Ribon no Kishi or, Princess Knight as it is known in English, is something I have wanted to write about for a very, very long time. I just kept getting distracted by something shiny.
Ribon no Kishi is not a Yuri manga. It is, however, the first instance of a cross-dressing girl-prince ever, in manga and, ultimately, anime. Long before Utena, Lady Oscar and Erminia, the “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka, gave us Safire, the heroine of Ribon no Kishi.
Think Snow White with a sword and an attitude. ^_^
Safire’s character design is a direct nod (a polite way of saying it was ripped off) to Disney’s Snow White. Only Safire isn’t mooning around – she’s been raised to be a Prince for political reasons, and as a result, she takes great pleasure in riding out on her white charger to rescue damsels in distress.
Safire’s true desire is to be herself, but that includes both wearing a froofy dress to a ball and riding out with sword, so she’s not a total bore. She fights off evil Dukes and witches and rescues a handsome Prince, with whom she falls in love and of course, ultimately, lives happily ever after. It’s all too cute and fuzzy for words.
The art is *very* early Disney, the story too, even the cute little critters look right out of a Disney movie. Remember, this man *created* all the conventions of manga you’re used to seeing – big eyes, western faces and talking animal sidekicks – all Osamu Tezuka’s fault. But he was just using Disney conventions. So, the next time someone asks you “Why do anime characters have such big eyes?” the short answer is, “Because Disney drew them that way.”
But, let us not forget the Japanese tradition of Takarazuka, the all-female musical review that regularly has women acting the roles of Princes and Knights and rescuing damsels…Osamu Tezuka was drawing on that as well, for his Safire. She may be tough on the outside, but she’s all girl underneath – just like the otokoyaku of the Takarazuka.
While it is true that Ribon no Kishi has *zero* yuri, except in the briefest and most superficial moments, as rescued damsels are momentarily fluttery and one evil sorceress seems a teeny little possesive, it’s still totally worth taking a look at, just for the sheer history of the thing. And the story, and Safire herself, are so damn *cute.*
Art – 6. Primitive by our standards
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 1
Music (for the anime) – 2. It’s plinky and saccharine.
Overall – 6. Not brilliant Yuri must have, but if you care at *all* about the history of manga, you’ll want to take a look at it.
Now – here’s the hard part. I know for a fact that I’ve seen it in an English translation as Princess Knight. A quick run through most of the big manga sellers shows nothing with that title. I did find this bilingual version for sale online. And the original format has been re-released in Japanese. Not surprisingly, I totally recommend getting it that way. As for the anime, a very long time ago, I found the first three episodes raw, but have never found more.
In any case, it’s worth a look.