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Anime / Princess Sarah

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Sarah, as others see her, and as she remains on the inside.

Also known as "Princess Sara", "A Little Princess Sara", "Princesse Sarah" (France), "Lovely Sara" (Italy), "Sally" (Arabic-speaking countries), "Die Kleine Prinzessin Sara" (Germany), "Sarah, Ang Munting Prinsesa" (Philippines) and "Mała Księżniczka" (Poland).

Princess Sarah, 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: Sarah 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, Sarah 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 Sarah 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 Sarah learns that her father has invested in diamond mines, and replaces Lavinia as the class representative.

However, on her eleventh birthday, Sarah receives news that change everything...: the diamond mines turned out to be worthless, and Captain Crewe has died penniless of "jungle fever". Left a pauper, Sarah 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 (an English dub of the series was made, but aired only in Asia), it was wildly popular in France and several other European countries, as well as in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, spawning a Filipino live-action remake back in 1995 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.

It's actually the second anime adaptation of the novel, as the novel was originally covered in 1978 in eleven installments as part of the TBS anime Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi ("Manga Fairy Tales of the World" - not to be confused with the Nippon Animation/Fuji TV World Masterpiece Theater, of which Princess Sarah is part) - but is better known and with higher production values, due to the participation of various names which may be familiar to Studio Ghibli enthusiasts in production.

A lot of the tropes in this series are already covered at A Little Princess. Tropes exclusive to Princess Sarah include the following:

