Princess Knight (Manga)
Also known as リボンの騎士 (Ribon no Kishi)
There are three manga versions of Princess Knight, the original manga adventure of Princess Knight was serialized in Shōjo Club (少女クラブ) from January 1953 to January 1956 - with a one-off Princess Knight side-story ("Tink and the Golden Egg") appearing in the Shōjo Club "Summer Vacation Special Issue" in 1954. The follow-up to the original Princess Knight was serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi (なかよし) from January 1958 to June 1958. Originally published simply under the (by this time well-known) title Princess Knight, the sequel was renamed Twin Knight for its first collected edition in 1960. With a completely re-drawn and re-written story, the new version of Princess Knight was serialized in Nakayoshi (なかよし) from January 1963 to October 1966.
What it's about
"Tezuka's signature style of drawing a shimmering stars in the pupils of the character's eyes..."
Set in a medieval fairy-tale type setting, Princess Knight tells the story of young Princess Sapphire. When a mischievous cherub named Tink accidentally gives Sapphire a second heart, the young girl is born with both the brave and adventurous blue heart of a boy as well as the loving and caring red heart of a girl. Realizing a mistake has been made, God sends Tink to earth with instructions to retrieve the blue boy's heart. However, Princess Sapphire has been born into a kingdom where only a male heir can inherit the throne, so retrieving the boy's heart is no easy task. In order to keep the evil Duke Duralumin from becoming next-in-line to the throne, the king and queen announce that a prince has been born - forcing Sapphire into a life of deception.
So, with Tink along for the ride, Sapphire has many adventures, including encounters with witches, pirates and her very own Prince Charming - who thinks she's a man. Throughout it all, she has to keep one step ahead of the evil Duke Duralumin who seeks to prove her gender once and for all, force her from the throne, and snatch it for his own son, Plastic.
What you should know
Although Princess Knight is often called the first girls' manga (shōjo) printed in Japan, this is not quite the case. In fact, it is not even Tezuka's first attempt - both The Four Fencers of the Forest (1948) and The Story of a Miracle Forest (1949) predate Princess Knight by a few years and establish many of the themes he later explores more fully. However, Princess Knight was the realization of one of Osamu Tezuka's long-held dreams - to create a romantic adventure story for young girls. This desire stemmed from his youth in the town of Takarazuka, and many of the themes in his girls' manga (including Princess Knight) can be directly traced to the Takarazuka Revue - the all-female theatre troupe known for performing romantic plays, often based on Western fairy tales. Even Tezuka himself admitted in the Afterword to the Kodansha Osamu Tezuka Complete Manga Works edition (MT-006) that his manga for girls, in particular, contains great nostalgia towards Takarazuka (1977, p.258).
However, the overall look and feel of Princess Knight was also heavily influenced by two films first released in Japan in 1952; one being the 1937 Walt Disney animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the other the 1951 British film entitled The Tales of Hoffmann. In order to achieve a similar romantic and somewhat dreamlike quality to the setting, Princess Knight was printed with the first three pages in 3-colour and the next four pages in 2-colour and the artwork was supplemented by Tezuka's signature style of drawing a shimmering stars in the pupils of the character's eyes. When these (at the time) innovative techniques were combined with his tried-and-true cinematic adventure style, Princess Knight became destined to set the standard for girls' manga in Japan.
The original manga adventure of Princess Knight detailed the adventures of the girl born with two hearts, Sapphire's two main adversaries were the evil Duke Duralumin who was trying to expose her true gender, and the evil Mephisto who was seeking to steal Sapphire's girl heart for his tomboy daughter Hecate.
It was such a hit that it spawned a sequel.
The follow-up to the original Princess Knight was serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi (なかよし) from January 1958 to June 1958. Originally published simply under the (by this time well-known) title Princess Knight, the sequel was renamed Twin Knight (双子の騎士) for its first collected edition in 1960. Twin Knight tells the eerily similar gender-bending story of Sapphire and Franz's children - a pair of fraternal (and identical!) twins - a boy named Prince Daisy and his sister Princess Violetta. When Prince Daisy is abducted in a forest, it's up to Princess Violetta to pretend to be her brother to conceal his disappearance. Although Twin Knight was targeted at a younger girl audience than the original - with cleaner artwork and an easier story to follow - it is interesting to note that in this story, the girl-disguised-as-a-boy character has a much more active role - something that points to Tezuka's development as a storyteller.
Perhaps because of this development, or perhaps simply because of Tezuka's well-known habit of "tinkering" with his stories, but Princess Knight received a remake in 1963. With a completely re-drawn and re-written story, the new version of Princess Knight was serialized in Nakayoshi (なかよし) from January 1963 to October 1966. Because it was serialized over a longer period of time than the original and was followed up a year later with an animated television show, the Nakayoshi edition has become the version most closely associated with the name Princess Knight. Although based on the same general storyline, the Nakayoshi Edition of Princess Knight features some significant differences. The first of these is that Mrs. Hell takes over the role from Mephisito. The story also shifts gears a little more than halfway through (more or less coinciding with the original ending), and Sapphire's further adventures have her meeting a pirate named Captain Blood and Venus, the Goddess of Love herself!
There was also a second remake based on a science-fiction story written by Tezuka Osamu, but with artwork done by Mushi Studio's artist, Kitano Hideaki. Released concurrently with the Princess Knight animated television broadcast, simply put, it was a flop. Lasting only six weeks - from June 13 to July 18, 1967 - it was serialized in issues #24-29 of the magazine Shōjo Friend (少女フレンド). The basic premise to the story is that Franz, living in Paris in the year 2440 bets all his money on the fact that his ancestor Sapphire was a woman. To prove it (and win the bet), Franz uses a time machine to travel back to Silverland in the year 1581. Although the last issue (#29) was labeled "Part 1 - Complete", a Part 2 was never written and the series was cancelled.
Where you can get it
Although there are no complete English-language editions of the Shōjo Club Edition, VIZ Media did print several pages in an excerpt in the July 2007 issue of its monthly anthology Shōjo Beat. However, luckily for English-speaking fans, the Nakayoshi Edition of Princess Knight has been translated into English twice. In 2001, Japanese publisher Kodansha released a bi-lingual Japanese/English edition, which is now long out of print and may be difficult to find even through an online retailer. This was followed in 2011 by a very nice 2-volume edition released by Vertical Inc. - one which actually blends the artwork and a translated script from two different (albeit extremely similar) Nakayoshi Editions.
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