The Heroines of Princess Knight

Princess Knight was always a series I desperately wanted to read. After all it inspired so many creators and I’d heard its name when discussing things like The Rose of Versailles and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Vertical re-released it in English just this past year and so I was finally able to see for myself the influence. I realize now after reading it, that I had no idea what to expect from it; tt was unlike anything I had conjured up in my mind. The only thing I had consistently heard was it’s the story of a girl with the heart of a boy and through my own assumptions I figured she wanted to be that boy when really she just wants to be the typical princess. Does it take on gender politics, definitely, but does it do so in the ways I thought it would, not as much. It being, what I concluded to be, a satire of the fairytale genre was a surprise.

Princess Knight has gained this almost mystical reputation as this prototypical shojo manga. For a time it was even incorrectly labeled at the first shojo manga by American fans. It did not help that one of the few ways to read the manga was buying the very out of print and insanely expensive Kodansha bilingual manga release. This all led to Princess Knight gaining a legendary status as if was often referenced by other works but was almost impossible for the average fan to get their hands on. So much of the series reputation came on what people thought it was more than what it actually was. In a way I think most fans saw the works that were inspired by Princess Knight and extrapolated what they thought it would be. And so the actual gender politics are far less progressive and the themes far less complex than some of fandom might have imagined.

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Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2011

We are here on the red carpet in scenic Brooklyn for the 5th annual Reverse Thieves Anime and Manga Awards. All the stars are here and decked out in their finest. There has already been a bit of drama outside before the awards tonight. We saw Hayao Miyazaki punch out Gendo Ikari over a seating dispute. Then one of the K-ON! girls was seen with a male escort which raised a few eyebrows and possibly caused several suicides. There were also some red faces when Sheryl Nome and Ciel Phantomhive showed up in the same dress. But all that aside we are gathered here today to look back and praise the best and the brightest while scorning the foul beasts that waste our precious time. The viewing audience at home is also encouraged to send in their own votes to see how they stack up to the votes of the academy.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #146

When Rango first came out, I was skeptical, but great reviews poured in. Finally, I got the chance to decide for myself. Rango is the story of a great big fake who becomes a great big hero. Amazingly, when we meet our scaly friend we don’t know his name, and actually still don’t know it, because “Rango” he makes up along with a series of amazing exploits that he sells to the folks in a little desert town called Dirt. This is a town in trouble as their water supply is drying up and the mayor is plotting something. Rango is the stranger who appears and changes everything. All things after the accident that puts Rango into the desert is a riff on the classic Western almost as if he has been thrown back in time (though of course he hasn’t). There is a clear knowledge of the reference material and it gives a little bite to some of the twists that you expect as well as great humor. The animation is all out incredible, there is a particularly flying scene that blew my mind with detail. Great film and certainly one of the best animated features of the year. Oh, and the owl mariachies are the best. I need a shirt with them.

I just read Princess Knight volume 1. When Narutaki and I read volume 2 we will probably do a full length editorial about the manga as a whole but I thought I would throw out a few thoughts before then. The oddest thing about Princess Knight was that Osamu Tezuka almost seems of have ADD with his storyline. I always knew that Osamu Tezuka liked to do episodic series like Black Jack and Astroboy. When I read the somewhat scatter brained plot of Swallowing the Earth I assumed that the fact that the plot was all over the place had to do more with Tezuka being new to Gekiga. But in Princess Knight jumps from plot line to plot line without really ever stopping for a breath. It is very clear to me that he is making up Princess Knight as he goes along while borrowing from Disney every step of the way. The main character goes from trying to hide her gender, to being a prisoner, to fighting a witch, to being on a pirate ship with hardly any transition. I think he clearly Tezuka had a beginning and an end mapped out but everything in between seemed to be decided as he was writing it. You can’t ever say you are bored by the book but it does feel a bit disjointed. Still the story is worth reading for the fact that it is a major milestone in manga history. While it was not the first shojo manga it was highly influential in the foundation of the genre. The book is just best enjoyed if you know going into  it that the book reads very young and has a scatter shot plot. I think I enjoyed the book a bit more than Narutaki because I went in with a more informed view of the book and knew what to expect.

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