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Glass Mask (1984) Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

An actor must wear a thousand masks and some are far more attuned to it than others.

What They Say:
It seems like a fairy tale story. Plucked from obscurity by the legendary actress Chigusa Tsukikage, 13-year-old Maya Kitajima is given the chance of a lifetime and the opportunity to study at a legendary acting school. She’ll also find an archrival, however, and Ayumi Himekawa is as determined to be the greatest actress of her generation as Maya is. To succeed, each girl must conquer every acting challenge placed in front of her and then push even further as they aim for the same ultimate goal: the role of the Crimson Goddess in the play of the same name, a part created by Chigusa herself. All the world is the stage as the ultimate dramatic rivalry begins in the original anime classic.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo only using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that’s certainly showing its age in this area and is a simple forward soundstage stereo mix that’s largely center channel based in how it comes across. While there are some decent swells when it comes to the music side of it the bulk of what we get is simple dialogue. There are exaggerated moments here and there that’s part of the genre but it’s all working an up and down scale without a lot in the way of movement across the forward soundstage. Placement is minimal at best but overall it represents the material well and we get a show that sounds good and handles everything in a clean and clear manner with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1984, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-two episodes of the series are spread across three discs in a nine/nine/four format with plenty of room. Animated by studio Eiken, the show looks really good here as it captures all the traditionally animated in a great way. The details hold together very well with no breakup or noise to be had in it that’s noticeable or stands out. Colors are solid throughout and there’s a warmth to it that I don’t find with newer shows in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of neat details to it and the simpler designs and movements of the animation are really appealing. The encoding captures all of it very well and I love the look of it as it gives us this series from several decades ago a new lease on life.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with a hinge to hold two of the three discs. The front cover uses some of what little is available in the way of materials with a nice collage of characters that’s placed within a larger framing with browns and golds. It has a softness and definitely is showing the period that it’s from but that also helps it to stand out from everything else on the shelf as there’s very little like it. The back cover carries the same color design over and has a nice shot of Maya as Helen Keller here along the right with a few nice if small shots from the show. The summary of the premise is well-covered and we get a good breakdown of the production details and the technical grid that covers it all clearly and accurately in how the disc is put together. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release keeps things in the simple department as each disc has a different character image from the series with it kind of “blown out” a bit with the color quality, giving it a rich feeling but still hewing true to the source material. The navigation is kept to the left where we get the same style as the cover used here with episodes listed by number and title. Access times are nice and fast and with nothing on the release outside of the show itself the navigation is a breeze both as the man menu and as the pop-up menu.

Extras:
There are no extras included with this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Suzue Miuchi, Glass Mask is a twenty-two episode series (with a twenty-third episode that’s a recap that isn’t included here) that aired in the spring and summer of 1984. The show got a second lease on life back in 2005 with a run that went for fifty-one episodes as it adapted the manga and more of it. There was also a live-action TV drama in 1997 that ran for a couple of years. The manga is impressive as it began in 1976 and is still ongoing today, though Miuchi has put it on hiatus after the magazine it ran in closed up last year and she’s looking to keep it going elsewhere and finish the story so as to bring it all to a proper close. I really enjoyed the 2005 adaptation and this one shows just how close the two are, though this one is a bit tighter overall.

The story of Glass Mask is one that is alternately completely engaging and exciting as well as beyond the limits of believability. What frustrates a show like this is that the passage of time is never all that clear, though you know time does progress a fair bit. When you’re suddenly given the knowledge that three years have passed since the series start at the end of this set, it all fits well but it doesn’t feel like it in some ways either. The focus on a primary character that should be growing and changing more than she does physically makes this particular leap a little bit difficult to accept, especially when you have so many older men interested in her.

