It’s a story about the folly of hatred, the strength of family, and the importance of friendship. On this edition of Creations of Chaos, it’s the animated series, Ronja The Robber’s Daughter.
Ronja is a girl born into a clan of robbers. She is the pride and joy of her father and the entire clan.
Happy to spend her days alone, running free in the forest, her life changes when she meets the son of a rival robber clan.
At first the two keep their families’ tradition and treat each other as enemies, but over time, Ronja and Birk not only become friends, but family. As their fathers’ rivalry escalates to violence, Ronja and Birk must make sacrifices to save their friendship.
As a rule, I don’t read reviews before writing about something, but as I was searching for technical information about Ronja The Robber’s Daughter, I couldn’t help but come across reviews.
For a show that expresses the folly of hatred, I was surprised by how many people hated the show. Though I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I had a hard time believing that the other writers watched the same animated series. The things that I liked were the things that they hated, so I felt an intense desire to share my positive thoughts on Ronja the Robber’s Daughter.
It’s Too Slow
When listening to the Nerdist Writers’ Panel podcast, one of the biggest concerns that television writers face presently, is taking the time to develop character and story, while trying to not lose the ever-shortening attention spans of their audience. They feel pressured to force something dramatic and epic to occur within the first few episodes, if not the first episode of a series, to ensure that viewers don’t check out.
Ronja the Robber’s Daughter takes its time. The first four episodes set the time, place, and establish character. The actual plot doesn’t get underway until episode 5.
The story needed time to show the unraveling of Mattis, Ronja’s father, taking him from a loving, doting Papa, to a man who lets his emotions spiral out of control, to the point that he denounces the daughter he once adored. It’s difficult to feel anguish over what a character has lost, when the time isn’t taken to establish what is important.
There is a lovely moment where Ronja is floating on her back in the lake. She is quietly staring up at the clouds. The clouds are reflected on the lake, surrounding her as though she were floating in the sky. It’s beautifully animated. With an emotionally volatile father, and a home filled with smelly, rowdy, robbers, you savor that moment of calm right along with Ronja. All of the episodes are filled with similar scenes.
The series isn’t slow, it just takes the time to develop character and allows time for small, quiet, moments.
The Animation Isn’t Great
The animation for the series was not completed by Studio Ghibli, but by Polygon Pictures.
The individual character animation isn’t as detailed as Studio Ghibli’s films, but when you consider that Princess Mononoke took ten years to complete, and Ronja is twenty-six episodes that had to be completed in less time, it’s understandable.
There are scenes where more care is taken with the character animation than others. The underwater scene when Ronja and Birk are trying to escape the Harpies, is visually wonderful, with character’s crisp faces, set against various shimmering shades of blue.
The background animation is just as beautiful as it is in the films.
A large amount of time is spent in the forest, and whether it’s purposeful, or a consequence of budget constraints, you see the same scenery throughout the episodes. You start to recognize the big tree, the large rock by the lake, when the long, hard winter is over, you are just as happy as Ronja and Birk to see the familiar landmarks after the snow has melted.
Their forest becomes your forest, and it’s thanks to the carefully detailed background animation.
It Lacks Heart
I could at least sort of see the first two complaints from someone else’s perspective, but this one I really did not understand. It oozes heart.
Like so many Studio Ghibli stories, this series is about family. You could even say that it’s a combination of some of the Ghibli films.
All three stories have mothers who do their best to keep the fathers in check. Not only does Lovis keep Mattis in line, she keeps all of the men in the robber clan in line. It’s a big job, and she is no joke. Don’t mess with Lovis.
It’s also a story about creating family, just like Howl’s Moving Castle.
When Ronja is born, the entire robber clan celebrates, and they continue to look out for her as she grows.They aren’t just a band of robbers, they are a family.
Ronja and Birk call each other brother and sister though they are not related by blood. They decide to create their own family despite the hatred that exists between their clans.
I was absolutely angered over the events that took place in episodes 15 and 16, and cheered as Ronja made her incredibly brave, but inevitably heartbreaking choice.
When the kids moved into the cave, I started to get Grave of the Fireflies flashbacks. I was genuinely concerned. It was distressing knowing that Ronja and Birk would have to make the choice between being separated forever by their families, or freezing to death together over the winter.
This series had heart all over the place. I never once felt that it was superficial or insincere.
Ronja The Robber’s Daughter is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s a good family watch, especially for its potential to spark some good discussion about hatred just for hatred’s sake, about what makes a family, and about true friendship.
I started the series feeling uncertain as to whether Studio Ghibli and director Goro Miyazaki could pull off a television show. I ended the series not only being pleasantly surprised, but feeling the need to be the series’ staunch defender.