The series originally started out as a manga in the early-mid 1970s. The story is about a 16 year old girl Nanako Misonoo (御苑生奈々子 Misonoo Nanako?) who attends a prestigious academy and deals with life as a high school student via writing letters to her "brother". The manga has never been officially released in English, though it has been translated into Italian.
The anime series spans 39 episodes and ends when Nanako is eighteen. The show's themes are dark and controversial. Among them include suicide, abuse, incest, lesbianism, drug addiction, violence, divorce, and disease. The series was dubbed and released in Italy and France, though it was pulled after 7 episodes in France, due to strong adult content.
It was also released in Arabic speaking networks in the early 90s under the title "Akhy El Aziz" (My Dear Brother). It was shown a number of times before being taken off the air; the anime is rarely available to Arab audiences due to its content, as it is uncommon for an animated series with such content to be broadcast in an Arabic-speaking country, although the anime's content did receive some little editing. However unlike the French dub, all 39 episodes were broadcast.
Nanako Misonoo is a young high school freshman at the exclusive girl's school Seiran School. When she begins her first year at this school, she falls into a world of female rivalry, love, chaos, and heartbreak. She narrates the story of the series in a series of letters to a young man named Takehiko Henmi, who she calls "Oniisama" (Brother). In reality, Takehiko was her teacher at the cram school she went to earlier. She feels such a strong bond with him that she asks if she could continue corresponding with him. He agrees, and soon she begins writing to him as a "brother." When Nanako starts her new school year at the all-girl Seiran School, she is unexpectedly inducted into the school's Sorority despite having none of the looks, talents, or background needed to become a member. As the series progresses, she becomes involved in the lives of the "Magnificent Three", the three most popular girls in the school.
As Nanako continues to interact with these women, she becomes attached to the great but troubled Rei Asaka, whom she wants to help, but cannot get close to due her obsession with Fukiko Ichinomiya, the Sorority president. Nanako also becomes friends with a beautiful and lonely young girl named Mariko, who is determined to get into the Sorority and make Nanako her best friend at all costs. Meanwhile, Nanako has problems of her own; she is constantly being bullied by her peers due to her membership in the Sorority despite not having any of the requirements. Throughout these problems Nanako is supported by her childhood friend Tomoko, the athletic but secretly ailing Kaoru Orihara, and the correspondence with her "brother", who just happens to have some secrets of his own. The series chronicles her first-year at Seiran Academy as she uncovers the past of some of the most popular girls in school, learning of love, loss, and her own family's secrets, including her true relation with Takehiko.
- Nanako Misonoo (御苑生奈々子 Misonoo Nanako?)
- Voiced by: Hiroko Kasahara
- The main character of the story, Nanako Misonoo is chosen to join The Sorority, an elite group at her new high school, eliciting the wrath and jealousy of her fellow classmates. Like many shōjo heroines, Nanako is innocent, caring, sometimes insecure, but always determined to do what is right. She begins the story hoping only to be liked by her peers, but is soon dragged into the lives and secrets of Seiran High's most elite students. She develops a great admiration for Rei "Saint-Juste" Asaka, and their relationship is one of the major driving plots of the series.
- Tomoko Arikura (有倉智子 Arikura Tomoko?)
- Voiced by: Waka Kanda
- Tomoko is Nanako's childhood friend and arguably the only "normal-themed" character in the series. In the manga, Mariko manipulates her into ending her friendship with Nanako, which Tomoko later rekindles when she realizes the misunderstanding. In the anime, Mariko attempts to end the friendship and almost succeeds, but Tomoko ultimately remains by Nanako's side, and the three of them become best friends for the entire duration of the show, with Tomoko acting as the series' main comedic relief.
- Rei Asaka ("Hana no Saint-Juste") (朝霞れい Asaka Rei?)
