For some reason, the 1000 word or so episode review I wrote for Somali and the Forrest Spirit on Thursday seems to have vanished, all but the feature image that is. So I now find myself trying to rewrite it on the spot and I can’t say I’m thrilled about it. I liked that review and stayed up late to finish it… Excuse me if this version turns out shorter and considerably less gleeful than the original.

Still Somali is a beautiful anime and just adding these images has already cheered me up considerably. I mean just look at the attention to detail in the design of this town. A desert town it has the hallmark rounded architecture and pale stone building materials of warm weather Meterannean countries combined with the colourful flourishes of American tradition. It creates an environment that’s both very recognizable but also very different from what we know. It does the formidable feat of being evocative and alien at once.

I remember in my original review I didn’t get to an episode synopsis until the last paragraph. I was somewhat uneasy about that structure so I’m going to fix that here. In episode 3 Somali and Golem follow a lead about the whereabouts of humans to a desert town where, realizing they are short on funds for the rest of their journey, Golem takes job in a local restaurant. In the meantime, Somali makes friends with the restaurant owner kid, a banal but important first for the young girl.

The fact is that Somali and the Forest Spirit is a fairly simple tail. No big convoluted plot or complex personification. It’s a basic quest where everyone’s motivations are clear and straightforward. In a way, that’s part of the charm. So far the story hasn’t needed to rely on layers of complexity or convoluted twists to tell an emotionally resonant and engaging tale. That simplicity has also allowed the production driven storytelling to shine through. It’s a beautiful desert city that Golem and Somali have wandered in. Golem is frightening yet comforting and steady, like a statue. Somali is a little devil and inherently sweet. They live in a world that is diverse and mesmerizing yet inherently dangerous. These are all things you can tell from any single image without much additional context at all.

But I’m wandering all over the place, let’s get back to this episode. To me, the story is about Golem finding out who he is and always was before his journey is… over.

And this week, a sentient but unfeeling animated piece of clay, living in a world of fantastical creatures that have all but wiped out humanity, experienced one of the most contemporary human hardships. The struggles of being a single working parent.

Once again, Golem clearly portrayed a lot of emotion. He was worried, impatient, struggling with keeping Somali safe without robbing her of precious experiences. He obviously sympathizes with his daughter and understands her side, to an extent, despite having never been in her place at all. Golem is a good father. I’m starting to think that is is essentially the thesis statement of the show. And personally, I am thrilled about watching a series on how fathers are awesome. Cause they are.

This is a bit of a random aside but was anyone else freaked out by the fact that the restaurant owner’s family didn’t appear to have mouths? There’s a running theme in Somali of incorporating what could be considered objectively terrifying elements into otherwise cute designs associated with protagonists. I kinda like it.

I really liked this scene. Somali is a little kid and like most little kids, she can tell when something is not quite right but her little kid brain comes up with the most emotionally instinctive explanations. She thinks her daddy wants to leave her. She’s kinda right and completely wrong at the same time. And it was just a little heartbreaking to watch.

In order to stay with her daddy forever, Somali and her new friend go to find a wish granting flower in a potentially dangerous cave. This part of the episode really reminded me of a Ghibli movie, whit all the magical glowing plant-life and those amazing looking cave creatures that were just there. Just rich, lovingly animated world building elements that were not strictly required for the story in any way. Glorious!

Ok, so I guess it turned out just as gleeful as the original…

In the last few moments, we got introduced to a new character and the closest thing we have had to a potential antagonist so far. Those long lower lashes are a truly unique design element. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before.

This may mark a turning point in the series, moving to a more action oriented adventure style or maybe it will be resolved in the first few seconds of the next episode and Somali and Golem can go back to peacefully travelling the world. I really can’t tell as we have next to no information on this new comer and the episode ended on a cliffhanger. (I wonder if fans will be as annoyed by this as they were by In/Spectre this week). I have to admit, I’m not sure which outcome I would prefer. Both hold potential. If you are watching this show, which way do you hope it goes?

