Princess Knight Anime, Part 1 (English) – First Impressions

September 17th, 2013

rsdvd1378I’m currently reading a book on early 20th century Japanese girl’s literature and culture and the author carefully cautions readers to not interpret relationships through the lens of modern lesbian culture and I simultaneously thought, “Obviously” and “Screw that.” Obviously, because the girls themselves, living lives largely segregated from boys would not necessarily have interpreted their own forays into romantic, platonic love as “desire,” but screw that, because human nature does not change and some of those girls would have. I’ll talk about this more when I review that book, but it brings me to Princess Knight, Part One, from Nozomi/RightStuf.

I will not caution you to not interpret this cartoon in any particular way.

We know this was released in the late 1960s and we can see watching it, that it was heavily informed by Disney , Warner Brothers and Walter Lantz.  “Woop-woop-woop!” is the soundtrack of my youth, in many ways.  My youth, which, btw included Bugs Bunny cross-dressing as Carmen Miranda.

The Princess Knight TV series is new to me. I have seen the 3-episode series, but never the 1967-8 version. So, as I’m watching this release of Princess Knight, I’m honestly surprised at how much of a transgender narrative the beginning is. A Prince who is a girl, reminded at every turn that her life doesn’t match the gender role expectations of her body – and hounded by people who want to expose her. Wow, was I made uncomfortable by Duralamin and Nylon in this cartoon – far more than I was in the manga. Her mother rags on her to remember she is a girl, and not to forget herself, while her father rags on her to be a perfect boy. And *everyone* ignoring the fact that she is really quite fabulous as she is – a brave and strong and independent girl in pants.

As with Riyoko Ikeda’s Claudine, I can’t help but wonder if Sapphire might have been satisfied with her sex if she was given the privilege, position and power she deserved. And this is exactly why I call BS on the “don’t interpret it” cautioners. Why wouldn’t we interpret and discuss this through our own lenses? Isn’t that why we’re here, talking about this stuff in the first place?  There are a lot of ways in which this story would not have conflict – if the Kingdom wasn’t entailed to a male heir; if Duralamin wasn’t evil; if Sapphire was content to be a boy all the time and never deviated from the script. But instead, Sapphire wants the privilege of being a Prince, with the chance to indulge in the role of Princess, and to be left alone to be who she wants to be. It’s pretty obvious that, like Erminia after her, the idea of being Queen to some King  who will protect the country, never enters her mind as a pleasant option.

Let’s fully engage in interpreting Princess Knight through a modern lens. Is Sapphire transgender? Is she a cross-dresser? Is it merely because she is robbed of the ability to live and rule as herself that she indulges/delughts in dressing as a boy? Is she someone who now might consider herself genderqueer? My feelings are that she’s perfectly happy with the body of a girl and the privilege and independent life she gains as a boy. A happy tomboy who would be just that much happier if everyone got off her case. Your thoughts in the comments, please. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – Infamously low quality, but I was alive in ’67…what wasn’t low quality?
Characters – Pastiches of tropes of archetypes
Story – Rather more uncomfortable-making than I expected

Overall – 7

Thank to the generosity of TRSI for this review copy, And thanks to them,  I have 2 copies of this DVD to give away, so if you want to ponder the “do not ponder”ables of watching a 50 year old story with modern eyes, put your name and country next to you comment to win the set!

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9 Responses

  1. Mara says:

    I can only strongly agree. As is far too common it seems that Sapphire needs to pretend to be a boy so that her achievements are noted rather than her appearance. In short what are superficially beveled to be masculine actions are actually just the character manifesting her own will upon her situation. An action that really should not have a feeling of gender associated to it.

    Also this reminds me of this character: http://touhou.wikia.com/wiki/Toyosatomimi_no_Miko

    Literally just Toyosatomimi no Miko but the character is a woman. Everyone knows she is a woman but at the same time she is called the crown prince and she keeps all the absurdly over the top skills that Toyosatomimi no Miko had in the stories.

    Louis Payne
    UK

  2. Josh says:

    I have been watching this since it first showed up on youtube a month or so ago, and I absolutely love it!

    Interesting story, strong female lead, likable side characters, and a colorful world sucked me right in. Yeah the animation quality is a bit dated, but that adds to the charm of the show, and while I find the sexism highly irritating, for some reason it creates some tense moments.

    A gem of a series if there ever was one!

    Name: Joshua D. Perrin
    Country: United States

  3. Jamie says:

    Always interested to see the classics, which in many ways were as progressive, or more, as some of what we get today. We’ve regressed so much in some ways. Anyway, I’m Jamie and in Australia. :)

  4. Olivia says:

    Well now I’m super curious about the book that you’re currently reading. What’s the title/author?

    Olivia L.
    USA

      • Miakoda says:

        Just seeing the first part of that title, combined with what you said in the first part of the article, and my mind goes to Lucy Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.” The time setting of which is similar to the “when” of your book, is it not?
        Anyways, I’m with you on the side of “there were girls who were quite happy to be with girls and “oh darn” have to “experiment” (or be experimented upon)”
        Isn’t it from the turn of the century we get the term, “Boston marriages” to indicate a lesbian relationship?

        Anyways, I haven’t seen this show, but it sounds cute (as cute as a 50 yr old show can be said to be) and interesting… I was and still consider myself to be a tomboy…

        Miakoda, A Northern California person here in the good ol’ USA…

      • Olivia says:

        Thank you very much!

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