Vrai, Megan, and Marion continue to make their way through the 1984 shoujo series. Maya plays a doll, every love interest is terrible, and the fated rivals finally stand on stage together.
0:01:38 The drama
0:06:45 Sakurakoji still sucks
0:13:31 Western influences
0:16:07 Scene stealing
0:24:52 Cheer squad
0:28:51 High art
0:33:21 Mothers and approval
0:37:52 The best scenes
0:41:34 Ayumi’s hair
VRAI: Hi there, listeners. Welcome back to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, and our watchalong of Glass Mask. My name is Vrai. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai, where I post the freelance things that I do and am sad about Yu-Gi-Oh, or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
And back with me again are Megan and Marion. If y’all want to plug your stuff…
MEGAN: All right. I am Megan Deyarmin. I go by brainchild129 on Twitter. My pronouns are she and her. And right now I’m doing manga reviews at my site, The Manga Test Drive, which is currently celebrating its eighth anniversary! Whoo!
VRAI: Yay. And because I keep forgetting, Marion, you and I both use they/them, yes?
VRAI: No big deal. I always forget to do pronoun checks, and then I remember the old adage “Every podcast is somebody’s first.” I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes. Anyway, this time around, we are back with episodes 12 through 17 of Glass Mask. And as always, to start us out, kind of get a general feel, how’s your emotional being after this set of episodes?
MEGAN: This was intense. And I feel like I say something like this every single time. But it’s the truth. There was a lot of emotional ups and downs.
VRAI: It never stops. Everything is so much in Glass Mask. I feel like what I learned in this set is that I’m very glad all of a sudden that this anime really heavily emphasized the rivalry element, because I don’t like the story very much when Ayumi isn’t there.
MEGAN: Every time she’s not on screen, you should be asking, “Where’s Ayumi?”
VRAI: Okay, but high key my mood this time around! I almost got a little bit worried at first when I started watching the run for this episode because those first two episodes are rough!
They kind of lived up to everything I was basically worried that the show would be and that it had kind of pleasantly surprised me about, where a lot of Maya’s female friends and the other sympathetic female characters are kind of in the background and it’s mostly all these men who have such passionate feelings about her and the women who are jealous of her talent and success and all the attention from men that she gets. And I was like “Oh, I don’t enjoy this.” And it’s so straight-faced about it.
MEGAN: Indeed, more so than the last couple of batches, this one is all about the romance—and all about the tormented romance because nobody can just sit down and have a conversation for five minutes and actually say what they’re thinking and feeling.
MARION: It’s super “drama for the sake of drama.”
MEGAN: So it’s appropriate that the first thing they put on is a production of Wuthering Heights, the only thing that could match Glass Mask in pure drama.
MARION: For me, it’s actually funny. I can’t take this seriously. I laugh my ass off with these episodes. I mean, I alternate between laughing and cringing because holy shit, Masumi!
VRAI: Yeah, I think that is a completely reasonable response, honestly. And especially since you’re rewatching it. The element of surprise is gone for you, so all that’s left is the absurdity. So I could totally see that happening.
MARION: Yeah, it’s kind of hard to really take it seriously when you have all those extremely shocked expressions, one after the other, with that extremely intense background music. I don’t know. It’s just funny.
VRAI: Yeah! Well, and it’s—
MARION: Once again, something… I don’t even remember what was happening, but suddenly Tsukikage’s dying and Maya cries while sparkles come out of her eyes. For me to take that seriously…
VRAI: She has anime cough— No, I’m sorry. Her mother has anime coughing disease. Tsukikage has vague stomach pain anime disease, the slightly rarer variant.
MARION: Her mother is dying, and no one gives a fuck because Tsukikage is also dying! And then, when she’s like “Who’s gonna teach the play of the Crimson Goddess?” she comes back to complete her life’s work. It’s so dramatic. It’s so entertaining. But it’s also so absurd.
MEGAN: You know, just in case you weren’t convinced that this was basically a sports anime in a shoujo disguise, you have stunts like that, you have points where they talk about things like “burning spirit.” You cannot convince me this is not a sports anime. It’s just that the sport is acting.
VRAI: Yeah, it is interesting how the role of Crimson Goddess is basically treated like the title of the master of an art form, basically, like it would be in a fighting anime.
MARION: Yeah, pretty much.
VRAI: Which, I mean, there are legacy roles, but it’s interesting how it’s phrased to convey it in terms of genre conventions of a different genre.
