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Ronja, the Robber's Daughter (山賊の娘ローニャ, Sanzoku no Musume Rōnya) is a 26 episode animated television series directed by Gorō Miyazaki and written by Hiroyuki Kawasaki for NHK. It is animated by Polygon Pictures as a production for NHK Enterprises and Dwango. The story is based on the Astrid Lindgren novel of the same name. It follows a clan of robbers in medieval Scandinavia whose fort is split in half by a bolt of lighting; Ronja, daughter of the chief, must overcome the circumstances that follow.

The series is a Studio Ghibli co-production, leasing its staff: in addition to Miyazaki as director, Katsuya Kondō designed the characters, and Toshio Suzuki provided the title logo. It involves Miyazaki's longtime collaborators, with Satoshi Takebe scoring the soundtrack, and Aoi Teshima performing the series' theme song. This confers a look-and-feel that's familiar to the studio's work.

The series faithfully adapts its source material and has a laid back atmosphere and is similar in tone to Isao Takahata's early television works.

Plot[]

Ronja, the only child of a bandit chief, grows up among a clan of robbers living in a castle in the woodlands of early-Medieval Scandinavia. When Ronja grows old enough she ventures into the forest, exploring and discovering its wonders and dangers like the mystical creatures that dwell there. She learns to live in the forest through her own strength, with the occasional rescue by her parents.

Ronja has never met another child until after her 10th birthday, when she happens upon a boy her own age named Birk, who turns out to be the son of the rival clan chief.[2]

Characters[]

Principal cast[]

Character name Voice actor
English Japanese (Nihongo) Japanese English
Ronja ローニャ Ronya Haruka Shiraishi Teresa Gallagher
Mattis マッティス , Mattisu Takaaki Seki Rufus Hound
Birk ビルク , Biruku Reika Ueyama Kelly Adams
Lovis ロヴィス, Rovisu Yuraki Nozawa Morwenna Banks
Noddle-Pete スカッレ・ペール , Sukarre-Peru Umeji Sasaki Adrian Edmondson

Secondary cast[]

Character name Voice actor
English Japanese (Nihongo) Japanese English
Fjork (フョーソク, Fyosoku) Shoichiro Akaboshi Rasmus Hardiker
Pelje (ペリェ, Perye) Yūsuke Tezuka
Tjorm (チョルム, Chorumu) Takeo Ogawa
Sturkas (ストゥルカス, Suturukasu) Kenji Sugimura
Jutis (ユティス, Yutisu) Takahiro Shimada Giles New
Joen (ヨエン, Yoen) Rintarou Nishi
Labbas (ラッバス, Rabbasu) Keiji Himeno
The Great Harpy (鳥女, Tori-onna) Saori Kato Jules de Jongh
Undis (ウンディス, Undisu) Mika Doi Beth Chalmers
Narrator Fukiko Endō Gillian Anderson

English voice cast: Giles New voices Tapper. Ben Golding voices Borka (ボルカ, Boruka), Knotas and Tjegge. Jeff "Swampy" Marsh voices a court musician. Jonathan Ross and Naomi Freedman voices the Rumphobs (ずんぐり小人 , Zunguri kobito); Ross is notably a well-known British media personality, and is a big Studio Ghibli fan.

Themes[]

Origins[]

Ronja Book

Astrid Lindgren’s beloved children's books, Ronja, the Robber's Daughter and Pippi Longstocking.

One of Astrid Lindgren's favorite books was Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which is all about how the author built himself a dwelling from forest material and tried to live as solitary and simple a life as possible, at a distance from the materialistic city culture from which he had fled. Since Astrid lived in the city she was not able to enjoy nature all the time, but she could be there in her imagination. That's how the story about Ronja began – with a longing to the forest.

Astrid Lindgren's entire life had to do with being in tune with nature, something that was closely connected with a child's intuition and inherent spontaneity. She once said: “If anyone asks me what I remember from my childhood, my first thought is actually not of the people. But of that beautiful environment that framed my days then and filled them with such intensity, that as a grownup you can hardly comprehend it. Wild strawberries among the rocks, carpets of blue spring flowers, meadows full of cowslips, special places where blueberries could be found, the forest where dainty pink flowers were nestling in the moss, the paddocks around Näs where we knew every little path and every little stone, the creek with the waterlilies, ditches, streams and trees – I remember all this more than the people.”

Supernatural Creatures[]

The natural environment around Ronja is also full of supernatural beings. Primarily it is populated with fantastic, more or less dangerous powers that are out to get you. Researcher Vivi Edström has pointed out that Astrid Lindgren takes up a dialogue with forest romanticism, forest terror and the forest fairy tale tradition. From those fairytales we remember the trolls and the giants, the harpies and the elves. But Astrid created her own mystical forest inhabitants that are reminiscent of traditional fairy tale characters, whilst they also represent something new: grey dwarfs, wild harpies, rumphobs.

