The vigor of Miuchi's original story

It's hard to know which number will be greater: The number Glass masks Maya Kitajima will don in the course of her rise to acting stardom or the number of volumes it will take mangaka Suzue Miuchi to complete her epic, three decades-old shoujo manga series, Glass no Kamen, i.e. Glass Mask Given these numbers -not to mention the story's popularity with generations of shoujo manga readers- it comes as no surprise that Glass Mask has been adapted onscreen on numerous occasions. The most recent came in 2005 with the 51 episode televised anime series from TMS Entertainment and I am happy to report that it is an adaptation that does the vigor of Miuchi's original story, if not sadly, its visual beauty, justice.

The plot through episode 26 can be divided into roughly three phases. The first is Maya's tenure with the well-financed Tsukikage troupe and the early phase of her training. It ends when dishonorable behind the scenes machinations lead to the troupe's disqualification in a national competition, which causes the troupe's funding to get pulled. The second plot arc involves Maya, now seeking acting opportunities under much reduced circumstances, basically becomes a freelancer. It is a decidedly slack period in her career, but it culminates into an offer she cannot refuse from the Daito Group. This leads to the beginning of the third arc, where Maya is now a proprietary Daito actress, headlining merchandising campaigns and television dramas. Interestingly, no one episodes is especially standout, either from a positive or negative standpoint. They are all good, and if you happen to like the theater, its exhaustive treatment of one classic play after another will be even better.

The anime, unlike the manga, which began serialization in the mid-1970s, is supposed to take place in the present day. Nevertheless, there is something oddly out of temporal joint about it; many of the settings, particularly those involving Maya's hometown of Yokohama, look like they belong in another age. Either that, or they are timeless -and there is certainly an argument to be made about the persistence of rickety, one room studio apartments and greasy spoon sorts of ramen joints. Yet in other respects, Glass Mask is a bit like trying to ram a square peg into the round hole of the 21st century modern world. Otherwise, how to explain the importance of stage theater, or the dearth of mobile technology (save for one cell phone in a conveniently placed area of no reception- do those even exist in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area these days)? And there are no computers at all.


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