Glass Mask (2005)
With her father having died at a young age, Maya Kitajima is a young dreamer of a girl who works every day with her mother at a ramen shop in Yokohama. Her destiny is to become a great actress, but with so many trials and tragedies standing in her way, her passion must be nurtured by the legendary, but reclusive actress Chigusa Tsukikage.
Every anime reviewer worth their weight in salt has a list or two of anime. At the very least, they have their "top ten" anime, and hopefully they have a handful of titles that they believe are definitive of their respective genre.
Considering that Glass Mask as a manga is still in circulation after all these decades, has spawned dramas, a televised anime, an OVA series, and not too long ago, this remake, I feel quite confident to include this title in my list of "definitive" shoujo titles. An enduring tale of the girl who has nothing who fights against all odds to achieve her dream - it's a timeless theme, and one that shows little need for an update, to be perfectly honest.
Glass Mask has everything a drama junkie could ask for: forbidden romance, a tragic back-story, scandal and treachery, rivalry, death...there are times where Glass Mask could be accused of melodrama; but in an anime about a theater troupe, you should know that going in, right? In many ways, Glass Mask tells a story with a subject matter that could easily be boring, but thanks to the compelling characters you quickly grow attached to, or at least, are intrigued by, it's difficult not to want to know what happens from episode to episode. (Fans of Spice and Wolf would know exactly what I'm talking about.) Maya is an earnest and kind girl who is short-sighted and foolish at times, but never are any of her flaws exaggerated to the point of being grating. Tsukikage-sensei is an iconic character, often seen parodied in other works and games in Japanese and foreign media alike. She is eccentric and extreme, taking outrageous measures to teach Maya the hard lessons she once learned as a young actress herself. A common theme is the show is questioning Tsukikage's methods, but not only because they are hazardous to Maya's health, but because at times it becomes all too clear that Tsukikage is projecting into Maya, pushing her to fulfill empty shadows of dreams.
The most controversial point of the Glass Mask story - something that will either make or break it for several - is the character of the "purple rose man." Considered a pop culture reference by many (see: Nodame Cantabile) and possibly an influence to Sailor Moon's Tuxedo Mask and Paradise Kiss's final fashion design, Mayumi is the cunning and cold-blooded heir to a theatrical corporation bent on buying out the one thing that continues to make Tsukikage relevant to the theater community: a legendary production titled The Crimson Goddess, a play that only she has been worthy to star in. In the process of out-witting Tsukikage, Mayumi finds himself taken by Maya's earnest and pure performances, and starts to support her in secret. (How very Great Expectations of him, wouldn't you agree?) Will Maya learn the truth behind her mysterious benefactor? Will Mayumi's love teeter into the realm of obsession? Will Tsukikage choose Maya to inherit the role of the Crimson Goddess, or will that go to her rival, the beautiful and talented Ayumi Himekawa?
...considering the manga is still being written...why not just watch and find out how the anime resolves things? I will say it's extremely compelling and satisfying, but at the same time leaves me chomping at the bit for the manga to be licensed (and completed, for that matter)!
The remake is a beautiful one, and only serves to improve upon the original. In fact, the original 80's voice actress for Maya makes a return, voicing Ayumi Himekawa's famous actress mother! The voice-over cast is an excellent one, with Sanae Kobayashi starring as Maya, and the unconventional choice of Akiko Yajima as Ayumi. The two do an excellent job of communicating the differences in the girls' acting styles, and what can't be communicated through voice-over, the animators do great justice visually. It leaves me curious as to whether or not the actual live-action drama holds up...
Finally, one of the best parts about the update, surprisingly, is the fantastic collection of theme songs. Mellow but up-beat tunes by Candy (very "Dreams Come True" sounding, for the Jpop fans out there) and CORE OF SOUL, to name a few.
In conclusion, Glass Mask is one of the many titles I'll be reviewing in the upcoming months that deserves more attention...but would be best enjoyed by people wanting something to wind-down to, as it's not one of the more action-packed titles. It is a classic for a reason, and viewing it will further enrich your overall enjoyment of other anime titles out there. — Melissa Sternenberg
Recommended Audience: Appropriate for all audiences, unless you take issue with the age difference between Mayumi and Maya.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD and digital stream on crunchyroll, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (51/51)
Glass Mask (2005) © 2005 Hakusensha/Glass Mask Production Committee
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