Castle of Dreams: Stories from the Kare Kano Creator is an anthology of short stories written by Masami Tsuda, better known for her shojo title Kare Kano. The volume consists of a three story trilogy loosely linked by the appearance of a sorcerer, then four more short stories of shojo romance for a total of seven stories. The following are short synopses for each story:
In the Forest – A girl of nobility enjoys her simple life taking care of animals in the forest, when she is called on to become the concubine of the widowed prince in order to bear him an heir.
I Am the Mermaid – An island priestess, descended from a magical union of a man and a mermaid, shoulders the burden of protecting her island from invaders. When she falls for a castaway found drifting close to the island, great tragedy occurs.
Castle of Dreams – A bastard peasant boy becomes a castle servant at his late father’s estate. There he befriends the lord’s heir, and wishes he could tell the boy that they are brothers.
The Room Where An Angel Lives – Set during the industrial revolution, an orphaned boy rescues a lost little girl and takes her into his care. During his hard days of labor he looks forward to coming home to his little angel, and sacrifices much in order for her to have a happy life.
Awkward Relationship – Two childhood friends drift apart through their school years only to realize at graduation that they have each misunderstood the other’s intentions.
I Won’t Go – A girl’s first love from a middle school relationship is challenged by deeper feelings for a new high school man.
Because I Have You – A middle school girl is inspired to achieve more by a boy she admires and remembers him fondly for it.
I have to say that nothing in this volume was so remarkable that it stuck in my mind once I put it back on the shelf. I had to flip through it again in order to remember the stories so that I could write the synopses. What it does showcase is Tsuda’s storytelling ability. The stories are in diverse settings from typical school, to industrial England, an island village, and even a medieval castle – giving you a variety of genres to choose from such as fantasy, historical, and slice of life. Every story centers around a relationship and the emotions of the main character. Of them all, Castle of Dreams was the story I liked most, and ironic enough, that one isn’t even about a boy-girl relationship, but a sibling one. The art is typical Tsuda style. I say that, but being as I’ve seen only one other series by her, my conclusion is that it looks the same as Kare Kano. I could easily pick out the main protagonists of Kare Kano in many of the character designs. The layouts were about as striking as the characters. Nothing really dynamic or note worthy. What was obvious was that Tsuda did her research to draw the costumes and backgrounds, as they are well tailored to the settings she chose.
All in all this was a bit of a disappointment. Having a soft spot for Kare Kano, I was hoping that this anthology would be much more than it is. As it turns out, it will probably sit on my shelf collecting dust. You won’t miss much if you don’t read it. It looks like it was just a marketing scheme to get fans of Tsuda to spend more money for her name. However, if you’re a devout fan or just curious, it is a good amount of reading material for the price.