02 Aug / The Twin Knights by Osamu Tezuka, translated by Maya Rosewood
In order to fully enjoy this manga, you first need to read its prequel, Princess Knight (in two volumes in English translation). Come back when you’re finished … this will wait.
For those of you already familiar with the gender-bender tale of the cross-dressing Princess, welcome back to Silverland where now-Queen Sapphire has given birth to twins Daisy (the boy) and Violetta (the girl). Before even their first day has passed, the powers-that-be are already arguing over which royal will be the throne’s successor. With the “entire realm … split into supporters of the Prince versus the Princess,” King Franz realizes, “Oh, right! At times like this I should ask God for a revelation.”
Instead of God, the adorable angel Tink returns earthward: “God is currently away on business, so I came here in his stead.” His decision via bow toss points to Prince Daisy as the noble heir. In a jealous fury, Princess Violetta’s support team kidnap the sleeping baby boy and arrange for him to die out in the wild woods, Snow White-style. An especially maternal deer (who’s granted the ability to become a human by day – she needs hands, after all, to provide proper baby care) rescues the sweet prince and raises him to adulthood.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, the King and Queen dare not reveal their tragic loss to their trusting subjects, and instead raise Princess Violetta as both Prince and Princess. Cross-dressing privileges and consequences both ensue. Gypsies, hunts, henchmen, and yet another pair of royal twins are all necessary to eventually reunite the royal family …
Whimsy aside, just as he questioned in Princess Knight, the legendary Osamu Tezuka doesn’t shy away from challenging subjects here, from gender politics, equality and equity, class issues, to questions of identity, definitions of morality, and more. Even as a half-century has passed since its original Japanese debut, Tezuka’s sociopolitical concerns remain – for better or for worse – as timely as ever.
Serious, yes, but Tezuka never forgets he’s in the entertainment business: he’s still laughing throughout, especially at himself. From inserting his own shocked image – “Why the hell is Osamu Tezuka hidin’ out here?” a character demands in the midst of a ferocious battle – to constantly plugging the joys of manga at any opportunity he gets – hiding out reading comics, “cool[ing] off” with comics, and admiring beautifully unblemished hands could only belong to a comic artist. From silly to somber in a single panel, Tezuka proves yet again why he’ll always be the undisputed godfather of manga.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2013 (United States)