Glass Mask is a Japanese shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Suzue Miuchi, serialized in Hana to Yume from January 1976, and collected in 49 tankōbon volumes as of October 2012. The story has also been adapted into anime and a live-action television series. As of 2006, the collected volumes had 50 million copies in Japan, making it the second best-selling shōjo manga ever. The title refers poetically to the mask of faces that actors wear – while expressing emotions that are not their own, the mask they wear (their acting) is as fragile as glass. If the actors are distracted, their mask will “break” and show on stage the actors’ true feelings.
There have been several anime adaptions since the manga began its serialization. The first adaptation was a 23-episode TV series produced by Eiken in 1984 which was directed by Gisaburō Sugii with animation contributions from Shingo Araki and character designs by Atsuko Nakajima. The main voice cast featured Masako Katsuki as Maya Kitajima, Taeko Nakanishi as Chigusa Tsukikage, Minori Matsushima as Ayumi Himekawa and Nachi Nozawa as Masumi Hayami. The opening and ending theme, Garasu no Kamenand Pāpuru Raito was performed by Mariko Ashibe. This adaptation was broadcast by Nippon TV.
A three episode OVA, titled as Garasu no Kamen: Sen no Kamen wo Motsu Shōjo, was the remake of the first 3 arcs of the manga series. The OVA was released by TMS Entertainment in 1998. The voice cast from the 1984 series was not used and instead featured Megumi Ogata as Maya Kitajima, Keiko Toda as Chigusa Tsukikage, Naoko Matsui as Ayumi Himekawa and Jūrōta Kosugi as Masumi Hayami. The OVA was directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi with scripts written by Nobuaki Kishima, Tomoko Konparu and Yoshiyuki Suga as well as animation character designs by Satoshi Hirayama and Masako Gouto.
In 2005, TMS Entertainment, the company who produced the OVA began a TV series which was directed by Mamoru Hamatsu with series composition done by Toshimichi Saeki, animation character designs by Satoshi Hirayama and music composed by Tamiya Terashima. This adaptation was broadcast by TV Tokyo and there were 2 opening themes, Promise which was performed by Candy for episodes 1-26 and zero by Aiko Ikuta for episodes 27-51. There were 4 ending themes which were Yasashii Sayonara for episodes 1-13 by Aina, Step One by Sister Q for episodes 14-24, Sunao ni Narenakute by Splash Candy for episodes 27-39 and Hello Hello by Core of Soul for episodes 40-51. Like the other adaptations, the voice cast was not reused and Maya Kitajima was voiced by Sanae Kobayashi, Chigusa Tsukikage by Toshiko Fujita, Akiko Yajima as Ayumi Himekawa and Masumi Hayami was voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa. The original voice actor for Maya Kitajima in the 1984 adaptation returned to voice Ayumi’s mother, Utako Himekawa.
The 2005 adaptation was licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks, and distributed by Section23 Films. The first half of the season was released on DVD, on January 19, 2010; however, the second half of the season has been cancelled reportedly due to low sales.
In 2013, a 17-episode short flash series was launched by DLE. The series reimagined Maya and Ayumi as a pair of rival delinquent girls vying to become the new leader of the Crimson Goddess gang.
In 2016, a 13-episode parody version, which “re-imagines the manga and its characters in a school gag comedy focused on satirizing modern society”, and with the title 3-Nen D-Gumi Glass no Kamen, was broadcast on Tokyo MX starting on October 3.
In 2013, an animated film dubbed It’s Glass Mask But… the Movie: Female Spy’s Love! The Purple Rose Has a Dangerous Scent!? was released. Like the flash series, the film was a parody which reimagined Maya and Ayumi as a pair of students who become junior spies after their mentor, Chigusa, is kidnapped.
A live-action version adapted the first 38 volumes of the series in 1997, and continued in 1998 as “Garasu no Kamen 2.” Both productions starred Yumi Adachi as Maya Kitajima.
