Princess Knight (リボンの騎士 Ribon no Kishi?, lit. "Knight of the Ribbon") is a Japanese manga that ran through four serializations from 1954 to 1968, as well as a 1967 Japanese children's animated series. It was dubbed into English and brought over to Western audiences in 1970, where it was called Choppy and the Princess. In 1973, this series was dubbed in Portuguese and premiered in Brazil, where it still has many fans. The original Japanese animation was created by Osamu Tezuka, the "God of manga", who is probably best known in the West as the creator of Tetsuwan Atom, aka Astro Boy. Princess Knight had a similar animation and character design style as Astro Boy, and was targeted towards the same age range. The series was one of the earliest anime produced in color. It also had a profound influence on the women who would eventually come to revolutionize the genre of shōjo manga.
Princess Knight was released in 2001 in the United States in a bilingual (English/Japanese) edition by Kodansha International, however the edition is out of print and can be hard to find. It has since been licensed by Viz Media. A preview of the manga was released in the July issue of Viz Media's shōjo magazine, Shojo Beat.
For the most part the story of both the manga and the serializations is the same, with only the second serialization (known as Twin Knight) and to some extent the fourth serialization being significantly different.
Taking place in a medieval fairy-tale setting, Princess Knight is the story of young Princess Sapphire who must pretend to be a male prince so she can inherit the throne (as women are not eligible to do so). This deception begins as soon as she is born, as her father the King announces his baby is a boy instead of a girl. The reason for this is that the next-in-line to the throne, Duke Duralumon, is an evil man who would repress the people if he were to become king, and because of this the King will go to any length to prevent him from taking over.
Princess Sapphire has a pint-sized sidekick in the form of Choppy, a young angel-in-training out to earn his wings. When she was born, Choppy accidentally gave Sapphire the blue heart of a rambunctious boy as well as the pink heart of a prim and proper girl, and so God sent him down to Earth to sort out the mess and retrieve Sapphire's extra heart. Choppy is stuck inside a rather weak mortal shell, and cannot go back to Heaven until he's fixed things. Sapphire won't let Choppy remove her blue boy's heart, however. As a result, Choppy is pretty much stuck with Sapphire (although he doesn't really mind).
Sapphire and Choppy experience a variety of fairy tale and political adventures, including encounters with ice witches and anti-Royal revolutionaries. Sapphire also dons a Zorro-style mask at night and fights crime as the Phantom Knight, as well as foiling Duke Duralumon's schemes to take over the kingdom and his attempts to prove that Sapphire is really a girl (and thus discredit her as the heir to the throne).
The bright and colorful animation style of Princess Knight is comparable to that of Disney, à la Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Some mature themes also crop up occasionally. There are several references to God, Satan, Heaven, and Hell. Also, in the final episodes, the story arc is resolved and many major characters are killed on screen (although the main principals make it out okay in the end).
- Directors: Chikao Katsui, Kanji Akabori, Yoshiyuki Tomino, Masami Hata, Ryosuke Takahashi, Hideo Makino, Seiji Okuda, Norio Hikone.
- Screenwriter: Osamu Tezuka, Masaki Tsuji
- Design: Kazuko Nakamura, Sadao Miyamoto, Minoru Nishida
- Animator: Sadao Miyamoto
- Music: Isao Tomita
- Princess Sapphire
- The young Prince of Silverland, Sapphire is in reality a girl, but must pretend to be a boy in order to inherit the throne and prevent the evil Duke Duralumon from taking power. Her personality is more refined than tomboyish, but she's good with a sword and at night fights crime as the masked Phantom Knight. She's good-hearted, has a strong sense of justice and is competent and level-headed as well. Although most of her time is spent as Prince Sapphire, later in the series she is able to go about as a girl (wearing a blonde wig) in the persona of the Princess, Prince Sapphire's sister. In this way she is able to court Prince Frank.
Tink (aka Choppy or Ching or Chinky)
- A pint-sized angel who dresses in green, Choppy is Princess Sapphire's sidekick. He's often brave to the point of being foolhardy, and tends to charge into situations head-first (literally). Choppy is stuck inside a mortal body and has no real divine powers other than the ability to blow the trumpet extremely loudly. Because of this, he often gets beaten up. Satan is deeply afraid of him, however.
