Anthropomorphic flora and fauna, spirits, ghosts, and heroic young female protagonists — all things that can be found in the productions from Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli.
For example, there is San, a girl raised by the wolf gods in Princess Mononoke, fearless and definitely not to be messed with, inhabiting a story that imparts a strong environmental message as well. Or Chihiro of Oscar-winning Spirited Away who went through her own personal journey from whiny brat to brave heroine. Or Sophie who in Howl’s Moving Castle is a girl spelled into becoming in old women, in which case she learns to accept with confidence, grace, and ultimately heroism. We can see a pattern developing. Another princess, portrayed in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, shows the world in a refreshing departure from Disney and is rebellious of her traditional norms, independent and free-spirited.
Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are known for centering their stories around young protagonists, taking on fantastic challenges and finding courage and compassion, something universal that has been appealing to not only young but adult audiences also. In fact, the films’ popularity among adults often overshadows the connection younger audiences can have to such stories.
The imagination of a child is a special thing, and rarely do the producers of children’s entertainment pay respect to the magic of that open perception. Too often stories are dependent on animals’ song and dance routines or battle sequences, both of which usually facilitate the most effective generation of revenues, merchandising (and teaching children the power of the cliché along the way).
That is why the fantastic stories coming out of Studio Ghibli are remarkable: they connect with an audience’s imagination in a way that other animated fare glosses over, with a profoundness other cartoons fail to penetrate, and by inspiring respect for complex sentiments and dreams, even in adult audiences. After all, anime features have often had the ability to reach out and tug on sentimentality, the affirming, and the tragic.
The Japanese animation house known for feature-length anime films is introducing the English-speaking world to Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, a 26-episode TV series that is now available on Amazon for the first time to audiences in the United States and United Kingdom.
The series originally aired in Japan from October, 2014 to March, 2015 and was directed by Gorō Miyazaki, son of the studio’s renowned co-founder. Ronia is the studio’s first TV series and won the prize for best animation at last year’s Kids’ International Emmys. Gorō is also responsible for Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill.
The story is adapted from the writings of Astrid Lingren, whose other well-known literary creation is Pippi Longstocking. The show's main difference from most other children’s fare is the way it abstains from common features that tend to lure the interest, like plots anchored by battle scenes and merchandising. Instead, this series prioritizes pacifism and honoring the natural world.
Although there is some CGI added to the animation process, the series is much like the rest of Studio Ghibli's productions, which rely mostly on old school hand-drawn cell process —mostly at the instance of the elder Miyazaki.
The story is based on a young girl’s coming-of-age, in which she tests her bravery and honor in a dangerous yet fantastic world, but the values of love, respect, and community shine through. These tales respect their young audiences, appealing to imagination and sense of surprise, astonishment and morality, opening possibilities for real emotional connection. It is not uncommon for anime to appeal to the philosophical, regardless of the audience.
Like it occurs with Miyazaki’s feature films, these qualities appeal to both adults and children, for these themes are more difficult to find in an increasingly commercial world. Such films reopen our imaginations as the rest of the world seems to close to them.
The animated series was not considered a hit when it was originally aired in Japan, and thus far there does not seem to be plans to continue the series. The episodes are currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime in an English-dubbed version, featuring the voices of Teresa Gallagher, Kelly Adams, comedian Rufus Hound and Gillian Anderson of The X-Files.
Source: The Guardian and The Independent