Castle of Dreams by Masami Tsuda (amazon)
I have conflicting feelings about Tsuda’s series Kare Kano. It had one of the most clumsily executed endings I’ve ever read in a manga series, but there were plenty of poignant and hilarious moments shown before the conclusion of Yukino and Arima’s story. Even though I think Kare Kano was derailed at the end, Tsuda did a great job portraying all the joys and pitfalls that come with a new and developing relationship. I was curious to see how I’d like Castle of Dreams, a collection of her short stories.
The collection seems to be arranged in chronological order, with stories from Tsuda’s earlier career appearing first. The beginning three stories are loosely linked fantasy stories of people who receive timely interventions in their lives from a mysterious sorcerer. A girl who lives in a forest falls in love with a Prince who is mourning his lost love. A priestess from an isolated island falls in love with an enemy of her people. A devoted servant hides his parentage from his master. It was interesting to see the art improve and grow more complex as a slightly static and flat quality in the earliest story is gradually replaced by more interesting panel layouts and better execution of the characters’ facial expressions.
The second half contains more of what you’d expect from the creator of Kare Kano; realistic stories detailing the relationship foibles of high schoolers. “Awkward Relationship” was one of my favorites, depicting the misunderstandings between book lover Chisato and her old childhood friend Isozaki. Chisato proclaims “There’s a limit to how many books you can read in a lifetime! I want to go to my grave having read as much as I could!” I can certainly emphasize with that feeling. “I Won’t Go” shows Mizuki, a girl in a long distance relationship, begin to question her feelings as she gradually becomes attracted to one of her classmates. “Because I Have You” shows how Ozaki gradually becomes more secure and happy with herself through her friendship with one of her fellow class representatives.
This collection reminded me of what I liked about Kare Kano, with short stories portraying all the pitfalls and tender moments that occur at the start of romantic relationships. I had a couple minor quibbles with Castle of Dreams. I didn’t like the story “The Room Where an Angel Lives” as it seemed to pack in all the cliches that could possibly develop from a 19th century English setting. The original Japanese covers for many of the stories were included in this collection, but the reproduction quality was a little too blurry for me to appreciate them.
Castle of Dreams is being released in January, and would make a nice Valentine’s present if you are looking for something to give a shoujo manga fan. I continue to like the format of Tokyopop’s oversized volumes since 400 pages of manga for $12.99 seems like a good deal to me.
Review copy provided by Tokyopop