- Sapphire's white horse.
Prince Frank (aka Prince Franz Charm)
- The young prince of neighboring Goldland and Sapphire's love interest. Obviously, their relationship is complicated. Prince Frank is familiar with Sapphire as three entirely different people, toward each of whom he has different feelings. He is good friends with Prince Sapphire, in love with the unnamed princess that Sapphire sometimes visits him as, and despises the Phantom Knight, whom he mistakenly believes is a rival for the Princess' affection. Because of their similar upbringings, Frank has many of the same skills as Sapphire (such as swordsmanship), although Sapphire is a bit better at many of them than he is. Tezuka, who was unsatisfied with the original manga series, added some improvements in the TV Series to both the story and characters, casting his recurrent character Rock as Prince Frank and adding more depth and temperament to the character while improving his role and abilities.
Duke Duralumon (aka Duke Jeralmin)
- The show's main antagonist, Duke Duralumon is next in line to the throne after Sapphire. He is constantly trying to discredit Sapphire in order to inherit the throne. Duralumon is short, fat and balding. He's a fairly hands-off villain; he makes speeches to try to turn the people against Sapphire, but leaves the actual physical work of kidnapping and thuggery to his enforcer, Baron Nylon. Duralumon is corrupt and cruel and does pose a genuine threat to Silverland. Still, he is more of a bumbling, comedic villain than a sinister one. Later in the series he's shown to be a quisling in the employ of much more seriously evil characters, such as Satan or Mr. X. His name comes from the alloy duralumin.
- Baron Nylon
- A tall, thin man in foppish green clothes with a large nose, Nylon is Duke Duralumon's bumbling sidekick. He's a bully responsible for doing Duralumon's dirty work. Due to his incompetence, however, he usually manages to fumble things and ends up as the recipient of verbal and physical abuse from Duralumon. He is not very bright but is relatively skilled with a sword, although he never actually stabs anybody until the last couple of episodes.
- Duke Duralumon's small foolish son, whose primary function is to provide the series' comic relief on the villains' side.
- The King
- The King of Silverland. He deceives his people into believing his daughter is really a son in order to prevent Duralumon from inheriting the throne. Confusingly, he is killed early on, visits Sapphire as a ghost, is brought back to life by God, is killed again, and so on.
- The Queen
- The Queen of Silverland. Supports Sapphire and oversees the Kingdom during the periods when her husband is dead.
- The Doctor
- Sapphire's doctor is one of the few people who knows that she is a girl. He is in charge of teaching her masculine skills such as swordsmanship and history. The Doctor is also a bit of an inventor and occasionally comes up with post-medieval gadgets, such as a hot-air balloon to combat a kite-riding thief.
- The Nurse
- Sapphire's nurse is also among the few people privy to her secret. She's in charge of teaching her feminine skills such as sewing and cooking.
Satan (aka Mephisto)
- The Devil, in the format of a warlock, and also one of the most powerful villains in the series. He is portrayed as a tall, thin human with chalk-white skin and a pointy nose, wearing a skin-tight red suit with a black cape. Satan has various evil desires, including stealing Sapphire's special two-hearted soul and taking over the kingdom. Satan has supernatural powers and is impervious to physical harm, but he also has an overpowering fear of angels. When Sapphire is confronted by Satan, Choppy often comes to the rescue. Satan cowers in fear from Choppy and flees screaming when Choppy starts blowing his horn. Duralumon and Nylon are secretly Satanists who are in his service.
- Satan's daughter, who is a witch. Heckett appears as a young human-looking woman around Sapphire's age who dresses quite provocatively. At first she appears to be evil like her father, but she later reveals to Sapphire that she is secretly good. She often covertly helps Sapphire foil her father's plans. Heckett's name was inspirated by Hekate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft and sorcery.
