Vrai is joined by classic shoujo fans Megan and Marion to watch the 1984 classic, Glass Mask! Acting has never been so much like a shounen training arc.
Date Recorded: April 13th, 2020
Guests: Megan D, Marion Bea
0:11:01 Maya the shoujo everygirl
0:12:52 Tsukikage the shoujo Piccolo
0:15:11 The two schools of acting
0:18:04 Hayami and daddy long legs
0:26:54 Mother figures
0:30:22 Two plays
VRAI: Hello, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Vrai. I’m a writer and editor for Anime Feminist. They/them. You can find me on Twitter and the places I freelance, @writervrai, or you can find the other podcast I cohost, @trashpod.
Today I have with me two very special guests, Megan and Marion. If you two would like to introduce yourselves and the stuff you do?
MEGAN: Okay. My name’s Megan. I’ve been reviewing manga on my own blog, the Manga Test Drive, for coming up on eight years now. You can find me on Twitter, @brainchild129, and, occasionally, as a writer for Anime Feminist.
MARION: Hi, I’m Marion. I write and I make videos. I have a channel called Marion Bea, where I upload videos mostly about retro anime. Mostly shoujo. You can find me on Twitter, @eccentricmarion.
VRAI: Alright. Thank you so much for being here today. And the reason I have invited you two shoujo fans… This is actually the first time we’ve had a podcast that’s two-thirds guests! That’s very exciting. But the reason I have asked you both on today is that we are talking about the 1984 anime adaptation of Glass Mask, the shoujo classic. And it’s very important to denote that “1984,” because there have been a lot of versions of this extremely well-known story.
Marion, you’ve done quite a bit of studying and writing about the series. Would you like to give folks a primer of the publication details and a little bit what it’s about?
MARION: Yes, Glass Mask is about Maya Kitajima, who loves acting, and her rivalry with a prodigious actress called Ayumi Himekawa, and their shared vision of playing the titular role, this legendary role, in a phantom masterpiece called The Crimson Goddess.
The mangaka is called Suzue Miuchi, and this manga has been running since 1976. It has gone on a lot of hiatuses, so there are not many volumes right now. There aren’t many chapters in comparison to other manga that have been running for a lot less, like the active shoujo Skip Beat, which started in 2002 and is almost as long as Glass Mask right now. I think the longest hiatus Glass Mask has gone through was from 1998 until 2008. It has switched magazines more than once, from Hana to Yume to Bessatsu Hana to Yume.
Around 2013, its 50th volume was supposed to come out and, to my knowledge, it still hasn’t come out to this very day. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah, it seems to be a problem with a lot of longer-running older shows that, you know, a lot of those classic magazines like Princess and all of that are shutting down. I know that was a problem with the—I don’t think it ever officially ended, but Wikipedia marks it as down now—From Morocco with Love, which technically was running all the way up through 2012 and shuffled around a lot in its publication schedule and where it was coming out.
MEGAN: Yeah, it’s interesting, ’cause you expect that sort of thing from a magazine like Princess, but this is happening from the magazine Hana to Yume, which is not necessarily known for long-runners like this.
VRAI: Hmm. So, a lot… We have talked on the podcast previously about the Magnificent 49ers, who are mostly known for their work in proto-BL, and as kind of outsider artists—maybe akin to how we think of Ikuhara nowadays—but Glass Mask is a little bit of a different animal, right?
MEGAN: Right. This is more representative of the shoujo-mainstream of the day, although the story itself is kind of old-fashioned. This sort of poor girl/rich girl rivalry is something you would expect to see more in shoujo manga from the late 1960s, so even for its day, it was something of a throwback.
VRAI: Which I guess might explain part of its longevity in that it’s harkening to these extremely archetypal tropes, which tend to cycle back into fashion every decade or so.
Kind of an idea for listeners at home: in addition to the manga, which started in 1976, there was this anime in 1984; there was a TV drama in 1997; there was an OVA in 1998; and then there was another anime in 2005, which is on Crunchyroll, but we won’t be covering it. It looks quite long, and, if I’m being shallow, I don’t like the visual aesthetic as much.
MEGAN: It’s definitely interesting to note that this actually came from not a terribly notable studio, at least for most anime fans. A studio called “Eiken.” Not to be confused with the OVA of the same name.
