Ronja, the Robber's Daughter

Alt title: Sanzoku no Musume Ronja

TV (26 eps)
2014 - 2015
Fall 2014
3.359 out of 5 from 740 votes
Rank #9,299
Ronja, the Robber's Daughter

Ronja was born one stormy night when the castle occupied by her father, the bandit chieftain Mattis, was split in half. Growing up in this divided fortress, the carefree little girl spends her days helping her mother and exploring the forest surrounding her home, blissfully unaware of how her outlaw father and his men provide for themselves. Then one day another bandit gang, led by Mattis's rival Borka, occupies the other half of their castle and refuses to leave. Mattis is enraged, but Ronja begins to bond with Borka's son Birk, the first child her age she has ever seen. Can the two be friends when their families are out for blood? And what will happen when she finally learns what the word "robber" actually means?

An adaptation of Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren.

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The Good: Despite being CG, you still get the character designs and art style you’d expect from Studio Ghibli, polished and charming as always. The cheery yet soft color palette works well, and the cel-shading looks nice. Movement looks pretty smooth and natural. Not Pixar CG level or hand-drawn Ghibli level, but still good. Beautiful hand-painted backgrounds give the series a soothing, natural feeling. Main characters are interesting and have strong, distinct personalities, adding a lot of flavor to the story. (Not so much for the side characters though.) The plot is relatively simple yet enjoyable. It really feels like a classic children’s novel type of story (which it is--it's based on a Swedish children's story from the 1980s, though I haven't read it so I can't compare in detail.) The relationship between Ronja and Birk is charming, multi-layered, and well-developed over the course of the story. The dynamic among Ronja and her father and mother is also great, especially the conflict she and her mother have with her father. The show does a masterful job of balancing the harshness of nature and the consequences of flawed human choices with a sense of cheeriness and whimsical imagination. We usually feel a little uneasy because appropriately dramatic or life-threatening situations occur frequently, yet at the same time things often feel bright and jovial. Overall a relaxing series with heaps of nature scenes, and just enough excitement and good characters to keep me watching.  The Bad: The most stand-out problem is this: the pacing is some of the slowest I have ever seen. While I don’t recall any pointless episodes, the thing is that nearly every scene could have accomplished its purpose in half the time or less. This drawn-out pace continues consistently throughout the whole series. This problem is probably going to be too big for most people to put up with. Similar to the above, although the core dialogue is perfectly fine, conversations feature a little too much time spent laughing, silently smiling, or saying things like "Mm" or “Hmph” too often in order to draw out their length. This makes interactions feel odd sometimes. I also have one major issue with the series. I’ll keep it vague so I don’t spoil too much. There is one very out-of-place scene where a group of about 10 adults physically abuse a child, and then later it’s treated like no big deal! We only see the characters after the violence has ended and it’s not graphic, but it is messed up. The child is tied up and barely conscious, and the abusers are all laughing. On top of that, not a single one of the group of abusers ever even apologizes to the child, and they all just go back to being the “lovable scamp” type characters they were before, as if it never happened. I just don’t understand—who thought this was OK?? First of all, a scene like this doesn’t belong in this show—it’s too vicious for the tone and the characters. But more importantly, if your story is going to touch on child abuse, you have to treat it with the gravity it deserves, not brush past it like it barely even happened. Most side characters have the same personality. All of Mattis’ and Borka’s men (except the old man) are pretty much the same guy. (Luckily the main characters are interesting enough to fully make up for this, in my opinion.) Also minor gripe, but although the world is interesting and the forest is home to several types of creative mystical creatures, they don’t do that much with them. They’re involved in making plot points happen and they get good doses of screen time, but because each has only one or two actions they just repeat over and over, they feel kind of lifeless. In Summary: Ghibli's Ronja is not for everybody, in fact it’s probably not for most. If you’re looking for a show with a reasonable pace, look elsewhere. And if you can’t ignore the child abuse scene (not that I blame you--it never should have been there), then give it a pass. But if you’re looking for something to relax with, want to soak up some soothing visuals, see plenty of nature, and watch a pair of spirited, independent kids surviving in the woods and other harsh circumstances, then give it a try.

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