Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 06

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s sixth episode is all about the meaninglessness of conflict but its inescapability. This is an interesting premise to run for an episode, and doubly so for a young children’s show.

I’m honestly not sure what my three year old made of it? Unlike previous episodes, I didn’t read him the subtitles, which left his understanding of the events entirely up to his own interpretation.

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That meaninglessness of conflict is in almost every scene. The bandits and the robbers have a face off at hell’s gap, which results in nothing. How could it? Bolka doesn’t want Mattis’ side of the castle and Mattis cant well jump his mean across the game through Bolka’s men’s spears, can he?

The father’s have a stare down, and restate their dislike of each other, even though we also see them get along as children via a flashback. It seems that Mattis’ dad and Bolka’s father didn’t like each other either and went out of their way to separate the boys at the beginning. Probably because their dad’s did the same thing…

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Later, while Ronja is running through the woods to get away from the conflict of the castle, Birk invades her private time from his perch up in a tree. Ronja is mad, understandably, but even more so because she can’t get away from the fight.

And what’s the purpose of the fight anyway? Birk gains nothing by bothering her and it’s not like the forest isn’t big enough for both of them. (and probably a thousand children more) But they are both there, they are from both from families in conflict and they have no one else to engage with.

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As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t read the subtitles to my child this episode. I didn’t do this intentionally, rather I was called away by work and only returned towards the end of the episode. (I rewatched it later, of course)

I found it interesting that he sat through the entire episode anyway, which is more than can be said for other children’s shows I turn on in French, German or Italian. He really is transfixed by Ronja and, to some degree, must enjoy imagining what they are saying as much as being told about it.

8_ogk

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 05

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I’ve put off reviewing Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s for a few episodes now. Difficulty in ‘scheduling’ a review time with my toddler aside, this show provides very few opportunities to write more than a summary or note that children really like it.

That isn’t an excuse for me to drop it. On the contrary, I enjoy watching this show. I just don’t have much to say about it.

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To summarize week 5: Ronja meets Birk, the son of the other bandit lord of the forest. Birk was born the same night as Ronja and,like Ronja, has come to emulate his father’s slightly smug, superior attitude. Like their father’s before them, these two immediately dislike each other.

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So, obviously, they have a leaping contest across hell’s gap and, eventually, Birk falls in. As this is a kid’s show, he doesn’t fall to his death but, instead, is saved by luck and Ronja’s rope.

This scene was especially concerning for my three year old, who was enthralled with the leaping back and forth and totally shocked when Birk fell out of view. There was real panic in his eyes and fear to mirror Ronja’s as she tried to pull Birk back up.

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No doubt the following scenes where Mattis shouts at Ronja for ‘making up a story’ touched my child too. We aren’t in a ‘lie to daddy’ phase yet, but he knows being yelled at for doing dangerous things and I’m confident he could project his feelings and assumptions onto Ronja.

By episode’s end, the second bandit tribe is known to have invaded the northern half of the castle and Ronja’s dad is going to have to deal with that. Easier said than done! That’s 10 foot gap’s defensive advantage cuts both ways!

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As always, Ronja’s strength is it’s central characters. Mom. Dad. Little Girl and now a human friend slash enemy. It’s charming to see Ronja’s expressions and body language ape Mattis’ and I’m starting to accept this would have been much more difficult to achieve without CGI.

8_ogk

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 04

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For my 100th review on Rabujoi, I sat down with my son and watched Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s fourth episode.  Frankly, it leaves me a bit muddled, reviewer wise. In some ways, this week was even prettier than the previous 3. It’s fall colors are just wonderfully vibrant and little details like dead leaves floating in the lake sell it flawlessly.

The plot moves along too but, for some reason, we get two flashbacks as well and those feel entirely unnecessary. Believable? Maybe? I can understand adults would tell a child the same stories over and over again but it felt arbitrary. Like the episode needed to frame the ending scene as a cliff hanger instead of resolving it.

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Ronja is now more familiar with her surroundings and comfortable doing all sorts of adventure — including a rock climb up her castle’s mountain base.

As with previous outings, Ronja’s sense of wonder and happiness is contagious. My toddler son was absolutely glued to the laptop screen, giving me updates on what Ronja was doing and what she was feeling.

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Another interesting detail is how we see Ronja’s expressions emulating her father’s expressions. She yells at the harpies and squints defiantly just like him. It’s reasonably subtle but you get the sense that she’s daddy’s little girl, with very little of her mother’s common sense and community anchoring.

That isn’t to say Ronja doesn’t love her mother. There’s a lovely bed time song scene that, unfortunately, had dreadful lyrics that don’t culturally translate when you’re reading them to your own child. Still, it’s a lovely scene.

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Then Ronja explores the castle’s guts and, eventually, encounters a boy. We’ve known this was coming since he’s shown in the ending credits, and we can assume he’s the other tribal chief’s son, but it will be interesting to see how these two get on.

Honestly, I’d assumed Ronja would meet him on her own terms BUT on his turf in the forrest. Nice contextual touch that ‘the forrest has gotten too dangerous in early fall due to the harpies (mating season?). Regardless, we can expect a battle of the ‘who’s better at making terrible decisions and jumping across a gorge’ next week.

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As always, Ronja is lovely but you have to go into it knowing that you are watching a children’s story. It’s well produced and watchable by adults (more so than all children’s swill-shows I can think of, actually) but it is for them and not for us.

If you’ve got a little one, and are willing to let them watch age appropriate anime, this is worth a little sit down. It has none of the normal moralistic shove-a-message-down-your-throat of american/british children’s TV and that’s a good thing.

If you don’t have kids and want… well I don’t know what you would want from a meandering children’s tale about growing up and adventure with low stakes? It should be pretty obvious if this one isn’t for you.

Still, even though it’s not for me, Ronja is clearly a great show.

8_ogk

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 03

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s third episode improves upon its opening by focusing on Ronja and giving us a little excitement and just a little life-or-death tension. I wouldn’t call it gripping or high art, but Ronja’s day in the woods is satisfying and a little unusual for child-centric programming.

However, this week’s biggest difference was on my end: I watched it with my 3-year old-son.

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My son’s only question this week? “Where’d this squirrel go?”

My son is a big Studio Ghibli fan and regularly asks for Kiki or Totoro or Spirited Away before nap time. However, he experiences those movies dubbed in English, which made my reading Ronja’s subtitles novel and a bit more like watching an animated book than a cartoon.

No surprise, he was totally transfixed. Ronja’s emotions over-wrote his emotions. For the 15 minutes she was happily running through the woods, he was happy and laughing and for when she was scared by the Gray Dwarves, he was scared too.

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Like the harpies, the gray dwarves are hella creepy!

I must say Ronja is very effective for a young audience. In this episode at least, Ronja had enough action to keep my mind from going numb too. Still, almost half of its run time featured a girl running around laughing at the wonder of the world, without plot or greater purpose than that.

So is Ronja something for an adult to watch alone? No, not really. Ronja lacks that lovely spark at the soul of Ghibli’s other films. Ronja has none of their depth of world nor scenario. it’s just a child’s tale, thankfully missing the obnoxiously educational format of most western children’s programming.

But it is a children’s story first and only.

8_ogk