MEGAN: Formerly known as “Television Corporation of Japan,” or “TCJ,” interestingly, they’re mostly known for doing a lot of notable ‘60s shounen shows. They animated the original Tetsujin 28, and Ape Man and stuff like that. They’ve been working basically since the ‘70s, I believe, on Sazae-san, so this is the only shoujo series they have ever produced.
And the same goes for the director. Gisaburou Sugii. He is an old pro. He actually started out at Mushi Productions back in the day, in the ‘60s. As a director, he is most noted for directing the original 1969 Dororo. Relevant to Vrai’s interests, he directed the Lupin the Third pilot film.
VRAI: For which he owes me an apology. That pilot’s not very good. [Laughs]
MEGAN: [Laughs] And, in the ‘80s, was also known for directing the film Night on the Galactic Railroad, for the series Touch, which is one of many shows about growing up and baseball, based on a manga by Adachi Mitsuru.
VRAI: Yeah, the sequel to that is Mix, right? And that’s running right now.
MARION: I don’t know if it’s a direct sequel, but it’s very much a spiritual sibling.
MEGAN: And, most interestingly of all, 1994’s Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.
VRAI: I mean, people liked that movie. [Laughs]
MEGAN: People liked that movie, but for very different reasons.
VRAI: [Laughs] Fair enough.
MARION: He was also an episode director in the original Astro Boy.
VRAI: [Interested] Oh. So, this is a guy who definitely had some clout, but this still managed to be something of an outlier for him. Which I think will be really interesting to keep in mind as we go through this watchalong, because already you can see that, aesthetically, this doesn’t really look like necessarily the manga or even other shoujo anime that were airing at the time. It’s much less…
VRAI: Yeah, let’s go with that. A lot of using those metatextual aesthetic imagery that you associate with shoujo than something like what I know of Rose of Versailles.
MEGAN: Yeah, Rose of Versailles really leaned into its shoujo origins and uses a lot of its visual language. This show, for the most part, does not.
MARION: Yeah, for me, it’s… This is the 1984 adaptation, but it’s still notable that this is an adaptation of a ‘70s manga, because in the ‘70s, there was this interest in European settings and aesthetics, which is very noticeable in Ayumi’s design, who has this princess dress that… It really picked up my attention that, in the show, when Maya has a role in Little Women, she wears a dress that’s very similar to the kind of dresses Ayumi will wear normally, in her home.
VRAI: [Laughing] Just to hang out.
MARION: Yeah, and she has these huge ringlets that were really popular in ‘70s shoujo.
MEGAN: And also mark her as the rival, because the rival always has those big sausage curls.
VRAI: Yeah, I feel like Ayumi is the example of what you would think of for a classic “ojou” character. Despite borrowing from those European settings, this is still set in then-modern Japan, more or less. It’s a very contemporary tale, even if it’s become a history piece now.
It’s interesting to look back on these titles and see how… which ones were… whether they were even thinking about playing the long game, and how they have aged and gained that additional layer of who they appeal to, or how you have to do the extra work to contextualize them. Something like Rose of Versailles almost exists out of time, in that it has a very loose relationship with history. [Cracking up] But, you know…
VRAI: And so we noted this is an almost 50-volume series. Obviously, there hadn’t been that many made when this anime came out in ’84, although the manga had still been running for about 8 years at this point. But, at the same time, I would characterize these first five episodes as “everything happens so much.”
MEGAN: Indeed! There’s a lot that happens in just these five episodes.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s almost… In some ways, I think the show gets away with it because it has that very heightened melodrama that was in-fashion at the time, just kind of as the art form was developing, But also… So it makes it seem on purpose that these characters are just leaping from emotional peak to emotional peak, that probably there was a lot more downtime in-between in the manga.
I dunno. How did you… Megan, you are the other first-timer on this podcast. How did this feel for you compared to the shoujo you’re used to, or other classic shoujo you’re familiar with?
MEGAN: It’s emotionally definitely a lot, as you said. In a weird way, it’s not histrionic. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. But it is just a lot of emotion, in your face, all at once.
VRAI: Yeah. It asks a lot of investment from you right off the bat. Although, Maya’s kind of interesting as a heroine, ’cause I can’t get a beat on how much she’s supposed to be the everygirl that you see on and off in shoujo, or whether she’s supposed to have this distinct character element that the reader is supposed to have a certain amount of distance from.
