Princess Knight is an anime series from the legendary Osamu Tezuka and is about a young Princess that is born and raised to be a Prince. The story comes from the early days of coloured animation, literally 1967, and is much more like a cartoon than modern day anime. The long series goes for 10 discs, or roughly 52 episodes all up. So 1300minutes in total. The series is distributed by Hanabee here in Australia.
The story of Princess Knight revolves around a Princess that is born and raised to be a Prince since birth. This is because of a strange law in the land where only a King can be ruler of the Kingdom, and the king is decided on by genetic lineage of direct male descendants only. This means that, legally speaking, the Princess can not become King. It seems that the reason that the King and his wife have lied about the Princesses true gender is so that the bad guys, a relative of the Royal Family, can not get the throne in the event of the Kings death. This seems like a bit of a problem because the bad guys are clearly bad, comically so, and perhaps the King and Queen knew this already.
What’s interesting about Princess Knight is that there seems to be an overall plot line to it, but it seems to progress very slowly over the course of the series. Each episode feels like it is a self contained story towards the beginning of the series, but by the time it reaches the end, so much has changed to the circumstances of the story. You see characters come and go, more villains appear, more friends appear, and you see the series progress from what seems like a generic episode to episode series to one with a sense of progress and imagination.
What’s interesting is that the series moves from having a bunch of random henchmen trying to kidnap and expose the princess as being a girl to the world, to a series where the princess is known as a girl and the people still follow her. This moves further and further and eventually there is a war between Silver Land and the armies of Hell itself. By the end of the last few episodes, there is an all-out war that some of the characters are affected by, with sides being blurred and even a little bit of humanity even being shown by Satan himself.
Going into an era where this form of storytelling was the norm is rather bizarre when the modern era has much more dramatic and sophisticated storytelling to it. This anime work also serves as a reminder to how little the western world of animation has progressed. Princess Knight does more for animation in general, than does 90% of western works. Sometimes watching this series from around 40 years ago makes it feel like storytelling has taken a step back in some regard. Of course, there are exceptions to this, like Ben 10, Legend of Korra and a few of Tartarkovsky’s works, but mostly, Princess Knight is superior to modern day western animation.
One of the things that was quite irritating with the series was just how cartoony everything is. Everything from the dubbing, to the characters themselves speak to a bygone era. It seems strange when you come from an era where dubs tend to not have too whacky of a voice to each character and then going into a series like this and having the common townspeople sound like they have intelligence issues. Even more, the villains sound either really stupid, or way too over the top evil, that you can’t really take them seriously as a threat, which makes a lot of the series less tense than what it could be. The best example of this is Mr. X, a bad knight. He has this voice that has gone through some kind of filter so it sounds echoey. It’s just not believable enough for it to have any kind of threat or urgency to it, and it removes the scenes credibility.
Visually, Princess Knight is very dated. By looking at it, you can tell that it is a product of an age with a less sophisticated art style. This was probably to save on labour costs to the animation, or maybe just standards were lower at the time. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it looks bad in any way. Some of the best artwork in the series is on the backgrounds, many of the houses and forests have a high attention to detail that really helps to set the scene. It’s reminscent of a time before digital animation, where artworks were all still hand-drawn and still looked pretty good.
Overall we quite enjoyed our time with Princess Knight. It’s a classic series that is worth a watch, regardless of if you’re fan of classic cartoons and anime or not. This is because it is a good retrospective on the genre, and a worthwhile look at where the whole genre has come from. Also, Tezuka worked on this, so any fans of Astro Boy will definitely want to check this one out. However, if you have a seething hatred of classic cartoons due to how cliche or obnoxious they can be, then its best to give this a miss.
Princess Knight is published by Hanabee here in Australia. This review comes in a complete collection which includes a collectors box, as well as all 10 discs. The series was provided yo us from Hanabee for reviewing purposes. You can buy Princess Knight at the Hanabee online store for ~$50.