Somali and the forest spirit ep3-6 (10)

16 thoughts

  1. Is there any information or speculation as to why it is similar to Nausicaa, the work of the chipli studio?

  2. I am hoping the possible antagonist will turn out to be somehow a good thing. Like he knows her parents and wants to reunite them. I can hope. In general, I’m not much for cliffhangers, especially when I’m all adjusted to nice little slice of life pace, but I can survive it. (Reminds self why self prefers to binge) As always you see so much more than I do – and yet somehow I think I did see and accept the architecture of the desert town, having lived in the desert southwest of the U.S. for some years now. It was just “right” – as was the fantastical caves below. I loved the friendship, with the contrast of how strict Golem seemed in contrast (of course, he is protecting her secret – she’s human) to the other father, and how the question from her new friend about the end of the journey made her think about the end… and be frightened by it with the worst of all childhood fears – fear of abandonment. She’s so young – how can she cope with knowing that Golem IS inevitably going to leave her. Not because he wants to, but because he has no choice. I’m looking forward to the next episode…

        1. Knowing me, I would do that for about 2 to 4 weeks then if nothing goes wrong, give up and then get mad again in 6 months when it happens again

  3. The inn-keeper family remind me of people that wouldn’t be out of place in the Moomins, so I have a hard time being freeked out by them. (Note that the hurt wife had very prominent teeth – the outlier here.)

    The new comer? If I haven’t misheared, he’s bee looking for her, and when we first met her Somali had an iron collar around her neck. I think the implication is that he’s a slaver/merchant or mercenary related to those, but it’s possible that it’s a misdirection.

    As a twist, he could be working for human traffickers (as in people who both are and sell humans). I think that would be an interesting turning point: humans can only survive in harsh regions, and only by selling their own for food (caste system). Golem would be forced to come up with a new plan, or look for other humans. People aren’t necessarily kind to their own, and golems – whatever they are – seem to not be social creatures. (I think they might be man made.What if Golem’s protective of Somali because of some sort of Asimovian programming?)

    Honestly, I don’t know where this is going, but they’re clearly developing things.

    1. It’s a nice build up.
      Maybe it’s just me but Moomins always creeped me out a little. Still do. There’s something sad and haunting in those stories. I love them, a lot but they always scared me a bit.

      1. I once took a what-fantasy-writer-are-you? qiz, and I got Tove Jansson. At the time, I had to look her up. Finding out that she’s written the Moomin books made me happy. I’ve only read one of the Moomin books, actually, but the stoies seem intimately familiar. My first introduction was actually an anime, which I loved, but either the themes went over my head when I was a kid, or it was Moomin lite. The characters in the stories I’ve read tended to quietly sabotage themselves. The cartoons I’ve seen felt more adventureous.

        In any case, there’s definitely a melancholy streak to the stories, but I think I sort of need that to connect. Maybe. It’s present in pretty much all stories that hit close to home (in anime, most notably The Eccentric Family, but also Kimi ni Todoke).

        Somali has that a little, but it’s… not quite what usually gets me. It feels more like… World’s End. The melancholy streak feels less intrinsic and more situational. As if the entire thing is a metaphor. I think shows that really hit close to home don’t focus on tragedy or make it their centre, but rather focus on a sense of life-goes-on (whether you like it or not – very bleak and very hopeful stories can have the same basic feel for me – anime: Noir).

        It’s interesting to speculate about what it is that touches us. There’s this feeling that I should know, but it’s almost never really simple. From what I’ve seen Watamote is kind of an anime Rohrschach test in that respect. Not everyone can see what people love about this one.


        1. I might be wrong but to me, Somali seems to be aimed at a younger audience. This is probably why that melancholy is a lot more obvious and spelled out for us. I don’t mind this. I don’t think children’s shows are inherently worse in any way.

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