Blu-ray Review: Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter (The Complete Series)

Studio Ghibli has a reputation for producing hand drawn theatrical animations. For a bulk of it’s existence the production company did not vary from that plan. They’d do an occasional short film, but there was a traditional feel to a Studio Ghibli release. That all changed in the early part of the ’10s when the studio teamed up with Polygon Pictures to create an CGI animated series based on Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter written by Astrid Lindgren, the author of the Pippi Longstockings books. Director Goro Miyazaki were able to bring the Studio Ghibli charm to limited animation. Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter debuted around the same time the studio shutdown it’s production. Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter: The Complete Series has all 26 episodes.

Ronja is a kid growing up in medieval Scandinavia. But instead of being stuck with a bunch of royalty and serfs, her family and kin are a clan of robbers so successful that they have their own castle. As she gets old enough, she explores the magical forest that surrounds her home. It’s a fantasy show and the woods are full of creatures that emerge from nature. “Born in the Storm” shows how Ronja was born to the head of the Mattis clan as they were feuding with the Borkas. Her birth is significant since lightning tears a hole in the castle wall as she pops out. “First Trip to the Forest” has her growing up and learning about the creatures in the woods. She gets her first taste of a magical world with dwarves. “Fear In the Forest” makes her understand that everything in the trees isn’t fun. “Hearing the Whistler” has the little girl ask father what he does for a living. This doesn’t work out well and gets a bit worse when the harpies arrive. The show progresses with Ronja learning about her life, family and the land.

Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter is aimed at younger kids. While it’s enjoyable enough for adults to join them, don’t get too critical. This is based on a book written by the same person that gave us Pippi Longstockings. So if you still enjoy Pippi, you’ll be entertained by Ronja. Gillian Anderson of The X-Files narrates the episodes. The animation is also different from a Studio Ghibli feature. Besides going with CGI, the scenes aren’t over animated. This was a TV series so there has to be a limited quality to the motion. The background art landscapes do have the richness you’d find in the theatrical productions. While the show only lasted a season, the final episode has a good ending feel so your kid won’t scream if you tell them there’s no second season. Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter: The Complete Series shows that Studio Ghibli could have gone into TV series if they hadn’t suspended productions in 2014.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer is crystal and let you see the CGI techniques they used to bring the forest to life. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 in both Japanese and English. There’s also a English 2.0 Mix with a descriptive audio narrator for people with visual issues. The subtitles are in English.

Interview with Goro Miyazaki (11:19) gives us a sense of Goro’s office as he talks about the series. He speaks of how they made the third episode first and then did the first two. He reflects on the large number of women that were part of the production in various roles. Goro had directed Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill before getting deep into Ronja. He had to learn how to work with CG rather than hand drawn animation to create the series.

Press Conference (6:14) brings out the director, voice actors and producer onto the stage. Goro talks of Suzuki letting him know that he could tackle CG even though the studio wasn’t a place for it.

The Making of Ronja (38:15) goes deep into the production process with cameras at various meetings during the various stages.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter: The Complete Series. Directed by Goro Miyazaki. Screenplay by: Hiroyuki Kawasaki. Starring: Gillian Anderson, Teresa Gallagher, Rufus Hound & Morwenna Banks. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 Blu-ray discs. Released: August 20, 2019

Tags: , , ,