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My Daddy Long Legs is a 1990 anime series based on Jean Webster's novel, Daddy-Long-Legs. Directed by Kazuyoshi Yokota for Nippon Animation, the series is part of the studio's World Masterpiece Theater. It shares the central premise of that novel: a poor orphan is educated by a mysterious benefactor, about whom she knows nothing except what his shadow looks like. She is required to write to him and inform him of her progress, and she does so, developing a one-sided relationship with the mysterious figure who becomes the closest thing she has to a parent or guardian. Over the course of the series, she develops into a strong writer, becomes more confident about her place in the world, makes friends and finds love. In other words, it's a classic Coming of Age story focused on the development of a writer.

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Despite sharing the main characters and many plot events, the anime series differs significantly from the novel in many ways. Most notably, Judy is aged down. In the novel, she is a college student; in the anime, she is a high school student. The setting is roughly the same in terms of geography, but the time period changed from the Pre-World War I era to The Roaring '20s. The plot is also fleshed out with additional story arcs and characters, which was necessary in order to transform a relatively short epistolary novel into a 40-episode series. Insert Songs were also added to showcase the singing talents of Judy's voice actress, Mitsuko Horie.

This series is the second anime adaptation of Webster's novel, preceded by a Tatsunoko Production TV special in 1979 which was directed by future Superbook director Masakazu Higuchi. Since Tatsunoko's version was dubbed into English and released in America while the Nippon Animation series was not, English-language sources sometimes confuse the two (and confounding this is the fact that Judy is a redhead in both versions, though she does not have Girlish Pigtails in Tatsunoko's).

