When 15-year-old orphan Wataru Minakami fails to get into the high school on which he has set his heart, and to which his best friend has gained admittance, he finds himself launched unwillingly onto a journey of discovery and self-discovery. Forced by circumstances and the enigmatic adults around him to a strange island community off the coast of Japan, Wataru finds a place has been held for him at a local school, and quarters at someplace called "Welcome House".When he arrives at Welcome House, though, he receives the biggest surprise yet — waiting there for him are a baker's dozen sisters he'd never known he had. And all of them, from 8-year-old Hinako to 16-year-old Sakuya, are eager and willing to lavish him with sisterly adoration.Wataru soon finds himself overwhelmed by the unconditional love he is given by his sisters, leading him into a spiral of doubt over his ability to return it in proportion, and over his worthiness at all to receive it. Strange hints of memory add to the mix, confusing him as to whether or not he does remember ever having sisters. And one of the sisters isn't a sister at all, but the agent of a mysterious person who wants to see the happy family reunion demolished as quickly as possible.A quirky, low-key series that definitely isn't for adrenaline addicts, Sister Princess was based on one of the odder "dating simulation" games that are quite popular in Japan. Some of the atmosphere of the original game is still here (the sisters' affection can be almost incestuous at times), but the producers have moved beyond it to create a gentle, sweet story set in a kind of Magic Realism world and filled with enticing mystery. It is a "harem show" in the loosest sense of the term, but differences are refreshing and the entire thing is played only for the mildest of comedy.The means and motives of the secret "villain" add a strange counterpoint of reality to offset the fantastic elements, but the blend works, and the final confrontation is surprisingly tense after the slow, low-energy buildup that takes you there.Originally a series of light novels written by Sakurako Kimino (the writer of Strawberry Panic!), it was adapted into a manga series in 2001, followed by a game and two anime series. The first TV series aired in 2001, and was followed in 2002 by a sequel series called Sister Princess Repure.The North American release of the first season is now available through ADV Films.
Alpha Bitch: The Sister Princess games being what they are, when this trope is used at all it's downplayed. In the games, the head of Kaho's cheerleading squad is a girl with long brown hair who, when she is seen at all, is usually seen giving Kaho a lecture about Kaho's latest clumsy goof. However, since Kaho really is screwing up because Kaho can be rather clumsy, the girl's error is that she's being too harsh about it and causing Kaho to cry, not that she's giving Kaho a lecture at all. In fact, this same girl can be seen encouraging Kaho on the occasions (mostly later in Kaho's route) where Kaho gets it right.
Big Brother Worship: This particular example of this trope is justified in the PSX games: the girls all have the same father, who slept with 12 different women and had children by them note (the father himself isn't around to raise the girls for some unexplained reason; the games are less vague on backstory than the anime, to avoid breaking up the light-hearted "princess" atmosphere). Luckily for the sisters, their mothers all work in high-class careers so they have no shortage of "material comforts," but because of those high-class careers, their mothers are often too busy to serve as pillars of support, so their "Big Brother" has to be the one to not only give them love and attention, but also parental guidance when stuff happens like Kaho messes up in cheer-leading practice, or Hinako gets lost, etc. That and he's also instrumental in helping them achieve their goals, like jogging practice with Mamoru or lending money to Rinrin for her machines. The sisters worship him because he is responsible for most of their happiness and success in their lives.
Big Fancy House: The "Welcome House". How else could it house all tweleve sisters and their brother?
Brother-Sister Incest: When it's not being Big Brother Worship, it's this. All the girls are affectionate with Wataru, but none more so than Sakuya, the "adult" one; Karen has a more "pure" romantic love for him, while Chikage's is mysterious as usual. This what happens when theBig Brother Relationship is the only one there is and has to fill up the role of all other relationships single-handed; all other relationships.
In the PSX Sister Princess games, it is technically possible for the player character to get into a relationship with one of his sisters...but in scenarios where that happens, there's a sudden plot point that reveals the relationship is not blood-related, removing the (biological) incest factor. In fact, the girls in the games have a "blood-related" ending and a "non-blood related" ending. It's not for all the girls, either: the really young girls, such as Hinako or Aria, had only "sister endings" in the first PSX game, and in Sister Princess 2, the romantic routes they were given were relatively tame. For much older girls such as Sakuya the romantic endings strongly imply the possibility of marriage in the future.
Innocent Innuendo: After Haruka assists an injured Wataru in the bath, she asks him to come to her room later. Cut to commercial. In the next shot, we see visuals of the outside of Haruka's room, and hear lines like "No, Beloved Brother, don't move so suddenly!" and "Is it okay now, Haruka?" Of course, there's a bit of moaning and mood music playing as well. It's a moxibustion treatment.
Japanese Sibling Terminology: Oh, brother. Each sister calls Wataru by a different variant of "Big Brother". Many of these sound strange in English — indeed, some of the "English" equivalents are cribbed from various foreign languages — and many are rarely used in Japanese to begin with. Incidentally, ADV Films' hand was forced during their earlier release of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. The translations were decided upon when a character in that series rattles off all the Sister Princess "Big Brother" terms.
Kudzu Plot: Just how did Wataru wind up with 12 sisters he'd never met, some of whom hail from the other side of the world? Inquiring minds want to know. In the original G's Magazine stories it's shown the siblings have different mothers but the same father, who is supposedly a renowned diplomat. Of course, the saga told in G's Magazine (and the dating games) take place in a totally different reality from the first season anime series...