MEGAN: I dunno. I think, in a way, her blankness kind of works for her, because, like a lot of heroines—not just in shoujo manga, but a lot of the classic melodramas that this is drawing from… You know, “she’s just a poor girl from a poor family,” not particularly beautiful, not particularly smart, but that makes her the perfect tabula rasa: just this blank slate upon which her acting coach can just impress all of her talent and all of her skill upon her.
And while Maya is not an extraordinary personality, she’s not a complete blank, because if she has anything, she has intensity. She’s almost manic when it comes to acting.
MARION: Yeah. I mean, first of all, I usually describe Glass Mask as having the intensity of a boss battle, or a shounen battle.
MEGAN: Yes, absolutely.
MARION: Like, in the training sequence… There’s a training sequence in the snow that supposedly goes on for five days, and no one ever stops to be a human being and have something to drink, sleep, take a break. It just goes on and on and on and it’s ridiculous, but it’s so entertaining.
VRAI: It’s: emotions. Yeah, and I wonder if that’s what drew the director, even as somebody who’s not normally a director of shoujo, is that very shounen-battle-esque-ness. I did definitely end up thinking of Tsukikage, Maya’s acting mentor, as “Joan Crawford meets Piccolo.”
VRAI: Because she does… “I have tossed you out into the wilderness to survive on your own, but technically I’m up here, so it’s okaaaay!”
MEGAN: Child abuse? What’s that?
VRAI: [Uncomfortable] Yeah, there’s, um, there’s a lot of child abuse played as totally-for-the-greater-good in this series so far.
MARION: Yeah, there’s a part where Tsukikage beats the shit out of Maya, and blood comes out of her mouth, and everyone is like, “This is so terrible! She has to stop,” but no one stops them.
MARION: And she just goes on. And the acting… I mean, Maya’s supposed to portray this uncontainable anger, so Tsukikage just beats her and beats her and beats her until she’s able to do it, and then, at night, when she’s chill and thinking about what happened, she’s like, “I really hated you, but then I understood.” And it’s like, “What?” [Laughs] You understood what?
MEGAN: And it should be noted that Maya will even do this to herself. At one point she’s playing Beth in Little Women, and so she’s like, “I have to get into this character. But how do I do it? I know! I will sit out in the rain in the middle of the night until I get nearly deathly sick just so I can get better into character!” She is method beyond method.
VRAI: Yeah. I’m just saying that this kind of love for method acting ends in Jared Leto sending dead rats to his costars. That’s all I’m saying.
VRAI: I have feelings about the reverence for method acting.
I will definitely say, as somebody who did some acting training even if I ultimately didn’t go into that field, there are parts of this series that are like, “Well, this is an exaggerated version of things I saw, but it’s not wrong.” I definitely had professors who gave a version of the big speech Tsukikage gives to Maya before taking her on about how, “You have to want this so much, you could die and not be able to think of anything else or you’ll never make it!” Like. That’s for real. [Laughs]
MEGAN: And that feeds into kind of the big conflict, at least within these five episodes, where it’s not just this rivalry between Maya and Ayumi, but it’s the whole concept of acting as art and acting as commerce, as represented by the two different acting schools and the actresses that represent them.
VRAI: Yeah, the finances of art are extremely present in these first five episodes. There’s a lot of background going on about whether or not Tsukikage will be able to afford to keep the school going and the factors that feed into this other company that’s trying to sabotage her and get them to close.
MEGAN: Yeah, the show makes it very clear that she’s basically putting her fortune on the line to open up this school and find this actress so that she doesn’t have to sell out the rights to this play—which were willed to her by the original playwright—to sell out to this big, corporate acting company that just wants it for the sake of wanting it.
VRAI: Yeah. Of course, the reason Tsukikage, this beautiful, talented actor, has become a mentor is because her face was scarred during a performance, and now she is [fake gasp] ugly! Kind of. On one side of her face, she has a minor facial scar. [Laughs]
MEGAN: I dunno. I think she’s got some serious fashion goals going on, what with the long, dark hair and the long, dark, velvety dress. Hanging out in giant gothic mansions luring stray young girls into it. It’s very Gothic, with a capital “G.”
MARION: Yeah. I mean, and also, part of what makes The Crimson Goddess a phantom masterpiece is that Tsukikage played the role of the Crimson Goddess so well that she made it legendary, with her talent. And that’s why the creators gave her the rights of the play. And also why no one has been able to do this play again, because if it’s not as good as Tsukikage wants it then it won’t be done. And it’s also why this other company is obsessed with this play, because they are basically obsessed with the performance Tsukikage gave, and also with the fact that it is a phantom masterpiece.
