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Princess Knight – The first transgender anime?

Princess Knight – The first transgender anime?

The father of the manga Osamu Tezuka created the original Princess Knight manga back in 1953. It contained the story of a princess, a blue heart of a boy and a pink heart of a girl. Her father declares her to be a boy from birth to prevent the evil Duke Duralumon from inheriting the throne. The story would continue to be one of Tezuka’s most influential works, beginning with trends in shojo manga that are still seen today.

Many of Princess Knight’s Elements would continue to inspire series that explore sexual orientation and gender binaries over the years Ranma ½, The rose of Versailles, Revolutionary girl UtenaEven Sailor Moon. With so many debates surrounding the portrayal of gender roles over the years, was Tezuka the idea behind the first ever anime with transgender themes?

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Princess Knight – Too controversial for NBC

While one of the weaker arguments, it has been suggested Princess Knight may be the first anime with a transgender protagonist due to why NBC Universal refused to pick up the show for syndication. Despite receiving an anime adaptation in 1967, it took much longer to reach Western audiences unlike other programs at the time. Kimba the white lion and Astro good. This is because NBC Universal was afraid of the queer themes of the show.

According to Fred Ladd’s book Astro Boy and Anime are coming to AmericaNBC Universal refused to buy the program because “station buyers who would either buy, or decline, this series would reject it, in their view that this series was about ‘sex switch’.” This allowed the creator of the series. The cat Felix The TV series Joseph Oriolo to Purchase the Distribution Rights, and finally edited three episodes together as a movie titled Choppy and the princess which was picked up by independent syndication stations.

The distribution of the show to other countries was extremely confusing over the years due to NBC’s first rejection that it took before 2013 for Nozomi Entertainment to release the series in its entirety in the United States.

Contents Warning: The following section contains suicides.

The Queer Inspiration of Princess Knight

One of the biggest influences for Sapphire, the main character in the series, came from Takarazuka Revue. All women’s theater troupe was formed back in 1913 and has always had women playing the “male” roles in their productions. Although this seems little more than gender bending on the surface, the revue has a bit of a history of queer relationships and fans.

Takarazuka Revue and similar performance companies faced several controversies due to the lesbian undertones of their performances. Many lesbian women wrote love letters to artists, the fans fell in love with what they considered ideal women on stage. Unfortunately, when many realized that they could never actually have these ideal partners, and their love would not be accepted by most in the community, resulting in large cases of lesbian suicide. Two leading actresses from Shochiku Revue, a similar show company, attempted to commit a double suicide because of their lesbian relationship. In fact, the question of double suicide attempts between lesbian lovers was so often reported in Japanese newspapers at the time that some outlets even fabricated stories to try to get more sales.


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When these problems became so prevalent, the owner of Takarazuka Revue at the time, Kobayashi Ichizo, banned actresses from receiving fanmail of any kind. The company also began to put strict control on their actresses, forcing them to remain virgins and not date anyone during their time with the company. Although the company has relaxed a bit since then, it is clear to see that Takarazuka Revue does not want discussions about lesbians anywhere around their business after the problems they face in the 1930s.


It is not hard to believe at some point shortly after the country was shaken by the deaths of many women who were forced to hide themselves and their true identity from the world that a character like Sapphire would come into being; inspired by the theater troupe that was at the center of these controversies. Sapphire is forced to live as a man when she wants to be the woman she knows she really is. Although it may not have been intentional on the part of Tezuka, it is the kind of story permeated by queer history that transgender people would strongly identify with.

The legacy of Princess Knight on Anime

The influence of Princess Knight can be seen in anime that is considered staples to watch during Pride Month. Shojo classics like The rose of Versailles, Revolutionary girl Utenaand Paros sword all have their roots in this piece of Tezuka’s work. These have characters with women who present themselves as men, sometimes because they have to, and other times because they want to. These are all series that members of transgender people have discussed as early moments of awakening for them.

The same can be said about Ranma 1⁄2, where the main character has a curse that turns them into a girl when they are sprayed with cold water. Throughout the series, Ranma actually accepts the aforementioned “curse”, even saying that it might not be that bad at all, and the girl side of him was always a part of him that he had not noticed before.

Princess Knight has not only received full-fledged musicals based on the story, but is considered so integrated into the history of anime and manga that it has been recreated twice. Sapphire: Princess Knight began serialization in 2008 and ended in 2009 with compromising four volumes of work. Re: Born: Kamen no Otoko to Ribon no Kishi was created to honor the series’ 60th anniversary. The restart lasted forty-three chapters before it ended.

Is Princess Knight the first transgender anime?

Without Osamu Tezuka alive to answer the question, we will probably never know if there was any influence on the lives of transgender people in the story of Princess Knight. Although it has obvious influences from queer environments and resonates strongly with transsexuals, it would not be fair to say that it was made with these viewers in mind.


It is currently accepted by most that the first manga to have a canonical trans character would be Claudine, the titular character from the 1978 story written by Riyoyo Ikeda just one year before her second work. The rose of Versailles debuted. But, Princess Knight are often taken up in these arguments as the obvious predecessor even to this day. So while we may never know for sure, the adventures of Sapphire are the ones that are guaranteed to be true for all transgender viewers who trace this classic anime from the 60’s.

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