Glass Mask is a shoujo classic that I wish was translated into English, but since the series is so long and unfinished (although new chapters are starting to appear again) I guess there is a slim chance of it ever reaching the US. Glass Mask is a 43 volume manga about a girl struggling to become an actress. It started in 1976! I think that’s an example of what makes manga awesome. While we might not be able to read the manga, Crunchyroll is streaming the 2005 anime version of Glass Mask, so at least that’s one way to experience the story.
Maya Kitajima is a girl who is remarkable for being undistinguished. She doesn’t perform well at school and she isn’t particularly pretty. What she does have is an insatiable appetite for drama. When she sees a dramatic TV show or catches a glimpse of a movie, she’s mesmerized, memorizing all of the dialog and gestures of the actors to perform the story later to the neighborhood children as her own one woman show. Maya is raised by a single mother who is constantly lamenting about her useless daughter. Maya tries to help out at the restaurant where her mother works, but whenever Maya delivers ramen near a movie theater she disappears for hours.
A mysterious woman whose overgrown Veronica Lake hairstyle hides horrible scars on half of her face spots Maya in one of her impromptu performances. She decides that Maya is the girl she’s been searching for, the Girl of 1000 masks. She’s Chigusa Tsukikage, a legendary actress who retired after her face was scarred. She has the rights to the play that produced her signature role, the Crimson Goddess. Tsukikage is determined to prevent the play from being performed until she finds an actress worthy of the role.
Tsukikage starts an acting school and Maya runs away from home in order to train. Maya is almost savant-like in her acting abilities, having instinctive reactions on stage that showcase her natural ability. Tsukikage’s training methods seem to involve much yelling, all night acting sessions, and the occasional violent backhand blow to the face. Tsukikage is under stress because she doesn’t really have the money to support her new school and the Daito theater corporation is after her to relinquish the rights to the Crimson Goddess.
Other people in Maya’s life include the man who is the heir to the Daito corporation, Masumi Hayami. He appears to be fascinated by Maya’s fresh enthusiasm for acting and Maya herself. Hayami anonymously sends Maya purple roses for each of her performances, but doesn’t reveal to her that he’s her fan. Instead he allows her to use her hatred of Daito and him as a goad to improve her acting. Daito has an acting school of its own called Ondine. Two of the students at Ondine are important to Maya. Sakurakouji has a crush on Maya but is constantly frustrated in his romantic ambitions by Maya’s obsession with acting. I guess it is hard to date a girl when she just wants to watch plays, run lines, or learn how to play the piano for a role. Ayumi Himekawa is a young woman with all the advantages that Maya lacks. Her parents are rich. Ayumi’s father is a director and her mother is a renowned actress. Ayumi has grown up with the intensive training that Maya lacks, and she’s Maya’s main rival for the role of the Crimson Goddess.
So since It might be a long time or never before the manga of Glass Mask is translated into English, I recommend checking out the anime if you are interested in the story. It seems to me that the character designs are mostly slightly modernized versions of the characters in the manga. The anime version has many amusing touches, like a magical girl transformation sequence where Maya puts on the mask of the character she is about to portray and Tsukikage seems to always be accompanied by ominous organ music wherever she goes.