In our opinion, this show should be part of a 100 Anime Everyone Must Watch Before They Die list.
By: Nicole S. Castro on June 02, 2022 at 12:42 PHT
Brace yourselves because we're about to do one of the most nostalgic anime throwbacks today, Princess Sara! (Alternative title: A Little Princess Sara)
And why is Princess Sara especially nostalgic among our throwbacks? Well, that's because the anime first aired in Japan from Jan. 6, 1985 to Dec. 29, 1985!
Though for international viewers, the anime might feel a little more recent as it aired in the 1990s to 2000s on satellite television network Animax as well as on local TV networks in certain countries (e.g. ABS-CBN in the Philippines).
Princess Sara (Japanese: 小公女プリンセスセーラ), also spelled as Princess Sarah, is a Japanese anime series produced by Nippon Animation, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 novel, A Little Princess.
The anime spanned a total of 46 episodes. It first aired in 1985 in Japan on Fuji Television, after which it broadcasted on TV networks across the world in the 1990s to early 2000s.
Plot and Throwback
The story is set in the year 1885, with protagonist Sara Crewe (CV: Sumi Shimamoto), the daughter of wealthy diamond mine owner Ralph Crewe (CV: Banjō Ginga), enrolling in Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies in London. But Sara and Miss Maria Minchin (CV: Taeko Nakanishi) are off to a bad start, especially when the latter is embarrassed in front of Sara's classmates when she assumed Sara couldn't speak French.
The plot turns tragic after corporate lawyer Mr. Barrow (CV: Yuzuru Fujimoto), who invested heavily in Ralph's diamond mine, informs Sara and Miss Minchin that Ralph had passed away from fever and gone bankrupt. Now a poor orphan, Sara is exploited by Miss Minchin to work as a maid for the boarding school in exchange for food and lodging at the attic.
As everyone still clearly remembers, Sara is forced to endure horrible living conditions as well as abuse from Miss Minchin, not to mention the bullying from her classmates who sided with Lavinia Herbert (CV: Eiko Yamada). But Sara endures all these hardships with a kind, compassionate heart. She finds solace in her good friends, such as her co-maid Becky (CV: Mie Suzuki), her former carriage driver Peter (CV: Chika Sakamoto), and her classmates Ermengarde St. John (CV: Maki Yaosaka) and Lottie Legh (CV: Naoko Watanabe), as well as charity from strangers.
Just a quick recap of some of the mistreatment Sara had to endure within 46 episodes:
Sara was not given proper meals
Sara was not allowed to take classes with the other girls (so she self-studied with Ermengarde and Lottie)
Sara did not receive proper medical care for her pneumonia (which was caused by her attic not getting the repairs it needed against the cold weather). Fortunately, Ermengarde and her Aunt Eliza knew how to make medicine from herbs and nursed her back to health
Sara was forced to sleep in the stables (after earning more of Miss Minchin's ire)
Sara was eventually kicked out of the stable and into the streets after being accused of arson (but the fire was actually a result of Lavinia and the girls scaring Lottie, forcing the latter to drop her lit jack-o-lantern during the Halloween party)
How does Princess Sara end?
Sara's saving grace comes in the form of Tom Carrisford (CV: Shūsei Nakamura), Ralph's lifelong friend, and Tom's lawyer, Mr. Carmichael (CV: Yūsaku Yara). It turns out her father's investments did succeed after they found an abundance of diamonds in the mines, and Tom and Carmichael had been searching for Sara to reinstate her wealth.
Tom, who is Miss Minchin's next door neighbor, did not immediately realize the poor girl was Sara. But thanks to a string of coincidences and fated meetings involving some of the supporting characters, Tom's Indian butler, Ram Dass (CV: Hideyuki Tanaka) was able to figure out Sara's identity.
The series ends with Sara being adopted by Tom, regaining her status as diamond princess, and resuming her studies at Miss Minchin's boarding school. Instead of taking legal action against Miss Minchin (because honestly, the woman deserves it ten times over...), Sara chooses to be the bigger person by donating a wealthy sum to the school and maintaining harmonious relationships with everyone.
Sara and Becky, who is now the former's personal attendant, are last seen riding a cruise ship to India so Sara can finalize her inheritance and visit her parents' graves. She and Becky promise to the students that they will return to London in four months.
Not only was Princess Sara widely broadcasted in several countries, it has also been the subject of hilarious memes that have kept the series alive despite being almost 40 years old as of writing.
An example is the meme below written in Filipino. It translates to English as When you're thrown rocks, throw back potatoes at them. This is roughly equivalent to the English idiom "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," except this meme takes on a slightly darker tone because one of Sara's main duties as a maid was to constantly peel potatoes.
(Side note: Find more memes here)
Whether you watched Princess Sara in the '80s, '90s, or 2000s, we're pretty sure this series struck a chord. We may not be former-diamond-princesses-turned-orphans-living-in-a-boarding-school-like-slaves (thank you, modern-day child welfare systems...), but the show's themes of poverty, bullying, child abuse, and neglect remain relevant in many forms today, making this show an honest but still child-friendly way of teaching us about harsh societal realities.
What makes Princess Sara a powerful series is that it is a classic among the classics, always with the need to be retold, both for its entertainment and educational purposes.
Digest by AniradioPlus
NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.