Because this is not a Japanese film site, Japanese film news tends to slip under the radar. So while Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter was announced in February as something new and sparkly and unique — a Studio Ghibli TV series, headed up by Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao), to be done entirely in CGI — it was mostly forgotten about in the post-February world.
Only now, several months later, has Ronia has peeked its head above the Tokyo skyline, and it’s here to show us what traditional Ghibli animation looks like when hauled screaming into the third dimension.
The results? They’re OK, I guess.
The series, based off a children’s book by “Pippi Longstocking” author Astrid Lindgren, tells the tale of a young girl who lives in the woods with her father’s clan of thieves and mercenaries. Adorable criminal hi-jinx ensue. Oh, and for those wondering if the narrator says anything of note, here’s a quick translation (thanks, Anime News Network!):
“Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. Starting its broadcast in October. I want the children to be able to see this.”
I guess “I” is referring to the narrator, who is apparently just allowed to inject her own personal opinions into the trailer (or perhaps she’s reading the words of an all-knowing cartoon God who spends most of his time judging kid’s shows).
Now, because the series is cel-shaded (a style of CGI animation where objects are rendered with black outlines, thus giving them an air of 2D cartoondom), Ronia looks heaps more like a part of the Ghibli canon than it does, say, something out of a Shrek sequel. This is a plus. Pause the video at nearly any point and marvel at a still frame of bona fide Ghibli animation, albeit with a weird 3D filter on top.
Press play, and watch Ronia’s movements take on a slight air of roboticness. It’s not hugely noticeable (and for the most part, the animation looks astoundingly like previous Ghibli works- especially when our plucky heroine jumps on rocks or climbs a tree –anything involving super-fast movement). But when she has to demonstrate slower, more methodical movement (as human beings often do), the animation suddenly looks dated by about 10 years. There’s something a little too measured and too perfect about the way she, say, dips her hand into a pond. These are the movements of a new and terrifying model of Terminator, not the quirky protagonist of a children’s cartoon.
But given that the president of Ghibli once said the studio “can produce about five minutes’ worth of theater-quality animation a month” with the entire staff working full-force, a Ghibli TV show probably would not be possible without some kind of injection of modern technology. So yes, this might be Ghibli in a slightly watered-down state, but that’s the trade-off if you want to see new Ghibli animation every week. And that will be the case, starting this October.