One of the most famous, if not ''the most-famous'' work by Creator/GilbertAndSullivan, ''The Mikado, or, the Town of Titipu'' opened in 1885. The story of its conception was dramatized in the 1999 film ''Film/TopsyTurvy''.

In a quite fictionalized version of Japan, Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado (the Emperor), wanders the streets as a WanderingMinstrel. Meanwhile, a hapless tailor named Ko-Ko has been saved from the chopping block and appointed High Executioner. Instructed to execute ''somebody'' before The Mikado returns, Ko-Ko happens upon Nanki-Poo, who is in love with the maiden Yum-Yum, and contemplating suicide because she's due to marry another. Seeing an opportunity, Ko-Ko decides to help Nanki-Poo have his death wish and to be with Yum-Yum. HilarityEnsues.
!!This work provides examples of:

* AbhorrentAdmirer: Katisha for Nanki-Poo
* AddedAlliterativeAppeal: Gilbert really enjoyed alliteration:
-->''To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock\\
In a pestilential prison with a life-long lock\\
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock\\
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!''
* AffablyEvil: The Mikado, who is rather calm when he threatens to boil his son's supposed killers in oil.
-->''"I'm not a bit angry."''
* AllThereInTheScript:
** Peep-Bo, the third of the "three little maids from school"; and Pish-Tush, who is not so much a character as a singing part.
* AnachronismStew: Modern productions tend to be updated with current references, especially prevalent in "The List" song.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tja8pXmO7QQ This version]] of "Mi-ya Sa-ma" features a refrain comprising most of the modern Japanese mega-corps
** A recent version with Alistair [=McGowan=] rhymed Mikado with the supermarket chain Ocado.
** The Madison (Wisconsin) Savoyards [[http://host.madison.com/wsj/entertainment/music/an-anime-take-on-the-mikado/article_82ff7b7c-0d35-50c3-b216-f5622e8ea227.html went with an anime costume design]] for their 2015 show.
* AssholeVictim: In "I've Got a Little List", Ko-Ko, now the Lord High Executioner, explains that if he's going to execute anyone, it'll be people that no one will be sorry to be rid of, criminals or not. Since many of the examples listed won't make much sense to modern audiences (or may not be very fair by today's standards) the song's lyrics are often revised or updated to feature topical examples.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: It should go without saying that basically none of the characters have actual Japanese names.
** Even the name of the play is sort of an example of this. The word ''mikado'' is presented as meaning "emperor". In fact it means the general authority of the Emperor, a bit like how the British civil government is referred to as "Downing Street". It is not a title given to a person.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Yum Yum: Beautiful=Good, Katisha: Ugly=Evil. However this trope is lampshaded and parodied as well. Yum Yum asks herself why she's the most beautiful woman in the whole world in one scene ("Can this be vanity? No!"). As for Katisha, although she is genuinely bloodthirsty and cruel, her loneliness makes her sympathetic ("Hearts do not break, they sting and ache...").
* BlackComedy
* BlueBlood
-->'''Pooh-Bah:''' I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that [[UpToEleven I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmic primordial atomic globule.]]
* {{Bowdlerise}}: A couple of N-word references are generally now re-written in "I've Got a Little List" and "My Object All Sublime."
** While in no way giving Sir William NWordPrivileges, he was referring not to actual people of African extraction, but to MinstrelShows and {{Blackface}} actors (c.f. reference to "serenader" and "blacked-like...with walnut juice", respectively), a cheap gimmick that would likely have offended Gilbert, to whom stage acting was quite SeriousBusiness, even if the lyrics were not. Still, use of the term is considered to be in bad taste these days, and there is no real objection to these minor alterations, provided they [[RhymesOnADime fit the rhyme and rhythm]].
** Gilbert also permitted bowdlerising out the N-word in American versions, after being told that using the word was considered poor taste in America (which it was, but more for its association with Southern "white trash" than any racist implications).
* TheChewToy: Ko-Ko.