MEGAN: [Chuckles] And speaking of different genres, this stretch of the show kind of became a harem for a little while, because it’s no longer just the rivalry between Yuu and Hayami. Now we’ve got a new player, Ryo, who basically forgets that your character is not the same thing as your actress.
VRAI: He was the most reasonable one of all of this. I had that moment with Haya where I’m like “Oh, he’s being way more mature about this than all of the other people in this situation.” Then I’m like “Oh, yeah! That’s because he’s an adult and these are all children and he’s a creep. I forgot for a minute!”
MARION: The worst part is that there’s actually a scene that’s supposed to make the comparison between Masumi and Sakurakoji and how Sakurakoji has such an immature reaction while Masumi is chill because he is approaching this like an adult. And it’s just so… [Chuckles nervously]
MARION: Poor Yuu! Poor Yuu!
VRAI: No, fuck him!
MARION: It’s ridiculous. But it’s also a normal dumb teenager reaction. And I prefer that over the creepiness of Masumi behaving like an adult in a situation where it clearly belongs to dumb teenagers.
VRAI: I know when you’re a teenager, you get jealous and you do things that don’t make sense, but I really had a hard time with Sakurakoji in this stretch, because at least with Ryo… On the stage he’s also playing this other half of the relationship, and there’s a reason that showmance is a go-to trope and a thing that’s joked about in the theater world, because you spend so much time with these people and you form these really intimate bonds and people do hook up a lot. That’s a pretty common thing in the industry.
So I really actually kind of liked his character arc where he is like, “Do I really like this person?” and then he goes to see her in another performance and is immediately like, “Oh! No, I did the acting thing again. I’m dumb,” and he’s never heard from again.
And with Sakurakoji, it’s like, okay, you’re a teenager, but also, you are also an actor and you should know that this happens. And it’s one thing to be having feelings about it, but it’s another thing to just be shitty with her when she’s trying to be on a date with you. At that point, you’re just an asshole.
MEGAN: Yeah, unfortunately he forgot that Maya has nothing inside her brain except acting and finally figures out, “Oh, she doesn’t actually notice me romantically because she notices no one romantically, because the only thing she’s in love with is acting.” And he goes and has a tantrum.
MARION: I remember the first time I watched this show, I was actually pissed at him about the way he behaved. But now I just laugh. [Chuckles] It’s so unnecessarily extra. You don’t have to go that far. You can just talk to her. And then she goes after him! And they don’t talk! They just look at each other!
MEGAN: Yes! In true shoujo manga form, they all have deep feelings, feelings that could be cleared up with literally two minutes of conversation when they just told one another how they felt. And no, we’re just gonna stand awkwardly in the rain.
MARION: [crosstalk] They just run under the rain and look at each other’s eyes, and no one says shit! [Chuckles] And everything [obscured by crosstalk].
VRAI: He’s become a playboy whose heart has only room for her, but I don’t care because there’s not enough time in the show.
MEGAN: A playboy at the donut shop!
VRAI: It is also highly illustrative, I think, this stretch, about how once the show loses you a little bit, it loses you a lot. Because at least for me, once I was getting annoyed with the amount of jealousy and the new female characters who were just there to cause problems and go away immediately because they’re jealous, and Tsukikage’s big monologues about how Maya is going to have trouble because everyone will be so jealous of her talent, all of a sudden it was harder for me to go along with the big melodrama things that I was kind of buying into before, because the show kind of had me enough on the emotional investment front.
But it’s so tenuous, the emotional attachment to this series. If you’re not willing to buy in, it’s not going to work for you at all, is what I’ve discovered.
MEGAN: It really doesn’t help that this stretch has more Hayami than ever, and as always, he is still just the worst, the absolute worst.
VRAI: Ugh. No, but Maya’s 15 now so it’s not creepy at all!
It’s still creepy.
MEGAN: It’s still very creepy.
MARION: This weekend, I watched all the Hollywood versions of Daddy Long Legs. And when I watched this stretch of Glass Mask, it was like “Oh, I’m watching another version of Daddy Long Legs.” Because, you see, there’s always a younger and a much, much, much older adult. There’s always these dudes sponsoring education. Even the way she talks about the Mr. Purple Rose, it sounds like she’s actually talking to him, kind of like how Julie writes letters to Daddy Long Legs. It feels like she’s communicating. And it’s always these poor, unfortunate girls being pampered by a rich man. And it’s always that very unsettling element of a romance with someone who’s definitely too young to have these kind of romances.
Yeah, pretty much it really reminds me how much this is a Daddy Long Legs story, and it comes with worse problems than normal Daddy Long Legs stories because usually they sponsored her college education; this girl is still a minor.
VRAI: It stretches credulity even within the bounds of its own definitions when she sees the rose in his car and is like “What could this mean?”
MEGAN: She’s so close and then completely overshoots it. And of course, he’s still hellbent on keeping up this double identity thing, like “I’m going to support her behind the scenes, but I’m going to be a total dick to her face because this is my lot! I am so tormented. This is my glass mask.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] Shut up, Hayami.
MEGAN: “And my secretary is enabling me at this point.”
VRAI: Okay, but this woman is the real MVP who knows what the hell’s going on. Everyone was kind of terrible in the stretch except for Ayumi, and I’m just like “Yeah, okay. This is your boss. You know what’s up. You know he’s full of shit.” She is enabling him, though, and that does suck.
MARION: Yeah, she has figured the whole thing out. But she also has served a wingman sort of role. So, yeah. I mean, with the other Daddy Long Legs versions, at least there were musicals. And I love musicals. There were no musicals here. [Chuckles]
VRAI: No, no musicals.
MARION: At least they dance in the other versions.
VRAI: Lots of Western plays this time around. And a lot of big melodrama, like you said, Megan, with Wuthering Heights, which is… uh… Bronte’s—
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Problematic?
VRAI: Yeah, let’s go with that.
MEGAN: See, I already had this weird connection in my head with this show and Kate Bush, and that just confirmed it. Just that same sort of intensity.
MARION: Yeah, I mean, Glass Mask is not just melodrama. It also has a particular flavor of eighties melodrama.
MEGAN: Oh, my goodness, yes.
VRAI: I am kind of fascinated by its fascination with these European stories, because it reminds me a little bit of BL choosing those very fantastical Western settings, this displacement.
MEGAN: I think it comes from being from the ‘70s, because ‘70s shoujo was really interested in Europe.
VRAI: Yeah, Stone’s Smile doesn’t seem to be… That seems to be made up for the show, which I’m guessing is why we get such a thorough description of it. At the very least, I wasn’t able to find anything about it. Although it could be the same as Gina and Five Blue Pots, where these are just lesser-known enough that Google is not helping me out.
And at the very end of the stretch, they mention that Maya’s going to try out for The Miracle Worker, and I had a moment, “Of fucking course she is,” because that’s the ultimate in what we were talking about last time with the…
MEGAN: Tourism acting?
VRAI: Yeah, tourism acting. It’s the ultimate.
MARION: Although it’s worth mentioning that Helen Keller was a real person.
VRAI: Yes, which I think kind of makes it worse because, a lot because of The Miracle Worker, she’s held up as the embodiment of the inspirational “overcoming disabilities” narrative that other folks on the site have talked about. I’ll see if I can’t link that in the show notes. Not for Glass Mask, but just in general.
But yeah, it’s interesting. And by “interesting,” I mean kind of frustrating. But also not just Glass Mask. So many, so many things about acting were doing this. But I was really pleased that this stretch dug into Maya scene-stealing and how that’s kind of a bad thing, actually.
MEGAN: Yeah, the big breakthrough she has, like, “Oh… I’ve been selfish.” And you can tell that her friends have been around her long enough that they recognize that when she starts staring off into thousand-yard distance, like, “Oh, she’s having a breakthrough. It’s fine.”
VRAI: She’ll be back. It’s like in Scrubs where they had the joke about the cutaways. Except that time they— Yeah, anyway. I’m explaining the joke and it’s not funny anymore. Ah-hem.
Yeah, I really loved that because, again, in those first two episodes, when Tsukikage is going on so much about, you know, “She’s just so talented and she shines, and other people will be jealous of her and she’ll be thrown out and have a hard time.” And I’m over here like: “It’s because she doesn’t know how to work in an ensemble and she’s being thoughtless to her other performers and ‘Acting is reacting’ is one of the most common pieces of advice that there is.” And then she gets it, and I’m like “Yay, I’m so proud of you.”
MEGAN: Yeah, at this point, it’s easy to say that probably her best mentor is Ayumi herself, because at long last, after waiting for so many episodes, we finally get the ultimate showdown of acting destiny: Ayumi and Maya are finally on a stage together.
VRAI: It was my favorite moment in the show so far. I clapped a little.
MEGAN: And Ayumi demonstrates seamlessly how to help a person in a case whose script has been altered with and feed them enough information, feed them lines, feed Maya what she needs to basically continue this role. And it is marvelous.
MARION: That moment where—
VRAI: It is—
MARION: Sorry. [Chuckles]
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, go ahead.
MEGAN: [Chuckles] No, go ahead.
MARION: That moment where Maya and Ayumi look into each other’s eyes and you see the golden sparkles, I felt that. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Just the passionate sharing as they each recognize one another’s worth, and then they go apart from each other and talk about how the other one is so pretty and talented and…
MARION: Yeah! When they face each other on the stage, it’s very interesting how they both walk away thinking they were defeated by the other lady. They both fixate on how the other is so much better than them, because they not only recognize the other’s talent; it sort of overwhelms them.
VRAI: Mm-hm. And also, that scene is the stress dream that I’ve had for the past decade, where all of a sudden you have to do a show and you have no idea what’s going on or what your lines are.
VRAI: So that was upsetting.
MEGAN: God knows that Maya could use a mentor like Ayumi because not only do we have the return of the conflict between the real mom, Hana, and her stage mom, Tsukikage, but this stretch of the show really makes it clear that Tsukikage doesn’t see herself as Maya’s stage mom, so to speak. She is basically molding Maya into herself.
MARION: Yeah, exactly.
VRAI: It reminded me of that plotline early on in Steven Universe where Pearl realizes that she’s passing her unhealthy coping mechanisms down to Connie and has to realize, “Oh shit. No, this is bad actually.” Except there’s no realization here! When they have the moment—
MEGAN: Yeah, Tsukikage’s like, “I grew up an orphan. I didn’t have parents. All I had was acting. I turned out fine. Maya will turn out fine.”
VRAI: It’s like, “No! No, that’s the exact wrong message to take from this!” And yet everything suddenly makes so much sense.
MEGAN: Yes, even though Maya is absolutely tormented because her mother is dying of tuberculosis and is being sent off to a sanitarium basically to die and is understandably grieving! And Tsukikage is like “No! You will not feel that emotion. You will not have that emotion on the stage!”
MARION: This is a very extreme version of “The show must go on.”
VRAI: Mm-hm. And we are back to lionizing method acting even when it leads to actual physical harm again.
MEGAN: Yeah. Admittedly, the one rare moment where Hayami is not a total creep, he walks in [on] them practicing this Stone’s Smile play and he accidentally breaks the bamboo frame Tsukikage is using to basically train Maya to hold her body like a doll, which is breaking to the point that it’s piercing her skin. And he’s the only one who recognizes: “This is kind of messed up! Take this girl to the doctor!”
MARION: Yeah, but—
MEGAN: I wish it didn’t involve taking off her shirt in the process, but…
VRAI: Yeah, that was…
MARION: Yeah, that was exactly what I was gonna say. I’m sure that could have been done differently.
VRAI: Yeah… Yeah.
MARION: And the way it’s framed… Eh… The way Maya covers herself is just so uncomfortable.
MARION: We could have not done that.
MEGAN: All of their interactions in this stretch, more so than usual, are extremely uncomfortable because he’s just continuing to put more and more pressure on her to do what he wants. And every time she yells at him, “No, I’m not going to go with you. No, I’m not going to listen,” I’m like, “Yes, yes! Listen to that instinct inside of you, girl. Feed it! Nourish it! Follow it!”
VRAI: And I don’t want them to end up together as a couple, and I’m going to scream and beat against that inevitability until it smacks me in the face. But even if this relationship weren’t sort of poisoned at the root, he’s not helping himself as a sympathetic character because he refuses to budge from that point of “I’m going to say cruel and terrible things to drive you away from me while also doing helpful things behind the scenes.”
And the more he does that, the more it comes across in the narrative like “I know that I’m being a creep, so I have to continue this front,” which I don’t think is what the narrative is trying to get me to feel.
MARION: Masumi is a bitch for no reason. And based on what I know from Daddy Long Legs, I’m guessing she will… I mean, in Daddy Long Legs, Julie falls for Jervis Pennington before knowing he is also her daddy. And I’m guessing that’s also where this is going—I mean, not in the show but in the eventual story, she will fight for Masumi before knowing he’s also Mr. Purple Rose. I don’t know. If it follows the Daddy Long Legs formula, she will only realize at the very end of the story. But at this point, no one is sure if this is ever going to end, so…
VRAI: Yeah, it’s fully setting up on the somewhat familiar trope of “Oh no, I’m starting to have feelings for this guy I totally hate, but this feels like a betrayal of this guy who’s always been my protector. Oh, I am such a wanton human being. Oh, it’s dreadful.” [Sighs]
MEGAN: Well, at least she’s got one positive role model in life. And it’s Rei! Rei is still good. Rei is best girl!
VRAI: Rei is best girl. Although even she gets hit by the Tsukikage stick and is now replicating the abuse, even when their mentor is not there to… Like, no, stop!
MARION: Yeah, there’s a part where she slaps Maya and she’s like “If Tsukikage was here, she would do that.” And I’m like “Why are you copying Tsukikage now? We shouldn’t copy Tsukikage.”
MEGAN: Because the Stockholm Syndrome has kicked in.
MARION: Yeah, but outside of that, she’s probably the only character here that has some common sense.
MEGAN: She’s the only one who actually cares for Maya as a person to remind her to do things like eat and sleep and tries to counsel her. And even Tsukikage realizes that Rei is going to be a future lesbian icon and gives her the pants roles.
VRAI: Hell yeah. She was really rocking that Audrey-Hepburn-in-pants energy, and I was a fan. Oh, that sounds weird.
VRAI: Not like that. This is a child.
MEGAN: [High-pitched, eager] Vrai-sama!
MARION: It’s funny that you say that because I have a picture of Audrey Hepburn wearing pants right in front of me!
VRAI: See? See?
MARION: I have a mural in front of me, and Audrey’s part of it.
VRAI: I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the look that they were going for, though, given some of the influences that this show draws from. I was so happy to see her get to act, though, because it so often feels like the other people in this school are essentially Maya’s cheerleaders at the end of the day. So I was glad to get to peek in on their careers.
MEGAN: And that the troupe from Hokkaido came back.
MARION: Yeah, I actually wanted to watch that play.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, it looked, not screwball, but screwball-esque comedy of errors.
MEGAN: Yeah, there’s definitely kind of a farcical quality to it. But it’s played very straight.
VRAI: I would watch that.
MARION: It felt like the sort of nonsense that you could find in 1930s comedies.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, the very “Who’s got the suitcase?” type thing, except— Yeah, it was good. And maybe because it was invented for this, we got to see a little bit more of what makes it work, rather than… With the plays that are title drops, it seems a little bit more like “And here’s the scene that’s thematically relevant to our story at hand and no other context. Go look it up, kids.”
MEGAN: But I also like how that particular stretch of episodes really plays into the show’s larger theme about art for art’s sake versus art as entertainment, because they’re competing with this big theater putting on a big production of Hamlet, and they presume no one’s going to go to this weird little makeshift, out-of-nowhere theater in a basement, and then it becomes the sensation of the month, apparently. And even they’re impressed.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, it warmed my heart to see a nod to underground theater.
VRAI: Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] Not gonna be a lot of outsider art in Glass Mask. But this was a neat little nod, and I’ll take it. Yeah, it’s an interesting balance that this show occasionally thinks about the fact that one does not eat on art alone, basically, and that at a certain point, you have to balance being artistically driven with creating a product that the audience wants.
But then it kind of goes away from that again, because a character will… they’ll happen to know somebody who knows somebody who has something they can do because of their gosh-darn determination. It’s not Eizouken, is what I’m saying.
VRAI: But, you know, it’s plucky. And I suppose that’s fine, because we are dealing mostly in metaphors. Which, we finally get the title drop, almost two thirds of the way in.
MARION: Better late than never.
VRAI: [Chuckles] I mean, we’ve been getting it at every episode before it starts, to be fair. We have been prepared.
MARION: Yeah, I’m sure you could guess before why it was called Glass Mask. But anyway, speaking of the doll play, I like how the show just drops that Maya has a destiny of “vandalism on stage” with all the drama possible. And then it just ends there. And then they’re like “Oh, wait, we actually have to explain that so it makes sense.” So they slowly start to explore the concept and what it means and how eventually Maya realized that that’s what’s happening.
VRAI: Yeah, on the one hand, part of me is like “Why didn’t anybody just explain to her that she’s being kind of a jerk about this, as opposed to just kicking her out?” But on the other hand, it’s one of those things that is easier to fix when you realize it yourself. So I kind of gave it a pass on that one.
