by Osamu Tezuka
published by Vertical; $13.95 US
After releasing the historically important shojo manga Princess Knight by Osamu Tezuka, two years later Vertical brings out the sequel, The Twin Knights.
It’s just as wacky and action-packed as its predecessor, and it has the same Disneyesque look. And just as before, there’s a cross-dressing princess.
Princess Sapphire, the hero of Princess Knight, is now Queen of Silverland, and she’s just given birth to twins. However, the court nobles are already fighting about whether Princess Violetta or Prince Daisy (?) will ascend to the throne. Thanks to random chance, the prince is chosen. (Or it could be that this story was originally published from 1958-1959, so the attitudes aren’t the most modern.)
Duchess Dahlia wanted the princess selected, and she’s a sore loser, so she kidnaps the prince. When the public demands to see the heir, the king and queen decide to have Violetta dress as her missing brother on alternate days, thus evoking the premise of the parent series.
Yes, this requires an awful lot of suspension of disbelief, since the normal thing to do when a prince goes missing is to announce the crime and hunt down the participants, instead of pretending that nothing is wrong. (Maybe then, 15 years later, the same villains wouldn’t kidnap the royal parents.) That’s not even the oddest bit, though, as the abandoned prince gets raised by a deer turned human by the Goddess of the Forest. That aspect at least fits in with the fairy-tale atmosphere Tezuka is evoking.
The cartooning is amazing, active and suspenseful, particularly when the Slobb monster attacks in the forest. (It looks like a cross between a fat leopard and Pegleg Pete from the early Mickey Mouse cartoons.) Typical of Tezuka, when things slow down, new characters appear, from Prince White (love interest) and his twin brother Prince Black (bad guy) to Emerald, Queen of the Gypsies (best character in the book). There’s plenty of fencing and horse-riding and magical flowers and even the occasional fairy.
This is a hard book to read all at once, because there’s an awful lot going on. If you don’t pay attention, the characters become confused (since the two main players are pretending to be other people, that’s not surprising) and the twists overwhelming. So portion your chapters. (The publisher provided a review copy.)