The season finales are rolling in and for now at least, Somali and The Forest Spirit has come to an end. This show had one of my favourite opening episodes. I was absolutely charmed by it. Where do we stand now?
At some point I stopped caring about Somali and the Forest Spirit. I’m not sure when it happened. No that’s a lie, I’m pretty sure I know and it started early on. The fact is, I’ve been coming back to it for the art, the colours, the stunning backgrounds and that’s more or less it. At some point during those tense opening scenes I just sort of started looking through my DMs without even realizing what I was doing. I completely drifted.
And I’m particularly bitter about this, and probably going to be way too harsh as a result, not because Somali turned out to be a bad show. It’s not at all. I could argue that it’s generally good. But because it started out as my favourite of the season. I was completely charmed by this series. And I ended up a little bored and a little annoyed. And this hurts so much more from a series that had potential for greatness than from one that just never had much going for it.
The final episode itself was alright. Way too melodramatic for my tastes but generally in line with the flow of the story. It was a bit of a cheat in my opinion. It tried to give us the emotional impact of loosing Golem not once but twice. First with the possible death scene in the opening act which turned out to be just a heavy injury. I have to say patting Somali’s head and saying her name all hesitant and asmr just before passing out was the moment that irritated me the most so the emotional impact was just wasted on me. Then with Golem’s apparent decision to leave Somali behind with the onis (is that the plural of oni?) at the festival.
But then it couldn’t stick the bummer ending and switched to giving us a happy ending by resetting Golem and Somali’s relationshio, as well as their quest, back to exactly where it was at episode 1. To give us a cautiously optimistic ending I guess.
I mean Golem admitted he had emotions which I guess is a step forward and some personal growth but we, the audience, already knew all that and he hasn’t exactly been hiding it. This ending is quite good if they are hoping for a season 2. It doesn’t tie down the narrative in any particular direction and it’s not definitive enough to make extra story seem excessive. As a series ending, it’s o.k.
One thing I did enjoy quite a bit in the episode is Shizuno and Yabashira. Then again I always enjoy them. More specifically, I had a good laugh at how, as soon as they all realized that Golem had disappeared, they pretty much lost Somali imminently. They let her run off on her own through a crowded city of creatures that will likely murder her on sight if a breeze blows her hood off. It’s not like they couldn’t have stopped her, they watched her leave. They should have been able to catch up with such a small child. At the very least Yabashira has been shown to be very athletic. It was almost as if they let her go on purpose. Which you may think they did but I reiterate my point about how dangerous the world is for Somali. You probably wouldn’t let a kid that young run off on her own in this world, let alone in Somali’s world. We even see her loose the hood when she falls in the forest. Goo thing no one was around!
I was seriously thinking that they were secretly following her the whole time and we would catch a glimpse of them in the bushes after Golem and Somali made up. But no… As far as we know, they just watched her leave and that’s that.
Part of my thinks Golem really did want to leave Somali behind right then and there, and what made him change his mind was not the sudden realization of his boundless love for the little girl. I mean he probably likes her alright and all that. He might of laid it on a bit thick to make her happy but there’s no harm there. However what really changed his mind was the sudden realization that the godparents he had chosen for Somali couldn’t keep her safe for 5 seconds. She would be dead within 2 days if those two had to take care of her. I love them but they are not suited for parenting…
Bottom line for me: Somali and the Forest Spirit is a show with beautiful art and good but very safe directing. The voice acting is decent and the characters are quite easy to get attached to but a little one note when you really think about it. The story itself is very uneven in themeing and has regular tonal clashes that aren’t handled all that well. It’s a bit as if it’s unsure whether it wants to be a fluffy Disney movie where everyone lives happily ever after or a bitter sweet exploration of the limits and sorrows of familial bonds that doesn’t shy away from the sad and unpleasant truths.
The thing is, I think it could have pulled of both of these identities but not at the same time. In the end, for me, it didn’t quite succeed at either. It’s not a bad show. I’m not entirely sure I would watch a second season but I might. There are a lot of things I did like about it and when it was good, it was great!