* ChristmasCake: Katisha, a very old maid, pines for Nanki-Poo and for the title of "Daughter-in-Law Elect of the Mikado", and eventually Queen. From her behavior in the second act, it is clear that she would pattern her reign after the Queen of Hearts from ''[[Literature/AlicesAdventuresInWonderland Alice in Wonderland]]'' ("[[OffWithHisHead off with their heads]]!"), so the inhabitants of Titipu could heave a sigh of relief that she didn't get her wish.
* CoolAndUnusualPunishment: "A More Humane Mikado" is made of this.
* DisproportionateRetribution: You can get the death penalty for ''flirting''.
* DrivenToSuicide: Nanki-Poo attempts to off himself when he thinks he can't marry Yum-Yum, but Ko-Ko has other ideas...
* EitherOrTitle: As is typical of G&S operettas.
* EvilSoundsDeep:
** The Mikado and Katisha are a bass and a contralto, respectively.
** Pooh-Bah, likewise, is always cast as a bass or a baritone.
* EvolvingMusic:
** The titular list from [[ListSong "I've Got A Little List"]] often has the words updated to poke fun at current topical references, unless the director is a major traditionalist. Gilbert himself sanctioned some of this rewriting when he realized that "the lady novelist" on Ko-Ko's list wouldn't always be seen as "[[MostWritersAreMale a singular anomaly]]" and let singers suggest their own alternatives. The most popular replacement? "[[NatureAbhorsAVirgin The girl who's never kissed]]"! The prohibitionist is also a popular substitution.
** It's somewhat expected to couple this with some SelfDeprecation, as when one production added to the list "[[HypocriticalHumor All people who write different words to Mr. Gilbert's songs]]..."
** Less frequently, the Mikado's song receives this treatment as well.
* EveryManHasHisPrice: Pooh-Bah would be ''insulted'' if you offered him a bribe, and ''mortified'' at the prospect of working for a salary. However, as a man of high moral principles, he is grateful for every such opportunity to practice self-abasement.
* {{Flanderization}}: When the Mikado was originally played by Richard Temple in 1885 he was a slightly sinister "suave and oily" reserved monarch with just the very lightest touch of the manical in the background. By the end of the 1920s, however, Darrell Fancourt had turned him into a maniacal tyrant complete with a flamboyant evil laugh. G and S fans are divided as to which was the better approach.
* TheFourthWallWillNotProtectYou - PlayedForLaughs: In Lord High Executioner's "I've Got a Little List" song, some versions will have him refer to members of the cast, and possibly the audience as well.
** Martyn Greene recounts that when he played Ko-Ko, even without changing the words he was often able to get a huge laugh by looking pointedly up at the seats of any visiting dignitaries (once including UsefulNotes/WinstonChurchill!) at ''exactly'' the right moment:
--> And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind, \\
Such as ó What d'ye call him ó Thing'em-bob, and likewise ó Never-mind, \\
And 'Stó 'stó 'stó and What's-his-name, and also '''''You-know-who'''''....
* GallowsHumor: Plenty. As a main character is the Lord High Executioner, and much of the plot revolves around an execution, quite a bit of it is [[{{Pun}} literal gallows humor]].
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: Satirising British society was tricky when (just as happens today) anything seriously cutting raised public controversy (''Theatre/TheSorcerer'' got a lot of complaints for mocking the church even mildly). Gilbert got around that by setting the story at least notionally in Japan. It just happens to be a Japan with a British political system, British nobility and a very British sense of etiquette...
* GrandeDame: Katisha.
* GuiltByAssociationGag: Poo-Bah and Pitti-Sing get condemned to death for Nanki-Poo's supposed execution at the hands of Ko-Ko, simply because they happen to be hanging around.
* HaveAGayOldTime: Several.
** The "nigger serenader and the others of his race" in Ko-Ko's list song do not refer to a desire for genocide, but rather that if blackface minstrels and similar types of entertainers disappeared, the world would be a slightly better place. Actual performers of colour weren't a thing in middle-class circles until TheTwenties.