Familial Relationships[]

Ronjacast

The heart of the series is Ronja's relationship with her father, Matt.

Besides the natural environment and the forest, there are other themes in the book about Ronja. The male and female theme is very evident in the story: Ronja's mum Lovis has decided that the child is going to be a girl, and that this girl child is going to be a chief robber is a natural conclusion for both parents. Lovis is a strong image of a woman, a source of life and a role-model for Ronja. Her name is closely related to love. Ronja's father, Matt is portrayed as the big child of the book whilst Lovis is the one who puts the men to work, drives them out when necessary and makes sure they keep themselves clean and fed. Ronja's liberation from her parents and the classical coming-of-age theme is another red thread in the novel, as is the Romeo and Juliet story. The love between Ronja and Birk is however not first and foremost a romantic love, but focuses more on soul-mateship and a bonding that emerges from their common sense of belonging to nature. They “…get affectionately attached to each other”, is how Astrid Lindgren expressed it in an interview in connection with the book release. The most important relationship in the book is actually the one between Ronja and her father, Matt.[3]

Behind the Scenes[]

Production[]

Goro Ronja Art

The series was a hybrid between 2D and 3D elements, a first for the studio.

Studio Ghibli approached The Astrid Lindgren Company in 2009, with the hopes of turning the story of Ronja into a feature film. By the time the negotiations were finished, however, the Studio had been asked to create a television show for NHK, the public broadcaster in Japan. They felt that Ronja’s story was the perfect fit, and suggested the change to The Astrid Lindgren Company. This was a first for Studio Ghibli, having only created feature films in the past, and they realized that the tighter time frame of a television show would require new techniques for the animation. They teamed up with renowned 3DCG studio Polygon Pictures and production company DWANGO Co., Ltd, to bring this story to the small screen.

In October 2014, the series, called Sanzoku no Musume Rōnya in Japanese, started to air on NHK. It was directed by Goro Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli and produced by Nobuo Kawakami of DWANGO. Since then, it has been named “Best 2D Animated Programme” at the Asian Television Awards, and won the International Emmy Award in the category “Best Kids Animation”. The broadcasting rights are being sold all over the world, and the Swedish version started airing in Sweden in January 2016.

Ronja Cast

The Robber clan is a large one.

Throughout the production, the producers corresponded frequently with Astrid Lindgren's family and The Astrid Lindgren Company. In combination with a very faithful reading of the book and immense research into medieval practices in Europe, this correspondence really served to make the story come alive while remaining faithful to the original work. Interestingly, the series still feels distinctly Japanese, and the supernatural beings of Mattis’ Forest are clearly visual heirs to other mystical creatures from Studio Ghibli's previous productions. A Swedish reviewer puts it like this:

”It is quite clear that Miyazaki has a great sense of affection towards the books of Astrid Lindgren, and in this television series he shows that on every level. Sometimes it feels as though the two of them have been working side-by-side to create something exceptional together, that is how hard it is to separate the two. Miyazaki also manages to do this without forsaking the distinctive voices of both himself and Astrid Lindgren, which gives us a show that combines the visions of two unique creators into something wholly original that stands firmly on its own two feet.”[4]

Miyazaki said his work increased his appreciation for CG animation,

I had this preconceived notion that movements in CG animation looked strange, but the reality is that you have more of a chance to control ‘acting’ within CG than with hand-drawn animation. With hand-drawn, you have to be a skilled drawer to animate anything. If there’s potential in the use of CG animation, it has less to do with the fancy camerawork that’s usually mentioned; rather, I came to understand the potential for persistently bringing forth a sort of acting from the CG models[5]

Inspiration[]

Ronja Goro

Goro Miyazaki being interviewed during a press event for the series.

When I was looking for a book suitable for a new film project, director Goro Miyazaki read many books for children. In a 2017 LA Times interview, he recalled coming across the book Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter. He said, "Many Scandinavian books have been made into animated productions in Japan. For example, Vicke the Viking, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Moomin. Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki even once tried to create a film of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking. Japanese viewers and creators, including me, are quite familiar with books for kids from overseas."

In that same interview, Ronja's central focus was described to be a brother-sister relationship rather than a romance. Miyazaki described what inspired him to push through with his adaptation, "More than romance, I first attached great importance to the relationship between a child and her father. I thought that the book emphasizes the relationship between Ronja and Mattis more than that of Ronja and Birk. Also, I was careful when depicting the difference between the affection of children for their parents and the affection of parents for their children." This marked an interesting departure for the younger Miyazaki, who had previously worked on Tales from Earthsea (2006).