One of my favorite things about the Ayumi and Maya scene was what an interesting balance it is between… Performers are working together, but at the same time, there’s this logic of: you want to win when you’re acting. It’s common advice that your character is fighting to get something in a scene, and if you get what you want, then you’ve won. And there’s that push and pull that’s so perfectly encapsulated when the two of them are on screen together. Fuck, that scene was really good!
MARION: Yeah, like that feeling that you were the best performer in that moment.
MEGAN: Yeah, this stretch in general had really good direction, some really interesting storyboards. I remember one particular scene where at some point they transition from Tsukikage talking about Maya on the stage to sheets flapping in the wind, and claps are played over that.
MARION: [crosstalk] Yeah, that was very neat.
MEGAN: There’s some really interesting artistic stuff going on in this stretch.
MARION: Yeah, that was pretty neat. And something that I liked, too, is that sort of slow-motion transition it has from one expression to the other so you can truly appreciate all the subtleties and the movements of their bodies. And for me, it really elevates the performances.
VRAI: Although at the same time, it does have to cut some corners when it’s transitioning over big gaps of time. We move another year forward here, and there are episodes where it’s just “And then this happened and the characters were feeling this way.” Thank you, narrator!
MARION: Yeah. I specifically mean… when Maya’s performing Snow White, for example, and there’s a subtle shift in her expression where she has an evil expression, and then she smiles sort of evilly. And that shift, when you can truly see the journey her face goes through to get a certain expression, for me, that’s pretty neat.
VRAI: Yeah, there’s almost a Rakugo Shinju–type quality to that scene that I found really neat. And I kind of wondered if… I mean, presumably Hatakeyama is familiar with Glass Mask, at least a bit, but I wondered if there was a little bit of a montage in there, with that show, to this. Because yeah, that scene is very short, but it has some great visuals, like you said.
MEGAN: And it also brings up the fact that kids as a thematic element comes up a lot in this particular stretch, like how Maya just figures out how to play Cathy by basically playing with a random latchkey kid, and that gives her the insight.
And that was a rather sweet little stretch, but it also kind of sunk in my mind… something the show never states outright, but it kind of implies that Maya never really had a childhood, that part of the reason she struggles with a lot of this emotional stuff, a lot of this physical stuff, is because she never really had a chance to play and to have relationships with other kids. She was always working, always trying to help her mother. And that’s kind of why she’s the blank slate that she is.
MARION: Yeah. And I think it’s also part of the appeal of acting for her, because when she acts, she can be whoever she wants, whatever she wants.
VRAI: I certainly have cousins in the theater world for whom that is true, where shitty childhood made acting a very appealing thing. I do not think that is uncommon. Yeah, it’s interesting these little glimpses we get into this idea that the traits that make Maya who she is are not just because that’s what it takes for her to be the audience-insert protagonist character, that there’s a little bit of deeper psychology there.
MARION: Yeah, but then again, I think if the story was really serious about exploring the scars left behind by a shitty childhood, it wouldn’t have this type of romance, or at least it wouldn’t condone it. But here we are.
MEGAN: Or it wouldn’t have taken two years in-story to remember that Maya’s biological mother exists.
VRAI: I was very surprised that she saw her on the street. I thought for sure this was going to be a situation where she manages to rush to the hospital literally the second she’s dy— In fact, there’s still room for that to happen. I’m still banking on that, that they will reunite long enough for a single dying conversation.
MEGAN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, dramatic conventions insist upon it.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Will she collapse outside of the door? Will there be a tragic call from the hospital? We just don’t know. But it will be as extra as possible.
VRAI: It was kind of neat to sink in that I think I get an idea of why they chose to cut this adaptation where they did, although obviously I don’t know until we get there, but I’m starting to get the shape of the way they decided, “How are we going to adapt as much of this as we are (or aren’t) with an ongoing work?”
It’s shaping up to be this story not of how Maya becomes a famous actor, but of how she earned Tsukikage’s blessing to one day be this legendary role, and being conferred that title is the goal we’re striving towards here, where it’s kind of narrowed down at this point to her and, I assume, Ayumi.
MEGAN: Although I admit I’m intrigued by the brief glimpse we see of Emi, one of the girls at the high school Maya ends up at. We see her in a drama club practice where she becomes an onibaba. And one, her motions, her facial expressions are really well animated. But two, she’s got a really great character design. Three, she just seems very interesting and compelling, even in that very brief glimpse we see of her.
