This is one that might be for the older kids.
After viewing the first two episodes of Studio Ghibli’s Ronja(the ‘j’ is silent) the Robber’s Daughter, it’s fuzzy if the series will connect with a younger audience, or those not familiar with the book. The Amazon Prime edition of the series is cut into 26 pieces, but the singular narrative is stretched across all of them. With a lot of space to fill, the series takes its time crafting its story, and therefore, the first two episodes are a little slow-going.
The titular character is just that; she is the child of a man who robs the coaches of travelers passing through town. Interestingly, his wife seems to be okay with it, even chastising him for skipping out on ‘work’ early to feed Ronja. When Ronja begins exploring the forest on her own, she meets another child named Birk(and it takes awhile for him to show up in the series as well). The two become close friends, but Birk happens to be the son of the leader of the rival coach robbing gang. This dynamic becomes the main plot point for the series.
Each of the first pair of episodes takes its time; for instance, Ronja isn’t even born until nearly two thirds of the way through the first. By the time she is going to first venture out into the forest on her own, it’s at the end of the second(which is aptly titled “First Trip to the Forest”). This makes the viewer want to jump right into another episode, in a sort-of need to find the next big plot point. But this presents a bit of a quandary, as binge-watching streaming services might not be such a good idea for the younger children(or perhaps any homo sapien, but who are we kidding?).
Even though this reviewer was just going to watch two episodes for this review, he found himself compelled to continue. In typical Studio Ghibli fashion, the viewer is introduced to some interesting creatures which inhabit the woods, including harpies and some evil-looking, hypnotically-gazing dwarves. There is probably more to these creatures than just their initial hostility, and one can look forward to exploring their history(and hopefully getting to know them better) as the series progresses.
Perhaps this reviewer doesn’t know the youth of today all that well, and they will gravitate towards the series. That would be a good thing, if for nothing more than getting them interested in the studio(there are many great Ghibli films out there waiting to be discovered anew). And the first couple of episodes are truly lean on story development, but if one can summon the willpower to avoid binge-watching, there might just be a big payoff in being patient and absorbing the series slowly. There is even a natural commercial break about half-way through each episode(probably left over from the Japanese television broadcast), so perhaps that can aid in the pacing when showing the program to younger viewers.
After a slow start, viewers of Ronja the Robber’s Daughter might be itching for big story developments. As long as the series finds a groove once all the setup is in place, Ronja is certain to be an epic tale destined to satisfy. But if it continues to take its time or has to stretch its story thin, viewers might be prone to walking away from the series and not coming back. Young children might be a hard sell, but the show could be a hit with the older ones, and even adults. Time will tell whether or not viewers of Ronja end up feeling like they were the ones robbed – of their leisure time.
Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is streaming on Amazon Prime Video starting today.