Ribon no Kishi, “Knight of Ribbons”
• Osamu Tezuka
• Kodansha International (2001)
• Kodansha (Nakayoshi, 1963–1966)
• Shôjo, Magical Girl, Fantasy • All Ages
Often cited as the first modern shôjo manga, Tezuka’s proto-feminist fantasy ran through four different serialized versions in the 1950s and 1960s. This is the third and best-known version, basically a more polished black-and-white retelling of the original series (a color comic that ran in Shôjo Club magazine in the 1950s). Princess Sapphire, born with both a male heart and a female heart due to a mix-up in heaven, disguises herself as a prince to inherit the throne. She enjoys swashbuckling adventures as a boy and Cinderella-style romantic escapades as a girl, while the scheming Duke Duralmin plots to expose the “prince’s” true gender. A cherub named Tink follows her in mortal form, trying to convince her to give up her male heart and become an ordinary girl. Fairy-tale fantasy mixes with confused Christianity, as angels and devils get involved in Princess Sapphire’s plight. Princess Knight introduces many elements that would become common in shôjo manga: a Western-style fantasy setting, a plucky heroine with extra-sparkly eyes, a cute supernatural sidekick, and, of course, female cross-dressing. The clean, stylized artwork, distinguished by simple shapes and bold patterns, represents some of the better work of Tezuka’s middle period.