** "Dicky-bird, why do you sit / Singing willow, tit-willow, tit-willow?" must have meant something else in the 19th century...
* HollywoodMedievalJapan: Kind of. Nothing in the script, except the title, bears any real resemblance to actual historical Japan. However costumes and decor were inspired by popular interest in Japanese art, but [[WordOfGod Word of Gilbert]] explains that it's a pretext for satire that's actually directed toward contemporary English institutions.
* HopeSpot: "There should be, of course...but there isn't."
* [[IAmSong "I Am" Song]]: "If you want to know who we are" (The people of Titipu), "A wandering minstrel, I" (Nanki-Poo), "Behold the Lord High Executioner" (Ko-Ko), "Comes a train of little ladies" (The school girls), "Three little maids from school" (Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing & Peep-Bo) and "Miya Sama" (The Mikado & Katisha). Yes, six of them, quite possibly a record.
* InherentlyFunnyWords:
** Just about all of the names, some of which seem to combine this with GettingCrapPastTheRadar.
** "I drew my snickersnee..." (a real word dating back to at least 1775, meaning a long knife used as a weapon)
** Titipu. ({{Heh Heh|YouSaidX}}....)
* InsaneTrollLogic: How the crisis is averted in the end.
-->'''Ko-Ko:''' When Your Majesty says "Let a thing be done", itís as good as done, practically it '''is''' done, because Your Majestyís will is law. Your Majesty says "Kill a gentleman", and the gentleman is to be killed, consequently that gentleman is as good as dead, practically he '''is''' dead, and if he is dead, why not say so?\\
'''The Mikado:''' I see. ''[DramaticPause]'' Nothing could possibly be more...satisfactory!
** Cue the DancePartyEnding
* ItGetsEasier: Parodied when Ko-Ko announces that he ''can't'' execute a human being just yet; he'd planned on starting with a guinea pig and killing progressively larger, more intelligent animals until he got there.
* JudgeJuryAndExecutioner: Technically, Ko-Ko, although he's upstaged by Pooh-Bah who is the "Lord High Everything Else."
* KingIncognito: Prince Nanki-Poo disguises himself as a minstrel to escape the advances of Lady Katisha, a much older woman who wants his hand in marriage.
* LawfulStupid: The Mikado agrees with Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pitti-Sing's explanation that the execution of his son Nanki-Poo was a complete accident, that nobody should have been expected to deduce his true identity through the disguise, and that they were, after all, carrying out the Mikado's orders that ''somebody'' be executed...but that the three of them should still be subjected to "something ''lingering'' with boiling oil in it" for the crime of murdering the Heir Apparent of Japan. He even regrets having to do so, stating that there is [[ForgotICouldChangeTheRules nothing that he could do about it]].
** The Mikado actually says, "That's the slovenly way in which these Acts are always drawn. However, cheer up, it'll be all right. I'll have it altered next session. Now, let's see about your execution will after luncheon suit you? Can you wait till then?" (Implying that Japan has a Parliament, which is in keeping with all of Poo-Bah's British-style state titles.)
* ListingTheFormsOfDegenerates: "I've Got A Little List", which lists all the kinds of people who can be executed without public protest, as does "A More Humane Mikado" in the next act.
* LocalReference:
-->'''Ko-Ko:''' The fact is, he's gone abroad.\\
'''The Mikado:''' Gone abroad? His address!\\
'''Ko-Ko:''' Knightsbridge!
** Knightsbridge was the site of a Japanese cultural exhibition around the time the operetta premiered (indeed, its popularity was an inspiration to Gilbert). The reference is often changed to something local to the production.
* ListSong: Ko-Ko's "I've got a little list." The Mikado's song "A More Humane Mikado" also spends a lot of time listing people.
