[From January Issue 2013]
Garasu no Kamen (Glass Mask)
First serialized in 1975 and still going today, “Garasu no Kamen” (Glass Mask) is a popular shoujo manga (girl’s comic). Its fast paced story of rivalry and love made the manga a huge hit. It has been adapted into a TV drama, a TV anime and a play. Since it’s been going for such a long time, the manga can be read to get an insight into changes in Japanese society.
Heroine KITAJIMA Maya is an elementary school student. Barely able to keep up with her studies, she lives in poverty with her mother. Maya has a talent for storytelling. One day, by chance, the famous actress TSUKIKAGE Chigusa passes by while Maya is telling a story to some children in the park. Tsukikage is captivated and Maya is drawn into the world of the theater.
Maya has a genius for performing on stage. Chigusa decides that someday Maya will play the lead role in the masterpiece “Kurenai Tennyo” (The Crimson Maiden of Heaven) and trains her hard for the role. The other actors feel that Chigusa is giving Maya special treatment and begin to play tricks on her while on stage. But with talent and hard work, Maya overcomes these difficulties and soon becomes a famous actress.
Maya has a very talented rival in HIMEKAWA Ayumi. Beautiful and intelligent, Ayumi has been raised by a wealthy family and has had an excellent education. She is well connected because both her parents are in the entertainment business. Though everyone believes that Ayumi is the best choice for the lead role in “Kurenai Tennyo,” Maya battles with her own insecurities and tries to land the part. Gradually her dream becomes a reality.
Maya also has an enemy. He is HAYAMI Masumi, the president of a talent agency. Masumi believes that “productions are products,” and, as a business rival, tries to hinder Chigusa and Maya. Secretly though he is charmed by Maya’s acting and sends her flowers and money anonymously. Not knowing the true situation, Maya detests Masumi, but when she find out about his kind side, she becomes bewildered. Soon the two fall in love.
“Garasu no Kamen” became a huge hit with young girls. Not only because it tells the story of a normal girl becoming a star, but also because of the flamboyant costumes and makeup stirred up dreams in little girls of becoming beautiful actresses themselves. Love between enemies and confessions of love by a childhood friend are typical romantic storylines used in shoujo manga. On the other hand, sports manga and shounen manga (boy’s comics) fans were also attracted to this series because the heroine confronts various rivals and, after giving it her best shot, wins out in the end.
Today there is a hotel which has rooms and a food menu themed around the main characters, and, in addition, Masumi tweets on Twitter. There is also a project underway in which readers can vote on their favorite lines from the manga to be printed onto a set of karuta (playing cards) that is due to go on sale. Since this manga series has been going for such a long time, developments within Japan over the past few decades can be seen: the black home phones of yesteryear have been replaced with smartphones and the poverty stricken households that used to be depicted are no longer seen.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo