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Anime adaption of 1905's children's novel 'A Little Princess'. Sara Crewe arrives in London with her wealthy father to enter Miss Minchin's boarding school for young ladies. Despite an unhappy incident which makes Miss Minchin vexed with her, she leads a contented life until one day, her birthday, the news of the sudden death of her father plunges her into poverty. She is forced to do lowly work for the Seminary and in her situation, she is a welcome target to Miss Minchin and her former fellow pupil Lavinia, who once envied her wealth. But with the help of her friends she made and her own will-power she finds the strength to never give up. Written by
Taro Rehrl <Taro.Rehrl@lool.net>
The most emotionally involving (and maybe defining) animated series of my generation...
For some reason, Sarah became Sally in the Arabic version, an artistic license that hardly matters because the name is beautifully carried by the opening song's lyrics, a melody rejuvenating my heart whenever I remember it.
If you have a moment, just listen to it on Youtube, it perfectly conveys the anime's tragic spirit but with an unshakable faith in life that would never desert the heart of the heroine, Sarah, "A Little Princess" from Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 novel (also author of "Little Lord Fauntleroy").
This 'princess' title is almost misleading, as Sarah Crewe is no royalty but the daughter of a rich widower, Ralph Crewe, who made fortune in India and decided to put his most cherished treasure in a respected all-girl's seminary school of London. The prologue features his Sollicitor Barrow ordering from the severe headmistress Miss Minchin the best room for whom might be her richest pupil. The strict and no-nonsense Minchin, assisted by her gentle submissive sister Amelia, rapidly understand the financial opportunities of this peculiar newcomer.
But Sarah is beyond these considerations, she's just two days shy away from saying goodbye to her Daddy, and the last day will be dedicated to a doll. And like in the best anime, the first episodes set the character's personalities as we see how the friendly and good-hearted Sarah manages to convince a reluctant tailor to sell her a decorative doll because she looked like the one she imagined in her dreams, Sarah's imagination and manners are so persuasive he gives it to her.
Meanwhile, we also have glimpses of antagonistic personalities as Minchin tacitly disapproves the way Sarah is pampered, having a personal maid, a parrot, even a carriage driver (a street-smart kid Peter). She's eager to see Sarah's father leave so she can learn a few lessons about life. And then we get our first sour taste of "Princess Sarah" emotionality with the poignant farewell scene. Both Sarah and Mr. Crewe would stand behind a closed door, unaware that this is the last time they see each other. After two episodes, we're already moved to tears.
And the series have been run so many times that the following ones feel like a bittersweet countdown until the infamous crushed birthday party. Yet, what happens before is crucial in the way it conditions all the treatment Sarah would later receive. As soon as she makes her entrance in the school, all the eyes are on her, she has the most beautiful clothes, because her mother is French, she excels in French, in fact, she's instantly popular. And she's so compassionate that she becomes the surrogate mother of a four-year old cry-baby named Lottie, and the best friend of Ermengarde, the target of Lavinia and her henchman-like friends Jessie and Gertrud's jokes.
And once Sarah is appointed School Representative by Miss Minchin, she definitely makes an enemy out of Lavinia, no longer the most popular girl in school. And to call Lavinia an antagonist is an understatement; she's such a despicably proud, manipulative and hateful character I remember we kids hated her as if she existed in real life. But contrarily to Lavinia, Minchin seems to hold a grudge against Sarah for 'reasons', feeling her authority challenged by her over-the-top good manners; but she temporarily masks her hatred when interest raises its head. Learning from Barrow that Mr. Crewe bought one of the richest diamonds mines in India, she cheerfully welcomes Sarah's new nickname 'Diamond Princess', and puts a lot of money to celebrate her birthday, much to Sarah's reluctance.
Indeed, Sarah's fortune was her misfortune, because later, Mr. Barrow announces Crewe's bankruptcy and death from fever, he takes all Sarah's possessions leaving Minchin speechless and moneyless with a passionate anger finally ready to implode on Sarah, and it's only out of fear from negative publicity that she makes Sarah a servant instead of kicking her out. And there begins Sarah's chronicles, but no matter how low she sunk, Minchin and Lavinia never succeeded in breaking her spirit, and went on mistreating her, perceiving Sarah's resilience as passive-aggressive behavior.
Indeed, even with that sad expression on her face, Sarah never gave up and fought with her only weapon, a pure heart, and this is why "Princess Sarah" is a great lesson of perseverance, without one-dimensional characters. The motivations of the antagonists are understandable in their own wicked way, and Sarah can still count on friends, like Becky, the country girl who also works as a maid, and treats Sarah with the same deference as if she was a princess, also Peter, Lottie, Ermengarde, Amelia Minchin, French teacher Monsieur Dufarge and a few providential helpers like a baker and a Buckingham Palace guard and more crucial ones who'll come later.
Still, what a painful-to-watch show for the many heart-breaking moments it features, a heart-piercing music and these countless moments where Sarah comes back at the attic and cries, between Emily and her family photograph. "Princess Sarah" another success of the 'World Masterpiece Theater' really deserves the 'masterpiece' title as we didn't just watch "Sarah', she became a part of ourselves. I remember these early 90's days where Sarah was in everybody's thoughts and mouths, when we all waited for her to get a break. Basically, it was the girl's cartoon boys watched like "Captain Tsubasa" was the opposite.
And it was so emotionally involving, that the happy ending was just the reward to our patience. Yes, it was worth enduring her hardship, because it made her triumph during that unforgettable 'stairs' moment all the more satisfying, especially the sight of Minchin realizing she treated like garbage a real "Diamond Princess".
Sarah would hold no grudge against her, but will rather show the extent of her good heart, proving that her title is not so misleading after all as she's the Princess of the hearts... and especially ours, children of the 80's/90"s
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