MARION: It’s a very, very good introduction. It really highlights a lot of the strength the show has.
VRAI: Yeah, it really excels at those small moments. And it’s nice to see it to get to have them, because I think a lot of times the show has to cover so much ground that it only gets sporadically these scenes, every couple of episodes, to really just dial into this interiority that it does so well.
MARION: Yeah. I mean, this show certainly has its stumbles, but one of the things that truly makes this show good, is how it nails some of the performances. For me, that’s what’s really important here. I can ignore even Masumi. I can erase him from my mind as long as they do the other stuff well. I only ask to be entertained. [Chuckles] I don’t ask for much.
VRAI: I did die a little inside when Maya rips her costume on stage during Wuthering Heights. Inside, I’m having a conniption, like [Inhales angrily] “Do you know how long it took to—? They won’t have time to replace that now. Now some costume department person is gonna have to go out tomorrow and get a new fucking apron, because you can’t stitch that! You ripped a whole chunk out! How dare you!”
MARION: It’s funny for me how she was able to rip that fabric as if she was, I don’t know, Hulk or something.
VRAI: [Chuckles] Right. It’s that amazing anime fabric that’s made of tissue paper and not, like, reinforced cotton blends. Which, I guess stage costumes do tend to be sometimes made out of cheaper stuff so that it’s easier to put together in a shorter period of time, but also, mm…
MARION: Yeah, but they’re not made of paper!
VRAI: That’s true. And also at the same time, you would want a character like Cathy to be in something durable because the actor is going to be running around on stage and falling down a lot. So, none of this makes sense!
MARION: I mean, I suppose she did get scolded for ruining…
VRAI: She did, and I felt vindicated. This is just me being annoyed that series about acting very rarely care about backstage. At least Revue Starlight tried, a little tiny bit. But you’re right.
The best scenes in this show are the ones where it has a little time to build up what’s going on in a performance and then just let it play out, at least for a scene’s worth. Those are consistently the most gripping parts of the show.
The Gina and the Five Blue Pots one was similar, where you’re held in tension on stage not because it’s necessarily explaining to you what she’s doing but because you get caught up in the action of—you’ve been taught to understand why this is challenging and now you get to see without your hand being held if she’s going to pull it off. I wish there was time for more of that.
And I know you need to balance it with the characters’ backstage lives, and also you need time to build up the stakes so that the performances have meaning. But if they’re not at least a little bit rare, then they’re not as meaningful. But I always feel a little sad being taken away from them at the same time.
MEGAN: Yeah, when it goes back to the shoujo romantic melodrama, you’re just like, “Oh, we’re back to this again.”
VRAI: Mm-hm. Although I mind it less when we’re watching the apparently perfectly functional but very weird relationship Ayumi has with her parents.
MEGAN: Yeah. The scene with her and her mother… Because her mother, Utako, is gonna be playing Annie in this production of the play. And she’s like “Well, Mom, I’m gonna go off to our condo and study my acting. See ya on stage!” “See ya on stage, hun! From this point on, we’re rivals!”
MARION: [Chuckles] I mean, I suppose it’s not normal, but it makes sense. You really do avoid gossip that Ayumi was receiving special coaching or something if she was, let’s say, training in an entirely different place with no contact for her mom.
Ayumi really cares about things being fair because Ayumi is in a position where she could gain things from who she knows, because her parents are famous and would connect. It really matters to her to win things with her talent and not with her connections and her parents’ reputations.
VRAI: You’re right. It is a very sweet scene in a way. A little odd, but the fact that her mom is genuinely supportive of her and the fact that she’s clearly going to a place where she’s safe and going to be taken care of and have people to help her, and also that Ayumi wants to avoid not even just the appearance of nepotism, but any actual chance of it, it makes her… Ayumi is the best character in the show. She’s great.
MEGAN: She is. You would expect it to be such a brat just from her whole ojou-sama visual design. But in many ways, she’s one of the most emotionally grounded characters in the entire cast.
MARION: Yeah, she’s definitely, if not the best, one of the best characters of the show. Whenever Ayumi’s not there, I want her to come back.
VRAI: Uh-huh! Yeah. Yeah. Completely in earnest! When Ayumi is not there, I am asking, “Where is Ayumi?”