- Voiced by: Sumi Shimamoto
- Rei "Saint-Juste of the Flowers" Asaka is one of the "Magnificent Three" known for her social indifference and her many artistic talents. Incredibly loyal and devoted to the ones she loves, Rei's destructive relationship with Fukiko Ichinomiya leads her to be troubled, obsessed with death, and drug-addicted. She is Kaoru's best friend, and is made to frequently interact with Nanako, but her relationship with Fukiko prevents her from comfortably maintaining other friendships. The secrets between the two and Nanako's involvement in them is one of the major driving plots of the series. She dies late in the series; in the manga it is suicide, but in the anime it is an accident. Rei's nickname comes from Louis de Saint-Just, a French Revolutionary.
- Mariko Shinobu (信夫マリ子 Shinobu Mariko?)
- Voiced by: Sakiko Tamagawa
- An aspiring Sorority member and a previous member of the junior high school attached to Seiran, Mariko becomes one of Nanako's best friends. Mariko distrusts all men because of her troubled family life. Her father is an erotica author who has an affair with an actress and later divorces Mariko's mother. She is terrified of abandonment to the point where she becomes obsessed with the ones around her.
- Kaoru Orihara ("Kaoru-no-kimi") (折原薫 Orihara Kaoru?)
- Voiced by: Keiko Toda
- "Kaoru-no-Kimi" ("Prince Kaoru") Orihara is one of the "Magnificent Three" and the star of the basketball team, known for her tomboyish way of dress and her great athletic skills. She has a mysterious and deadly illness (breast cancer) kept secret from most of her classmates. As Rei's best friend, she greatly dislikes Fukiko for everything she has done to Rei and the hates very existence of the Sorority. She spends the series trying to live her life to the fullest in spite of her disease, and is the one who supports Nanako when she is bullied and helps Rei when she gets into major trouble. She was romantically involved with Nanako's "brother", Takehiko Henmi, but broke it off after her mastectomy. Kaoru's nickname comes from the anti-hero character, Kaoru Genji, of the The Tale of Genji.
- Fukiko Ichinomiya ("Miya-sama") (一の宮蕗子 Ichinomiya Fukiko?)
- Voiced by: Mami Koyama
- One of the "Magnificent Three", Fukiko "Miya-sama" ("Princess") Ichinomiya is the Student Body President, leader of the Sorority, and known for her elegance and dignity. She appears to be calm and generous, but is cruel and manipulative, often psychologically and physically torturing Rei for several ambiguous reasons. The annual Sorority candidate selections always cause extreme fighting and jealousy among the lowerclassmen, which she promotes, believing that in competition one finds strength. She sponsors Nanako's entry into the Sorority due to secret and ulterior moltives: she is in love with Takehiko. Not knowing that Takehiko is really Nanako's stepbrother, she jealously tries to destroy their relationship by making Nanako love her instead. In the anime, her love for Takehiko is given a backstory: She met and fell in love with him when she was twelve, but he broke her heart.
- Aya Misaki (三咲綾 Misaki Aya?)
- Voiced by: Masako Katsuki
- Another Sorority aspirant, she tries to make life miserable for Nanako and Mariko when she fails to gain entry. Mean-spirited and conniving, her cruelty belies an intense self-loathing. After she is wounded in an altercation with Mariko, she experiences a guilt for her actions and ultimately repents; by the series' end she and her group appear on good terms with the main cast.
- Takehiko Henmi ("Oniisama") (辺見武彦 Henmi Takehiko?)
- Voiced by: Tessho Genda
- Takehiko is a favourite tutor of Nanako, asked to be her "Oniisama" - a trusted older-brother figure. He is a graduate student at Gakuin University along with Takashi Ichinomiya, and has aspirations to study abroad in Germany. Takehiko is actually Nanako's step-brother, the son of Mr. Misonoo's first marriage, though he keeps this secret from Nanako so as not to air the family's dirty laundry. He was involved with Kaoru approximately two years prior to the series' start, though after she was diagnosed she ended their relationship. He is acquainted with the Ichinomiya family through Takashi: when visiting their lake house once summer, he met Fukiko and spent a considerable amount of time with her, in which she fell in love with him; he also appears to know of the situation with Rei, though if this information was revealed through Kaoru or Takashi is not stated.
