Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is Studio Ghibli’s first TV anime. An exclusive for Amazon Prime subscribers, the series is an adaptation of a Swedish children’s book from author Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippi Longstocking.
A charming throwback to the days of children’s animation intended primarily to edify, not sell toys, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is a whimsical, gentle look at a world of magic, wonder and natural majesty. In Studio Ghibli ’s capable hands, we follow Ronia from the mythical story of her birth beneath a stormy, harpy-ridden sky as she learns to master the forest, handle encounters with its varied denizens, and even make new friends.
The cel-shaded CG animation style hearkens back to Ni No Kuni, a collaboration between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli (who did the game’s beautiful animation sequences). It also reminded me of Wind Waker, all of which primed me for gaming shenanigans rather than Ghibli’s normal hand-drawn fare. But aside from some pauses that feel like they were kept in a second too long, I quickly got accustomed to seeing Studio Ghibli’s style rendered in CG. None of Studio Ghibli’s whimsy and charm is lost in the new style.
The English dub features narration by Gillian Anderson and a score of voice actors whose energetic performances won even me over (I’ve been planted firmly in the subs side of the subs versus dubs debate for a long time now). Lovis’ calm air of command, Mattis’ contrast between his throaty roars and tender affection for his daughter, and Ronia’s endearing innocence are cast highlights, though old man Pete’s avuncular cackle and Birk’s confident chirps deserve an honorable mention. The dub is fluid, professional and highly enjoyable.
Ronia’s story progresses more slowly and with less flash and zazzle than people are accustomed to nowadays with zippy, fast-paced kid’s shows. Each episode has a 25-minute runtime but can feel much longer, depending on how many sequences of exploration and the natural world there are. Ronia the Robber’s Daughter only asks for patience as it slowly and deliberately unfolds Ronia’s story, which glows with warmth and love in every richly-detailed corner.
It is the perfect palliative to the ugly world in which we find ourselves today and much more worthy of children’s attention than shows which are a merchandising arm first and foremost.
26 episodes long, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter aired in Japan in 2015. The anime won an award in the Animation category at the International Emmy Kids Awards in April 2016 and can be watched on Amazon Prime here.