All kids eventually realise that one day their parents won’t be with them anymore. For some that’s a pretty devastating realisation. For Somali, who through still ambiguous circumstances ended up abandoned in a forest, learning that the Golem she’s travelling with may not be with her forever, and may in fact be planning to leave her, is an incredibly hard blow. Hard enough that the usually chirpy and exuberant Somali is shocked into relative stillness for a fair chunk of the episode.
This week, Golem and Somali arrive in a new town after a very long, hot walk. Golem’s running a little short on travel funds, his bartering didn’t lead to much more, and so he’s looking for work, and food for Somali. The answer comes in the form of a restaurant where an injured wife has left them short staffed and the owner’s child isn’t thrilled at having to stay in the restaurant at work. Instantly we have the joy of watching the Golem serving customers as a waiter (very fun) and we also get to see Somali bonding with another character her own age. It makes for a delightful backdrop for Somali’s personal emotional tragedy to play out in.
As has become the standard for this series, the town is richly detailed and full of characters. I loved watching the two kids on their errand and then they went to the ‘underground’ and things were both beautiful and suitably tense as you wondered how long it would be before Somali got herself into some kind of trouble without Golem around to save her.
Unlike the previous two episodes, episode three of Somali and the Forest Spirit seems acutely aware that this is ‘the third episode’ which for many viewers will be their drop point unless they are given a clear reason to stay. Unfortunately that means they decide to end the episode on a cliff-hanger.
You know, it isn’t as though I despise cliff-hangers just because I do. I just find that they are used cheaply when stories don’t seem confident enough that viewers will keep watching just because the next step of the journey will be interesting or we’re invested in the characters. Cliff-hangers, when used sparingly and with deliberate purpose can be brilliant. Third episode cliff-hangers to make sure I at least start episode four, generally speaking I’m not so fond of.
Despite that, I actually really loved this episode. I didn’t expect Somali to pick up on the likelihood of the Golem leaving her so soon and I certainly didn’t expect her response to that realisation to be so real. There’s plenty to recommend this episode and this series even if it isn’t quite as emotionally moving as it might want to be at times. I am looking forward to what happens next.
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Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.