VRAI: Yeah, and there’s a very gendered element to the art-versus-commerce discussion, because you have Tsukikage and Maya and the students mostly represented by Ayumi at the other school, who are all just in this because they love the craft so much.
And then most of the people we see putting pressure on Tsukikage are men, whether it’s the dudes from the yakuza who she’s kind of in deep with because that’s part of what she had to do to get her school open, or the members of this other company that are trying to buy out the rights to Crimson Goddess from her.
Which I guess means we have to now talk about Hayami, who is the worst.
VRAI: Ugh, Hayami.
MARION: Speaking of Hayami, I have this tab open of the show where it says the information of the anime and there’s a part where it says, “Objectionable content: Maya.”
MEGAN: Yeah, Hayami is a member of… He’s one of the owners of the commercial acting school, and he’s been raised to obey his father and become the leader of this, I guess, equivalent of a Johnny’s or similar sort of commercial group, but he becomes obsessed with Maya. And it should be noted that he’s somewhere in his twenties, [raising voice] and Maya is thirteen!
MARION: He’s 11 years older than Maya.
VRAI: She’s thirteen. I don’t go… I have a really hard time buying into age gaps even when the character is older-teens. Even if she were 17 or 18, I would find this kind of creepy. But she’s 13 though.
MEGAN: And the show leans hard into this. The image that becomes associated with Hayami and particularly his “relationship,” quote-unquote, with Maya is the concept of “the purple rose.” They initially meet when she enters herself and he picks her up, and she leaves a bloodstain on his vest that is shaped like a purple rose. And it becomes this thing that he sends her in secret, like a secret admirer.
And, out of curiosity, I looked up what purple roses mean in the language of flowers, and a lot of it is about, like, glory, majesty, success, enchantment… But the most common one? Love at first sight.
VRAI: [Sharp inhale]
MARION: Ew. That sure is something you pick when your protagonist/star is 13 years old.
VRAI: It feels extra grievous because Hayami isn’t even necessarily a kind of character that I dislike in other stories like this, where he’s sort of been groomed for this corporate role by his shitty dad, and he’s playing this role, but really he’s deep and sensitive on the inside, and he just needs the right person to bring that out of him. Like, I’ll buy into that if I’m in for something trope-y and the person who is sparking this passion for him to be himself is not 13 years old. But here we are.
VRAI: It feels like it does a disservice to the character, you know?
MARION: The thing between Maya and Hayami, it’s pretty much My Daddy Long Legs. Sorry. And the anime covers—
VRAI: Yeah, you’ve been tweeting about this a lot.
MARION: [Laughs] I’ve seen the show. I’ve seen the ‘90s shoujo show, which has a similar problem because the original Daddy Long Legs… I mean, in the original Daddy Long Legs, the protagonist is in college and, being for the shoujo demographic, they de-age the main character to a high-schooler. And it’s the same problem here.
MEGAN: And for those of you not familiar with the story, Daddy Long Legs is a story from the 1900s. A children’s story about a young woman who grows up an orphan, who gains this mysterious sponsor who will send her off to lady’s college. But the condition is [mysteriously] she must never know his name, but she must write letters to him every week. And she only gets a glimpse of him once, and all she notices is that he has long legs, hence the nickname, “Daddy Long Legs.”
But, oh, it turns out that he was the father of a classmate of hers and he’s loved her from afar all this time, and in the end, they get married, which… If Maya and Hayami’s relationship is following that path, [exasperated] oh boy.
MARION: Well, again, isn’t that a Long Legs story? Just for the record, I was actually less put-off by the ‘90s version than whatever fuckery goes on here because of how it was done, but it was still unsettling. I definitely wanted to crawl out of my skin a lot more in Glass Mask.
VRAI: And it makes me feel bad for Yuu, who’s the only male character in this stretch who doesn’t suck.
MEGAN: Yeah, she does have a perfectly normal, traditional, age-appropriate love interest in another boy from the Andere acting school—the competing acting school—named Yuu Sakurakouji, and he’s a perfectly normal, handsome teenage boy, with a perfectly normal mother who supports him, and, therefore, because I have seen and watched enough shoujo, I know this boy has absolutely no hope.
