Glass Mask (ガラスの仮面 Garasu no Kamen?) is a shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Suzue Miuchi, serialised in Hana to Yume from January 1976, and collected in 44 tankōbon volumes as of August 30, 2009. 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.
After not publishing a new chapter in the story for more than two years, Miuchi re-launched the series in Hakusensha's Bessatsu Hana to Yume (別冊花とゆめ) magazine in July 2008. The story continues from where it left off in volume 42. Miuchi has announced that she intends to end the series soon.
Glass Mask is a saga depicting the devotion of Maya Kitajima to the performing arts as a professional stage actress, and her competition with her skilled rival, Ayumi Himekawa. They are both pursuing the degree of acting proficiency and career success required to play the lead role of the legendary stage play "The Crimson Goddess" ("Kurenai Tennyo"). Maya is not particularly beautiful or smart in school, but her passion for acting is all-consuming, to the point where she literally puts her own life on the line several times for the sake of a role. Always told by her mother that she was good for nothing, Maya wants to prove to the world and to herself that she has worth. On the other hand, everyone expects the gifted and multi-talented Ayumi to succeed, so she is determined to reach the top on her own without the help of her prestigious parents.
As the story unfolds it encompasses the tangled human relationships of many characters, including Maya's mentor, Chigusa Tsukikage, who discovered Maya's tremendous talent for acting during her search for a successor capable of performing the role of "The Crimson Goddess", and Masumi Hayami, the young president of Daito, who often interacts with Maya as a crafty and cold-hearted entrepreneur, while giving her faithful support and warm encouragement in the disguise of an anonymous fan ("The Purple Rose Person", or "murasaki no bara no hito" as Maya calls him for his trademark gift of purple roses). Hajime Onodera, a director for Daito, wants the rights to "Kurenai Tennyo," which were given to Tsukikage by the playwright; since Tsukikage refuses to sell him the rights, Onodera tries to drive Tsukikage's acting school out of business through a series of nefarious schemes. Since Onodera is working for Hayami, Maya (unaware that Hayami is the "Purple Rose Person") hates him. Though there is an age difference of eleven years, Masumi falls in love with Maya and gives her encouragement in subtle ways.
- Maya Kitajima (北島マヤ Kitajima Maya?). A talented young actress (13-year-old in 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), is mentally unstable and for a long time she thinks of Maya as useless. She is discovered by the former diva Chigusa Tsukikage and starts a promising, yet thorny acting career under her wing. Her mother discouraged her daughter from an acting career, believing that her daughter would be a laughingstock. Maya's mother didn't even attend a school play that Maya was in, especially since Maya took on the role of a pitiful and wretched character. Yet Maya performed the role magnificently, giving more depth and sadness to the character, when the character was originally meant to be portrayed as laughable and pathetic. Later on, Maya is given the decision to take on a living of being an actress. Maya proclaimed that she wanted to be an actress. Tsukikage cuts off Maya's ties with her mother, making the decision of becoming an actress adamant. However, Maya is consistently given encouragement through an anonymous fan who sends her a bouquet of purple roses. The person who sends these bouquets is none other than Hayami Masumi, whom Maya shows an antipathy towards, especially since she believes he took malicious enjoyment in bringing down Tsukikage's acting school.
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 doesn't seem to recognize her own 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. Her nicknames are "The Stage Storm," referring to her innate ability to drown the other actors' importance in the play even Maya isn't playing the main role. Tsukikage even referred to Maya as "the girl with a thousand masks" as a tribute to her versatility whenever taking on character roles. And "little child" (ちびちゃん Chibi-chan?) by Masumi Hayami, a diminutive called due to their broad disparity in age, sometimes for satirizing her immaturity and sometimes for true affection.
- Ayumi Himekawa (姫川亜弓 Himekawa Ayumi?) 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 then Ayumi wants to shine on her own and never falls into arrogance, reminded of how she got her first role just because of her family links. Ayumi is aware of Maya's gift for acting when they first meet in a practice, thus placing her as a life-rival. She is also 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, the children 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 by begging for "money" in a hat, to which the children offer 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. For a long time she is unable to reach the emotional peaks Maya does when she performs, Ayumi is upset at this inferiority, even though the general critics favour her over Maya. Later during a rehearsal for the play the Crimson Goddess Ayumi saved a fellow actor in her group from a toppling lamp and resulting in it hitting her head which caused a visual impairment.
- Chigusa Tsukikage (月影千草 Tsukikage Chigusa?) Maya's mentor. She once was a very talented and beloved actress, most notable for her role at the legendary play "Crimson Goddess" (紅天女 Kunenai-Tennyo?) whose performance was so acclaimed that its author left the rights over it solely to her in his testament, 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 a very weak health and must be hospitalized several times during the story. Yet she is a woman of unstoppable will, refusing to relent 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 the most important feature, and she takes it upon herself to cover Maya when Maya's incensed mother throws boiling hot water.
- Masumi Hayami (速水真澄 Hayami Masumi?) A successful businessman and son/substitute of the president of the Daito Entertainments (大都芸能?), he is brutally attempting to obtain the performance right of Crimson Goddess from Tsukikage, that ultimately causes her acting school to disband. When he watches Maya act as Beth in "Little Women" with a fever and 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" and by her friends as Daddy Long-Legs), but acts cynical and even cruel in front of her for concealing his anonymous identity. His cold exterior comes 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.
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 Kamen (ガラスの仮面?, Glass Mask) and Pāpuru Raito (パープル・ライト?, Purple Light) was performed by Mariko Ashibe. This adaptation was broadcasted by Nippon TV.
Then a three episode OVA, titled as Garasu no Kamen: Sen no Kamen wo Motsu Shōjo (ガラスの仮面 千の仮面を持つ少女?, Glass Mask: The Girl Who Wears A Thousand Masks), 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 Akira Hirayama and Masako Gouto.
Seven years later, TMS Entertainment, the company who produced the OVA began a TV series which was directed by Mamoru Hamatsu with series composition done by Toshimichi Saekie and animation character designs by Akira Hirayama as well as music composed by Terashima Tamiya. This adaptation was broadcasted by TV Tokyo and there were 2 opening themes, Promise which was performed by Candy for episodes 1-25 and zero by Aiko Ikuto for episodes 27-51.  There were 4 ending themes which were Yasashii Sayonara (やさしいさよなら?, A Kind Farewell) for episodes 1-13 by Aina, Step One by Sister Q for episodes 14-24, Sunao ni Narenakute (素直になれなくて?, I Couldn't Be Honest With You) 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 Masami 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.
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.
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- Glass Mask 1984 anime at Eiken (Japanese)
- Glass Mask: The Young Girl Who Hold The Thousand Masks at TMS Entertainment (Japanese)
- Official TV Tokyo Glass Mask 2005 anime site (Japanese)
- Glass Mask 2005 anime at TMS Entertainment (Japanese)
- Glass Mask 2005 anime on Crunchyroll.com
- ANN Review of 2005 anime eps.1-26
- ANN review of Sub DVD Collection 1
- Glass Mask (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia