Anime: Shokojo Sera
aka: A Little Princess Sara
Also known as "Princess Sara", "A Little Princess Sara", "Princesse Sarah" (France), "Lovely Sara" (Italy), "Sally" (Arabic-speaking countries), "Die Kleine Prinzessin Sara" (Germany) and "Sarah, Ang Munting Prinsesa" (Philippines).Shokojo Sera
, directed by Fumio Kurokawa, is an anime
adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's novel, A Little Princess
. Though remarkably faithful to the original text, this series is an excellent example of Adaptation Expansion
, expanding the novel to 46 episodes of 22 minutes each, and adding new characters and situations.
The story remains fundamentally the same: Sara Crewe, a little girl of almost nine, is the daughter of a wealthy English widower living in India. To complete her education, she is sent to a "Select Seminary For Young Ladies" in London, run by the forbidding Miss Minchin
and her kind but ineffectual sister, Amelia. Though Miss Minchin takes a dislike to her, Sara wins over most of the pupils with her kindness and her storytelling skills. Among the most important friends she makes are the kind-hearted class dunce, Ermengarde
, the scullery maid, Becky, and the school's youngest pupil, Lottie (aged 4), who has also lost her mother and whom Sara unofficially "adopts"
. She is also a gifted pupil - especially in French, her late mother's language - which earns her the admiration of the Mayor's wife during a school inspection. The quintessential Alpha Bitch
, Lavinia, resents her wealth and popularity, and this gets worse when Sara learns that her father has invested in diamond mines, and replaces Lavinia as the class representative.
However, on her eleventh birthday, Sara receives news that changes everything...
: the diamond mines turned out to be worthless, and Captain Crewe has died penniless of "jungle fever". Left a pauper, Sara is made to work as a servant, forbidden from associating with her former classmates, and ill-treated almost beyond endurance by Miss Minchin and Lavinia. She tries her best to remain strong and stay hopeful, even in the face of enormous hardships, but she's only human, after all..
After numerous glimmers of hope
that all end up miserably, she is finally delivered through the agency of fate and a kindly neighbor, and reclaims her former position as the school's beloved "Diamond Princess".
This series was the 1985 (11th) installment of Nippon Animation's World Masterpiece Theater
series, whose specialty was the adaptation of various well- and not-so-well-known classics of children's literature into anime
series. Though relatively unknown in English-speaking countries, it was wildly popular in France and several other European countries, as well as in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. in fact, the Filipinos even made a live-action movie back in 1997 based on the anime starring the youth stars of its time. According to The Other Wiki
, one poll of Japanese viewers places it among the 100 best Japanese animated series.
In 2009, a drama of 10 episodes was made, starring Shida Mirai as Seira, Tanabe Seiichi as a French teacher and Higuchi Kanako as the Japanese counterpart to Miss Minchin, Mimura Chieko. This version took more liberties with the original material than the anime, making Sara/Seira an adolescent, and giving her a love interest.
A lot of the tropes in this series are already covered at A Little Princess. Tropes exclusive to Shokojo Sera include the following:
- The Abridged Series: "Princess Sarah by Hambog ng Sagpro Films". Can be viewed here. However, it's currently only in Tagalog.
- Accidental Kiss: In Episode 40, while playing the raisin game, two little girls do this.
- Adult Fear: The series deals with several. For a parent, the most relevant would be "What will become of my beloved child if I die suddenly, or fail to provide for them?" and "What if the seemingly ideal school I put my child into turned out to be nothing of the sort?" A number of other adolescent and adult fears - bullying, loss of social status, ostracism, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, alcoholism and child labor - are also woven seamlessly into the main arc of the story.
- A Friend in Need: This is one of the defining themes of this entire series. Where do I begin? Sara saves Ermengarde from bullying, gives the browbeaten Becky a reason to hope, helps Peter find a job after his father is injured, and acts as a mother to Lottie - and they all return the favor, in spades, after Sara has lost her fortune.
- After-School Cleaning Duty: One of Becky and Sara's many duties as scullery maids.
- Adaptation Expansion: The series adds period color, fleshes out several key characters (Miss Minchin, Ermengarde, Lavinia), expands on some who were only mentioned in passing in the novel (Monsieur Dufarge, Aunt Eliza, Molly the cook). It also adds an important character, Sara's carriage driver Peter, who quite understandably has a crush on her, played mostly for laughs.
- All Is Well That Ends Well: Sara recovers her fortune and is adopted by her father's best friend and Becky is saved from drudgery and becomes Sara's companion. But what of the villains? Not only do they get off scot-free, but they undergo a last-minute change of heart, and everyone is friends at the end.
- All-Loving Hero: Sara.
- Alone in a Crowd: After Sara leaves the seminary, she spends some time wandering around the streets of London in a daze, until she is knocked down and berated by an unfriendly passer-by.
- Alpha Bitch: Lavinia
- Amoral Attorney: Solicitor Barrow, who is portrayed as even more unpleasant than in the novel, and ill-mannered to boot - for example, he puffs away at his cigar in front of Miss Minchin.
- Asleep in Class: A particularly tragic example. Exhausted by her hard work and the cold weather, Sara falls asleep in front of the fire when she's supposed to be cleaning the classroom. She is rudely awakened and berated by Lavinia and her friends, and after a small accident with Caesar the cat, she is sent out in the rain, falls prey to a Wounded Gazelle Gambit, and falls seriously ill.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Dr. Wilde, who is not only incompetent, but a hopeless alcoholic who drinks openly in front of Miss Minchin, and can be found in seedy bars.
- Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: When Sara was still rich, Jessie and Gertrude try to do this to Lavinia on more than one occasion.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Throughout the series, Amelia Minchin is portrayed as sympathetic to Sara, but too much under her sister's thumb to do anything about it. But once she realizes just what Miss Minchin's behavior may have cost them near the end of the series, she gives her a verbal lashing that will have every viewer cheering wildly. This continues in the finale, where she actually is portrayed as more dominant and self-assured.
- Blondes Are Evil: Lavinia embodies this trope with every inch of her unbelievable bitchiness.
- Lottie, however, averts this.
- Book Dumb: Ermengarde, whose father - a university professor - finds this exasperating.
- Bowdlerization: In episode 16, there was a scene where Lottie had a nightmare. First, she is seen on the meadow, dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, collecting flowers. Suddenly, a wolf shows up and stars chasing her. Lottie runs away into the dark, spooky forest with deformed trees making scary faces and calling her name. When she leaves the forest, she finds a small hut, much to her relief. She opens the door, noticing there's someone lying in the bed. It turns out to be the wolf, which jumps out of the bed and attempts to eat Lottie, waking up the frightened girl. This was really creepy, considering this is an anime meant for kids. The forest scene was deemed too scary and was cut in the French dub.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Lottie.
- Break the Cutie: Done over a shorter time span than in the original novel, but at much higher intensity - Miss Minchin and Lavinia seem to consider humbling and breaking Sara their raison d'etre.
- Break the Haughty: Many viewers experienced vicious delight in seeing Lavinia slapped, broken and reduced to tears by her father when he learns of his daughter's demeanor towards Sara.
- Butt Monkey: Ermengarde, Becky and especially Sara in the second part of the story.
- Canon Foreigner: Peter, as well as a couple of memorable minor characters - the Good Samaritan dressmaker, and the perennially-drunk Dr. Wilde.
- Cats Are Mean: Miss Minchin's cat favorite pass time seems to be standing in the stars and scare and/os snub the girls.
- Chekhov's Gun: Soon after her father's death, Sara tries to find out more about the circumstances surrounding it. With Peter's help, she writes a letter to the police in Bombay, asking for information. The reply to this letter arrives at the Seminary, with perfect timing, just as Sara is found by Mr. Carrisford at last, and allows all her friends to find out about her good fortune.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Ermengarde's Aunt Eliza. At the beginning, she's just a sympathetic and scatterbrained relative, with a penchant for herbal teas and potions. But as things go horribly wrong later on, it turns out that one of her home-made medicines actually saves Sara's life.
- Cinderella Circumstances: Literally, but also meta-fictionally. At the beginning of the story, Sara tells Becky the story of Cinderella, and tells her that Cinderella ended up being a very happy young girl in the end. This is pretty much what happens to both of them at the end of their tribulations.
- Cool Big Sis: Sara is this to Lottie and the other younger girls.
- Cool Teacher: Monsieur Dufarge, who not only stands up to Miss Minchin, but becomes a father figure to Sara, and encourages her to continue studying even when she has lost everything. This does not end well for him.
- Corporal Punishment: Narrowly averted. Miss Minchin is about to beat Ermengarde for leaving school (to visit her aunt on her birthday) without getting her permission first, but Sara intercedes and offers to take the beating for her, as she was the one who took her out in her carriage. Miss Minchin, realizing that Sara is an important pupil - this is before her fall from grace - is forced to desist, and unwillingly lets Ermengarde off the hook.
- Costume Porn: Sara's clothing is portrayed in this way at the beginning. There's an even more dramatic example at the end, when she reduces Miss Minchin to incoherence by simply meeting her in a diamond-encrusted dress, and sweetly greeting her with "Hello, Headmistress!"
- Cultural Translation: The Italian dub makes some changes that are difficult to explain, but may be the result of this. For starters, the title becomes "Lovely Sara", whereas Sara does not consider herself particularly "lovely"; neither is her personal appearance the point of the series. Perhaps even more unnecessarily, the names of several characters are changed: Lottie (Charlotte) becomes Lalla, Emily becomes Priscilla, etc. Considering that both those names can be translated into Italian (Carlotta and Emilia), one wonders what exactly the dubbing squad had in mind.
- Darkest Hour: In keeping with the general tenor of this series, there are actually three of them. First, when Sara is on the point of dying of fever, and Dr. Wilde writes her off. Second, when the Magic is discovered by Miss Minchin, and Sara is sent to sleep in a stable, in the dead of winter. Finally, and most heartbreakingly, when Sara leaves the seminary, and is reduced to selling matches. Things work out well in the end, though.
- Declaration of Protection: For a young boy who's not yet in his teens, Peter certainly tries hard to be Sara's knight in shining armour. Perhaps it's because he's grateful to her for having gotten him a job in the first place, perhaps it's because he's sort of fallen for her already, but he will help his mistress come what may. When Solicitor Barrow comes to seize her possessions, he physically opposes this, to the point of being manhandled by James. And later, when Sara is homeless, he takes her into his home.
- Despair Event Horizon: Sara comes perilously close to this on two occasions. The first is when she's mistaken for a beggar by a generous little boy, and given sixpence - she controls herself at the moment, but returns to her room and weeps her heart out in a scene that will leave few viewers unmoved. The second is when she is unjustly thrown out of the Seminary, and wanders the streets of London, lost and alone, while a mournful, childlike song plays in the background. However, with a little help from her friends (Becky the first time, Peter the second), she just manages to survive.
- Deus ex Machina: Mr. Carrisford, who turns out to be Sara's father's childhood friend - he not only retrieves their original losses on the diamond mines, but becomes incredibly wealthy, and adopts Sara at the end.
- Disappeared Dad: Captain Ralph Crewe dies in India, alone and ruined, believing that the diamond mines have failed. His actual death is not shown on-screen - the news reaches the Seminary through Captain Crewe's solicitor, and Sara is shown going realistically through all the stages of grief. It's perhaps fitting that, in the very last episode, Sara travels to India to kneel before his grave.
- Driven by Envy: In episode 39, Lavinia tells Ermengarde that this is one of the motives for her constant cruelty to Sara. To be precise, Lavinia originally envied Sara because she was wealthier, prettier, and better at French than her. However, even after her fall, she still behaves in a dignified and serene manner - and Lavinia cannot bear this.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Pretty much the point of the story, the moral being that if you persevere in doing what is right and stay true to your principles, you will be rewarded, regardless of how much degradation you have to endure along the way.
- Easily Forgiven: After all that she's been put through, Sara not only lets Miss Minchin off the hook, but makes a donation of several thousand pounds to the Seminary. This is a notable deviation from the original novel, and an example of Sara's general policy of forgiveness throughout the series, though it's set up by Amelia Minchin's revelations about her sister's painful past in Episode 40.
- Education Mama: Professor St. John, Ermengarde's father, is an Education Papa. He's a university professor, speaks several foreign languages, and lives surrounded by books. Naturally, he expects his daughter to be a high achiever as well - unfortunately, Ermengarde can't quite do it. This leads him to criticize her in front of Miss Minchin, and to advise her to use strict measures with her.
- Establishing Character Moment: For Sara, it's her first encounters with Peter, Ermengarde and Becky. For Miss Minchin, it's her first class with Sara, where she mistakenly believes that Sara was being impertinent with her, and begins to nurse a grudge that lasts all of 44 episodes. For Lavinia, it's her first meeting with Sara, where she tries to get her around to her way of thinking.
- Everything Is Better With Monkeys: Ram Dass' monkey Surya, who provides much-needed comic relief at times, and also helps bring about the crucial encounter between Sara and Mr. Carrisford.
- Extreme Doormat: Most of the good characters are this, including Sara, Becky, Ermengarde and Amelia Minchin.
- Fallen Princess: Sara.
- Fired Teacher: Monsieur Dufarge, after Lavinia misrepresents his relationship with Sara to Miss Minchin.
- Foreshadowing: Used to great effect in two early episodes. In episode 5, Lottie goes missing, and Sara goes looking for her all over London in her carriage, comes back empty-handed, and then spots her, almost by accident, in a park just opposite the Seminary. This exactly parallels Mr. Carrisford and Mr. Carmichael's later search for Sara - chasing a false trail in France, before finding her in the Seminary right next to them. In episode 8, Sara wonders what it would be like to be Cinderella, only to find out for herself when her father loses his fortune and dies suddenly.
- Five-Bad Band: Their objective is to humiliate Sara rather than take over the world, but they're evil all the same - though many of them undergo precipitous changes of heart near the end.
- The Big Bad: Miss Minchin, who has it in for Sara from episode 2, and who openly encourages the other members of the band to attack their victim.
- The Dragon: Molly the cook, whose hobby is being vicious to Sara and Becky.
- The Evil Genius: Lavinia. Good Lord, Lavinia. Only the fact that she's a girl of twelve or thirteen, in a Victorian boarding school, limits the kinds of schemes she can dream up.
- The Brute: James, Molly's husband, who is short-tempered, and physically abusive to Becky.
- The Dark Chick: Jessie. She's good at mocking people and reducing them to tears, and she's the second-in-command of Lavinia's Girl Posse.
- ..also featuring..
- The Sixth Ranger: Gertrude, who is not so much evil as just a follower and admirer of Lavinia's. Notably, she's portrayed more comically than Jessie - she's overweight (and gets mocked for the same) and is often slow to catch on to what's happening.
- Five-Man Band: Actually four girls and one man, but the principle holds good:
- The Hero: Sara.
- The Lancer: Becky, who is Sara's inseparable companion and Girl Friday through all their misfortune.
- The Smart Guy: Peter, street-smart, plucky and resourceful. And he has a crush on Sara to boot.
- The Big Guy: Ermengarde. Not the most articulate or intelligent, but loyal, gentle and even motherly - think of the time she looks after a gravely ill Sara for an entire night, or how she tries to care for Lottie when Sara isn't around.
- The Chick: Lottie. She can be annoying at times, but she often stands up for Sara when no one else does.
- as well as
- Team Pet: Caesar the fat cat, who provides many of the show's rare moments of comic relief.
- The Mentor: Monsieur Dufarge, a father-figure for Sara until he is forced to leave.
- The Sixth Ranger: Amelia Minchin, who genuinely likes and admires Sara, refuses to join the others in demeaning her, and tries to be kind to her whenever this is possible.
- Friendship Moment: This trope, alone, often single-handedly keeps Sara from sinking deep into despair. For examples, we have: Ermengarde refusing to betray Sara even under threat of punishment, Peter helping Sara with her arduous errands, Monsieur Dufarge giving her a book, Lottie standing up for "Mamma Sara" when Lavinia tries to take her doll away, and just about every scene involving Becky in the middle of the series.
- Friend to All Living Things: Sara's animal friends include a parrot (who can only speak one word, "Sara") and a pony. After her fall from grace, she makes friends with several more, including a family of rats in her room, the sparrows outside her window-sill, and even the Seminary's sleepy cat, Caesar. She also successfully rescues Ram Dass' monkey, Surya, who has wandered away from his home and is out in the snow.
- Freudian Excuse: towards the end, Amelia tells Sara that one of the main reasons for her sister's crappy behaviour is that her parents died when she was a little girl. As a result, she worked as a domestic help, put herself through school as a charity pupil, and single-handedly raised and educated her little sister. She was finally rewarded for her efforts by being able to start her own Seminary - but at the cost of making her hard and avaricious. This knowledge probably explains why Miss Minchin is Easily Forgiven by Sara at the end.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Sara is sent to fetch the alcoholic Dr. Wilde to treat Amelia Minchin, she has to enter a seedy area where she passes several "women of easy virtue", almost has the contents of a chamber pot dropped on her head, and finally finds him in a bar, where he is completely inebriated and leers at her. (In the French dub, he addresses her as "belle enfant", which borders on a pick-up line.) Not to forget that, in his drunkenness, he literally sleeps on her shoulder during the coach ride to the Seminary. Pretty heavy stuff, considering the major target audience for this series.
- Girl Friday: Becky to Sara, after the latter loses her fortune.
- Girl Posse: Jessie and Gertrude play this role as foils to Lavinia.
- Good Samaritan: Mrs. Brown, the baker, in the episode where Sara finds a sixpence when she is starving. Sara then continues the chain reaction by giving all but one of her buns to a starving beggar-girl, Anne. Donald Carmichael, on two occasions: when he mistakes her for a beggar and gives her sixpence, and later when he buys matches from her on a cold winter day. The dressmaker mentioned below (see Redemption in the Rain) also qualifies.
- Gray Rain of Depression: Rain is to Shokojo Sera what fog is to Bleak House, and the weather symbolizes the mood of the series for most of the second half of the anime.
- Halloween Episode: Near the end of the series, the Seminary stages a Halloween party, which Sara is allowed to attend thanks to Amelia Minchin's intercession. She even gets to take part in the party games with the other girls, and helps Lottie carve her pumpkin. However, this being Shokojo Sera, things go horribly wrong: Lavinia and her friends terrorize Lottie by dressing up as ghosts, causing her to drop her lantern and accidentally set the stable on fire, unknown to her. Sara ends up taking the fall for this, and is thrown out of the Seminary as a result.
- Heel-Face Turn: Miss Minchin undergoes one at the very end. She is even seen holding the Seminary cat in her arms, in a fairly obvious example of Pet the Dog, to indicate this.
- Heroic BSOD: Sara, when Miss Minchin pushes her past her breaking point, causing her to leave the Seminary.
- Honor Before Reason: In the anime, unlike in the novel, Sara seems to fit this trope quite well, believing that - despite all her trials - she must not run away, but must remain at the Seminary and face life there. She even makes it explicit in episode 39 when she turns down Peter's offer to run away from the Seminary and stay with his family. This becomes especially poignant three episodes later, where Sara is kicked out of the Seminary anyway by an irate Miss Minchin, who falsely accuses her of setting fire to the stable.
- Kawaiiko: Lottie falls halfway between this and Cheerful Child - she's almost deliberately cute and childlike, but it's understandable given her age, and when she's with Sara her behavior seems more natural. However, her tendency to burst into tears tends to spoil the effect for some. Sara explicitly refers to her as kawaii in Episode 16. Sara's doll, Emily, is also described as such by Ermengarde, and episode 5 has a, well, kawaii shot of Lottie holding Emily against her cheek.
- Keet: Donald Carmichael, though he is toned down a bit compared to his portrayal in the novel (and especially the play) that this series is based on.
- Kick the Dog: Miss Minchin literally does this towards the end, when she sends the Seminary's cat, Cesar, flying with a boot while in a foul mood. The cat gets its revenge in the same episode, though.
- Lonely Doll Girl: Sara becomes one when she is exiled to the attic and forbidden to speak to her former classmates: apart from Becky, her only companion is Emily, the precious French doll that her father gave her as a parting gift. This makes Lavinia's attempts to take Emily from her close to unforgivable.
- Make Way For The Bitch: Lavinia eats, drinks, and breathes this trope. With a vengeance.
- Maiden Aunt: Aunt Eliza. She's rather absent-minded, and Ermengarde's father thinks of her as stupid. But she dotes on her niece, is courteous even to Sara's coach driver, Peter, and her skills at making herbal medicines eventually save Sara's life.
- Manipulative Bitch: Lavinia.
- Meido: Sara's French maid, Mariette, is portrayed in this way - despite her nationality, she is a kind and quiet girl who gives Sara valuable insights into the lives of servants. Subverted with Becky, the scullery maid, and later with Sara herself - they are dressed as maids, but there's absolutely no Fanservice intended.
- My Greatest Failure: Mr. Carrisford, though dismissed as having "cheated" Ralph Crewe by Solicitor Barrow (episode 19), is basically an honourable man who is haunted and driven ill by guilt at having failed his friend. In fact, his initial motive for helping out Sara is that he sees an opportunity to atone for his past errors.
- Ojou: Sara, of course. Becky and Peter continue to address her as Ojou-sama even after she loses her fortune, though she protests and tries - unsuccessfully - to get Peter to address her as just "Sara".
- OneeSama: Miss Minchin is always addressed this way by her younger sister Amelia, making a good example of the type 3 use (awe/fear) of this title.
- One-Gender School: Miss Minchin's Select Seminary For Young Ladies is exactly what it says. Justified in that the story is set in Victorian England, where gender-specific schools were the rule. They do have a male teacher (Monsieur Dufarge) on the staff, but not for very long.
- Pet the Dog: Amelia Minchin does this on several occasions. In the final episode, as a sign of her change of heart, Miss Minchin also holds Caesar the cat in her arms as she waves goodbye to Sara.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Peter very often serves this function.
- Plucky Girl: Sara, definitely. Becky as well.
- Puppy Love: Peter has got it bad for Sara, and they certainly make a cute couple in episode 19.
- Princess for a Day: Halfway through the series, the Mayor's wife - who was charmed by Sara's French skills in an earlier episode - announces her intention to visit the Seminary again, and mentions her desire to see Sara again in her letter. As Miss Minchin is counting on her for financial support, she dare not tell her the truth about Sara - and reluctantly agrees to let her take her place in class for one day, wearing clothes kindly lent her by Ermengarde, during which she movingly reads out a slightly bowdlerized version of Baudelaire's L'Etranger.
- Promotion to Parent: Sara becomes Lottie's "mamma" in Episode 5. At the very end, Mr. Carrisford becomes Sara's new father in all but name.
- Redemption in the Rain: Subverted. Sara goes out in pouring rain to try and get Lavinia's ruined dress cleaned, and succeeds thanks to a kindly dressmaker. However, on returning, Lavinia falsely accuses her of having purposely ruined the dress out of jealousy, and she is further ill-treated, leading to her falling almost fatally ill.
- The Resenter: Lavinia.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Miss Minchin receives a memorable one from her sister Amelia in the next-to-last episode. This also counts as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- The Reveal: "Sara, I am your dead father's best friend, and have recovered his lost fortune several times over. And it's all for you."
- Sadist Teacher: Miss Minchin.
- The Storyteller: Sara. She is beloved by all the younger girls in the Seminary, as well as Becky, for this.
- Shout-Out: Two, to classic fairy tales. Early on in the series, Sara narrates the story of Cinderella to her classmates, and an obvious parallel is drawn between her and Becky, which extends to Sara herself later on. "The Little Match Girl" is referenced by a character in the middle, and when Sara decides to leave the Seminary after being falsely accused of arson, she becomes a match-seller herself. Lampshaded by Donald Carmichael in episode 43: "Say, Mama... that girl really became the match girl!" In a lesser example, Sara names her pony Jump, which is the name of Dickon's pony in Burnett's other great work, The Secret Garden.
- Shown Their Work: This series does an excellent job of recreating London circa 1885, complete with realistic social, historical, and even geographical material.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Maria and Amelia Minchin are a particularly elaborate example. Maria is thin, with an angular face, bad-tempered, sensitive to any perceived slight, enterprising, mean to the school cat, spends her time studying, and is the school's authority figure. Amelia is plump, round-faced, good-humoured to the point of submissiveness, silently takes everything that her respected elder sister dishes out, is good at embroidery and playing the piano, is friendly to the cat, is not above reading "women's novels", and is firmly under Maria's thumb. This makes their role reversal at the end all the more awesome.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This series begins firmly at the idealistic end, spends a good two-thirds depicting many characters as evil or indifferent, and then comes full circle.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The French and Italian theme songs are happy, light-hearted pop songs that are in stark contrast to the actual content of the series. If this was unintentional, then it would count as Narm.
- Take That: Sara endures constant humiliation and degradation at Lavinia's hands, but eventually triumphs through hard work, sheer strength of character, and good fortune via a Deus ex Machina. Lavinia ends up crushed and, unable to swallow this, returns to her home country - America, where her father has made a fortune. In oil. It's hard to believe this was unintentional, as the setting is British and all the other pupils are implicitly British; the original novel makes no mention of Lavinia being American, and most of the characters of all other nationalities (Indian, French, British) are portrayed sympathetically - even Miss Minchin has her Freudian Excuse and an overt Pet the Dog moment at the end. To take this further, it's tempting to see Sara's story arc as an allegory for post-World War II Japan, which would explain why she often shows Yamato Nadeshiko-like traits. Also see Earn Your Happy Ending, above.
- Teacher's Pet: Lavinia is a straight example: Miss Minchin adores her, because she's wealthy and defers to her. Subverted with Sara - Monsieur Dufarge likes her because of her impeccable French accent, but she's kind to the other students, plays with them and tells them stories, and never gets more than grudging admiration from Miss Minchin - which soon turns to hatred.
- Tender Tears: Though they're all strong characters, Sara, Becky and Ermengarde all show their sensibility at various points in the show exactly in this manner. Miss Amelia cannot contain hers either, in the episode where Miss Minchin cruelly returns Sara's unread letters to her father.
- Those Two Girls: Jessie and Gertrude, Lavinia's Girl Posse.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Becky and Sara.
- Turn the Other Cheek: Sara does this throughout the series, but most spectacularly at the end where she not only returns as a day-scholar to Miss Minchin's Seminary, even though Miss Minchin has made her life hell for months, but makes a ludicrously high donation to the seminary.
- Villainous BSOD: Miss Minchin has a particularly protracted one in the next-to-last episode. First, when she visits Mr. Carrisford's house and sees Sara restored to princess status, she is reduced to near-incoherence and makes her way home in a daze. On returning home, she receives a lecture from her sister Amelia that reduces her to tears, and finally leads her to admit that she'd been a fool to act the way she did.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Played completely straight with Sara, though it doesn't end as badly as it usually does.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Sara is a very good example of a Yamato Nadeshiko in training, even if we allow for the disparity in cultures. It's in the seiyuu. To wit: she's kind, docile, obedient to authority, and humble despite her great wealth - and she continues to display all those traits even in the worst sort of adversity. She also looks the part, except for the short hair.
The 2009 drama has examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Either the adults are downright evil (Mimura Chieko), clueless (Mimura Emiko) or genuinely want to help (Aran-sensei) but doesn't have the power to.
- Affably Evil: As the series continues, we see that both Director Chieko and Maria have Hidden Depths and despite treating Seira horribly, they aren't entirely irredeemable.
- Aloof Ally: Kaori openly expresses disgust at the way Maria treats Seira and is the only one who actually stands up to Maria and can get away with it. However, she expresses more of an interest in why Seira puts up with Maria than actually wanting to help her.
- Alpha Bitch: Who else but Takeda Maria, the counterpart of Lavina?
- Big Brother Instinct: Despite Kaori saying her family aren't close, her older brother comes in to visit her.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Yukari acts all friendly and cute, but really, she's a nasty piece of work, purposely stepping on Seira's injured foot to give her the advantage. And when Masami was helping, she nearly stepped on Masami's hand to stop her.
