Ribbon no Kishi is one of the earliest anime, made in 1967. It's from the period when Japanese animation hadn't yet gained its distinctive characteristics. It feels more like American cartoons of the period than modern Japanese anime. However, it preserves its innocence.
The plot is cute. Princess Sapphire was born with a girl’s body and a boy's mind (whatever it is). She is the “prince” of Silverland. There’s an iron law in Silverland that only males can inherit the throne. Being the only child of the royal family, her gender is kept secret from the public to guarantee royal succession. Some cunning palace officers, especially
the main antagonist, Duke Duralumon strives to reveal the truth in order to rule Silverland.
But the poor princess’ problem doesn’t end there. She was born with a boy's mind due to a mischief of an angel called Tink. The angel is sent back to make her feel and behave feminine again. Tink always accompanies her.
This is a children's cartoon. It has the charming simplicity of characters, music, and art. Nevertheless, today's children wouldn't be satisfied with it. Its stereotypical characters with predictable actions may bore but if you're tired of convoluted and ridiculous plotlines, you should give it a try.
Oh my god, is this anime dated. The animation is awful and the plots range from generic to ridiculous. But I love it.
When you start watching this, you have to remember that Ribbon no Kishi is the Ur Example of shoujo. It was revolutionary and genre-defining for it's time; most shoujo series that came after have been inspired by or deconstructed the elements Tezuka introduced. To truly appreciate this anime, you need to watch it as a study rather than expecting something refreshing or deep.
Like most classic anime, the animation was done on the cheap. Cells are blatantly recycled (even from the intro) and there
are long, artificial pauses that make the characters look like they're spacing out between lines. The bad 70's English dub available on Crunchyroll doesn't offer any improvements, though Nylon's voice is fun to hear.
All of the characters are idiots. Every single one of them! Most of the plots get rolling because someone missed something obvious and did something very stupid. But that's classic Tezuka, and there are moments where silly things happen just for the sake of silliness. This is fine; this is a kids cartoon from an era where animation was meant to be spectacle. It's a mishmash of fantastic tales where, even if the conclusion is obvious, the path the characters take towards it is unpredictable.
If you already appreciate classic anime or are a huge Tezuka fan, definitely give this a watch. If you love shojo anime and want some insight into how it began, try a few episodes. Everyone else, well... you're probably better off checking out the manga or reading the plot summary on Wikipedia.
Princess Knight (TV) is an adaptation of a short manga series, by the father of manga himself, Osamu Tezuka. If you’ve been into anime long enough, you’re bound to know who I’m referencing, if not, he made Astro Boy. The anime version of Princess Knight is one of the most dated things that I’ve ever experienced and the English dub is comedy gold.
• Especially Choppy’s voice. Each episode of Ribbon no Kishi is pretty episodic and is reminiscent of any old Disney or Max Fleshier animation. Except, this one is extremely low budget. People and objects randomly disappear. Color palettes change.
• Strangely enough, for all
of you who are familiar with Gundam, this was one of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s first internships, if not THE first. I’m not exactly sure, but I know that Tomino had some kind of partnership with Tezuka Productions before going waist deep into the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise.
• This series is not very good looking for its time, I’ve seen better looking Betty Boop cartoons from thirty years prior to when this came out in (the 1960’s). The 1960’s are not when anime became what it is today though, the 1970’s are the gilded, golden age of Japanese animation and most of their top-tier works started blossoming toward the end and into the 80’s.
• There’s not much to say about continuity, there are even characters that supposedly die at the end, and the show pulls a JUST KIDDING! They’re still alive, because this is a children’s cartoon and we can’t show death. And then Ringing Bell came out… Overall, just skip the anime and dive into the manga. The manga has a similar fantastical feeling as Tezuka’s Unico comics.
• This series also was a stepping stone toward female liberation and gender ambiguity in anime, that still holds up today. Sapphire became Utena and Revolutionary Girl Utena was a largely iconic series for females growing up in the 1990’s and so forth. I give Princess Knight (TV) a 2/10 and highly suggest the manga instead, which I rated a 6/10.