Supreme Chef: In the PSX games (and the sequel anime Sister Princess Repure) Shirayuki is this trope instead of Lethal Chef; in fact, in the PSX games, Shirayuki frequently shows up at school during lunch to give her brother homemade meals.
Limited Wardrobe: The characters have only a handful of outfits each, except for fashion-focused Sakuya.
Lonely Piano Piece: A slow, somber, piano version of the opening theme plays during the sadder moments, oftentimes when one or more of the sisters are dealing with loneliness due to physical or psychological separation from their brother.
Meaningful Name: Shirayuki literally means "snow white". The fairy tale Snow White is known as "Shirayuki-hime" ("Princess Snow White") in Japan; tellingly, Shirayuki refers to herself as "Hime".
Nice Hat: Hina wears a cute bear hat when she goes out looking for Mr. Teddy.
No Name Given: None of the sisters have family names and until the anime Wataru was only ever referred to by a form of "brother". This makes it impossible to know for sure whether they're half-sisters or full sisters to each other.
In the PSX games, where the sisters all live in different houses because they all have different mothers but the same father, decided on "half-sisters" instead of full. No individualized last names are given there, however, because the player is mostly concerned with spending the time with his sisters that their high-class, career-minded mothers cannot (which is also why they idolize him to such extremes).
Offscreen Teleportation: Jeeves pulls this off in Episode 2 in his disguise as a fisherman. Wataru doesn't appear to notice.
Wataru sees right through Clover's disguise (Yotsuba), but plays along anyway. He even helps helps her get up during a chase sequence when she trips, then they "resume" the chase.
Jeeves, with the multiple identities he assumes, is more successful in fooling Wataru, though just barely.
Parental Abandonment: We never see anyone's parents for a significant chunk of the school year. The only adult around is Jeeves. Wataru asks Hinako where her mother and her father (assuming that she is lost) are when he first meets her to which she only replies with a shake of her head.
Reincarnation Romance: This is the reason Chikage's feelings towards her big brother are more than that of a sibling's: in a "past life", Chikage and Wataru were lovers, not brother and sister (although this is more "implied" than "directly stated," and more details are given in the PSX games). Unfortunately the reincarnation cycle screwed Chikage over in this life by reincarnating her into Wataru's little sister instead, presenting an obstacle to any possible rekindling of the romance. In the anime, Chikage takes this in stride and will patiently wait until her "next life" to try again, but in the PSX games, if the player pursues Chikage's "non-blood-related" route, it's possible for Chikage and her big brother to marry, since a "plot twist" reveals Chikage and her big brother aren't actually related after all. note This might be a Schrodinger's Gun: if you pursue anyone else's route but Chikage's, no mention is made of Chikage's past life at all, not even to the extent the anime hinted at it. So it might be possible that Chikage and her big brother are only reincarnated lovers if the player chooses Chikage's route; anyone else's route, and Chikage is just another sister, so the player can pursue someone else "guilt-free".
Reverse Mole: Mami starts off as a true mole, but is seduced to the brother side of the force.
Sister Or Idol Decision: Near the end of the first anime, Wataru has to choose between the prestigious Japanese student life he'd previously dreamed of when Akio offers him the opportunity again, or choose to stay with his 12 sisters. Wataru almost chooses a life of glory, but in the end decides to stay with his sisters (with a little persuasion from Mami).
Slice of Life: It's slow paced compared to some other shows, but interesting things happen to Wataru and his sisters while on the island.
Suggestive Collision: On occasion, between Wataru and a couple of his sisters, which ends up in very embarrassing moments for him.
The Unwanted Harem: Wataru's sisters, though A) In time he comes to love them and B) It's not quite clear (in the anime, anyway) if he considers them a harem rather then a family. There is very little in the way of fighting; they have a brother-sharing schedule!
Theme Tune Cameo: Shirayuki occasionally hums melodies from the background music.
Third-Person Person: Hinako, Kaho, Aria, Shirayuki (who also calls herself "Princess"), and Sakuya in the wedding episode.
Unintentional Period Piece: The show's general enthusiasm about and fascination with e-mail makes pins it firmly to the late nineties and early 2000s. Also, one episode has the girls very excited to have Rinrin's latest technological breakthrough—a handheld device that allows them to send e-mails wirelessly.
Verbal Tic: Shirayuki ends her sentences with "desu-no"; Aria is a bit of a crybaby, and whenever she utters the onomatopoeia "kusu" it means she's about to lose it. Haruka utters the onomatopoeia for "blush" when the situation calls for it.
Weddings in Japan: In episode 7, the sisters discuss their wedding plans. Also, wedding dresses!
Western Zodiac: Each girl is born under a different signs of the Zodiac.
Wham Episode: Episode 24, when Akio convinces Wataru to visit Tokyo to see the high school he should've been at.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Jeeves mysteriously appeara wherever Wataru is, and his job title changes based on where Wataru is and what he needs at the moment.
Yamato Nadeshiko: Haruka, though she's part German she fills the rest: kimono, tea ceremony, devotion to family, practices with a naginata, etc.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Akio literally has blue hair, while four of the sisters (five if you count Mami) have colors that would otherwise be impossible without dye: Shirayuki (light purple), Chikage (purple), Haruka (dark purple), and Aria (bluish white).
Zip Me Up: Sakuya asks this of Wataru in their first meeting. While she was behind a dressing room curtain, no less!