- Mr. X
- The show's ultimate villain, a large, imposing Darth Vader-like character clad entirely in boxy red armor (so that we cannot see his human features). Mr. X is the ruler of the X-Union, a neighboring, proto-fascist federation of nations that wants to conquer the three kingdoms (Silverland, Goldland, and Charcoal-land). As the series progresses, we learn that Duralumon and Nylon secretly work for him. Mr. X is portrayed as an indestructible, Terminator-like figure. In the show's final battle between Sapphire and Mr. X, he brings down Silverland castle by smashing the walls using his bare hands. He is the only character in the show with no comedic aspect whatsoever, as even Satan inspires laughs when he cowers with fear when seeing Choppy.
There have been four manga serializations of Princess Knight in Japan.
Shōjo Club version
The first serialization ran from January 1953 to January 1956 in Kodansha's Shōjo Club (which has since been discontinued). This work has had a great influence on subsequent manga for girls. One hallmark of Tezuka Osamu's style notable in this series is his technique he used for drawing the eyes, placing a glittering star in each pupil.
The stories consisted of three pages in three colors, and four pages in two colors. This kind of coloring and layout was greatly influenced by a movie entitled The Tales of Hoffmann which was released in Japan in 1952. Princess Knight was remade three times after the first release.
This version also had a one-time appearance in the "Shōjo Club Summer Vacation Special Issue" in 1954. The story in this issue, is roughly translated into English as "Tink (Choppy) and the Golden Egg".
The second serialization was a follow-up to the Shōjo Club version, and it was run in the magazine Nakayoshi (which still exists today) beginning in 1958. The title was changed to Twin Knight for publication in book form, but the serialization's name was still Princess Knight. This serialization ran from January 1958 to June 1959 in Nakayoshi.
This is a continuation of the original Shōjo Club storyline. The children of Sapphire, the fraternal twins Prince Daisy and Princess Violetta, are the main characters. After becoming the princess of Silver Land, Sapphire marries Frantz/Frank, her love interest in the first series, and gives birth to the twins Prince Daisy and Princess Violetta.
But because of the wicked designs of the Duchess Daria, Prince Daisy is abandoned in the forest. In the castle, Princess Violetta decides to play two parts: being herself and disguising herself as the Prince every other day to keep secret the knowledge of his disappearance.
Duke Daria discovers this, which leads to the King, Queen Sapphire and Princess Violetta being confined in the northern tower. Princess Violetta escapes by disguising herself as a boy and with the help of a swan from the northern tower, so that she can look for her brother.
The third serialization was a rewriting of the Shōjo Club version, and it was run in Nakayoshi beginning in 1963. In this version, Mrs. Hell takes over the role of Mephisto, a pirate named Brad is added as a new character, and the story takes a different course of development halfway through. This version ran from January 1963 to October 1966.
This version follows the same pattern, in which the Duke of Darulium and Sir Nylon want to discover the truth about the circumstances of Princess Sapphire. In this version her secret is revealed on the day of Sapphire's enthronement, because the Queen reveals it while under the influence of a toxic liquor drink.
As this remake of the Shōjo Club version ran over a longer period of time than the original and is the closest in resemblance to the TV anime, this is the version that the title Princess Knight is generally associated with.
Shōjo Friend version
The fourth serialization was a science fiction story originally written by Tezuka Osamu, with the drawings done by Kitano Hideaki. It was serialized in the magazine Shōjo Friend in 1967, concurrently with its broadcast on television as animation. It lasted from April 1967 to April 1968. (Shōjo Friend is now discontinued, but its sister publication Bessatsu Friend still exists.)
The anime, like the Shōjo Friend serialization, lasted from April 1967 to April 1968, for a total of 52 episodes. Like the manga, it was the first shōjo anime, aimed at a young female audience. The show originally ran from April 2, 1967 to April 7, 1968 on Fuji TV. The manga closest in its style and plot to the anime is the third serialization, but they differed significantly at times.
In the final episodes, Duralumon stages a coup d'état to help Mr. X conquer Silverland. The King and Queen are captured, but help Sapphire to flee. Duralumon is about to proclaim his son as king and himself as regent when he is killed by Nylon, who has been driven near-insane by the Duke's constant abuse. The deranged Nylon proclaims himself and welcomes Mr. X and his armies in Silverland. Mr. X, though, soon makes it clear that he has no intention of letting Nylon rule, even as a puppet monarch, and merely keeps him around as a buffoon.
