By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Released August 20, 2019
Shout! Factory & GKIDS
* Spoiler Alert
Gorō Miyazaki has big shoes to fill. As the son of Hayao, to shift from the career of garden landscaper to animation director can be viewed as extreme but I feel his skills in one world is transferable to another. He’s had plenty of education before working on Tales from Earthsea (2006) and From Up on Poppy Hill (2011). To work on a television series, Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, shows his transition is complete. The attention to detail put in the background designs served his multi-purpose role well.
This series is based on Astrid Lindgren‘s book of the same name (Amazon link) (Ronia is the original spelling). The seminal character was born on a stormy night. Some may say great things are in store for her as she gets older. Almost like PIXAR’s Brave, this headstrong girl is looking to make her place in the world. Instead, what she finds is an innocent friendship with a young boy from a rival clan.
Old Scandinavia is split between fiefdoms and outlaws rule over different sections. Mattis and Lovis are happily living a simple life and give their now 12-year-old daughter some freedom to explore. However, the world is a dangerous place, filled with trolls and dwarves. They don’t take kindly to humans and offer a small sense of where the fantastic integrates with the spread of civilization.
The animation style is worth noting. In what the elder Miyazaki finds troublesome with fully realized computer animation and 3D modeling, the junior has embraced. It adds a different nuance and different studios have used this technique since 2001 to varying degrees of success. The inbetweening is much more fluid but will never quite replicate the feel of analogue work. In what makes it useful is with how the characters can navigate around background and foreground elements. When the forest world is vividly created under Goro’s professional guidance, I was in awe of what digital animation can now fully offer.
This director has crafted an exquisite medieval world. It seems like he’s more enamoured with the European world than his father. Although Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso serves as the best of that realm that Hayao crafted, there’s a difference between the watercolour hand-drawn influence to 3D modelled worlds.
I’m at the halfway point and this series should be slowly enjoyed than rushed through. When watching character dramas, taking the time to understand their motivations need breaks. I’m surprised that the book can be expanded to a 26 episode saga. The bonus material provides further insight into the development of the series, and I recommend seeing this to get up to speed about the lasting appeal of the Lindgren’s original tale. It has been adapted to other forms of media for a reason. At its core, this Romeo and Juliet story has no tragedy to close off the story of where loyalty lies between two feuding clans.
4½ Stars out of 5