Growing Up Together
Episode 4 of Somali and the Forest Spirit reaches for a poignancy it doesn’t quite land – but that’s okay. What we get is a relatively heartfelt journey for Somali on her quest to retrieve the flower that ‘will grant her wish’ and then the Golem’s equally heartfelt journey to understanding why she did it, what she needs, and the providing her comfort in the form of a white lie that is most definitely going to come back to bite him.
This episode is outstanding in showing that growth isn’t just for children. The family dynamic explored in this series, while highly sanitised and given an incredibly wholesome almost Brady-Bunch level of unreality, remains lovely to see and with Somali, Golem, and the characters they’ve so far encountered being such ‘nice’ people it remains charming to watch their interactions. That said, it is this almost cavity inducing sweetness that reduces the impact of the more emotionally poignant moments within the episode.
Still, I’m going to come back to my comparison between this story and If It’s For My Daughter I’d Even Defeat the Demon Lord and point out that Somali has a far more tolerable and endearing father-daughter relationship being developed than the one between Dale and Latina. The show as a whole isn’t as light and frothy and there’s certainly less action, but just in terms of the relationship between the main characters I feel Somali is kind of nailing it.
One thing that became far more apparent in this fourth outing, and it isn’t new to the series but I definitely noticed it more, is the heavy reliance on stills and panning when the characters are journeying. I’m assuming that with the rich detail of the settings there either isn’t time to fully animate the sequence or they really just want to show off how pretty those settings are (and they are gorgeous), but there’s a distinct lack of animation going on for a number of the sequences we’ve seen in this series so far.
Ultimately, Somali and the Forest Spirit is probably a bit of a victim of timing for me. I’ve watched a lot of these father adopting random child anime (or at least it feels like it) in recent years so comparisons are inevitable. More than that, Somali hasn’t got the strength of narrative to really immerse me in the story. What is does have is solid character dynamics and beautiful set-pieces though I wonder if ultimately that will be enough for Somali to remain in my mind after it finishes airing.
Ultimately I guess it doesn’t matter because for right now at least I’m enjoying each episode as it comes. While I’m feeling some of the emotional notes are not quite resonating, enough of it is and I’m finding Somali charming enough to follow along with even if ultimately the destination feels less important than the journey.
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Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.