Wednesday, April 11, 2012
YEAR 1953: PRINCESS KNIGHT
PRINCESS KNIGHT, the English-language rendition of Osamu Tezuka's RIBON NO KISHI ("Knight of the Ribbon"), originally appeared in the manga magazine SHOJO BEAT but went through various differing iterations by Tezuka. The essential idea seems to remain the same in most of them: in a psuedo-medieval kingdom, a girl is born to a king and queen, but the angels in heaven screw things up by giving her both a girls' heart and a boy's heart. This gives Princess Sapphire co-equal traits of maleness and femaleness. To confuse her gender identity even more, the king and queen have Sapphire masquerade as a boy so that she will be eligible to inherit the throne and preserve the kingdom against assorted vile villains.
Some critics assert that PRINCESS KNIGHT essentially launched the shojo (girls') manga category. I can't speak to that but from my imperfect knowledge she does seem to be one of the first female manga-characters who's regularly seen running around beating up opponents and fighting with a sword-- though at the same time proving capable of showing her softer side as well. She is therefore at the very least one of the most important ancestors of the many Japanese femmes formidables-- Takahashi's Lum, Takachiho's Dirty Pair-- who perhaps come closest to rivalling the accomplishments of the United States in this respect.