Sapphire and Frank try to prevent the King and Queen from being executed, but they are too late and the King and Queen are dropped in the sea. This culminates in the final battle, as Sapphire heads off to Silverland castle to confront Mr. X with the aid of three magic balls. Given to Sapphire by her parents, the balls represent the three kingdoms and are supposed to save Silverland : they are used at first to ring the kingdom's bells, magically giving to the people the will to fight the invaders.
Sapphire has the balls melted to form a magic axe which she uses to rout Mr. X's troops, break up the castle's walls, and confront X himself. Sapphire ends up dueling Mr. X., with the help of Frank, and manages to wound him. Just as the enraged Mr. X is about to chop Sapphire and Frank in half, Choppy calls on God for help, and a lightning bolt strikes X. As Sapphire seems to triumph, Mr. X rises from his apparent death and begins smashing the castle with his bare hands, eventually causing it to collapse onto himself. Nylon, who was swaying through the halls like a raving madman, is also crushed to death. Sapphire escapes the collapsing castle and stands triumphant in the sunlight. Choppy has been wounded by the castle's breakdown and tells God that he is ready to sacrifice his life should Sapphire's parents be brought back from the dead. God then accepts to bring back the King and Queen to life, as Choppy dies.
Sapphire and Frank end up getting married. Choppy's spirit returns to heaven where he has finally earned his wings.
English language adaptation
Although all 52 episodes of the series were translated and dubbed into English in 1970, serious legal disputes arose within the show's production company before it could air in the United States. As a result, the company ultimately scrapped the show before it could be broadcast. Copies of the finished product still managed to be leaked out, however, and the series had a limited run on American and European television in from the late '60s through the early '80s, usually as part of obscure morning children's television programs. The series has never been officially released on DVD in the United States, although bootleg DVDs of all the episodes (edited for American broadcast standards of the period) are available.
For a number of years it was thought that all of the English-language dubs of the series had been either lost or destroyed, as was also the case with The Amazing 3. However, the English-language masters of the series were found in the Netherlands in 1996 (though missing their opening and closing credits).
In the English translation the most significant change is the name of characters. In the original, the majority of good characters were named after precious gems and metals (e.g. Sapphire), while the villains were named after synthetic fibers and plastics (e.g. Plastic and Nylon).
In 1973, three episodes were edited together and released as a movie titled Choppy and the Princess. Although it was syndicated throughout the U.S. in the 1970s and '80s, it wasn't until 1985 that it achieved some popularity through its appearances on the Showtime cable network. 
Despite not having the airtime as intended in the United States (other than Hawaii), the show still managed to make it to other English language markets. In Australia the show was aired, but it had two different titles (depending on which network showed it), one being Princess Knight and the other being Choppy and the Princess (as the name of the entire series). The show was also aired in Britain where it was released on VHS. The distributor Movie Makers (UK) released seven episodes under the title The Adventures of Choppy and the Princess and three individual episodes without the title. The distributor Tasley Leisures (UK) released six episodes under the title Choppy and the Princess, Adventures 1-6. The Starlite Group released seven Choppy and the Princess DVDs in the UK in mid-2006, with the movie also being available from the same company.
In addition to the 52 anime episodes, there was also an episode-long pilot film that was not broadcast on television. This film was released as an extra when in early 1991 the series was released on laser disc in Japan. It is often quoted as being the 53rd episode.
At various times in his career, Tesuka worked on short original animation films, or "theater anime", which among other material included some of the Princess Knight story. Samples of this work are shown in the "300-Inch Theater" at Tezuka Osamu World in the Kyoto Station Building. The two-picture show is composed of pieces from among Tezuka's major manga and an animated film featuring historic episodes of Kyoto. In this theater production, the Phoenix (from the eponymous Tezuka manga) plays the role of a storyteller, and introduces the two pictures.