Princess Sarah provides examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation: Monsieur DuFarge speaks with a quite believable French accent in the Italian dub.
  • Accidental Kiss: In Episode 41, while playing the raisin game, two little girls do this.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Zig-Zagging Trope. Due to the Adaptation Expansion in the anime's many episodes, Miss Minchin and Lavinia have more Kick the Dog moments than their novel counterparts. But unlike the novel, the anime ends with both of them on good terms with Sarah and the story even gives Miss Minchin a Freudian Excuse.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Lavinia is American in this version. There is no mention of Lavinia's nationality in the novel, so it is implied that she is English.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Lavinia's friend Jessie goes from a sympathetic Innocent Beta Bitch in the novel to an opportunistic, genuinely mean Beta Bitch in this anime.
  • 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, Sarah's carriage driver Peter, who quite understandably has a crush on her, played mostly for laughs.
  • After-School Cleaning Duty: One of Becky and Sarah's many duties as scullery maids, although neither girl is allowed to take formal lessons while in this position. In Sarah's case it's more like before-school cleaning duty, since she studies on her own at night in her attic room.
  • All Is Well That Ends Well: Sarah recovers her fortune and is adopted by her father's best friend and Becky is saved from drudgery and becomes Sarah'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: Sarah never has a bad word for anyone and forgives her enemies at the end.
  • Alone in a Crowd: After Sarah 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. She actually smiles when she finds out Sarah's father has died.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Almost every dub has its own theme song, except for French, where it is a dubbed version of the Italian one (even performed by the same singer). In the Germany, a shot of Sarah in her dress with a title is shown instead.
  • 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.
  • Anachronism Stew: When Sarah's father goes to London to enroll her at Miss Minchin's seminar, he becomes a guest at the Savoy Hotel, which still didn't exist back then.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: In Episode 31, Sarah tells Becky that the only way to greet Ram Dass is to talk in Hindu. Hindu is actually a religion in India; the language is called Hindi.
  • Asleep in Class: A particularly tragic example. Exhausted by her hard work and the cold weather, Sarah 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 Sarah was still rich, Jessie and Gertrude try to do this to Lavinia on more than one occasion. And at the end, once Sarah's fortune is restored, they wholeheartedly - despite their role in Sarah's misery over the past 30 or so episodes - accept Sarah as a friend immediately, while Lavinia looks on in resentful silence.
  • Barefoot Poverty: In Episode 23, Sarah bought five loaves of bread and gave all but one to a girl who's even poorer and hungrier than she is. The other girl's lack of shoes is one of the clues to her level of poverty.
  • Beta Bitch: Jessie and Gertrude. Despite being Lavinia's friends, initially they're as in awe of Sarah as the rest of their classmates (excluding Lavinia of course), though they still side with Lavinia in any dispute between Lavinia and Sarah. But after Sarah's fall, they're more than willing to join with Lavinia in tormenting Sarah, and even initiate some of it themselves.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Throughout the series, Amelia Minchin is portrayed as sympathetic to Sarah, 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.
  • Black-and-White Morality: There are two types of characters in this anime: the ones who like Sarah (and Sarah herself) and the ones who hate Sarah. The latter are vile, spiteful bullies who are only there to ruin Sarah's life, the former are overly nice, meek Extreme Doormats who get abused by the latter. And all the bad guys go good in the end anyway and are Easily Forgiven by Sarah, which is very different from the novel's ending.
  • 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 Sarah their raison d'être. Lavinia even essentially admits that it is what she lives for.
  • Break the Haughty: Many viewers experienced vicious delight in seeing Lavinia slapped, broken and reduced to tears by her father when he learns of her demeanor towards Sarah. It doesn't last through to the next episode, though.
  • Broken Aesop: The morals in the final episode makes it clear about the importance of forgiveness, anyone is bad has reasons that makes them who they are, and its better to offer friendship to people like them. Unfortunately, such antagonists like Miss Minchin, Lavinia, Molly and James really get no excuse at all for anything they do, yet in the end, they suddenly became nice after they received rewards from Sarah for obvious reasons and didn't express their apology to the latter.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ermengarde, Becky and especially Sarah 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, were not characters from the original novel.
  • Cats Are Mean: Miss Minchin's cat, whose favorite pastime seems to be standing at the stairs and scaring the girls. Naturally, he likes Sarah, which leads to trouble in episode 34 (see Asleep in Class).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Soon after her father's death, Sarah 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 Sarah 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 Sarah's life.
  • Cinderella Plot: Literally, but also meta-fictionally. At the beginning of the story, Sarah 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: Sarah 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 Sarah, 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 Sarah 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 Sarah is an important pupil — this is before her fall from grace — is forced to desist, and unwillingly lets Ermengarde off the hook.
  • Costume Porn: Sarah'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!"
  • Darkest Hour: In keeping with the general tenor of this series, there are actually three of them. First, when Sarah is on the point of dying of fever, and Dr. Wilde writes her off. Second, when the Magic is discovered by Miss Minchin, and Sarah is sent to sleep in a stable, in the dead of winter. Finally, and most heartbreakingly, when Sarah 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 Sarah'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 Sarah is homeless, he takes her into his home.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sarah 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.
