skjam: (Imnanna)
[personal profile] skjam posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Growing up in rural Minnesota in the 1960s, and not being one bit athletic, my entertainment options So I learned to love reading old books and magazines, whatever comic books happened to be at a garage sale, and when our already ancient TV was actually working, whatever station the reception could bring in.

I don't really remember most of the early morning cartoons of the time--stuff like Johnny Quest was by far the exception to the general dismalness of children's TV animation. But I remember being blown away by the few episodes I managed to catch of a very unusual show.

It had a girl (dressed as a boy) as the hero! Heck, it had a girl dressing as a boy. And people died! Things being what they were, I never saw more than a handful of episodes, and nothing of the ending (but then most US cartoon series of the time didn't have endings as such either.)

It was not until many years later when I joined anime fandom that I discovered the true nature of what I had been watching, and the rest of the story.

For reference: The basic outline of the premise goes as follows. Tink, a mischievous young angel, causes a soul about to be born to have two "hearts", a male and a female heart. He's exiled from Heaven until he can retrieve the "wrong" heart from the child.

Meanwhile, in the fairytale kingdom of Silverland, a child is born to the queen. It's biologically female, but due to circumstances that differ between versions, the public is told that Prince Sapphire is a boy. Duke Duralumin, whose son by a relative of the king would otherwise be in line for the throne, is suspicious but can prove nothing.

Skip ahead fifteen years, and Tink is finally able to trace his target to Silverland, while Duke Duralumin and his lackey step up their attempts to prove Sapphire's a girl and thus ineligible to rule.

While the anime has never been legally put out on DVD in the US, there is now a lovely two-volume set of the manga available in English.

So here's some random pages.

First, Prince Sapphire inspecting the troops.

Can you spot the subtle clue that suggests to the public that perhaps Sapphire isn't as manly as advertised? Yes, that's right, he's wearing women's shoes!

There's a carnival in town, and all the maids plan to go, as a handsome foreign prince is sure to attend.

Prince Franz is as handsome and charming as advertised, and he's soon dancing with the disguised Sapphire. Unfortunately, she has to run out on him mid-dance.

Franz not knowing that Sapphire and the "flaxen-haired girl" are one and the same will cause massive heartache for both of them during the series.

For its time, Ribon no Kishi, "Princess Knight" was pretty heady stuff. It was one of the first manga series called "shoujo" (for girls) and certainly the first shoujo anime. For a Japanese man who came of age before World War Two, to be using gender role issues in his stories at all was somewhat shocking. On the other hand, modern readers may find the gender essentialism grating at times and the attitudes rather quaint.

Still, it's got great art, and if you like manga and anime "action girls", this is their ancestor.

Your thoughts and comments?

Date: 2012-03-16 02:56 am (UTC)
grazzt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grazzt
Ah, Tezuka. It's amazing the sheer breadth of genre and tone that he worked in. Contrast this with the much darker MW, for instance, which also featured a crossdresser.

Date: 2012-03-16 03:31 am (UTC)
silverzeo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverzeo
Oh that anime, I remember that one. First episode: she fought a giant evil magical wolf! How cool was that. Did that happen in the manga too?

Date: 2012-03-16 08:26 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Always love the somewhat 1940's Fleischer feel to his art on this.

Date: 2012-03-16 10:02 am (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Ohhhh, Princess Sapphire! I watched that as a child :D

Then, some years ago, the manga was published here, and I couldn't resist the chance to check out the original material... and was fairly shocked to find how much darker than the anime it is O_o

Like, seriously, it's a massacre. Main characters dying left and right... Even Hecate dies! I'm happy Sapphire and Franz got a happy ending, but damn, Hecate! I never would have imagined that my favourite character from the anime would die like that in the manga DDD:

It's biologically female, but due to circumstances that differ between versions, the public is told that Prince Sapphire is a boy.

Wait, what? I've both read the manga and watched the anime, and the reason for lying about Sapphire's gender is always the same: a woman can't become the ruler of Silverland, and since the lack of a male heir would let the evil Duke become king of Silverland and bring ruin to the kindgom, Sapphire's parents tell the people that Sapphire is a boy so that she can inherit the throne.