* TheLongList:
** When they say Pooh-Bah is "Lord High Everything Else," they mean it.[[note]]First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Hounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, Lord Mayor (both acting and elect), Lord Chamberlain, Attorney General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Purse, Private Secretary (to Ko-Ko), Solicitor (for Ko-Ko, again), Leader of the Opposition, Paymaster General, Lord High Auditor, First (or Chief) Commissioner of Police, Secretary of State for the Home Department ''[[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking and]]'' the Registrar.[[/note]]
** The list in "I've Got a Little List" isn't really that little. This is sometimes {{parod|y}}ied by having it reach the floor when unrolled.
* LoopholeAbuse: Flirting was made a capital offense, but everyone tries to find a way around that. Notably, this explains how Ko-Ko became Lord High Executioner: He was promoted to the post after being sentenced to death, but since he can't cut off his own head, and since nobody else can be executed until he is, everyone is free to indulge in flirting!
* LosingYourHead: While Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah are describing the supposed execution of Nanki-Poo, Pooh-Bah gets carried away and claims that Nanki-Poo's severed head remained animate long enough to bow politely three times in farewell.
* LoveTriangle: Ko-Ko, Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo.
* MetaphoricallyTrue: This resolves the conflict at the end (with a heaping accompaniment of InsaneTrollLogic) when the characters are able to convince the Mikado that, since his word is law, anyone who the Mikado says should be executed is "as good as dead," never mind that they're still alive.
* MostWritersAreMale: An item on Ko-Ko's list is "That singular anomaly, the lady novelist."
** In subsequent productions, this became "the prohibitionist" and "the scorching motorist".
* NightmareFetishist:
** Katisha sings a whole song about how awesome thunderstorms, tigers, earthquakes, and volcanoes are.
--->'''Katisha:''' And you won't hate me because I'm just a little teeny weeny wee bit bloodthirsty, will you?\\
'''Ko-Ko:''' Hate you? Oh, Katisha! is there not beauty even in bloodthirstiness?\\
'''Katisha:''' My idea exactly!
** Many people during the opera express bloodthirsty glee at the prospect of executions (well, executions that are not their own.)
* OffWithHisHead: Ko-Ko's job duties, although he never actually performs them. Discussed in several songs as well, including "I Am So Proud" and "The Criminal Cried."
* OpeningChorus: "If You Want To Know Who We Are." Doubles as an IAmSong for the chorus, explaining that they're gentlemen of Japan.
* OverlyLongGag: Pooh-Bah holds the note a ludicrously long time when wishing "long life" to Nanki-Poo upon his engagement to Yum-Yum (several productions have Nanki-Poo trying to walk out on him and Pooh-Bah stopping him). The payoff comes when he finishes the song:
-->Long life to you --\\
Long life to you --\\
Long life to you -- [[GallowsHumor till then!]]
* PatterSong:
** "I've got a little list."
** Also, "A More Humane Mikado," which is actually more demanding in the patter. Indeed, Gilbert was seriously considering cutting out this song because it is essentially the same as "I've got a little list." He was talked out of doing it by the chorus (as a body) who argued that it was the Mikado's only solo.
** The second half of "I Am So Proud."
* ThePiratesWhoDontDoAnything: Ko-Ko is the Lord High Executioner, but never executes anybody.
* PunnyName
* RebelPrince: Nanki-Poo, who rejects life at the royal court in favor of wandering around disguised as a minstrel.
* RunawayFiance: the male version.
* [[ShoutOut/ToShakespeare Shout-Out to Shakespeare]]: Hamlet's reference to Claudius as a "king of shreds and patches" is borrowed:
-->"A wand'ring minstrel I,\\
A thing of shreds and patches!"
** In the recent Australian Opera production:
-->"Friends, Shogun, Countrymen! Lend me your ears!"
-->"Nanki-Poo? Nanki-Poo? Wherefore art thou Nanki-poo?"
* SpurnedIntoSuicide:
** Nanki-Poo prepares to off himself when he believes he will not be allowed to marry Yum-Yum. This gives Ko-Ko the idea for his deal.