    • Also, after the Magic is discovered and Sarah is exiled to the stable to sleep. She remains cheerful (or at least resilient) on the outside as she talks to Emily, but internally, as tears spill down her face, she admits she doesn't know how much more she can take and is on the verge of giving up. Of course, her life will shortly become much, much worse.
  • Deus ex Machina: Mr. Carrisford, who turns out to be Sarah's father's childhood friend — he not only retrieves their original losses on the diamond mines, but becomes incredibly wealthy, and adopts Sarah 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 Sarah is shown going realistically through all the stages of grief. It's perhaps fitting that, in the very last episode, Sarah 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 Sarah. To be precise, Lavinia originally envied Sarah 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.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Sarah becomes Sally in the Arabic dub.
    • This trope applies the most to the Italian dubbed version.
      • Sarah's surname was changed from Crewe to Morris.
      • Sarah's beloved doll, Emily, becomes Priscilla.
      • Miss Minchin was renamed Miss Gertrude Minci.
      • Lottie became Lalla.
      • Ermengarde became Margherita.
      • Monsieur Durfage became Monsieur Dupont.
      • Because of Miss Minchin's name change above, Lavinia's Beta Bitch Gertrude had to be renamed Barbara. Ironically the French dub, which also uses Gertrude as Miss Minchin's first name, keeps the name Gertrude also for Lavinia's friend, making it an aversion of One-Steve Limit.
    • In the French version:
      • Miss Minchin became Gertrude Mangin.
      • Ermengarde became Marguerite.
      • Molly became Marie.
  • 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, Sarah 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 Sarah'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.
    • Ditto Lavinia, who Sarah very gladly accepts as a friend even though Lavinia's regret for bullying her in the past is nonexistent.
  • 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 Sarah, it's her first encounters with Peter, Ermengarde and Becky. For Miss Minchin, it's her first class with Sarah, where she mistakenly believes that Sarah 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 Sarah, where she tries to get her around to her way of thinking.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Most of the good characters are this, including Sarah, Becky, Ermengarde and Amelia Minchin.
    • Subverted with Amelia in the next-to-last episode when she finally delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her sister. See Beware the Nice Ones.
  • Fallen Princess: Sarah
  • Fired Teacher: Monsieur Dufarge, after Lavinia misrepresents his relationship with Sarah to Miss Minchin.
    • Sarah herself, when Miss Minchin unfairly accuses her of lying about her illness and informs her that her duties as a remedial French tutor for Ermengarde and the younger children will no longer be required, much to the disappointment of said children.
  • Foreshadowing: Used to great effect in two early episodes. In episode 5, Lottie goes missing, and Sarah 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 Sarah — chasing a false trail in France, before finding her in the Seminary right next to them. In episode 8, Sarah wonders what it would be like to be Cinderella, only to find out for herself when her father loses his fortune and dies suddenly.
  • A Friend in Need: This is one of the defining themes of this entire series. Where do I begin? Sarah 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 Sarah has lost her fortune.
  • Friendship Moment: This trope, alone, often single-handedly keeps Sarah from sinking deep into despair. For examples, we have: Ermengarde refusing to betray Sarah even under threat of punishment, Peter helping Sarah with her arduous errands, Monsieur Dufarge giving her a book, Lottie standing up for "Mamma Sarah" 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: Sarah's animal friends include a parrot (who can only speak one word, "Sarah") 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 Sarah 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 Sarah at the end.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Like in the original book and practically every other known adaptation, Miss Minchin mistreats Sara and forces her to become a servant because she doesn't expect the girl to ever become rich again. In this adaptation, Solicitor Barrow also becomes an example because he's portrayed as one of the people who invested on Ralph Crewe's diamond mines and is glad because he got out of the investment after Crewe died without finding any diamonds. Mr. Carrisford later finds diamonds there.
  • Ghibli Hills: Oh Production, a frequent subcontractor of Studio Ghibli, provided key animation for over half of the episodes of the series. Shunji Saida, the character designer and animation director of five episodes, worked with Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata on various works.
  • Girl Friday: Becky to Sarah, 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 Sarah finds a sixpence when she is starving. Sarah 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 Princess Sarah what fog is to Bleak House, and the weather symbolizes the mood of the series for most of the second half of the anime.
  • HA HA HA—No: Lavinia's reaction when Sarah asks her if jealousy is the reason Lavinia treats her so cruelly. Lavinia then admits that she was jealous of Sarah at the start, but there's nothing to be jealous of now since Sarah went from riches to rags.
  • Halloween Episode: Near the end of the series, the Seminary stages a Halloween party, which Sarah and Becky are allowed to attend thanks to Amelia Minchin's intercession. They even gets to take part in the party games with the other girls, and Sarah 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. Sarah 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: Sarah, when Miss Minchin pushes her past her breaking point, causing her to leave the Seminary.