- Break the Cutie: It's like everyone is after the poor girl. In fact, Kaito, Masami and the two mice might be the only reason why Seira hasn't broken completely.
- Bumbling Dad: To the surprise of many, Maria's father is this.
- Catch Phrase: Seira often says that "all girls are princesses". It means much to her because her deceased mother used to say it as her catch phrase.
- Childhood Marriage Promise: According to Kaito's friend Yukari, he promised her this when they were kids.
- Cute and Psycho: For most of the time, Director Mimura Chieko is calm and cool as a cucumber. However, when Seira (or when she's reminded of Seira's dead mother) appeals to her in a wrong way, she utterly snaps and begins shrieking and slapping said victim (usually Seira).
- Daddy's Girl: Seiri is close with her father, after her mother had died when she was very young.
- Dean Bitterman: Mimura Chieko who runs the school and absolutely hates Seira, saying it right to her face.
- Distaff Counterpart: Kaito is essentially Becky. Only male.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Mimura Chieko had quite a grudge against Seira's mother. But since Seira's mother is dead, she would just it out on the next closest thing: her daughter. It doesn't help that Seira acts almost identical with her mother.
- Doting Parent: Seira's father dotes and spoils her, but in a subversion, she is Spoiled Sweet.
- Drowning My Sorrows: When she is insulted by her sister or feeling depressed, Emiko has a few rounds and starts to ramble angrily about her dominating sister.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Both Seira and Kaito do this to each other. While waiting for the train, Seira falls asleep and Kaito simply kisses her on the forehead. And before Seira left the school, she gives Kaito a kiss on the cheek.
- Easily Forgiven: As with the anime, Mimura Chieko and Maria, despite treating Seira like dirt, were forgiven and they both treat Seira much nicer in the ending. Interestingly, it was subverted with the cook, who was demoted to Seira's job and moaned how she should have treated Seira better.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Seira, despite not being a princess. And both her and her mother like to say how "all girls are princesses".
- Everyone Looks Sexier If French: Aran-sensei the French teacher
- Fallen Princess: Despite not being a princess, Seira is one, having went from riches to rags.
- Flash Back Echo: So, so much. In fact, there are certain things that affect Mimura Chieko whether positively or negatively, though we don't know the reason until we see her Flash Back.
- When they first meet, Seira fixes Maria's tie. In Mimura Chieko's flashback, it was Seira's mother who fixes Chieko's tie when they first meet.
- Maria as Juliet fumbles her lines briefly in the Romeo and Juliet play. Which reminded Director Chieko of how she messed up her lines when she acted as Juliet. We find out that Seira's mother was originally suppose to be Juliet, but fell sick and Chieko had to take her place last minute. And Chieko knew that her performance was nothing compared to Seira's mother's would-be performance. Similar to how most people knew Seira was the better choice for playing Juliet compared to Maria.
- Similar with the above example, Seira was re-enacting Juliet's part on stage after the performance had long ended. Her actions and expressions were exactly like her mother's. Even their circumstances were similar, as Seira was denied the role and Seira's mother was sick and both of them perform Juliet's role secretly Also how Chieko had accidentally stumbled upon their performances is quite similar.
- As Romi throws a temper tantrum, Seira gathers her up in her arms and hugs her until she calms down. When Aran-sensei was a child and had gotten lost, Chieko was the one doing this to him.
- The Fool: Emiko, who is this and The Ditz. She cannot make a decision on her own, letting her sister run everything and despite having good intentions, she does nothing to help Seira, who she knows is suffering.
- Friend to All Children: Seira was the only person who was able to calm Romi's tantrum and after that, Romi followed her around like a little puppy.
- Friend to All Living Things: Seira isn't afraid of the two mice in her room, even feeding them scrapes of her food. Same thing with Kaito, who was first shown befriending the mice.
- Genki Girl: Seira's mother was constantly cheerful, energetic and always smiling.
- Happily Adopted: Masami was in fact adopted. And in the end, Seira gets adopted by her father's friend.
- Heartwarming Orphan: The orphaned Seira brings out many moments of heartwarming, even in the face of despair and loneliness.
- Hope Spot: Maria told the chef, his wife, Kaito and Seira that they will be participating in the play with them. Almost immediately, Seira hopes that she would be able to play Juliet, the role she always dreamed of playing, despite knowing Maria hates her. And Maria doesn't disappoint, cruelly slamming her back to reality by giving her an offstage role, not even allowing her to appear in the play. Another character lampshades this, showing disgust at how cruel Maria was to do it to Seira.
- Hot Teacher: With Tanabe Seiichi playing a French teacher, we all knew this was going to happen.
- Insult Backfire: While cleaning up spilt soup that Maria purposely spilled on Seira's head, Maria sneers that she looks like a mouse. Seira returns it by thanking her and replying that she likes mice.
- Kick the Dog: More like slap the dog. Poor Seira.
- The chef and his wife treat Kaito and Seira quite cruelly, bullying and snapping at Seira on the first day of work, not even offer any condolences that she just found out her father was dead. And in their first appearance, when Kaito hopefully expresses the desire to go to high school to study, they merely laugh in his face and tell him that it's better if he gives up. They continue to do this for the rest of the series.
- Like Father, Like Son: Seira is like her mother in so many ways, all of which annoy the school director very much, as she had went to school with her mother.
- Love Triangle: Emiko likes Aran-sensei who's more interested in Chieko. And later, we get Kaito's old friend getting jealous of his and Seira's relationship.
- Man Child: Emiko is a cheerfully childish woman who still sleeps with a stuffed animal, in contrast to her stricter and colder sister.
- Meido: Seira is forced to wear this after she loses her fortune and has no money.
- Nice Guy: Kaito.
- Nice to the Waiter: The trait that Seira, no matter what the version, always has. She is kind to everyone, even if they treat her like dirt and order her around. Subverted by many others, such as the chef and his wife who mercilessly bully Kaito and Seira around.
- Odango: Romi, the cute little girl adopted by Seira, wears these.
- Only Child Syndrome: Seira's mother was an only child and it can be assumed so is her father (or if he had siblings, they are dead), since Mimura Chieko remarks that Seira has no relatives to come and claim her.
- Parental Substitute: Seira becomes Romi's mother during her stay at the school.
- Pet the Dog: Director Mimura Chieko treasures her student badge very much, since she earned it through hard work and determination. When Seira returns it, she is visibly happy and holds the badge tenderly. And a bit before that, she formally accepts Seira as an employee of the school and hands Seira her first paycheck.
- And after Emiko embarrasses herself in front of the parents, Chieko cheers her up in her own way and says that parties are more of her strength and even casually mentions that she herself is bad when it comes to parties.
- When Maria sees that Kaito's friend Yukari is bullying Seira, she tells Yukari to leave. Whether she doesn't like what she sees or simply doesn't like the fact that they have an outsider intruding and disrupting the peace of the school. You could say that the pride she has in the school is her Pet the Dog.
- The Pollyanna: Seira defines this trope. Even after hearing that her father is dead and she has to work as a servant, she doesn't give up.
- Promotion to Parent: After Romi decides that Seira will be her new mother after her real mother died.
- Rich Bitch: Maria, Maria, Maria. Even when her kind father wanted to visit her at school, she directly told him not to and also renamed herself, so she wouldn't have the name that her father had gave her.
- Shout-Out: Like the anime, Seira reads "Cinderella" to a few children in the first episode, foreshadowing the parallel between herself and Cinderella. She even tells the children listening that even if things look bad now, they willl turn out for the better.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Friendly, naive Emiko to strict, calculating Chieko.
- Slow Clap: Kaori mockingly does this to Maria, mentioning how the only reason why Aran-sensei left her the job to greet the French teacher who was coming to the school was because Seira wasn't there.
- Spoiled Sweet: Despite being very rich, pretty and is doted endlessly by her father, Seira turned out kind and helpful to those who need her help.
- Stepford Smiler: Seira, even when she's feeling down or plain miserable, she keeps on a smile and her cheerful attitude.
- The Stoic: Kaori who rarely shows her emotions and prefers to stay away from people to keep from getting hurt. Turns out she's Not So Stoic.
- Tagalong Kid: Romi couldn't stand being seperated from her "mother" Seira for even a second, so they had no choice but to have her shadow Seira while she works.
- Taking the Bullet: Not as dangerous as a real bullet, mind you, but still very traumatic. Maria and the rest of the class were throwing tomatoes at a submissive, humilated Seira. When Seira's friend Masami was bullied into throwing the last tomato, Kaito comes in last second to take the hit instead and spare Seira of being hit by her own friend.
- Tastes Like Friendship: After Seira returns to her room after a long day's work with minimal food, her friend Masami often comes by at night, sneaking in food for her.
- Tempting Fate: One of the last things Seira says to her father is for him to promise not go to anyplace dangerous.
- And after Seira gets kicked out from the school for not looking after the school, Maria remarked that it ended too soon and it was a boring ending. Of course, if you've read the original book, you know it's far from over and not boring in the least.
- True Companions: It would have been quite lonely and depressing for Seira if it wasn't for Kaito, the two mice and Masami helping her.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Kaito's friend Yukari, who Kaito is not interested in.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Surprisingly, Mimura Chieko was this, particularly towards a young Aran-sensei. In fact, when she was younger, Chieko wanted to be the Director of the school so she could teach girls who are less fortunate.
- Wealthy Ever After: After having her assets unfrozen, along with being adopted, Seira is wealthy once again.