- Takashi Ichinomiya (一の宮貴 Ichinomiya Takashi?)
- Voiced by: Kenyū Horiuchi
- Takashi is introduced as a friend of Takehiko, and is often seen accompanying him. A self-proclaimed metrosexual with a passion for cars, clothes, and beautiful people, Takashi is good-natured and caring, showing considerable interest in the well-being of his younger sisters. He also shows saintly patience in the face of Mariko's misandry. Takashi is incredibly supportive of Takehiko, frequently driving his lazy ass around and going so far as to plan and pay for his friend's entire wedding at the show's conclusion. It is hinted that he has a strained relationship with his father. He enjoys sipping cosmopolitans poolside, clad in the littlest of blue swim shorts.
- The Seiran Sorority is an amalgamation of a student government, an extracurricular club, and an elite society, and is a school tradition that is said to date back to at least the 1930's. Similar to western fraternities and sororities, prospective members seem to be nominated by those already in the Sorority, and undergo a pledge period in which they are interviewed for fitness. Family legacy, appropriate extracurricular activities, and attractive appearances are the main considerations for admission. The Sorority appears to have around forty or fifty members, though several of the senior members are given prominence and special nicknames. They are primarily referred to by these nicknames, though later in the series their surnames are revealed. Their given names were never shown.
"Lady Borgia" Ogiwara
- Voiced by: Emi Shinohara
- Borgia is a senior member of the Sorority, and is commonly seen wearing her hair in a chignon. Her position in the Sorority is never expressly stated. During the Petition Arc, she is presented as the most adamant member of the plot to discredit Fukiko, with intentions of taking over as President, herself. She holds a strong dislike of Fukiko and shows frustration with the other girl's staunch pride.
"Lady Mona Lisa" Komabayashi
- Voiced by: Shinobu Adachi
- Mona Lisa is a senior member of the Sorority, and resembles her namesake, possessing long black hair and an enigmatic expression. She is stated as being the Sorority's Vice-President. Reserved and mysterious, she is quite invested in the Sorority. She eventually goes along with the other members during the Petition Arc, though contests Borgia when she realizes their machinations have gone too far.
"Lady Medusa" Katsuragi
- Voiced by: Kumiko Takizawa
- Medusa is a senior member of the Sorority, and briefly serves as Vice-President after Mona Lisa's resignation. She has bushy brown hair. She appears to be Fukiko's only friend within the Sorority; the two are often seen conversing pleasantly, and during the Petition Arc she is the last member to remain on Fukiko's side.
"Lady Cattleya" Yamamoto
- Voiced by: Satoko Yasunaga
- Cattleya is a senior member of the Sorority, and has curled brown hair with side-swept bangs. Cattleya plays a role in the conspiracy to discredit Fukiko, though she pulls out when Borgia's schemes prove too ridiculous. She seems fairly kind, and willingly helps Nanako with the petition after resigning.
"Lady Vampanella" Hoshino
- Voiced by: Miyuki Matsuoka
- Vampanella is a senior Sorority member, and wears her dark hair in a ponytail with a bow. She appears close with Cattleya; the two both abandon Borgia to her schemes during the Petition Arc. She is seen to be a smoker outside of school.
- Sorority Member Senkou (ソロリティ・メンバー選考 Sorority Member Senkou?) August 20, 1978
- Saint Juste no Himitsu (サン・ジュストの秘密?) September 20, 1978
- Sayonara Kaoru no Kimi (さよなら薫の君?) October 20, 1978
- Brother, Dear Brother (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- THEM Anime Review
- Review by Erica Friedman of Yuricon
- Anime Academy Review