi's hair is almost grey-ish and Maya's hair is still brown but it's a darker shade than usual.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Maya and Masumi, with an age difference of eleven years.
    • 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.
    • Ayumi and the photographer Hamil seem to be heading this way, particularly when he takes care of Ayumi after a stage-accident incapacitates her for some time.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: In the French, Italian and Latino Spanish dubs of the 1984 anime.
  • 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.
  • Anime Accent Absence: Averted. The American photographer Peter Hamil requires a translator.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Subverted, in that Maya and Tsukikage both find ways to refuse. Also played straight in that several other characters don't.
  • Beach Episode: Averted, as no swimsuits are involved. Two characters simply go on a date by the seaside.
  • Beam of Enlightenment: Used frequently, especially when Maya or Ayumi has figured out a way to portray their current role properly.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Haru Kitajima. It may run in the family, as Maya does a variant of this not much later.
  • Blank White Eyes: Played straight and inverted; characters get this look when they're surprised, but also in moments of intense concentration.
    • Maya gets this look when playing Jane in The Forgotten Wilderness, to demonstrate the girl's wild, wolf-like mind.
  • 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.
  • Classically-Trained Extra
  • Cliffhanger: We never get to see how many of the plays end. Especially tragic for the fictional ones, since you can't look it up anywhere.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Shiori.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive
  • Crack Defeat
  • Crash-Into Hello: Maya meets Masumi by bumping into him at the theater, where she watches La Traviata.
  • Crossover: Glass Mask had a crossover with Shinji Wada's Sukeban Deka (Which started being serialized on the same issue as Glass Mask), the chapter debuted on 12th issue of Hana to Yume 1977. It later got included on the 6th Volume of Sukeban Deka, but not in any of Glass Mask's volumes.
    • Note: A chapter of Glass Mask story was still released in that issue despite the jokes in the Sukeban Deka Manga on how the collaboration came to be.
  • Cut Short: Maya gets the script for White Jungle, monologues about how different the character is and then... the movie starts airing in cinemas without us seeing anything about Maya getting into the role or anything else.
  • David Versus Goliath (Ayumi and Maya)
  • Downer Beginning: The 2005 series begins with a scene that shows us Tsukikage's almost Fatal Method Acting incident, which left her scarred and forced her to retire early.
  • 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.
  • Dub Name Change: In the French dub of the 1984 series, Maya is Laura Nessonier, Tsukikage becomes Chloe de St-Fiacre, Masumi is changed to Maxime Darcy, Ayumi is Sidonie Lecuyer, and Sakurakouji's name is changed to Yann Chamberlain. Averted in the Italian dub, which kept the original characters' names.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma
  • 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 into the role.
  • Empathic Environment: Maya and Ayumi eventually reach levels of acting ability that allow them to essentially generate this in the audience.
  • Entitled to Have You: Sakurakouji expects Maya to love him because he is kind to her and is tired of being her "nice guy friend". Needless to say, he suffers from Nice Guy Syndrome.
  • Expy: Masumi's friend Kyoichiro Jin. Originally from Sukeban Deka.
  • Eyepatch of Power: No literal eyepatch, but Tsukikage wears her hair so that it constantly covers half her face, due to the scars, yet is clearly a Badass Actress.
  • Fainting: Shiori claims to have anaemia, which is a common ailment for Japanese women of the time period, but the timing of her fainting is suspicious.
  • False Crucible: Averted. Tsukikage takes advantage of events to push Maya into a real crucible.
  • Fangirl: Some of the big-name actors and actresses have whole troupes of these. They sometimes cross the line when defending the object of their obsession, generally to that person's disgust.
  • Fatal Method Acting: Barely averted. Tsukikage once was on-stage, and then a lamp fell on her... She survived, but was left massively scarred.invoked
  • Festival Episode
  • Freeze Sneeze
  • The Game Never Stopped: A variation of this is done in one of the auditions. A bunch of young 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.
  • Girl Posse: The president of the high school acting club has one, and they tend to look down on Maya until she manages to show them up without really trying.
  • Kick the Dog: Director Onodera does this on a regular basis. Ayumi does this literally at one point when trying to get in to an evil role. A puppy, no less.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!
  • Hot for Teacher: Tsukikage and Ozaki.
  • Idiot Ball: Unnamed actors risk ruining their own play by swapping out sweets with mud in an important scene. Reason? They want to humiliate Maya who never did anything to them.
  • Idol Singer: Emi Tabuchi.

  • Indirect Kiss
  • Informed Ability: Many actors get presented as big talents and serious rivals for Maya. She outperforms them all (except Ayumi).
