I wouldn’t hesitate to call this one of Glass Mask‘s weaker episodes. It functions mostly as a transition into the really meat of the show. But that doesn’t stop it from giving us some great character insights.
Review of Glass Mask Episode 4 ‘The Stairs of Fire’
The episode starts off with Ayumi. Many would assume after her initial introduction that she never really earned her fame. Her mother is a famous actress, her father is a critically acclaimed director, she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. But Ayumi is careful not to let this define her, the episode begins with the narrator trying to prove this wrong. As the show continues you’ll see that Ayumi works very hard to determine her own identity, and step out of her parents shadow. I’d also suspect that Ayumi is addicted to rivalries, she immediately starts one with Maya (proof will come next week), and sets up one against her own mother.You can even see this at the end of the episode, “No, I’ll become an actress even better than my mother.” Man, Ayumi is pretty dang ambitious.
We don’t see too much of Hayami and Onodera, but what little we do see is quite revealing. Hayami mentions that it’s his father’s life goal to produce another showing of The Scarlet Angel. Last episode he said it was his and his fathers goal. Hayami’s goals are not his own. This will be further explored later, perhaps even next episode, so I won’t divulge much, but keep that in mind while watching the rest of the series. Also when Hayami pictures Maya when thinking about this actress Tsukikage is going to train proves the point I made last week about snatching Maya when he had the chance.
This episode we are introduced to the rest of the crew. Get familiar, because you’ll be seeing a lot of these characters, but I have to admit, Sayaka is a lot more bratty than I remember. I mean, she’s always been the least likable of the group, but man, gossiping about Maya, doubting her skills, and with what happens later on… keep an eye out on Sayaka, is all I’m saying.
Speaking of when Sayaka doubted Maya, let’s analyse that scene a bit. First, Maya chooses Ramen as her food, this reveals (in case you didn’t figure it out) that Maya is a plain, simple girl, she’s really down to earth (also I can’t believe she isn’t sick of that stuff, she practically lived around it). Later when ‘eating’ everyone is shocked when watching Maya eat. This goes back to the pantomime scene from episode 3. Most people when acting, consciously think about the actions they are making, they are trying to replicate what it would look like. But you don’t consciously think about that when actually eating, neither does Maya. Maya doesn’t ‘act’ she lives her characters. It just so happens that this character is just Maya, eating some Ramen. (Side note: Maya slurps A LOT, this is a cultural thing, everyone slurps in Japan)
By far the most intense moment of the show so far was that showdown between Tsukikage and Maya’s Mom, dang, that was tense. I’d like to comment on a few things before analyzing another great moment. First, we have further proof that Maya’s Mom is emotionally abusive, like really badly. “A talentless girl like you can never become an actress.” Geez, mothers are supposed to love, not hate right? When Tsukikage slaps Maya’s Mom, that was wonderful, I replayed that scene multiple times. I just really wish Tsukikage did it again when she chucked boiling water at her face, let’s not forget just how serious that is.
The best moment in the episode though, was as Tsukikage and Maya’s Mom’s argument got more and more heated, the show cut back to a tea kettle, which also got more and more heated. Now this is a common technique in film, but what truly makes this moment special is when the tea kettle became more than just a representation of the circumstances, it became a weapon. Now I don’t think this moment is thematically deep or anything, but that moment when the technique was broken by Maya’s Mom, I don’t know, it was just really good. I’m hesitant to call it a subversion or deconstruction of that motif, but it still added something to that moment.
A shocking, and seemingly amateur writing moment was later when Maya’s Mom seemed to immediately get over what had just happened. But it makes sense when you consider her motive. Mom (let’s just call her that from now on) loves Maya immensely, now she shows this love by abusing Maya both physically and mentally, but nonetheless she loves Maya. Mom’s action against Tsukikage is a combination of being worried about Maya’s future (let’s face it, acting doesn’t usually pan out) and not wanting to lose her daughter. After calming down and realizing that there is nothing she can do about it, Mom has no choice but to support and love Maya from afar. Where she can’t abuse her.
Of course this doesn’t change the fact that Mom is a horrible, abusive parent that should have been separated from Maya regardless, but it gives us an insight into her motives. Mom is a broken, multi-layered character, like a sympathetic villain, you love and hate them at the same time. Of course, this repentance from Mom is totally rejected by Tsukikage, but there’s a good reason for that, and I’ll cover it in just a second.
The theme here is clearly determination: Maya is determined to become an actress, Tsukikage is determined to mold Maya into that actress, Mom is determined to protect her child, Ayumi is determined to become a world-famous actress, Hayami and Onodera are determined to get The Scarlet Angel, determination is key. Early into the episode Tsukikage tests Maya’s determination, making sure it’s up to par (good thing for Maya determination is her biggest character quality). Ayumi develops her skill through determination. At the end of the episode, when Tsukikage burns Maya’s clothes, she is forcing Maya to full invest in her future.
Even what Tsukikage tells Maya, “Talent means believing in yourself.” Talent is having the determination to overcome whatever obstacle is in your way, to believe that you can overcome it. Talent is believing in yourself.
Just a quick note for all you who have watched Glass Mask before. This show really likes flipping your opinion on characters. Sayaka is a terrible person at first, but lovable toward the end. You hate Hayami with a passion, until you don’t (if you know what I mean?). Maya’s Mom is despicable, yet when she shows up later you can’t help but pity her. There are plenty of other examples, but I think I’ll stop there, I don’t want to spoil anything else.
And that, is ‘The Stairs of Fire’ This episode is a weak episode by Glass Mask standards, which proves that Glass Mask has insanely high standards. Because by another other standards this episode is nearly perfect. I just… I love this show.
But what did you think about this episode? Did you like it? What does ‘Stairs of Fire’ even mean? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to watch the next episode at Crunchyroll.