  • Hidden Depths: Sarah's fluency in French, in an early episode. She tells Miss Minchin she's never had a formal lesson in the language, and Miss Minchin introduces Sarah to Monsieur DuFarge as a girl who's a complete novice in French. Sarah then proceeds to stun everyone by explaining, in perfect French, that her late mother was French, that she's spoken the language all her life, and that the textbook she's been given is too easy for her. It counts because this is also the first time we as the viewers are aware of her competency in French. Miss Minchin (who can't speak a word of French), believing that Sarah did this on purpose to humiliate her, is furious.
  • Honor Before Reason: In the anime, unlike in the novel, Sarah 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. It's a very Japanese view of the situation, and this becomes especially poignant three episodes later, where Sarah is kicked out of the Seminary anyway by an irate Miss Minchin, who falsely accuses her of setting fire to the stable. It's as close as Sarah gets to showing any kind of aggression in the series, as she finally calls Miss Minchin out on her treatment of her, but in her own dignified way.
  • 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 Sarah her behavior seems more natural. However, her tendency to burst into tears tends to spoil the effect for some. Sarah explicitly refers to her as kawaii in Episode 16. Sarah'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: Sarah 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 is especially true in the episodes immediately after her fall, when Sarah assumes that Ermengarde and Lottie will no longer want to be her friends and pushes them away, only to be eventually proven wrong. This makes Lavinia's attempts to take Emily from her close to unforgivable.
  • 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 Sarah's coach driver, Peter, and her skills at making herbal medicines eventually save Sarah's life.
  • Make Way for the Princess: Lavinia eats, drinks, and breathes this trope. With a vengeance. Her ambition is even to be the closest thing to royalty in her homeland, the United States - First Lady.
    • Averted with Sarah, who, although she is the titular "princess" of the series, has no such pretensions.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Lavinia.
  • Meido: Sarah's French maid, Mariette, is portrayed in this way — despite her nationality, she is a kind and quiet girl who gives Sarah valuable insights into the lives of servants. Subverted with Becky, the scullery maid, and later with Sarah 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 Sarah is that he sees an opportunity to atone for his past errors.
  • Ojou: Sarah, 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 "Sarah".
  • Onee-sama: 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.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Happens in episode 6 when Becky arrives at the seminary, hands Sarah a slip of paper and asks her if she recognizes the address. When Sarah confirms that Becky has arrived at the right place, Peter points out that Becky could have read it off the name plate on the front of the building, and he, Sarah and Lottie laugh. Becky laughs nervously as well before informing the others that she's illiterate. The laughter immediately ceases.
  • 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 Sarah.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Peter very often serves this function.
  • Plucky Girl:
    • Sarah, definitely.
    • Becky as well.
  • Princess for a Day: Halfway through the series, the Mayor's wife — who was charmed by Sarah's French skills in an earlier episode — announces her intention to visit the Seminary again, and mentions her desire to see Sarah again in her letter. As Miss Minchin is counting on her for financial support, she dare not tell her the truth about Sarah — 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'Étranger.
  • Private Tutor: Sarah tutors Ermengarde and the younger children in French, and is allowed to continue doing so even after her fall. Eventually this privilege is, like everything else, taken away from her.
  • Promotion to Parent: Sarah becomes Lottie's "mamma" in Episode 5. At the very end, Mr. Carrisford becomes Sarah's new father in all but name.
  • Puppy Love: Peter has got it bad for Sarah, and they certainly make a cute couple in episode 19.
  • Redemption in the Rain: Subverted. Sarah 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 Reason You Suck" Speech: Miss Minchin receives a memorable one from her sister Amelia in the next-to-last episode.
  • The Resenter: Lavinia
  • The Reveal: "Sarah, 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
  • Shout-Out: Two, to classic fairy tales.
    • Early on in the series, Sarah narrates the story of Cinderella to her classmates, and an obvious parallel is drawn between her and Becky, which extends to Sarah herself later on.
    • "The Little Match Girl" is referenced by a character in the middle, and when Sarah 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, Sarah names her pony Jump, which is the name of Dickon's pony in Burnett's other great work, The Secret Garden.
    • In episode 38, there is a gentleman in the background who looks remarkably like Inspector Zenigata while Sara and Peter are talking in the market.
  • 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.
  • Silly Simian: Ram Dass' monkey Surya, who provides much-needed comic relief at times, and also helps bring about the crucial encounter between Sarah and Mr. Carrisford.
  • 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.
  • Spell My Name with an S: In Sarah's case, with an H. Her name is spelled without the "h" in the original novel as well as on Nippon Animation's official English website and in most foreign dubs except for French and Tagalog.
  • The Storyteller: Sarah. She is beloved by all the younger girls in the Seminary, as well as Becky, for this.
  • Take That!: Sarah 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, after accepting defeat and begrudgingly befriending Sarah, 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 Sarah'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 Sarah — 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, Sarah, 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 Sarah's unread letters to her father.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Sarah 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 Sarah 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 Sarah, though it doesn't end as badly as it usually does.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Sarah 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.

Alternative Title(s): Shokojo Sera