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ronja 17

Studio Ghibli dropped this image from 「山賊のむすめローニャ」(Sanzoku no Musume Ronia/ Ronia Robber’s Daughter) today, which is a TV anime collaboration with Polygon Pictures due to air in Japan on NHK and BS Premium this autumn. 

The image shows several characters central to the story. The titular Ronja (I’m using the Swedish names as there are two English translations with different translations for the proper names) is on the shoulders of her of what I presume to be her father Mattis, who is flanked by her mother Lovis on one side and Skalle-Per, the oldest member of the Mattis clan, on the other. The little boy in front is Birk, Ronja’s best friend, who is from the Borka robber’s clan – archenemies of the Mattis clan.

While the characters pose nicely here like for a happy family photograph, that snapshot would have been completely impossible in the story itself. It’s not only the fact that neither Mattis nor Lovis ever look that polished, rather I would argue that Mattis is pretty much incapable of looking that neat. He’s a rough and rowdy robber, with holes in his clothes, dirt on his face and lice in his hair. Furthermore, he’s also got a huge temper and is as pig-headed as it gets, which means standing smiling next to the son of his most loathed enemy is 100% impossible. Indeed, the whole story is precisely about that enmity – how the adults can’t get over it and the children, Ronja and Birk, must sneak behind everyone’s backs to become best buddies, slowly, very slowly, showing everyone that friendship is better than killing each other.

The rowdy robbers.

The rowdy robbers, unruly hair and all.

Of course, I know that this is just an image to give us a first impression of what the characters look like, but I’m telling you all this just so no one watches this anime with some sort of happy-smily-family idea in mind.

Other than this picture, it also seems a short teaser was posted for Ronia back in July, which I somehow missed. I’m linking it below. You might want to note at this point that this TV anime will be a 3D animated CGI series – a 180 degree departure from Ghibli’s usual animation style and techniques. And the footage does feel a little different.

I found the teaser on io9 and thought some of the comments from posters there were quite interesting. Several people fondly recall the 1984 Swedish film (including its music) and point out that the teaser is very lighthearted, much in contrast to the original story:

Yeah, that movie was probably my favourite as a kid. It’s going to be hard for Ghibli to match its wonderfully matter of fact-attitude. This intro is all cuteness, sparkle and prettiness, the film managed to make Ronja’s environments both inviting and magical, as well as dirty, dangerous and real. (Comment by Groeneinkt)

The points made are very valid, even if I don’t feel that all hope is lost – this is, after all, just a teeny-tiny teaser and we all well know that Studio Ghibli doesn’t shy away from heavier topics and reality. That said, it’s not a Ghibli-only production, but a collaboration – and I have no idea how much that is going to influence the outcome of this project. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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