Glass no Kamen is a shoujo manga written by Miuchi Suzue starting in the mid 70s and still going. The series has had two anime adaptations. The first was done by Eiken in 1984 the second was done by TMS Entertainment and ran from April of 2005 to March of 2006. We’re going to be looking at the TMS Entertainment version because I was specifically asked to look at that one. The Gent in question provided a link and everything. Probably worried that I’d go to the Eiken one otherwise.
Kitajima Maya has always been a normal girl. She works after school to help pay for her and her mother’s room and board. She also happens to have a bad habit of getting distracted by dramas. While re-enacting a scene for some children she comes to the attention of Tsukikage Chigusa, a former actress who had to retire when an accident left her scarred. Tsukikage sees a vast potential for acting in Maya and becomes determined to help her develop those talents so that Maya can eventually take the coveted Crimson Goddess role. A role that hasn’t been seen on stage since Tukikage’s retirement. This gets the attention of Hayami Masumi, the young heir to the expansive Daito entertainment. Maya’s skills also quickly draw the attention of the young genius actress, Himekawa Ayumi. A girl who desires the Crimson Goddess role.
Let’s begin by looking at the negatives of the series. The biggest one is the romance. Fortunately, it’s a somewhat downplayed element since the main focus is on Maya’s journey to be an actress and on her rivalry with Ayumi, but it still bears talking about. Glass no Kamen has a creepy obsession with young girls getting involved with creepily older men who possess quite a bit of power over them. To the point where Miuchi would fit in with Clamp. In all fairness, Maya does get a couple of disposable love interests who are her own age and peers of hers. I’ll just call them Something and Whatever. You might wonder why I’m not taking ten seconds to look up their actual names and that’s because her relationships with them are dull and largely pointless. First you have Something, a young actor who appears early on and has a crush on Maya only to disappear for most of the middle and reappear at the end to take a role in a play and basically just exist. Then we have Whatever. A bloke who appears for a few episodes in the middle and goes on a date with Maya before being banished from the series. The only other real issue is the ending. Again, to be fair there are some good aspects to the ending but there’s also a lot of stupidity in it and the whole thing feels pretty rushed. Like they only learned it was going to be the last episode after finishing the episode before it and they scrambled like mad to try and resolve things.
Let’s move to the positive aspects. Final episode aside, the pacing is really excellent. The series is really good at building up tension and giving resolutions that really work. The narrative flows really naturally and seeing Maya’s ups and downs is really compelling. I also like that she experiences legitimate setbacks instead of ultimately overcoming every obstacle that comes up. It really makes the drama stronger when you aren’t sure whether this is going to be a case where everything turns out all right or if it’s going to be a situation that ends badly, forcing her to pick herself up.
Most of the characters in this are well fleshed out, have realistic flaws and verisimilitude. The big differences are Something & Whatever, who both have a generic nice guy schtick and a girl who comes across as kind of cartoonishly evil in the way she tries to destroy Maya’s career. I do really love the rivalry between Maya and Ayumi. It’s all too common for series like this to have rival characters who are obscenely petty but Glass no Kamen plays up their mutual respect and even has Ayumi stand up for Maya, in one case in a really badass moment. It portrays their rivalry as being based more on envy than anything else but the two still manage to get along pretty well. Which isn’t just refreshing, but leads to a more interesting dynamic.
The artwork is really well done. The theatrical stage designs and costumes look like the types you’d actually get in a real theatre. The whole series is really well detailed and has an authentic feel to it. The animation is always nice and fluid and gets really interesting during the scenes where they’re actually putting on some kind of production.
In terms of acting, Kobayashi Sanae and Yajima Akiko are absolutely brilliant in this. Not only do they play our main heroines, Maya and Ayumi, but they have to convincingly portray the various roles that both girls get, or convincingly fail to give a good performance in some cases. They both rise to the challenge and are just spectacular. The other various actors all do well in their roles too. Even the people voicing the weaker characters manage to give passable performances. The music is pretty good as well.
There’s not much. There’s a girl named Rei who attracts some fangirls but they’re shown as thinking she’s a guy and she doesn’t get romantically involved with any of them. There are also some moments between Maya and Ayumi that give you pause to question whether they’re using Greta’s definition of “rival” but there aren’t many. Actually, this is strangely lacking ho-yay given that it takes place in the world of theatre. Although I suppose it’s just as well considering what passes for romance in the series.
Glass no Kamen suffers a bit from the romance, the ending and from some generic characters. However, it is a really strong series overall replete with tension, drama, a lot of strong characters, excellent voice work and epic artwork. My final rating is a solid 8/10. Next week I’ll look at Kigurumikku V3.