The first part has the Phoenix tell the story of Princess Knight, and how despite the malicious plan of Duke Duralumon she believes in a "tomorrow" that is a peaceful and quiet world. By illustrating her attitude, the Phoenix tries to convey the message that "the world will never lose the light of the future unless you lose hope".
The second part talks about Minamoto Yoshitsune, who made his mark in the history of Kyoto as a person who became entangled in a struggle by another's wicked design in spite of his desire for peace — just like Sapphire. This is the story of the extraordinary Benkei, who after having met his enemy Yoshitsune in his childhood (then named Ushiwaka) came to guard him as a lifetime partner in later years. The Phoenix narrates this well-known episode by referring to characters that appear in Tezuka's manga, Benkei.
Perhaps Sapphire's earliest television appearance took place in an episode of the 1963 Tetsuwan Atom series, where she is one of several medieval characters on a movie set Atom is visiting. In this case, Sapphire is obviously meant to be an actress in costume, but nonetheless strikes the same martial poses as the sword-wielding Princess Knight. Several other Ribbon No Kishi characters appear in the background; an early example of Osamu Tezuka's so-called Star System. The episode was naturally filmed in black and white, but the Kishi characters are clearly recognisable nonetheless.
Episode 26 of Astro Boy (1980) featured an adult version of Princess Sapphire, as Astro, Uran, Doctor Roget (Black Jack) and Penny (Pinoko) traveled back through time to 15th Century Molavia (Silverland). In this storyline, Blackjack performs a cranial operation on a critically injured Sapphire, while Astro and Uran fend off Gor, a malevolent magician bent on usurping the throne. The story was significant for bringing an unofficial close to the Princess Knight mythos, as Sapphire finally abandons her male persona and appears before her court as the true queen of Molvania/Silverland (presumably, the name changes were due to Western audiences being unfamiliar with the Black Jack character at the time).
In Black Jack TV, Sapphire appears in episode 8 like a woman named Ritsuko, she also makes a brief appearance at the beginning of episode 22 of Black Jack TV, she appears using her blond wig along with Unico and in episode 3 of Black Jack 4 Miracles of Life. Also in some episodes appears a poster where Sapphire appears in her classic clothes.
Princess Sapphire makes a cameo appearance in the 2004 game Astro Boy: Omega Factor created for the Game Boy Advance, along with a number of other characters created by Osamu Tezuka. In the game Sapphire appears with the role she had in Marine Express, where she's the ruler of Mu Empire, a civilization of 30,000 years in past that's under the attack of Sharaku. She eventually falls in love with Tezuka's perennial - but in this case eventually reformed - villain, Makube Rokuro (a.k.a. Rock), who has been brought there by Sharaku along with Astro and Wally Kisagiri.
Tink appears in episode 22 of Black Jack TV.
Baron Nylon appears like a Hunter in Black Jack TV episode 1.
In 2006, Princess Knight was adapted as a musical Ribbon no Kishi: the musical (リボンの騎士 ザ・ミュージカル) and performed in Japan by the popular idol group Morning Musume and v-u-den. The story was slightly modified in order to accommodate a stage performance.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Publications of Princess Knight as listed on TezukaOsamu@World. Went based on Osamu Tezuka Manga Complete Works releases. Accessed on 2007-06-13
- ↑ Publications of Twin Knight as listed on TezukaOsamu@World. Went based on Osamu Tezuka Manga Complete Works releases. Accessed on 2007-06-13.
- ↑ Princess Knight anime at TezukaOsamu@World. Accessed on 2007-06-13.
- ↑ Princess Knight film at TezukaOsamu@World. Accessed on 2007-06-13.
- ↑  Accessed on 2008-03-22
- ↑ Newsrama press release. Accessed on 2007-06-14
- ↑ Shojo Beat homepage. Accessed on 2007-06-14
- ↑ Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: "Boys' Love" as Girls' Love in Shôjo Manga
- ↑ Erickson, Hal. "Choppy and the Princess". Allmovie. The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-06-09.
- ↑ Newspaper article pertaining to performance. Accessed on 2007-11-04.
- ↑ Wiki:thePPN entry. Accessed on 2007-11-04.