Manga Reviews

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Princess Knight

Princess Knight
By Osamu Tezuka
Licensed by: Kodansha International (bilingual edition), 6 volumes

Topic: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure.

Warning: Themes of black magic and cross-dressing might be objectionable to some readers.

In a medieval-style kingdom, the queen is about to give birth. If the child is a boy, it will inherit the kingdom. But if the child is a girl the law decrees that the crown will pass to the son of the evil Grand Duke Duralmin. The child is a girl, but due to a series of mistakes, the angels give the child both a boy's heart and a girl's heart, and the child is announced to be a boy. To avoid admitting the mistake, and to keep power away from Duke Duralmin, Princess Sapphire is publicly raised as a boy, though she dresses as a girl in private.

The Duke suspects that he has been tricked, and plots to reveal her secret. Other complications include a neighboring prince, a witch who is trying to gain power for herself, an angel seeking to get back the boy's heart that was given to Princess Sapphire by mistake, and the goddess Venus.

For a fifty-year old story (first published in 1953), Princess Knight has aged quite well. The plot tends toward the slapstick and episodic and lacks that depth, complexity, and epic scope of some later manga, but still makes for an entertaining read. The gender-bending of Princess Knight is often pointed to as the first example of themes which have continued in later titles such as Ranma ½ and Revolutionary Girl Utena. A few elements of Princess Knight may strike modern readers as somewhat sexist, but nothing too serious. Although there is some continuity, the various sections stand almost independently of each other, and new characters and complications keep being introduced. I enjoyed the characters (especially Hecate, the witch's daughter), but I felt that the story called out for some unifying structure, which never quite developed.

Note: Princess Knight was serialized four times (for details see The Kodansha compilation is of the 3rd serialization, which appeared in Nakayoshi from 1963 to 1966.

Score: 7.0/10

Review submitted by Forrest


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