    • Averted with Utako Himekawa who was long praised as great actress without the readers ever seeing her perform. In the Miracle Worker arc she finally shows off her skills, turns out with some emergency improvisations she is one of the few actors who can act on par with Maya
  • 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.
  • Insult Backfire
  • Intimate Healing (Masumi has to give this to Maya)
  • Instant Fan Club (most of the big-name actors and actresses, including Ayumi and Maya)
  • It's All My Fault
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Tsukikage Chigusa.
  • The Jeeves
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hayami
  • 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.
  • Jumped at the Call (Maya, who has to run away from home to follow the call)
  • Kabuki Sounds
  • Karma Houdini: Hajime Onodera. While most other characters have gotten retribution for their deeds, his crimes are never punished and he even ends up as a canidate for directing The Crimson Goddess
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Suzuko Tashiro
  • Laying On A Hillside
  • Limited Social Circle: Justified, in that they really don't have time for much besides their acting, so they always end up hanging around the same groups of people.
  • Limited Wardrobe: While most of the cast have quite reasonably sized wardrobes, Tsukikage always wears the same black dress.
  • Live-Action Adaptation. A live-action drama, a play, and a Noh play.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Slightly different, in that they're not locked in to understand each other, but rather their characters since it's a part of Ayumi and Maya's Training from Hell.
  • Loony Fan: Emi's fanclub
  • Love Hurts: It wouldn't be Shōjo without this one.
  • Luminescent Blush
  • Manipulative Bastard: Hayami, Suzuko aka Norie, etc.
  • Married to the Job
  • Montage
  • 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.
  • Narrator: Appears off and on, particularly in the beginning, but eventually disappeared from the series.
  • 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.
    • The 1984 anime had poor ratings and was cancelled prematurely, and the producers made the 23rd and final episode a Recap Episode, which was skipped in the European dubs.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Inverted, in that the two main candidates for the Crimson Goddess role are flat out described as too young for it at the start of the series, but aren't by the end.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Norie Otobe does this to get close to Maya, complete with Speech Impediment in the form of a Kansai accent.
  • The Obstructive Love Interest: Shiori
  • Offstage Villainy
  • 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).
  • The Only Way They Will Learn
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Phrase Catcher: "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.
  • Police Are Useless
  • Race Against the Clock: Tsukikage gives Maya two years to win an award as prestigious as one Ayumi has just won, or else Ayumi gets the Crimson Goddess role without further contest.
  • Repeat What You Just Said
  • 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.
  • Sacred First Kiss: Hayami feeding medicine to an unconscious Maya in a Dude, She's Like in a Coma event combined with an Intimate Healing event. Shōjo series like to overload the tropes from time to time.
  • 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.
  • Sassy Secretary: Saeko Mizuki is this for Hayami
  • School Festival
  • School Play: A Midsummer Night's Dream and a solo adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Secret-Keeper
  • Selective Obliviousness: Maya doesn't recognize her own love for Shigeru until another character points it out to her.
  • Shōjo
  • Shout-Out: Although some of the plays are made up, most of them are real. For example, you know that play competition that happened early in the series? Guess what play got second place?
    • The opening sequence of the 1984 anime could be considered one to Flashdance, with its Shingo Araki-animated footage of Maya dancing and a peppy upbeat theme song filled with Gratuitous English that bears more than a passing resemblance to Irene Cara's Oscar-winning movie theme.
  • Show Within a Show: Lots of them. That's the point...
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Tsukikage often goes this route.
  • Snow Means Love
  • 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.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Ayumi (technician) versus Maya (performer), even years of training and experience made them well rounded with the two aspects.
    • Ayumi has a lot of experience and education starting from her childhood, which enables her to perform roles with grace and accuracy.
    • Maya is able to create and wear masks that she could become the character, in addition to attracting audiences to look at specifically her.
  • 30-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.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Ayumi, when she finds out Norie's trap. Maya, when she learns why Haru died.
  • 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.
  • True Companions: Maya and her acting friends (Rei, Mina, Sayaka, etc.)
  • What Happened To The Cat?: Early in the manga, Maya got a kitten when doing her 'living as Beth' test. It only appears for that short period of time and then is never mentioned again. What happened to it?
    • Also, many actors and other characters only appear for an arc and then disappear forever. For example, the idol that said she would try to act better for her second movie after seeing Maya's performance is never heard from again.
  • 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.
  • Yandere: Shiori, after she found out Masumi was not only the "Purple Rose fan" but also deeply in love with Maya.