The Golem’s Reason
There’s a real calmness while watching Somali and the Forest Spirit that juxtaposes beautifully with the sad reality that seems to be underscoring the journey Somali and the Golem are on. It’s kind of like the forest itself in that animals die or get eaten and bad things happen but there’s no malice or ill-intent. Will that make the end of their journey any easier to watch assuming the anime ever gets that far? Probably not, but in amongst the exuberant playing of Somali and the gorgeous settings there’s a lot to contemplate in this anime, and at the same time it seems to be excelling at keeping its episodes free of extraneous clutter.
I think the last time I experienced this kind of relaxed and yet contemplative vibe while watching an anime was Girls’ Last Tour. Now Somali is a different flavour but there are similarities in the journey of the main characters, the ephemeral nature of their encounters with others, and the unlikeliness of a happy outcome. What makes the story different though is in the dynamic of the duo driving the story. Here we don’t have two friends banding together but instead we have an odd-couple ‘father’ and ‘daughter’.
Spared this week from any awkward information dumps, unlike episode one, episode two is content to show us the two and their encounter with a pair of Oni who make medicine in the forest. Through natural conversation we learn a bit of the Golem’s secret and why he seems to be driven by returning Somali to her parents even though he has no idea where they might be.
Of course, you have to wonder why no one asked Somali why she never takes her hood off, even while sleeping. That disguise is pretty lame and the two Oni were pretty observant so you would assume they could put two and two together however the story seems unwilling to deal with revealing Somali’s humanity at this point. Though I also wondered whether treating someone with ‘ointment’ was a great idea when you didn’t even know what species they were.
While Somali isn’t a thrilling adventure or strongly driven narrative, it does have a point guiding the character actions and helping to keep things feeling like we are moving toward something. The time limit the Golem has indicated this episode also helps to keep this from feeling like an endless journey or narrative. In short, it is the kind of ‘slice of life’ story I can get behind. One that celebrates the everyday but manages to keep feeling like there is an end game somewhere in the future. I’m very happy with this second episode and I’m looking forward to a third.
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Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.