Light Novel: Sister Princess
"Onii-chan, I love you!"
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
Sister Princess provides examples of:
- A Day In The Lime Light: Every girl gets at least one episode that focuses on them.
- 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.
- Beach Episode: The cast is stranded on a beach for a few episodes. Naturally, this leads to beach attire and the associated activities.
- 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 . 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 twelve 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 the Big Brother Relationship is the only one there is and has to fill up the role of all other relationships single-handed; all other relationships.
- This is taken Up to Eleven in the anime when each girl takes a turn 'marrying' him in a series of mock weddings. In Repure Chikage wants to force feed him an apple while he's sleeping and Sakuya weeps when she realizes she probably won't marry him for real.
- 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.
- But Not Too Foreign: Aria (French), Yotsuba (British), Haruka (German).
- Butterfly of Doom: Associated with Chikage the mystic.
- Butt Monkey: Sometimes Mami, sometimes Yamada. Sometimes both.
- Catch Phrase: Wataru's anime-only "This can't be happening to me!"/"It can't be true!", Yotsuba's "Check!", and Jeeves' "I'm just a (fill-in-the-blank), as you can see."
- Mamoru's game-only "Yaho, anii!" as a greeting, Aria's "kusun" when about to cry, and Chikage's game-only "Ya, Anii-kun" as a greeting.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Sakuya likes grabbing Wataru's arm, and interestingly enough, the attitude isn't against her sisters. It's against Wataru's male friend Akio. See the Ho Yay entry.
- Conspicuous CG: The bear email thing, and most of the shots of the giant statue on the island.
- Continuity Cameo: In Sister Princess Repure, both Mami and Yamada have a one-time appearance in Episode 9. Yamada doesn't speak in his scene but in Mami's scene, she offers Yotsuba and Rinrin curry bread.
- Crystal Ball Scheduling: Yamada watches episodes of the Super Robot show that comment exactly on what's happening in the current episode.
- Dojikko: Kaho is clumsy. It's part of her charm.
- Evil Plan: For a given value of evil Akio's plan to separate Wataru from his sisters and Promise Island is the only thing resembling an overarching plot in the series and forms the climax.
- Evolving Credits: The opening changes around halfway through the series.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: What happens with too much spice...
- Gadgeteer Genius: Rin-rin, the inventor and ambitious genius can produce high-tech items (like home-built laptop PCs with a custom operating system) overnight for literal pocket change.
- Genki Girl: Mamoru, Kaho (and Kaho's even a cheerleader in the games!), and Yotsuba.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Those sisters are closer to a bunch of obsessed fan girls than anything else.
- Harmless Villain: Mami is sent to make Wataru leave the island, but never actually does anything but observe him... and she's the one who chases after him and begs him to return when he leaves.
- Heel-Face Turn:
- Mami ends up defying her real brother to bring Wataru back to the island.
- Akio as well; after Wataru decides to stay on the island with his sisters, Akio transfers to the school on the island with Mami.
- Hermetic Magic: Chikage's style, complete with tarot cards and crystal ball.
- Humongous Mecha: Mecha-Rin-Rin, who is a separate entity from Mecha-Rin-Rin-chan.
- I Have the High Ground: Chikage in her first appearance.
- Improbably Female Cast: Wataru has 12 sisters + Mami.
- Incest Subtext: Where the series spends about 90% of its time.
- 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?" There's also 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.
- The Jeeves: Jeeves, and his various disguises.
- Joshikousei: All of the sisters wear school uniforms.
- 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...
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Jeeves and his many appearances.
- Lady and Knight: Wataru and Chikage may or may not have been a White Knight and Bright Lady in a past life depending on what you think of her Day In The Lime Light.
- Lethal Chef: Shirayuki initially, although her cooking tends to be more weird than deadly. Later she becomes quite adept... as long as she's happy.
- 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.
- Magic Realism: Around Chikage and Aria in episode 15, when a tree spirit helps her look for her ribbon, and does a lot magic around her.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Twelve and it's Justified since the girls all have the same father but different mothers; a single woman didn't give birth to all of them.
- 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.
- Ordinary High-School Student: Wataru, and Yamada when not in Large Ham mode.
- Paper-Thin Disguise
- 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.
- Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: The traditional end to an episode.
- Perpetual Poverty: Rin-rin always asking Wataru for research grants/donations.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Sakuya, and to a lesser extent, Karen and the other girls, at the end of the Wham Episode.
- Recap Episode: Wataru reflects on his past experiences with his sisters in episode 13.
- Reincarnation: Apparently it happened to Chikage and Wataru.
- 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
- Reverse Mole: Mami starts off as a true mole, but is seduced to the brother side of the force.
- Robot Girl: Mecha-Rin-rin-chan, who is a separate entity from Mecha-Rin-Rin.
- Show Within a Show: The Super Robot anime that Yamada watches and builds models for.
- 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.
- Stock British Phrases: Yotsuba spouts a few of these, particularly in the English dub.
- Stock Footage: Chikage's tarot readings.
- Stop Helping Me!: In-Universe, Wataru feels this way from time to time regarding his sisters.
- Suggestive Collision: On occasion, between Wataru and a couple of his sisters, which ends up in very embarrassing moments for him.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Yotsuba◊ does it with the Union Jack.
- 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 appears 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!