VRAI: [Chuckles] It’s… That’s probably why their relationship suffers a little bit in the condensing of the adaptation, ’cause they go on… They do have one date where they spend the day together and it’s nice, but then the next time we see him, Maya is acting extremely jealous because he catches Ayumi so that she doesn’t get a head trauma when she passes out. It’s a little much.
MEGAN: [Flatly] How dare he.
VRAI: I know you’re 13, but please.
MARION: This is actually more intense in the 2005 version, because I think it was around the first few episodes when the dude is already like, “Maya, I love you.” And that’s when you know that this dude has no chance, because there was no struggle, no tension, they just went straight ahead to the “I love you”s and be a couple and whatever.
VRAI: Doomed. Although, I’ll be honest. The most interesting relationship in this, by far, is Maya and Ayumi’s rivalry.
VRAI: And the actual respect they have… I think when you look at Ayumi or hear about her role in the story, you might think of her as… You might expect her to be more like a Nanami-type of character, but they really are standing toe-to-toe, and Ayumi really respects Maya. And it’s cool.
MARION: Yeah. Ayumi… When I first watched this show, I was expecting Ayumi to be more of a mean girl, but she really respects Maya, and she’s among the first to acknowledge Maya’s greatness. And she actually makes her peers stop making fun of Maya and acknowledge her greatness as well.
MEGAN: And meanwhile, Maya goes to see Ayumi perform more than once and she’s just stunned by the level of her acting.
VRAI: This is what I want more in modern anime. I feel like this equal female rivalry kind of got lost somewhere along the way.
MEGAN: Less “bitches be competin’.” More “bitches be inspired by one another.”
VRAI: [Laughs] Here for it. Here for it!
MARION: Yeah, I have the suspicion that this is the Glass Mask adaptation that waters down the romance the most, but I wish… I wish they would have watered down the romance even more so I could just read lesbian tension between Maya and Ayumi in peace!
VRAI: It’s very good and I do ship them. I mean, they’re small children. I want them to tenderly hold hands.
MEGAN: And this respectful sort of rivalry even extends to Maya’s other classmates, ’cause even if she isn’t getting that sort of competitive rivalry from Ayumi, you would expect it from her other classmates, because, “Oh, she’s getting all this special treatment from Tsukikage.” And yet, no. Her roommates and the other students at their acting school are actually really supportive of her.
VRAI: I mean, there is a little bit of that from the two characters we meet right at the end of this stretch who are drawn to be obviously evil and villainous and not as good-looking as the good characters.
MARION: Yeah, but it’s definitely for drama’s sake.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely… This show, I think… Maybe it was slightly unfair of me, but I was kind of coming in with expectations of other ‘80s pulp that I had read, like V.C. Andrews-type stuff, where the heroine is put upon by everyone in the world and men are something you want but they’re also terrible beasts that you can’t trust, and all of the women are out to claw you down so that they can get the men themselves.
And I was kind of coming in expecting that for Glass Mask, but there are a lot of really complex, sympathetic women here. And that was a really nice surprise.
MEGAN: And then there’s the relationships between the mothers and daughters, or at least mother-figures and daughters.
VRAI: Yeah. I don’t know what the show is trying to say with this. I’m genuinely unsure.
MEGAN: Because Maya has a biological mother, who is a single mother, who tries to support her, until Maya decides to become an actor, and then she’s like, “No! No! How dare you? You must come back to the ramen restaurant where we’ve worked our whole lives! And you must be poor and hopeless the rest of your life!” Where Tsukikage’s like, “No, I’m your real mother now! I will pour myself into you!”
VRAI: Maya’s biological mom does kind of suck. When we see her at the ramen restaurant, she’s constantly putting Maya down, and telling her that she’s a screw-up and she can’t do anything, and she shouldn’t try to do anything. So that doesn’t paint a great home-life.
But, at the same time, she does ultimately give her blessing to Maya to pursue her acting dream after she does this, “I have no daughter!” moment. Except Maya never sees that because Tsukikage burns the letter.
MARION: I mean, I’m not sure how much to say without spoiling, but there’s definitely a contrast between Maya and Ayumi where basically everything in Maya’s life sucks and everything with Ayumi is good. She’s traditionally beautiful, she’s respected, she has parents who are already successful, and that definitely helps her to get into the business.
And Maya comes from nothing. She has no support. She’s practically all alone in the world. And practically the only thing Maya has going on for her is that she is extremely good at acting.
