Anyone doubting the quiet power and emotion of the newest iteration of Studio Ghibli need only look to Gorō Miyazaki’s wonderful new Anime series Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter. Shout Factory/GKIDS has brought the anime series to Blu-Ray.
Many believed that Studio Ghibli was to close its doors to never make Animation again. Rightfully so as Studio Ghibli’s Head and lead Director Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement. Though those announcements of retirement were greatly over-exaggerated (and played out in the Wonderful Documentary: The Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki) as Miyazaki reopened the Studio to produce one more feature-length film. For the Studio to survive beyond its creator like any great Studio it needs to grow beyond its progenitor. If Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter is any indication of the work that could be produced from the Studio in its future… it is in very good hands.
Based on the novel of the same name by Astrid Lindgren, the series follows the fantastical life of Ronja the only daughter of a small village of thieves, robbers, and others of ill-rebuke. Ronja is the bright shining light of her Parents and the literal village that also watches over her like an adoptive family. As the young girl begins to find her footing and her place in this magical world she finds friendship with a boy who she may or may not be allowed to.
Much of the charm, heart, and soul of the series lay in the simply constructed story of a young woman growing up, and the family around her. Like many of the best films from Studio Ghibli, Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter focuses on characters moving past normal storytelling conventions. Much of the drama within the series is grown out of actual character situations and isn’t as conventional as normal Fantasy fiction. In fact, the series finds a way in the loveliest of manners to sidetrack almost all of the clichés and stereotypes of the Fantasy Genre.
Gorō Miyazaki and his team of animators and behind the scenes magicians have pulled off a near miracle with this series. Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter is a Fantasy Character Piece not adhering to any of the clichés of Fantasy’s plot-driven mechanics. Rather Miyazaki has created a snap-shot of a young girl at a time where, Fantasy genre or not, everything can hold the most wondrous of mysteries. In any form, be it animation or live-action, Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter is dazzlingly storytelling that should not be missed.
REVIEWER’S NOTE: Having watched both the Dubbed Version and Original Language Version, normally I would always suggest the Original Japanese Language Version. Here I am not. Here I will suggest that people watch it with the English Dub. The reason is simple, they have done a masterful job of translating this series. Even higher up on the list of reasons why one should go with the English Language Dub is the fact that Gillian Anderson (someone very familiar with Studio Ghibli) narrates the entire series. Her lovely British timber is the sort of magical quality that lends itself perfectly to the entire series.
Shout Factory has given us a beautiful series of transfers. Additionally, Shout Factory has spread the series over 4-discs allow the 22-minute episodes really breathe with the bit-rates. Part of the issue with any TV series is how many discs and how they compressed the show on those discs. This does not seem to be an issue here.
They include the following:
- Interview With Goro Miyazaki
- Press Conference
- The Making Of Ronja
Interview with Gorô Miyazaki is an 11-minute that was done literally post-completion if the series. Miyazaki is very off the cuff, as it’s a very informal interview. He discusses the very challenging TV Production schedule. He also discusses the larger Female presence behind the scenes and how that influenced the series a great deal. He even gets into the experience of using Cell Drawn CG technique and how he very much wants to use CG for his next feature. It’s a very informal but very honest discussion by the director. Note: one will have to turn the volume up as Miyazaki is speaking at almost a whisper.
Press Conference is a 6-minute old school Press conference with Miyazaki and the cast and crew. This is similar to the Pressers you see out of Cannes and Toronto film festivals. Some interesting bits of information can be gleaned off the featurette but really much like a Press Conference not much is said.
The Making Of Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter is a 38-minute making-of. Divided into 5-Part this is more of fly-on-the-wall b-roll footage than your traditional “talking head” making-of. Beginning with showing how the animation and the development were achieved. The documentary does touch on almost all aspects of the TV series and how it was made.
The Final Thought
Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter like all Studio Ghibli Projects is simply Magic. Recommended!!!!