It was Osamu Tezuka criticism sexism. Several characters in the story point out that the law preventing a woman from inheriting the throne is dumb and harmful, because Sapphire would make a good ruler, whereas keeping her away from the throne would let the Duke screw the whole country up. As soon as Sapphire's gender is found out the goal explicitly changes from "tricking the people into thinking that Sapphire is a prince" to "changing the law so that a princess can inherit the throne" (this is admittedly much more evident in the manga, where Sapphire's father dies near the beginning and her gender is found out much sooner, while the anime tends to pussyfoot around the issue; even then, the anime eventually has the king change the law to allow female rulers).

As far as I know, there are no different circumstances between versions.

there is now a lovely two-volume set of the manga available in English.

Isn't the whole manga series three volumes? There were three big volumes in the Italian version. Maybe yours are thicker...

On the other hand, modern readers may find the gender essentialism grating at times and the attitudes rather quaint.

...Yeah, much as I loved the story and characters, it annoyed the crap out of me when Sapphire suddenly found herself unable to fight with a sword when Tink took her "boy" heart away. She has been training with the thing her whole life, and her body is still the same (so it's not like she suddenly got less-developed muscles), but she needs a boy's spirit to wield it now? WTF.

Thankfully, that idiotic plot point seems to get quietly swept under the carpet as the story goes on. In one of the last chapters a female knight and girl-hearted Sapphire kick the ass of a bunch of soldiers. Good Author Saving Throw, Tezuka-san.

Date: 2012-03-16 11:56 am (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Oh, that's what you meant. Sorry, I misunderstood you, I thought you meant that the two versions of the story had a different reason for telling the public that Sapphire is a boy, not a different planning.

Date: 2012-03-16 10:31 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Heh, also made me remember MY first anime... seen on UK TV in the early 70's

It's Marine Boy, Brave and Free,
Fighting Evil
'Neath the Sea

Ah... simpler times, though I think I REALLY wanted some oxy-gum and propellor shoes when I was aged about five.

Date: 2012-03-16 12:27 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
I think my first anime was Fist of the North Star.

Animation Age Ghetto meant that nobody thought anything about letting 4-year-old children watch a show about genocide and extremely gruesome murder. Sure, the bad guys set a bunch of defenceless people on fire and attempted to gang-rape a girl before the hero arrived just in the nick of time to save her by graphically blowing their brains up, but it's a cartoon, so clearly it's meant for children!

...On the bright side, I watched plenty of the most violent cartoons imaginable when I was small, and I've yet to pull a school shooting; in fact, last I checked, I've never even got a fine.

I guess blaming cartoons (and music, and videogames, and comics, and whatever media politicians don't like these days) for crime instead of factors like, oh, I dunno, widespread lack of education and poverty and lack of fundings to public schools and lack of support to struggling families and social injustices and "boys will be boys" attitude in regard to severe bullying, might, you know, be kind of bullshit.

Date: 2012-03-16 01:42 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (andromeda shun saint Seiya)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
And apropos of very little, but knowing that it has fans here, the first teaser trialer for Saint Seiya Omega can be seen here along with new character sketches here

Date: 2012-03-16 12:07 pm (UTC)
deleonjh: (Default)
From: [personal profile] deleonjh
Duralumin? So that's where Yotsuba got the name for her teddy bear. Although maybe not since she probably wouldn't have named it after a bad guy.

Date: 2012-03-16 12:42 pm (UTC)
deleonjh: (Default)
From: [personal profile] deleonjh

I suspect it has more to do with the cartoonist's vague childhood memories of the Tezuka series, although in-story it's more amusing to think that Yotsuba somehow got the name from a metallurgy textbook or something.

Date: 2012-03-16 01:57 pm (UTC)
apintrix: Animated airplane (Default)
From: [personal profile] apintrix
I had heard of this, but didn't realize it was Tezuka! Lovely simple art.

Date: 2012-03-16 05:13 pm (UTC)
tronlives: (black books - bernard hair)
From: [personal profile] tronlives
Thank you for posting this! I've never heard of it but now I really want to seek it out :D
The style feels a little like an ancestor of Revolutionary Girl Utena...


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