I see what Somali and The Forest Spirit is trying to do with this arc. At least I think I see it. But in my opinion there’s a fatal flaw in the plan. But I’ll get to that in just a minute!
Kikila has been thoroughly adorable. We don’t know what Somali went through before the beginning of the story. She seems like a happy and well adjusted child with some extremely reasonable minor fear of abandonment issues but considering how Golem found her, I doubt her childhood up until then was all that happy.So it’s great that the first real friend she gets her won age is such a sweet and dependable kid. It made me smile yet again.
And this has nothing to do with the episode but there’s a snow storm as I’m writing this so staring at images of the desert is an odd contrast.
I have to give it to this show, they are pretty good with character designs. So much so in fact that I immediately recognized Uzoi as a harpy even though this is a fairly subtle design. Then again I also recognized Haitora but that had more to do with his cape and movements.
I like how they are mixing in recognizable mythological creatures with all the fantasy beasts. It makes this very fantastical universe seem just a little more familiar to me.
Right from the start there was something unsettling about the two new comers. At first I thought it was just because Uzoi seemed to have discovered Somali’s secret but it soon became apparent that it was more than that. I’m not a master of deduction and observation or anything, the show just told us.
OK, from this point on I’m going to stop being coy. If you haven’t seen the episode, maybe you should stop reading because there will be spoilers. And also assumptions.
So this is what I think the narrative is going for. They set up Uzoi and Haitora as obvious mirrors for Somali and Golem. A dying man travelling with a young girl who considers him a father figure. A human that has to hide their nature. They are formally the same characters although substantially quite different. Still it makes us relate to these two more instinctively than we would to completely new characters because we are drawing all these parallels to the considerable character building that has been done with Golem and Somali already.
Moreover, the bit of personal development they do get and their character designs make Uzoi seem like a dedicate and loving daughter, quite cute in her own right while Haitori comes off a gentle and kind. There are a lot of reasons to like these two.
That is of course until we learn that Uzoi means to harm Somali in some way. And we learn that almost right away so we don’t really get the chance to form a connection before hand.
I think the show was trying to set up a dilemma. Uzoi just wants to save the life of the man she considers her father and she honestly thinks that she’s out of time and out of options. Hurting (killing in fact) Somali is sort of her last desperate option.
And this could be interesting. How do you weigh the value of life. Is it ever ok for one to die for another to live. Those are good questions that reveal a lot about the person answering them. Then on a purely dramatic level it can be very sad and emotional to watch a good man die when the only possibility for his survival simply isn’t an option.
But the set up is completely off.
First like I said, they reveal their intentions way too early so we only really get to know Uzoi and Haitora as the “bad guys”. This will taint our perspective of all their humanizing back stories and noble motivations.
Second, they chose Somali as the target. Not only is sacrificing a child for the sake of an adult always more difficult to justify in any way but this is Somali. A character expertly crafted to make the audience want to protect her, Weaponized vulnerability. A bit like Nezuko in Demon Slayer. And it worked on me. I think Somali is adorable and just like everyone else ever, I loved Nezuko.
As a result, there’s no dilemma. I’m not even going to entertain any question. Of course you never hurt Somali. That’s it, nothing else to think about. And I’m not even going to feel bad for Haitora because the alternative was just so unthinkable.
I read somewhere that these are anime specific characters and I think they missed the mark. Not in the characters themselves, who I quite like, but in the way the arc is crafted. Or maybe they’re going for something completely different.