In October, we learned that Studio Ghibli has been dreaming up its first-ever television series. Despite plans to close the studio in 2014 following the announcement of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki's retirement, Ghibli kept working on Ronja, The Robber's Daughter. And though it hasn't been available to view outside of Japan, a brand-new English language trailer for the series has just been released by Amazon Prime, which will begin streaming it on January 27.
The series — directed by Hayao's son, Goro Miyazaki — traces the escapades of a young, adventurous girl brought up by a gang of woodland thieves. In the trailer, we see Ronja climbing trees, skiing, and interacting with the forest's creatures and spirits. If that description sounds up Ghibli's alley, it totally is; Ronja already exhibits some of the studio's signatures. Strong female lead? Check. Humans learning to value and coexist within their natural environments? Check. Gillian Anderson — who led the English language dubbed Princess Mononoke — is even back for Ronja, too (though based on these northern English accents its difficult to detect exactly which character she voices).
And like many other Ghibli films, it's also based on a children's story. The studio's previous adaptations include Kiki's Delivery Service, based on a 1985 book by Eiko Kadono; When Marnie Was There, adapted from a 1967 book of the same name; and Arrietty, a 2010 Ghibli creation based on The Borrowers. Ronja takes root in a 1981 fantasy novel by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, who also wrote Pippi Longstocking. "With Ronja, the Robber's Daughter, Astrid Lindgren seems to be telling children to believe in their own power to grow, whilst telling adults to learn more from children," Miyazaki said in a statement. "Mutual respect will attain freedom in the true sense of the word."
Yet there's a pretty big difference, too: Ronja is digitally animated rather than drawn by hand. Though manual animation is incredibly time consuming and expensive, it's a Ghibli hallmark that defines the studio's most enduring films. Based on a number of YouTube comments on the trailer, some Ghibli die-hards aren't fans of this new digital direction. But considering Miyazaki's recently announced next film, Boro the Caterpillar, will reportedly be digitally animated as well, we'll see how Ghibli's style further develops in the digital age.
Text Emily Manning