Princess Knight

Alt title: Ribon no Kishi

TV (52 eps)
1967 - 1968
3.159 out of 5 from 171 votes
Rank #12,744
Princess Knight

From his heavenly perch, God distributes girl and boy hearts to babies about to be born. But a prank by the mischievous angel Tink leaves Princess Sapphire of Silverland with both a male and female heart! Due to an old-fashioned law preventing a woman from ruling, Sapphire must disguise herself as a prince to prevent the scheming Duke Duralumin from coming to power. The plan goes fairly well until a fencing tournament goes awry and the girl is stripped of her royal title. Now, in order to get her old life back, Sapphire must escape from jail, battle dragons, and even get transformed into a swan! Can the girl brawl and charm her way to true happiness?

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Ribbon no Kishi is yet another work by Osamu Tezuka, the maker of the first anime Tetsuwan Atom for all of you who still remember. The great thing about this guy is that his works were never narrowed to a few genres as it happens with most directors and mangakas; in a way he is the Homo Universalis of animation. Not even Disney, his role model, had the guts or the social liberties to show the huge plethora of themes and ideas he was allowed to animate and instead of being burned on the stake by moral committees, he is instead now titled as the God of Manga. I could write hundreds of pages around his brilliance and innovation but you will all be bored reading all that and so I will focus on yet another of his numerous works. First of all, this is not his second work and neither is the last. He was preoccupied with a dozen works at the same time and this is one that simply stands out enough to write something about. It’s not as if his Black Jack or Kimba the White Lion were worse but surely lack material worthy enough to write a review about. Also it is not as if Ribbon no Kishi is his best work either; Tetsuwan Atom had an equal amount of interesting themes in it and both are dwarfed before his Hi no Tori and Buddha manga. But those were never given proper adaptations and it will be like I am reviewing the manga version; so tough luck.Anyways, I chose this work for again being the first to implement a feature never before seen in animation up to then: Gender bending. As commonplace as it appears to be today, it was Osamu who first dared to do it and allowed the rest to follow his footsteps; a thing that can be said about a hundred other element and tropes and genres which this review will not bother to list. I must also point out that UNLIKE most anime of today which throw in cross dressers and traps and lots of other shitz only for superficial attraction of interest, Tezuka made sure to have his take on the subject in a very serious and mind provoking way; a thing very few bothered to follow. Practically, he was not only the first but also the most mature one to use it as means to transmit interesting concepts and moral message and not for some excuse to attract weirdoes or fujoshis or other creepy viewers without any regard to the actual plot. It appears to be the exact opposite of Tetsuwan Atom, as it is fantasy and fairy tale, elements almost antithetical to the mechanized sci-fi world of Astro. The story is quite the “kinky” one, especially if one considers how it is supposed to be aimed at kids. This would never be allowed to be made in America and if Tezuka was living there, he would most likely end up sued, fired and hated by every parent in the continent. It’s a very important thing to have the liberty to express yourself and America with its madness around the Cold War and Macarthism and zealot Christian groups burning comic books because they had scenes of violence and profanity was simply not the right place to show his talent. Japan on the other hand…As always, one should not be too critical with the visuals and the sound, which can easily be tiresome or monotonic after awhile. The bright palette colors and the fairy tale-like buildings may be a bit interesting to watch for a while but they quickly get annoying. With no realism in movement, no real special effects and pathetic music themes, this part of the series can become repulsive to most otakus. I myself needed to use much more willpower than I did with Atom because that was a far more action-oriented story while this is mostly drama and fantasy. More aimed for girls than for boys that is. In fact, the way everything looks is not even as funny as it was with the robots, who were constantly shown doing all sorts of weird tasks with all sorts of weird shapes and actions. Here everything just looks a bit magical but nowhere as smart as it was with machinery. It takes a lot more brains to make a machine look like it fits a job than just waving a magic wand or something like that. So I’m afraid both animation and sound are inferior to Atom just because of aesthetics.On the other hand, the cast and the story are far more interesting. Let’s finally start talking about the actual series. So what is the story all about? In a fantasy kingdom, the king and queen are about to have their first child. Because of a bureaucratic mistake in heaven (that’s right), the baby that was supposed to be born male, is instead born female. The queen becomes unable to bare any more children and unfortunately, the law demands that the heir to the throne must be a boy of direct bloodline. The king, fearing of usurpers, hides the baby’s gender and raises it to behave like a boy in public.So, this is the part I was talking about. The lead character is NOT cross dressing because s/he likes it of because s/he was forced to do it. S/he is both without the liberty to be accepted as it is. So like in Astro, the story is again about a young character looking for acceptance, only this one is forced to have a secret identity because his/her true nature is inexcusable by the society s/he was born in. A human being which is male in soul yet female in body; that alone creates a very interesting concept to build a story from. You can’t even categorize him/her as a cross-dresser, gay or a reverse transvestite.Anyway, the series is about tasks that the girl/prince must solve on each episode (defeat monsters, win duels, apprehend criminals) in order to prove to the world that he is a capable heir. And all of the above without revealing his/her true gender, a thing that always stands in the way and makes this whole series interesting. And yes, s/he does wear woman’s clothing from time to time as an alias. The girl/prince also has as a main rival a prince from a neighboring kingdom that tradition dictates to continually fight each other as a test of strength and to please the people. As the story goes, the two get very friendly with each other.Here is the second weird part. They are TOO friendly. What does that make them? Normal couple? Gay couple? The villains in the story are scheming members of the court that suspect the truth and always lay traps and lies in order to have an excuse to usurp the throne. Unlike Atom’s generic evil robots or alien monsters, here the threat comes from within the ranks of the very castle the lead lives in, making it far more sinister and backstabbing. Also, unlike the completely episodic nature of Atom, here we have and actual huge plot twist midway. Half of the series is stand alone episodes with a happy ending and a moral message, like in all typical fairy tales. But then… the villains literally KILL the king and queen and hunt the girl/prince in order to kill him/her and leave no traces of the bloodline. No more fairy tales! From there, the girl/prince becomes a masked Zorro-like hero (still pretending to be male) and defends the people from the tyranny of the usurpers. And yes, the story DOES have an ending. A melodramatic one, but an ending nonetheless.As you can tell, it is by no means a simple fairy tale or a story easily understood or comprehended and that is what makes Tezuka such a great mangaka. Albeit simplistic in its implementation, he manages to lure you in even with that.But I will admit that besides the girl/prince and the rival prince, all others are shallow as hell. Even those main two are boring most of the time and the long winded simplistic plot makes it hard to like for too long. It’s the gender confusion that defines everything. SUGGESTION LIST Revolutionary Girl UtenaRose of VersaillesRanma 1/2

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