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 were...limited. 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?
SKJAM!
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