- Maya Kitajima
A talented young actress (a 13-year-old at the beginning of the story) who originally worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant alongside her mother. Her father died when she was a little girl and her mother, Haru (Louise in the French anime), who is mentally unstable, considers Maya useless due to Maya’s tendency to be sidetracked by anything to do with acting while in the middle of working). She is discovered by the former diva Chigusa Tsukikage and starts a promising, yet thorny acting career under the older woman’s wing. Her mother discourages her daughter from an acting career, believing that her daughter would be a laughingstock. She even refused to attend a school play Maya was in because Maya’s role was that of a pitiful and wretched minor character. So Maya gave the role more depth and sadness to a character who was originally meant to be portrayed as laughable and pathetic. Later on, Maya is given the opportunity to make a living as an actress. Tsukikage cuts off Maya’s ties with her mother, making the decision of becoming an actress. However, Maya is consistently given encouragement through an anonymous fan who sends her a bouquet of purple roses which is none other than Hayami Masumi, whom Maya shows an immense hatred towards, especially since he took malicious enjoyment in bringing down Tsukikage’s acting school. A few years later, Haru dies of Tubercolis and blindness, trautimizing Maya for many weeks. Maya’s talent for acting comes from both her natural skill and emotional personality, unlike Ayumi whose skills are more technically driven; in fact, Maya practically ‘becomes’ her characters when she plays, so brutal her training methods are and so intensely she performs. During the beginning of her training sessions, Maya has always displayed unconventional performances of the assigned tasks, such as laying on the floor to “sit on” a toppled chair. People often note how unremarkable Maya is until she takes the stage. In fact, the prodigy actress Ayumi comments that Maya knows how to captivate the audience, even though she isn’t aware of doing so. Despite having enormous potential and raw talent, Maya often doesn’t recognize her abilities. She thinks of herself as unremarkable and “useless”, as her mother constantly referred to her as, though she is compelled to pursue a career in acting because “acting is all she has”. She also harbors moments of inferiority in comparison to Ayumi, who is beautiful, talented, and rich. Despite all this, Maya doesn’t harbor any malice or ill will toward Ayumi, though Ayumi is secretly competitive toward Maya. Maya has three nicknames. One is “The Stage Storm,” referring to her innate ability to drown out other actors’ importance in a play even while in a bit part. Tsukikage refers to Maya as “the girl with a thousand masks” in tribute to her versatility whenever taking on character roles. And she is addressed as “little child” by Masumi Hayami, a diminutive nickname he’s given to her due to their broad disparity in age and height, to satirize her naivete, and eventually out of true affection.
- Ayumi Himekawa
Maya’s biggest rival, the honor-bound and noble Ayumi was born as the daughter of a very famous actress, Utako Himekawa (once the student of Tsukikage) and a successful director and producer, Mitsugu Himekawa, and has been touted as a prodigy from an early age. Ever since learning she got her first acting role just because of her family links, Ayumi has striven to shine on her own and never falls into arrogance. Ayumi becomes aware of Maya’s prodigious gift for acting when they first meet in a practice session; from then on she views the younger girl as a life-rival. She is ambitious enough to try to surpass her own mother, who is a widely recognized actress. People have jokingly told Utako that her daughter will steal the role of the Crimson Goddess from her. Even though Ayumi is young, she believes that she will re-vitalize the renowned role. Thus, she takes it upon herself to get as much experience as she can by trying out for any roles, including minor ones. At first, when Ayumi took on the role of Tom in The Prince and the Pauper, the children in attendance didn’t like the performance because they were used to seeing Ayumi as a beautiful young woman rather than a dirty and homely boy. Yet Ayumi soon draws the children’s favor by begging for “money” in a hat, to which the children offer her their candy. The people behind the stage were surprised that Ayumi would do such a thing, particularly since Ayumi generally would have thought such things beneath her. Her passion to become the Crimson Goddess is undeniable, however, as she continually strives for perfection to attain the role. Even though critics generally favour her over Maya, Ayumi is upset at being unable to reach the sort of emotional peaks Maya does when she performs.
- Chigusa Tsukikage
Maya’s mentor and a former street urchin. She once was a very talented and beloved actress, most notable for her role at the legendary play “Crimson Goddess” whose performance was so acclaimed that its author left the rights over it solely to her in his will, but she got horribly scarred in an onstage accident (a lamp lighter hit her and burned half her face off) and had to leave the acting scene, opening an acting school instead. She has very weak health and is hospitalized several times during the story. Yet she is a woman of unstoppable will, refusing to give the rights of “The Crimson Goddess” to Masumi Hayami and his father, as according to her, currently there is not an actress suitable for the main role. After finding potential in Maya, she takes her under her wing despite her mother’s objections and strives to shape her into the best actress ever, so she can contest with Ayumi for the leading role in “The Crimson Goddess”. Tsukikage understands that an actress’s face is her most important feature, and she covers Maya when Maya’s incensed mother tries to throw a kettle in her daughter’s face.
- Masumi Hayami
A abused stepson of the president of the Daito Entertainments, His real father died by accidentally falling off a building when he was 2 years old. He is brutally attempting to obtain the performance rights for “The Crimson Goddess” from Chigusa, efforts which ultimately lead to her acting school burned. When he sees Maya act as Beth in “Little Women” despite a high fever, he is impressed with her strong will and devotion to her acting dreams. He secretly sends her purple roses and financial support as encouragement (thus Maya refers to her anonymous fan as “The Purple Roses Man”; her friends call him Daddy Long-Legs), but acts mocking, cynical and even cruel in front of her to conceal his anonymous identity. Originally a normal, happy child, his cold exterior grew from the death of his mother, Aya, when he was a child, and his bad relationship with his stepfather Eisuke, who is responsible for the Crimson Goddess author’s death. As the manga proceeds, he becomes more and more infatuated with Maya and finally falls deeply in love with her. He doesn’t reveal either his alternate identity or his true feelings for many reasons, one of which is the belief that Maya hates him since he indirectly caused her mother’s death.