Sara, a pretty girl born into a rich British family in India, is treated like a little princess at a dormitory school in London. Sara's sweet school life turns to tragedy when she learns of her father's death and the family's bankruptcy. However, Sara endures her hard luck with kindness and imagination and escapes from her misery through fantasies.
Shoukoujo Sara, or A Little Princess Sara, is based upon the world’s classic book, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and is part of the World Masterpiece Theater. As per usual when it comes to this collection, this work has the distinct traits of the main character(s) being played by the vicissitudes of fate and having to overcome multiple obstacles until finally a reward is at the end of their difficult journey.
The story revolves around Sara who was raised as a proper young lady by her father and later, being entrusted to a famous boarding school to obtain education of a higher level/quality. Soon,
of course, everything is ruined when the news of her father’s bankruptcy and death leave her alone surrounded by a pack of wolves that has no use of her anymore. While the premise and plot of the story are quite simple, World Masterpiece Theater always expands the original story in many directions to cover more of their daily lives and mainly, the cruelty of the world. And that is where my problem with the pacing lies.
From start to finish, we follow Sara’s life and how she copes with the people around her. There is a long start explaining her circumstances and how she makes friends, while gallantly silencing her jealous classmates. After that, there is a longer part of how mistreated she is and various adventures or incidents that happen along the way. That brings variety to the show undoubtedly, since we learn more about the people around her and we get more emotionally attached to them, but on the other hand it can get pretty redundant and tiring, as sometimes it feels like there is no real development and it is just repeating itself. Many of those adventures just keep recycling the same feelings and show more of the same behavior with no justice given, leaving one feeling rather impatient. Moreover, it (very) slowly builds up the story to its climax and by then, the viewer wants a form of divine retribution to all the cruel individuals but… personally, I felt unsatisfied and cheated by the ending.
Moving on to the characters, Sara is, more or less, a typical character of a series such as this: an adorable and smart girl who never lets herself give up and be defeated by the environment she ended up in. One can see that she was raised with love and care and she has learnt to be mindful of others and be generous. However she was abused and mistreated, she would always stand up and reply with a smile on her face, proving she was the bigger person, which of course made everyone be even crueler to her. One cannot dislike Sara, but like the pacing, sometimes it feels too much. Sometimes she is too good, sometimes she will put down herself for no apparent reason, sometimes she seems so much into her princess act that it gets annoying. Her behavior annoyed me a lot towards the end of the series and unfortunately, I enjoyed it even less that I expected. There was not much development either, she stayed the same girl with the heart of gold whatever the world threw at her.
The rest of the cast is pretty much a stereotypical cast of a classic story like this. There is a villain, Miss Minchin, who values money and finds a sadistic pleasure into indirectly torturing Sara, the young girl that had everything from her birth; there is a loyal friend, Becky, who is a servant at the boarding school and always tries to help in any way that she can; there is a jealous rival, Lavinia, who cannot accept anyone that is better than her and tries to humiliate Sara in every possibly way that she can think of and will always be there for a revenge plan; there are the jealous rival’s sidekicks, whose hearts are almost as black as Lavinia's, but will follow the one that has more power; there is the jack-of-all-trades friend, who knows all about the outside, poor world and will find solutions for almost any kind of problem she has.
I would lie if I said all of them or even most of them got a lot of development, but it is enough for this kind of story. Throughout all those adventures, we see a different character close to the center every time, giving us more insight to their personality and their thought process. Unfortunately, as the pacing recycles the same feelings, the characters get recycled in a similar manner, as we see the same kind of reactions and behaviors again and again and even though, there are some rare signs of change, they will fall into their usual pattern in the end. At least, each of them executes their role pretty well and makes you feel for them, either positively or negatively.
As for art and sound, I am not a proper judge of these, since I rarely mind them. I can say though, that the art is a pretty standard one for a ‘80s series with simple art, low variety of colors, toned down pallet and pretty common design. Apart from the cast that appears often, the rest are not so easily distinguishable. The animation is fluid enough and since there are no fast paced scenes, there is no real gap. The sound contains a lot of low tone melodies that fit this kind of story, but certainly nothing that will be remembered after one has finished the series.
All in all, I enjoyed it sufficiently and more people should watch this. I admit that first I was more excited and interested in it since I love these kind of classic stories, but along the way I could not help being discouraged by some elements and could not finish it with the same interest as before.
If only Sara were here, she would have written an awesome review for the series. She would have probably written it in French as well. It's not that writing anime reviews is a part of Miss Minchin's seminary curriculum, it's just about me, a barely literate otaku boy, even a hundred years later, still having little chance to do it better.
`Princess Sara' is based on a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, `A Little Princess' (1905), with quite a history of rewrites and adaptations, and this particular anime belongs to a bigger project known as `World Masterpiece Theater', which gathers adaptations of classical western books and
stories. I am yet to see other adaptations or other titles of the project (though you might have accidentally seen some already), and i feel as if there is a good reason for me to doubt that other adaptations of Princess Sara would be any better, for what i have just seen actually is, one way or another, a masterpiece.
The original book is actually quite short. You can easily find it and read it along with watching. The anime, on the contrary, was made dramatic and grand. It wasn't simply stretched to fill a year of airing. I must admit these guys had really felt it through and transformed it into something bigger, unfolding the story step by step to be sure each and every thought and feeling reaches you.
That said, i cannot say i instantly fell in love with these series; i only decided to put the top mark for it after around episode 36. By that time the story is mostly over, but it is the way they presented it that fascinates.
Would an story like that appeal to a modern viewer? Sure it will. I'm actually quite sure that most of us will one day meet a person like Miss Minchin as their superior, and would have to choose if they would behave like Lavinia or like Lottie. Or maybe even like Becky. And i can only hope you won't ever have to behave like Sara :) People haven't changed a bit. Maybe just scales are different, society pushes in a bit different direction, maybe the story exaggerates a little bit, but people making the world go around are still the same.
Note how this is one of those works where relatively little is said in words. No, it's not your typical `tenshi no tamago', of course, but they still often avoid speaking for like five minutes in the beginning of an episode, depicting a quiet morning when you don't really want to involve yourself in making noise yet. A lot is being said by directly showing it, in such a way that a thousand words won't really show it all. And that is where art and sound get a chance to really show themselves.
First, you have *these eyes*. Whether our characters look out of the window, stare at each other, or simply do whatever they need to do, their eyes say a lot. And Sara's look has a special role. As Lavinia, the one most affected by it, accidentally grasps the essence and mentions what was probably intended to be the author's lines, which happens to her from time to time, "Sara has been decreased to that little, yet she still behaves as if she's noble". Just looking at her eyes, you see that Sara never really looses her face through out the story. She effectively completes her "shoujo quest" of "never letting anybody know how you feel, even if you're about to die" (cf. Fruits Basket, for example), and her eyes always expose her attitude as cleanly as possible. I'm not really crazy about megapixels in anime artwork, but these eyes pretty much outweigh the shortcomings of old school graphics for me.
Then there's seiyuu work. Shimamoto Sumi, whom you might remember starring in Nausicaa a year before, is really doing epic great here, from the simple "ah~" sound opening the talk in most episodes, and "ma~, Becky ..." whenever something funny (or not really, at all, funny) happens, to the ultra-polite and forever-genki cheerful optimistic "please watch the next episode" annoncement, it leaves an aftersound straight in your brain, and suits her character ... perfectly. Opening and ending themes are also very noble; though possibly background music could have been made a bit gentler.
Time to wrap up, so let me put it straight: This is not your typical anime. There's nothing wrong if you don't watch it, or drop in the middle, or something like that. But it is also great if, alongside with being a naruto fanboy or a precure fangirl, or vice versa, or whatever, you also enjoy *that* sort of stuff together with me, as i'm enjoying modern stuff most of the time as well. It may also appeal directly to those who enjoy shoujo stories in general, or looking for pain and suffering like urobuchi's, or even those magical doll lovers everywhere. And there's still much more in it.
Last but not least, not sure if this anime is translated to your native language, but full English subs are there waiting for you to watch. I can't help saying thanks to the guys who kept these around till today. Miss Minchin would probably not approve them. She'll ask something like "How can they do such an outrageous thing?", seeing these guys helping out each other, if you know what i mean :)
This anime is basically the slowest something could be in the first place, and the plot after the first 10 episodes of everyone jizzing over the mc is her being tortured after that. The plot is mostly the other workers telling them (the 2 poor tortured girls) to work hard as those other workers slack off and large amounts of time being spent for the other characters to say yes to working harder even though they were already working hard, or the headmistress making some unreasonably bitchy complaint accusing someone of doing something they did not do that the headmistress knows that other person did
not do, followed by a large amount of time being spent for the character to say yes and "accept" blame. Seriously that is the entire core plot, and it is so slow and takes so much time (if you have a brain in your head but still decide to watch this based on the relatively high rating, please keep that finger on the fast forward button).
But what makes this quite simply the worst something could be is when MCmctorturedgirl is EXCITED to see the girl who spent the entire anime torturing her the most (ep 33?) and then calls her, and not just to not get into trouble, her fucking friend (ep 34?). Like I get that the point was to make her a messiah figure but this was the biggest, most poorly written stretch of all time.
(the music is great when not being badly repeated, usually is badly, relentlessly repeated)
Absolutely awful. Let me start off first by saying that I've read the book several times and watched several of the other more popular versions. They are some of my favorites. There is so much wrong with this adaptation that I could go on and on but I'll keep it short. The characters are characterized as weak and stupid. Sara herself is basically purity sue. She is perfect and all the others either lover or hate her. Aside from that, she is an incredibly passive version of her book self. She spends much of the series crying,
given a limited amount of dialogue which consists of mostly "Yes, Headmistress." The other characters always come to her rescue. The whole point of the book was how she overcame her struggles through her incredible imagination, which we see very little of in this version.
The villians in this all don't seem to have lives. They are never shown doing any work despite living in a huge establishment with a skeletal staff where there would be a TON of work to do. They only seem to exist to make Sara's life miserable. Miss Minchin was a credible, shrewd villain in the book. She hated Sara but knew that she could be quite useful as an instructress as well as a help in the kitchen, a maid and errand girl, after she loses all her fortunes. This Minchin is incredibly shallow. Furthermore she is given a five minute Freudian Excuse for her behavior during a later episode. And at the end we're supposed to just forgive her nasty behavior for 20+ episodes because of it.
Lavinia was barely a side character who occasionally made trouble for Sara, not the front and center bully like she is in this. She also wasn't American in the book. None of the cast was.
There's also a potential love interest whose existence throws in a major plot hole to the whole plot.
The animation is weak even for 1980's standards. The characters make strange expressions and you can't tell what they're feeling half the time. It's also incredibly redundant. I don't need to see Sara ironing and washing dishes for eons in each episode before the head housemaid comes in and screams at her.
Please skip this and watch any of the other versions. If you're a diehard fan, then watch it, but don't expect much. The 1986 version with Amelia Shankley is the closest version to the book imo and way better than this version which, I don't think even tried.