MARION: Though, speaking of Ayumi, you know how she cut off all her hair, and then she has all her hair back, but then in another episode she had very weird hair, like she was in the middle of a grown phase. It was super inconsistent. I’m like “Okay, am I supposed to buy this because it’s anime or she has rotating wigs or what?” [Chuckles]
VRAI: It’s been a year, but a year is not long enough to hack off all your hair and then grow it back down to the middle of your back. I don’t care what products you’re using.
MEGAN: She’s rich. She can afford wigs, weaves.
MARION: Yeah, I mean, as someone who has curls and has cut their hair to pixie haircuts a lot of times, one year is not nearly enough to have not even shoulder-length hair. It doesn’t matter, but for me it’s really distracting!
VRAI: At the end of the day, it’s one of those “I dunno: anime” things. But if we’re looking at it with any kind of magnifying glass at all, it’s absurd. And also the fact that she straightens her hair for the one production she does with Ayumi and then it’s back to curls again with no harm done.
MARION: Yeah, her curls are flawless.
MARION: I’m surprised we don’t see more sparkles around her curls.
VRAI: [Snickers] Because they’re extremely unreal?
VRAI: It’s the only way you can tell. I guess I sort of dipped us into it earlier, but it seems like as good a time as any, because next time we’ll be covering the last part of this show and I’m laying out my big card that I’m pretty sure Tsukikage will die before the credits roll. That’s my biggest prediction. Maya will lose both of her mother figures and be forced to go it alone against her rival, with whom, if I’m lucky, she will have one last fated showdown for the show. That is my greatest hope.
MEGAN: I don’t think it’s going to go quite so far as having Tsukikage die. I absolutely think her mom is going to die on screen.
VRAI: Oh, for sure.
MEGAN: But I’m hoping and betting that, yes, there’s going to be one more showdown between Ayumi and Maya before the show ends, and I am so excited.
MARION: On that front, I really, really like the Helen Keller arc in this show. Sure, it’s troubling, but so entertaining.
MEGAN: Oh yeah, we’re gonna have a lot more discussion about portrayals of disability! That’s gonna be fun.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, there’s… The movie version of The Miracle Worker… I’m not sure if you listeners are film buffs at home. May be familiar with it. But it’s essentially got at least one scene that’s more or less the embodiment of For Your Consideration, which is where… There’s a scene where Helen has a breakthrough and she’s able to verbally articulate this concept of water after a lot of struggles of communication between her and Annie, and it’s a whole thing. The music swells. It’s so dramatic. She’s reached this child! It’s a whole thing.
MARION: You’re talking about the 1960s version, right?
VRAI: I am.
MARION: Yeah, that matters. Keep watching. [Chuckles]
VRAI: [Laughs] Oh my God! I’m actually really excited! I’ve got my popcorn.
VRAI: This is gonna be a thing.
MEGAN: And also, I suspect that the Maya-versus-Hayami thing… It feels like it has to come to a point. She has to finally put together who Mr. Purple Rose is. I don’t know if it’s—
VRAI: Oh, you’re extending this a lot of credit!
MEGAN: I don’t think it’s gonna deal with all the ramifications of it, but I think, before this ends, she’s going to put it together. I hope she’s going to put it together!
VRAI: I don’t think she is. I think at best we’ll get a scene where she’s like “Maybe Hayami isn’t so terrible after all.” And that’s as far as it’ll go.
MEGAN: And then he stares from the shadows and smokes a cigarette.
MARION: I mean, she saw an entire purple rose inside of that man’s car, and still she didn’t even suspect.
VRAI: I would be so willing to go so far as to say I’m not entirely sure she knows who he is in the manga now!
MARION: This was so easy for her secretary, and in contrast, you have Maya. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah. Like, child… As Maya gets older, I start to have fractionally less tolerance for the amount of naivete she shows. Not even just naivete, but just foolishness for things that someone her age should be able to put together when presented with the amount of evidence she sees. [Sighs] Oh, Maya.
MARION: Actually, I just laugh. I mean, what else can you do? [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, I guess that’s true.
MEGAN: It’s either laugh or cry dramatic shoujo tears.
VRAI: Beautiful, sparkly tears.
All right. Yeah. Yeah. I think we’ll save the meatiest discussion on all of these and laugh at our terrible wrongness next time, when we wrap the series up with episodes 18 through 22, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m still not going to watch the ‘05 series, I don’t think, but I’m really looking forward to watching the rest of this.
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Thanks so much for joining us, AniFam. And until next time, remember to chase them sparkly shoujo dreams.