Glass Mask introduces us to thirteen-year-old Maya Kitajima, a young woman who lives with her single mother above the small restaurant where she works. Maya’s a fairly typical girl of her age in that she’s alright at school but has a decent head on her shoulders and gets by. She doesn’t have too many friends and there’s some tension at home because the restaurant owners daughter is a bit rude and crude, causing trouble where she can simply because she can. What Maya does to escape some of the doldrums of life is to lose herself in theater and TV dramas, so much so that she’s easily able to recite the shows she sees and acts them out with near perfect memory. This causes her some grief with others, especially since she can’t seem to remember her school work at times, but it all adds to the very slightly off nature of Maya.

When Maya gets thrust into the spotlight in a minor way, she catches the eye of a mysterious older woman named Chigusa Tsukikage. Tsukikage has one of those classic near-evil looks about her with the dark clothes, her hair covering half her face and the general demeanor she casts about. As it turns out, she’s a former superstar actress who hasn’t acted in some twenty years because of an accident that damaged half her face. Back then, she was the star of a play called the Crimson Angel, which is a play that’s highlight sought after by the Daito Theater Group. There are some interesting ties to the past with that company and the play that are brought up as it goes along, but the gist of it is that Tsukikage gained the rights to the play after the writer died and she refuses to let it go to anyone else until she finds the perfect person to play the role of the inhuman scarlet angel.

Though her mother refuses to let her even think about it, since she has a hard time believing her daughter has any potential, Maya ends up taking Tsukikage up on her offer to become a student of hers and live in the dorm of her recently opened acting studio as she becomes a part of the troupe. Maya’s the youngest of them but she so completely throws herself into her roles that she becomes a storm of the stage. Throughout the series, as Maya faces numerous challenges to being an actress, she ends up dealing with numerous other troupes and actors where they almost become paralyzed by the intensity of her performances and the way she so completely becomes the role. When practicing for Helen Keller for example, she spends a lot of time blindfolded and trying to truly become that person. Even for bit roles she’ll go as far as she would for a leading role so she can understand the story of that particular character, no matter how small.

Maya’s rise as an actress over the two years of this set does seem accelerated at times, but her performances in the numerous plays really does work wonders for giving this a sense of reality. What happens along the way to make it even more real is those that she comes into competition with. While she manages to make a few friends within her own troupe, she makes enemies as well. And on the outside, her biggest competition (I’m loathe to call her an enemy) is Ayumi Himekawa. The same age as Maya, she’s the daughter of a very famous actress who has long coveted the role of the Crimson Angel and a father who is a famous director. She has everything going for her with beauty, intelligence, grace, wealth and connections. Everything that Maya does not, so Maya looks up to her with the innocence that is a hallmark of her character. And that innocence and honesty makes it hard for everyone else because it frustrates them, often causing them to do mean things to her. Maya brings it on herself in a way, but she’s simply so focused on becoming an actress and going through the ordeals that Tsukikage designs for her that she doesn’t think of much else.

There are men that think of her though, which makes things much more complicated since she doesn’t view men in that way yet. She’s so focused on her craft, her passion and “marriage” to the stage, that she doesn’t see the intentions of others. She does have an interest in a young man from the Onodine troupe, which is backed by Daito, named Sakurakouji who is a very good young man for her. Honest, straightforward, passionate and without any real guile in trying to sway her to his troop. Less honest is the son of the Daito president, a young man in his twenties named Masumi who wants the Crimson Angel play and will use various means to get it. He is underhanded in some ways – some of them positive – but he’s not outright cruel like some other men in the show. But being over ten years her senior, he can’t help but be drawn to her as he tries to wait until she’s old enough so he can really pursue her.

In Summary:
With this series coming relatively early on in the overall run we do get only so far with it in terms of story, something that the 2005 series was able to blow past and explore more subplots and stories for. I really liked the previous series but this one has a lot of charms with what it does, especially in the look of the animation. This release is pretty slim as it’s all about the content but this show has been sought after by many fans for a long time. Getting such a clean looking release in such good form and for such a great price when you get down to it with what the overseas offerings are, this is a real treasure. I only wish that we had the manga and more anime being produced regularly for it. Taking a turn through the distant past of anime with this show is a great trip through time that left me delighted.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 550 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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