** The title bird in "Tit-Willow." Ko-Ko sings the song to hint to Katisha that he may do the same if she rejects him.
* StylisticSuck: To go with the very AsLongAsItSoundsForeign names and various other elements in the play, many productions choose to do the same visually, and decidedly aim left of any sort of cultural accuracy with the costumes and sets.
* SubvertedRhymeEveryOccasion: A meta-example. Gilbert explained that the reason he didn't include many of his trademark whimsical rhymes for actual Japanese words and titles, although [[RhymesOnADime he was tempted]], was that he realized early on that "Samurais" rhymes with "[[PrecisionFStrike Damn your eyes]]." And he couldn't very well include that in a [[MoralGuardians Victorian]] production, "unless [Sullivan's] music had drowned the expression in the usual theatrical way--[[CacophonyCoverUp Tympani fortissimo]], I think you call it."
* TenorBoy: Nanki-Poo
* TheThemeParkVersion: Of Japanese culture. Of course, even the opening chorus cheerfully acknowledges that it is not intended to be realistic but is drawn from what can be seen "On many a vase and jar / On many a screen and fan."
* TomboyAndGirlyGirl: In some productions of ''The Mikado'' Pitti-Sing is played as a tomboy to Yum-Yum's Girly Girl.
* ThisIsReality: After Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pitti-Sing are convicted of inadvertantly doing away with the heir to the throne, the Mikado remarks that he's sorry for them, but this is an unjust world and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances.
* TryToFitThatOnABusinessCard: Pooh-Bah is: Master of the Rolls, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Backstairs, First Lord of the Treasury, Solicitor, Lord Chamberlain, Attorney-General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Purse, Lord Chief Justice, Leader of the Opposition, Paymaster-General, Lord High Auditor, Archbishop of Titipu, First Commissioner of Police, Private Secretary, Groom of the Second Floor Front, Lord Mayor and Judge Ordinary. Indeed the only position in city government he does not hold is that of Lord High Executioner; his shorter title is Lord High Everything Else. Modern productions like to add some titles to introduce more contemporary humour. Examples would be Director of Homeland Security or Husband of Creator/ElizabethTaylor.
* TranslationYes: In the children's book version of the story adapted by Gilbert, he explains that Yum-Yum's name supposedly translates as, "The full moon of delight which sheds her remarkable beams over a sea of infinite loveliness, thus indicating a glittering path by which she may be approached by those who are willing to brave the perils which necessarily await the daring adventurers who seek to reach her by those means." He goes on to explain that the Japanese language is remarkably compact.
* UnwantedAssistance: ''"Will you refrain from putting in your oar!?!"''
* WanderingMinstrel: Nanki-Poo's disguise
** Lampshaded in the song "A Wand'ring Minstrel I."
* WifeHusbandry: Ko-Ko is Yum-Yum's guardian, and explains "I've educated her to be my wife; she's been taught to regard me as a wise and good man."
* {{Yellowface}}: Part of the originally intended joke is the performers - despite being in yellowface - are actually examples of stupid ''British'' aristocrats. At the time there was a huge craze for Japan culture in Britain so having the characters be Japanese was a bit of satire. Since the joke is no longer relevant and yellowface [[ValuesDissonance much less acceptable]] directors have chosen to go in different directions.
** One technique is to eschew makeup entirely and simply have them dressed is Japanese characters.
** Another direction is to ''reverse'' it; all the characters are obviously, excessively ''British'' (huge sideburns, thick accents) while still using faux-Japanese names and garb, thus rebuilding the joke that this is not some bizarre Eastern culture indulging in idiocy, but British upper-crust pretending to be so.
** Another that is [[http://www.frolichawaii.com/stories/the-mikado-has-arrived/ gaining a bit of currency]] is to portray everyone as {{Anime}} characters, which preserves the intended satire on Western fascination with TheThemeParkVersion of Japanese culture.