It’s not easy being a Prince. Granted it’s probably not a breeze to be a peasant, but still. A life of etiquette, of rules, all whilst knowing that they will one day have to take over the family business…once the current King dies of course. That is of course if they are in fact a Prince. It would certainly complicate matters if the King’s only child was a girl, who by definition could not become King. But if that were the case, everybody would surely know about it…right?
First things first, this is a really difficult series to review. In addition to objectively judging how everything in the series comes together, I also can’t ignore the fact that this is an old anime. As in it’s 47 years old. Anime from last year is considered kinda old, so you can imagine how this one plays out.
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Silverland, a child was born to the King and Queen. An heir to sit on the throne when their era was over…or so it was to be. Unfortunately for the royal family, their child was a girl. One unable to assume the throne. For this reason they decided to cover up their daughter’s true gender, raising her as their son in order to keep the throne away from the true next in line: Duke Duralumon. A cunning and evil man, Duralumon will stop at nothing to attain the throne. Having somehow come to the conclusion that Prince Knight is actually a girl, he continuously attempts to prove/reveal this fact to the people of Silverland. Although whether he merely assumes this to be true or outright knows is up to the episode to decide…consistency is not this series’ strong point. From putting truth serum into the Prince’s drink to employing the talents of Satan himself, because that’s totally a thing, his schemes are as disconnected from each other as his dreams are from reality. Though I will cast a lot of the blame on the King for continuing to allow Dorulumon to live in Silverland. The guy isn’t even subtle about his evil tendencies. Seriously King, get it together.
As the series progresses, a semblance of an overarching plot begins to develop. From the very first episode, countless characters express their desire for Prince Knight to act like a girl…despite the fact that would destroy Silverland. Honestly, I don’t understand why the Prince’s handmaiden is so defiant about trying to teach the Prince how to act like a girl, which involves looking good, cooking and being coy in every situation (remember this series came out in 1967). Even God himself is against the boyish girl that is Prince Knight. Apparently there was a bit of a mix up in Heaven and she wound up with both the Blue Heart of a boy an the Red Heart of a girl, hence her outgoing attitude, which is totally gender specific…God said so. As I’m sure you can guess, this conflict of gender is the ultmate them of the series, though I’m not entirely sure if it’s in a positive or negative way. Though Prince Knight exist as a girl who can outdo the boys at most anything, it is only because she possess a male heart. The series also shows her at her happiest when acting like a “true girl”, pining after a guy and fawning over fashion. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, because that’s just how some people are, the dichotomy between the two is fierce. Prince Knight has every right to want to act reserved and feminine if she wants to, but the fact that it is expected of her turns the notion negative to an extent. I suppose that it could be seen as her denying her true nature, but it is inherently stated that both are her true nature. It’s just not represented in the best way.
If you really want to explore Prince Knight’s conflict of gender, look into her two most prevalent disguises: the girl with blonde hair and the Phantom Knight. Each of these identities allows her to live out both sides of her personality without the limitations of her station as Prince. In her blonde wig, she is the epitome of old school female values, having no real discernible traits other than her feelings for Prince Frank. Phantom Knight on the other hand is an undisputed hero, strong, brave and champion of the people. Though both sides exist within Prince Knight, it is only by removing one side that she truly acts to her true potential. It’s a pretty limiting idea.
As I’ve already stated a few times, this series is old. Now whether this makes it classic or dated is up to personal preference and I gotta say I’m leaning more towards dated. This is very apparent in the series’ visuals, as can be expected. Now the style itself is all Tezuka, one look and you’ll know who designed this series. Granted it adds charm, but the characters are also somewhat limited in how they express themselves. Combined with the fairly slow and jagged movements, the series lacks a distinct sense of flow most of the time. Not to mention all the numerous quick cuts, some of which may or may not be due to its English language release (yay censorship), and the countless repeated animations. Leading into the audio side of things, the English dub is distinctly noticeable in the hit-and-miss style with which it matches visual cues ie mouth flaps. Though voice and mouth movement do coincide in number of sequences, there are also quite a few where a disparity is apparent. Not just timing issues either, some scenes feature voices with no flaps at all, or vice versa. It certainly doesn’t help drag you into the story.
Continuing with audio, the series dub isn’t excessively bad, but it is different. Owing to when it was released in English, you can clearly tell that anime was still getting it’s footing. That is to say the the dub is incredibly cartoonish in its representation of some characters, most notably the villains…especially Nylon. Though I will admit that his voice fell more into “ridiculous and funny” than “aggravating” for me. Although I can totally understand those who feel the other way. On the other end of the spectrum lies a character introduced well into the series run, whom I will call Mr X (because that’s his name). Though he is the only character in the series to lack any humourous elements, something about his voice sounds a tad off. Like the voice actor wasn’t standing close enough to the microphone when recording, adding a sense of distance to his voice. IT’s not terribly impactful on the series, but it is noticeable. But trust me, regardless of your opinion on characters voices, you’ll have plenty of chances to hear them when they outwardly soliloquise their plans to nobody in near every episode.
So, there you have Princess Knight, a truly old school series that shows us what the early days of anime looked like. It really puts what we have now into perspective. Now if you’ve read this far you’ve probably noticed the rather negative skew this review has taken, which is something I can’t deny. I just believe that this is one of those series that carries more potential for nostalgia than new viewership. Of course if you’re a big fan of Tezuka you might find something in this series to love, so have at it. Look, at the end of the day, Princess Knight isn’t a bad series, it’s just one that has been battered by time, quite literally (hence the disclaimer about some episodes not looking up to standard). But if you’re looking for a series with a little old school charm and cartoonish humour, I’m sure you won’t regret watching this series. Though if you’re looking for a classic tale, intricately woven amidst a traditional art style, you may be a touch disappointed.
Follow your heart (Blue or Red) and check out Princess Knight at Hanabee