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.
8 thoughts on “Somali and The Forest Spirit Episode 5 – Desperate Times”
I didn’t have that problem at all, actually. There was a nice piece of irony in the scene where Uzoi and Somali talked, and that scene wouldn’t have worked at all, had we not known Uzoi’s motives. Somali basically bonded with her on their similarities, and in an odd way, it’s exactly that conversation that gave Uzoi the strength to carry out the deed. They were alone already (or not? I can’t actually quite remember.), so she could have attempted her deed right there. And I hope that’s going to be picked up in that scene.
Of course, the set-up couldn’t be much clumsier. We’ve just had Somali worry about Golem leaving her, and now – through this incident – she won’t be able to be get around worrying about his mortality. Either that, or they’re going to ignore this, which would also be unfortunate. Of course, right now she’s confronted with her own mortality, and it didn’t look like it sunk in as of yet.
Plot isn’t why I watch the show, but I couldn’t help but wonder what Uzoi intends to do with Somali’s blood. Does she know how to do transfusions? In the middle of the desert? With a potentially irrate golem present? Do they know about blood types? Sepsis? Oh, and if you kill Somali now, you need act quite quickly, no? Before the blood spoils?
In short, the biggest problem is that this so obviously abstract and conceptual, and the show probably doesn’t need to know these details because it’s not going to happen anyway. If you take a grizly concept seriously, all you have to do is play it straight. Imagine them preparing instrument, disinfecting them, and Somali cheerfully asking if she can help… A scene like that might actually give Uzoi and the audience a very similar reaction, and if you play this right, you don’t need that much set-up. (Well, there’s also the possibility that it’s just some “magical” procedure: drink the blood, apply it like a lotion, put it into a bath… Looks like Haitora’s transforming into a harpy, but his body doesn’t take the process well. How does this happen, and is there a reverse ritual? Did he originally kill a harpy for their blood? You know – if you’re no longer human, you might have an easier life.)
The show’s more dreamy and allegorical to begin with, and the plot is more an extra for some intrigue, but the real star for me is actually pretty setting, with the excellent diversity in designs. Did you notice that Uzoi’s wings sprout near the hip? I remember someone talking about angels once, and how the centre of gravity makes wings near the shoulder an unlikely design. Angels would look awefully goofy, with most of their bodies dangling, if they flew like that. This is the first time I saw this addressed in an actual design, I think.
The show’s amazing like that. And it’s just that pretty to look at. All in all, not a mood conducive to moral dilemmas. I was mostly fine with the episode.
I agree the show is very much allegorical and it’s on that level that I personally think this plot point would have been more cohesive and effective by moving the target to Golem. Not that I didn’t enjoy the episode. I did, a lot. I just had an actual opinion other than, ohhh pretty colours for once and got excited.
It was a delicate situation given a rough treatment–a surprising misstep for a show that’s been so excellently crafted thus far.
I’m still pissed about how poorly they treat Nezuko… 🙁
Demon Slayer was going for the same dilemma right? Nezuko is a demon and could potentially slaughter everyone around her at any moment. Everything in the history of the DS universe tells us that demons simply change in their values and systems and in time come to consider humans as food. There is no reason at all to think Nezuko will be different and for most people she represents a huge threat. But they went so overboard into portraying Nezuko as adorable and vulnerable that the question gets thrown out the window and the dilemma is completely erased. I love Nezuko as a character, I fall into the carefully calculated fan demo they were going for but for the narrative it’s a misfire I think, and they should either have been more balanced in the portrayal or they should have scrapped that plot point. Same thing with Somali to a lesser degree as it’s in a limited no. of episodes.
You know, I think even Uzoi knows you’re right. She just doesn’t seem to be into it!
They did a good job showing them as conflicted characters. I think if Golem would have been the target instead of Somali, it would have worked much better. Trading an already forfeit life for one with a potentially much longer future would have been a more balanced dilemma