VRAI: Yeah, I am kind of curious to see… I don’t know if that’s a level of nuance that the show would have interest in or time for, given the compression, but that kind of weird relationship where Ayumi kind of briefly talks about how she sees her own mom as a rival for roles.
VRAI: Which brought the Joan Crawford vibes right back.
MEGAN: Yeah, she has a weird relationship with her parents. We don’t see a lot of it, but the scenes we do see… There’s definitely a sort of distance. It’s not necessarily an unpleasant vibe between them, but they don’t really feel like parent and child either.
MARION: I know. I was surprised because everyone we know starting there, I was expecting a lot more family drama. But everyone is so chill and so supportive of each other. I see Ayumi seeing her mom as a rival and her mom taking her seriously more as a sign of support than anything particularly weird. Like, she takes her seriously.
MEGAN: I could see that as a sign of respect.
VRAI: Yeah, fair enough. And it is interesting in terms of… I think you would later see a shift where this would become more a dynamic of the Ayumi-type character would seem to have everything, but really it’s a loveless home, whereas there’s this kind of ennobling poverty aspect of characters who come from nothing, [with faux emotion] but their family is there for them! [Normally] And I have problems with that dynamic, but that’s for another podcast.
MARION: I don’t think… I don’t actually think that dynamic’s here.
VRAI: No, no. But I guess I’m saying that its absence is interesting to me, just because it becomes so prominent later.
VRAI: The other thing I kind of found interesting is we have two plays that are name-dropped during this stretch of episodes that—I kind of wanted to keep an eye on that as we go along. Well, three, actually. There are three plays. All of which kind of deal with the image of innocence lost.
We have La traviata, which is about a woman who falls in love with the wrong man and their tragic downfall. And then we have Little Women, where Maya plays Beth, who, you know, dies tragically young.
MEGAN: [Fake gasp] Spoilers!
VRAI: I know.
MARION: Actually, Little Women has been on my to-read list since I was in elementary school, and I still haven’t read it. [Laughs] I have seen the newest adaptation now, but I haven’t read the book yet. And I like it.
VRAI: Ah, good. Good.
MARION: But I watched Glass Mask first, so I actually knew about Beth’s fate way before I actually knew about the story of Little Women.
MARION: I went into the theater expecting Beth to die.
VRAI: I mean, I guess… That’s so interesting with classic literary stuff, where it’s well-known but also certain facts get kind of lost, so it’s always interesting to, you know, think about what one does or doesn’t know going into it. Especially in shows like this, where it’s, you know, you’re basically getting the most famous scenes of any given thing.
And the third play that they perform at the very end is Takekurabe, which is based on a story or a novella about, basically, kids who live on the edge of a red-light district. And them as they become adults. And sort of the female character going into sex work, and that kind of stuff. It sounded interesting. I couldn’t get very detailed-type summaries, unfortunately, in English, but it’s very interesting as something continuing that theme.
And also this idea Glass Mask seems to keep bringing up of, almost, a literary distancing of these very dark ideas that are both present in the plays that get done and also in the text itself.
MEGAN: Interesting. I had not considered that.
MARION: If you don’t know the plays before watching Glass Mask, you don’t come out knowing more about them after watching Glass Mask.
VRAI: [Through laughter] No, you really don’t!
VRAI: You really, really don’t. Just looking at the bits and bobs of that last one that we see Ayumi and Maya performing, it tells you basically nothing about the play, except that there is this love-story element between these two kids.
MARION: Yeah, you can pick up on some details, like the setting, just through their costume and what little bit of the dialogue we get. It’s a romance between this sex worker-in-training and a priest, and their forbidden romance, but beyond that, pfft!
VRAI: [Shrugging noise] Stuff happens! It’s drama! Which, I guess, is kind of Glass Mask. [Laughs]
MEGAN: You remember how on the Fushigi Yugi podcast, you’d joke that: Fushigi Yugi: You Will Feel an Emotion. With this show: Glass Mask: You Will Feel ALL the Emotions!
VRAI: Every five minutes.
MARION: It’s entertaining more often than not. Even if sometimes it’s unintentionally hilarious, it’s always entertaining, actually, for me.
VRAI: No, no, yeah. I really enjoyed watching these first five episodes.
MEGAN: Oh, absolutely.
VRAI: I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series.
MEGAN: Oh, same here.