"When directing the series, I referred to the cultures of medieval Europe, including central and Eastern Europe, and Russia, and I studied Scandinavian Vikings. Also, I was inspired by my journey to Romania, and my experience in forests when climbing mountains."

Press Junket

Goro Miyazaki beside the series lead voice actors, Haruka Shiraishi and Reika Uyama during a press event.

Miyazaki even praised the casting of Gillian Anderson as the narrator of the series, "Her gorgeous voice has brought a sense of stability and luxury to the series." Anderson had previously voiced Moro for the English language version of Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (1997). The interviewer then went on to say the series was a hit overseas and had yet to be released in the United States. Miyazaki was optimistic in saying, "I hope that many people have a chance to watch it. Never have we needed mutual understanding more than in the antagonistic age we are experiencing now."

Eventually, Miyazaki was asked to described what influence, if any, did his father have with the project and career thus far. "He has influenced all of my productions, the backbone and spirit of which come from his works. In this regard, he has influenced the show in every way. As far as my professional path, unlike Ronja, I’ve felt remorse for choosing to follow in my father’s footsteps. (laughs)."

Sometime during the series production, producer Toshio Suzuki had confessed to pushing Hayao Miyazaki to look at the first images of the 2D-3D hybrid series, and that the director had been pleasantly surprised by the results. This would go on to push him to produce Boro the Caterpillar.

Many scenes in were based on his experience as a landscape architect, including the forest scenes.[6]

Planned Sequels[]

When asked whether future seasons were planned, Goro Miyazaki confessed, "I don’t have any plan to make more seasons. How Ronja and her clan develop and grow, and what kind of lives they lead, will be found in the hearts and imaginations of readers and viewers."

Music[]

The original soundtrack for the first TV anime series Ronja, the Robber's Daughter (NHK BS Premium) is composed by Satoshi Takebe, who had previously worked on the soundtrack for From Up on Poppy Hill (2011).[7] It contained thirty-five tracks and was released on December 17, 2014, by Pony Canyon Co., Ltd. The insert track, Wolf's Song was composed by Satoshi Takebe, with lyrics by Goro Miyazaki and sung by series cast member Yukari Nozawa.

Release[]

Ronja, the Robber's Daughter premiered on October 11, 2014, and all 26 episodes was shown until March 28, 2015, on NHK BS Premium. For Goro Miyazaki, it was his first directorial work outside Studio Ghibli. In addition, Studio Ghibli participated as "production cooperation", and Toshio Suzuki served as the project's producer.

Each character is modeled in 3DCG and then animated by adding the texture of the conventional hand-painted style. The series aimed at creating a hybrid that fused CG and hand-painted background art, such as combining the landscape with watercolors and the rivers being animated with CG.

In 2016, Miyazaki won the highest award in the International Emmy Awards / Children's Animation category.

From April to September 2016, it was rebroadcast on NHK E-Tele from 19:25 on Friday.

UK-based distributor Serious Lunch has acquired the worldwide distribution rights, except for Japan and Scandinavia. It sought English-language broadcasters and brought the series to potential backers at the 2015 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. Amazon began streaming the series on its Amazon Prime streaming service on January 27, 2017.[8] GKIDS released the series in the United States on August 20, 2019 (distributed by Shout! Factory).[9]

Credits[]

Credit Staff
Director, Storyboard Goro Miyazaki
Series Composition Hiroyuki Kawasaki
Screenplay Hiroyuki Kawasaki
Episode Director Akio Kazumi (10 episodes), Kazuma Shimizu (11 episodes), Kei Takao (6 episodes)
Character Design Katsuya Kondo
Art Yoshiaki Honma, Yoshikazu Fukutome
Animation Director Hiroshi Shimada, Tan Se Lee, Yukiko Inaishi
Music Satoshi Takebe
Executive Producer Keisuke Tsuchihashi, Nobuto Ariyoshi, Toyoki Oota
Producer Nobuo Kawakami
CG Supervisor Takeshi Iwata, Yuki Mizoguchi
Animation Producer Michiko Takahisa, Tsuyoshi Kobayashi

Related Programs[]

On October 4, 2014, a TV Special, This is how Ronja is born, the Robber's Daughter was shown NHK BS Premium and general TV. It featured Goro Miyazaki, Masami Nagasawa, Toshio Suzuki, Nobuo Kawakami, Aoi Teshima, Mari Natsuki. It is moderated by Naoko Suzuki and directed by Akiko Aihara.

References[]

External Links[]

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