The premiere episode of Studio Ghibli’s Ronja the Robber’s Daughter wastes no time diving right into the action, with a dueling gang of masked medieval miscreants dropping from the trees to ransack unsuspecting travelers. We meet rival robber chiefs Mattis and Borka who go head-to head until an urgent message sends Mattis barreling back to his home fort.
Circling harpies caw, casting an ominous mood over an otherwise lovely landscape. We meet a calmly laboring Lovis, speaking in hushed but assured tones, a stark contrast to Mattis’ frenetic energy. She flashes a spark of strength, shooing Mattis away to quiet the monstrous cacophony so she can give birth in peace. The band of menacing hybrid bird-women offer our first and only glimpse of Miyazaki’s signature fever dream aesthetic, imagery that blends lush natural beauty with a dose of the eerie unknown.
Little Ronja finally makes her appearance, wide-eyed and rosy-cheeked, prompting Mattis to declare her “the loveliest of the forest.” He is instantly proud and protective, declaring the birth a victory over his rival Borka, shouting “timber to his family tree!” The entire all-male clan is instantly besotted, having seemingly never seen a newborn before. Those eager to hear Gillian Anderson’s narration will have to hold out until the end where she chimes in with a brisk summation of a fairly straightforward pilot that mostly serves as a preamble, drawing us into the medieval fort and its cast of rowdy characters without delving into the Ronja-driven narrative just yet.