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This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Sallie is a redhead in the original books, but here she is brunette, most likely because Judy is a redhead here, though Judy's hair color is never mentioned in either book.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Although the original novel could probably have easily been covered in a one-season series (11-13 episodes), it had to be padded out with new characters, new incidents, and new arcs in order to make a 40-episode series.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Judy's first name in the books is Jerusha, while in this series, she is named Judy from being found as a baby. She uses the name Jerusha for the lead heroine in one of her stories.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Ms. Lippet. In the sequel book Dear Enemy, Sallie describes her as pocketing most of the money given by the trustees, giving the orphans the bare minimum needed to survive, and actively prevented Judy from getting adopted. In this series, while still very strict, is kinder and genuinely loves the orphans in her care, only prevented from doing more for them by the trustees' stinginess.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Julia's mother. In the original novel, she was simply a rich woman that Judy thought was a bit snobbish but friendly enough. Here, however, she is much less genial, seemingly only concerned about wealth and status. In her first appearance, she forcibly takes Julia away from her friends for Christmas, and scolds her for crying. Later on, she tries to force Julia into an Arranged Marriage and due to Julia turning the boy down, she blames Judy for her daughter's sudden disobedience. She later looks into Judy's background, knowing she's interested in Jervis (who is her younger brother), and plans to tell everyone Judy's humble beginnings to keep her away from him since a banker's daughter is interested in him. And it's glorious to watch her break down when Judy gains the courage to reveal her past.
  • Adorkable: Sallie.
    • Judy also has her moments, especially early in the series when coping with life outside the orphanage
  • Age Lift: The opposite. See the top of the page.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Judy's whole childhood. Due to being bullied so frequently for being an orphan, Judy lashed out at kids even who were being nice to her, believing they would bully her too. This also leads to her attitude about there being no real charity and kindness in the world. She's even treated this way at high school for a bit, but they grow to like her quickly.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: See the plot summary, above! This is pretty much the lynchpin of the plot.
  • Apology Gift: Jervis shows up with flowers after he criticizes Judy's novel.
  • Bad Date: Episode 31 depicts a truly terrible group date with three couples. Everything starts off badly in that at least one of the men is confused about which of the three girls (Sallie, Judy, and Julia) he is supposed to be escorting. The second young men is terminally clumsy, at one point spilling orange juice all over his date. And the third man is so late that he nearly misses everything. Throw in some Love Triangle tensions, and you've got a bad date to remember!
  • Berserk Button: Ms. Sloane hates anyone who calls her "Missus" or thinks that she's married.
  • Beta Couple: Julia and Jimmie.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Julia, Sallie, and Judy
  • Coming-of-Age Story: This is one of the central themes/plots of the anime, combined with a robust Romance Arc and a related plot about Judy's development as a writer.
  • Cool Big Sis: Judy is this to Emily, a much younger orphan from the John Grier Home. Judy was a little sad to hear that Emily was adopted by a rich family shortly after she left. Heck, she's this to all the younger orphans.
  • Gratuitous English: The Japanese opening theme song, "Growing Up," has an entire sentence sung in English: "Now I'm ready to be a lady for love."
  • Happily Adopted: Tommy, a boy from the John Grier Home around Judy's age, was adopted in the second episode by a middle-aged farming couple.
    • Emily. After Judy goes to high school, she is adopted by a rich family from California.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Judy may be one for the audience, but she keeps her orphan status a secret from the other characters, since she's ashamed of it. Julia's mother wants to use it against her to prevent her relationship with Jervis. In the second to last episode, she finally reveals this in her graduation speech, spoiling Mrs. Pendleton's plans.
  • Ill Girl: Leonora Fenton. It looks like "consumption," because she coughs up blood; actually, it's a heart condition. She gets better after surgery.
  • Improvised Clothes: Mary Lambert makes her orphans' clothes for the Thanksgiving concert with old bed sheets.
  • Love Triangle: Between Judy, Julia, and Jimmie, but also between Judy, Jimmie, and Jervis.
  • Mammy: An anime only character named Estelle, a maid for the John Grier Home that only appears in the first two episodes. She is less strict than Ms. Lippet and was the only one that had any faith in Judy's dream.
  • Meganekko: Sallie.
  • Nice Girl: Sallie again. She takes up charity work while in high school and exactly like her novel counterpart, she grows up to work at the John Grier Home
  • Old Maid: Ms. Sloane, the girl's dorm mother. She doesn't seem to mind though.
    • Ms. Lippet as well.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The St. George Orphanage is a mild case. They have a budget even lower than the John Grier Home, and don't get much money, so everything is particularly shabby and dirty, on top of having stricter regulations. Fortunately Mary is able to make it a decent Orphanage of Love with her improvising and positive attitude, i.e. helping local farmer harvest apples in exchange for some crops so the kids can have decent food.
  • Plucky Girl: Mary Lambert, who works for the St. George Orphanage nearby the school. She has enough moxy and good humor to be adored by the orphans in her care.
    • Judy herself.
  • The Resenter: Sadie, a model orphan whom Ms. Lippet held out to win the scholarship to attend high school. Of course, Judy wins it instead, and Sadie does thins like ripping younger orphans away from Judy, and later gets in a fight with Judy after she receives a nice pair of shoes with the money intended to go to a new wardrobe.
  • Rich Bitch: Julia, as well as her mother. Julia outgrows it, but she does poke around for clues at her background earlier in the series when she still hated Judy, and when Sallie asks how she knew already on graduation day, Julia looks away, implying she's ashamed of her past spitefulness.
  • The Runaway: When she was younger, Judy tries to run away from the orphanage. When she is caught four miles away, Judy is tied to a tree and left there for a whole day.
  • Sailor Fuku: Judy and other girls wear a variant with bloomers while playing basketball, common as girl's basketball uniforms through the '20s.
    • Also the outfits Mary Lambert makes for her orphans for the Thanksgiving banquet.
  • Setting Update: From pre-WWI to The Roaring '20s
  • Spoiled Brat: Judy gets a part time job tutoring two of these, Karen and Cindy. Turns out they're just lonely due to their parents not paying any attention to them. They get better with Judy's help.
  • '20s Bob Haircut: A lot of the female cast, including Sallie (who's hair is curly brown) and Julia (sleek blonde).
  • The Unfavorite: Arguably, Mrs. Lippet didn't seem to like Judy too much, due to her clumsiness and short fuse, often making her write essays as punishment, and blew off her dreams of being able to attend high school in favor of Sadie, a model orphan. Nonetheless, she does wish Judy a safe trip with tears in her eyes, offered her room and board during summer vacation, and attended her wedding.
  • Underdressed for the Occasion: This is averted early in the anime, when Daddy's gift of clothing helps Judy dress properly for dinner at her new high school, especially since Judy spend all the money she was given for clothes on presents for the orphans. Later, it happens in one of Judy's nightmares: she dreams that she encounters Jervis and a fashionable date of his while wearing her old orphanage clothing.
  • Uptown Girl: Gender-flipped; Jervis is the uptown boy to Judy's working-class girl.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The series ends by jumping ahead four years. Judy plays the role of narrator as we watch her wedding, bringing us up to speed on what's happened to some of the other central characters. Judy and Jervis are married and Judy has become a writer, Julia and Jimmie are engaged, and Sallie is working at the John Greer Home.
  • Wife Husbandry: Some of Daddy's seemingly-arbitrary orders to Judy make more sense once you realize who he is. See YMMV for more on this.
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