MARION: And I think the soundtrack in particular really helps elevate the scenes.
MEGAN: Oh, yeah.
VRAI: It’s always a little bit of a readjustment for me, watching older shows, because they don’t tend to be orchestrated throughout, so much as the music will creep in for this-or-that-especially-dramatic-moment. And so you tend to notice… I think you notice the soundtrack more because of those silences. And I’m not sure if that’s an intentional effect, or something that I’m bringing to it as somebody who watches a lot more modern shows.
MARION: Speaking of silences, there’s a scene where Maya is… You know that scene where she is thrown into… I dunno what it was. I think it was a warehouse?
VRAI: [crosstalk] The shed out back. The Shed of Sadness.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] She’d been thrown in a shed…
MARION: [crosstalk] Shed. Yeah. Yeah.
MEGAN: …Because you need to get better. And she has a huge, dramatic thing where she rips up her script. [Dramatically] “Oh, no, I’ll never be as good as Ayumi!”
MARION: [Laughs] Yeah, and she has this moment where she realizes that she hasn’t been creating the character. And the moment where she gets into the character, it feels magical because of the music and particularly because of the soundtrack. There are a lot of elements that are into play in that scene, but particularly, the soundtrack really sells this as a magical moment.
And then she’s suddenly shook, because that’s the moment when she realizes, right? And suddenly the music stops. So suddenly, that it really helps deliver that shock.
MEGAN: Painted as a good thing, and not as her having a psychotic break.
VRAI: I mean, I will say for this series: it definitely… You know, we mentioned early on that this series is a little bit more grounded than some other shoujo of the time, but I think it knows how to use those moments of abstracting very judiciously. I think that scene is… You know, if you step back and think about it for even a second, it’s a little distressing.
VRAI: But, when you’re in it, the emotions come across… You’re really in Maya’s emotions as she gets sucked into this role in kind of the internal journey she’s taking. And there’s that other great moment early on, the first time Maya sees Ayumi perform, where she’s doing a pantomime looking at a bird, and the bird flies around and lands on her finger and she puts it in a cage. And we are… It’s one of the only moments we are given to see the thing that the actors are pretending to see, and it’s very sketchily laid out, and quite lovely. I think this series is very smart about when it dips into that kind of dream imagery.
MARION: Yeah. The song that plays during that scene… I usually think of that song as, “Am I supposed to cry at that part? Because I’m about to cry.” It’s not even what’s happening. It’s the emotion that comes across in the music. I feel like I could cry in that moment, because of how exciting it is, not in a sort of sad way, but in a sort of exciting way.
VRAI: Yeah. And then because it’s Glass Mask, something absurd happens right after, where all of a sudden, there is a pack of vicious dogs on the ground of the acting school. [Laughs]
MEGAN: As you do.
VRAI: That scene is just this show all over, where something really beautiful and touching will happen, that’s actually really effectively directed, and then something weird.
MARION: And not one, but two, of her love interests come to save her.
VRAI: God, that is the scene where Hayami is introduced, so it’s even more “the most Glass Mask.”
MEGAN: Yes, it is.
MARION: Speaking of that scene, I thought it was funny, because I saw a Tumblr post where it has different versions of Glass Mask of the first meeting of Maya and Hayami in gif form, comparing in all the different versions, right? And, in all the versions, Maya is blushing, flustered. And in this version, she’s like, “Leave me alone!” And she runs away immediately!
VRAI: “Please stop carrying me, you strange adult!”
MARION: [Through laughter] She’s like, “Don’t touch me!”
VRAI: Good girl.
We ended up… This series is a little bit of a weird running time, so we ended up cutting on a cliffhanger! That’s very stressful.
MEGAN: I suspect it will not be the last of the cliffhangers.
MARION: Oh, no. Definitely not.
VRAI: 22 episodes is a very odd running time. I think the only other time I’ve seen that happen is, I think, Samurai Flamenco, which is just a hot mess of a show.
MARION: I think it actually has 23, but the last one is a recap of the entire show.
VRAI: Gotcha. Hmm. That’s very interesting.
I guess this one might end up being a little shorter than you are used to, listeners, just because we’ve had some technical difficulties. And I don’t want to jinx it.
Alright. Literally, as I said that, we had another bout of technical difficulties, so I’m going to end this before I bring down anymore curses on our heads.
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And, until next time: stay dramatic.
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