Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 5 Review

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She Smells Like You

Somali and Golem are finally crossing the desert and it is a tearful parting for Somali’s friend. It is kind of a standard of these kinds of stories where characters move from one location to the other is that characters come and go from their lives and by default the audience only sees them for a brief time and then they depart. Alternatively, you have the shows where they end up travelling with half a community because people just keep randomly deciding to drop whatever they were doing and join the protagonists on their wandering, but that isn’t the type of story Somali is.

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After a hot wagon ride they arrive at a town built in the caldera of an extinct volcano which is apparently in order to protect it from the sandstorms in the desert. I’ll point out that this location was so far the least interesting visually. While the overhead shot was nice, seeing the town inside the volcano, the community itself didn’t seem to have any distinctive characteristics visually and it more seemed just more of what we had already seen in previous communities. This is the first location where I haven’t felt instantly like it was a distinct place.

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But the location isn’t the focus. Instead, we see Somali and Golem meet two other travellers, one of which is a harpy and the other is quite clearly wearing a mask. The reveal of the mask wearer’s identity is pretty obvious and yet it does lead to some interesting questions about what next for Somali and Golem in their journey. Provided they survive the current leg.



Turns out the desert really is quite dangerous with random sand storms, tornadoes and even leaping sand sharks. Can we just stop the review a moment and ask why this is an ongoing thing in movies? Huge desert animals that just leap out of the sand and then instantly burrow themselves. It seems so impractical and yet this is something that I’ve been watching appear in anime and movies for a fair while including going back to Vampire Hunter D.

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The travellers that Somali and Golem join up with reveal their hand at the end of the episode but I’m going to leave that discovery for you to watch. This is possibly the most plot significant episode outside of learning that the Golem is near the end of his life so far and I definitely enjoyed it and it left me wondering what the outcome will be next week.


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Karandi James


Join the journey with Somali and the Golem and check out all episode reviews of Somali and the Forest Spirit.

Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.

Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 4 Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Karandi James


Join the journey with Somali and the Golem and check out all episode reviews of Somali and the Forest Spirit.

Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.

Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 3 Review

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Somali’s Realisation

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Karandi James


Join the journey with Somali and the Golem and check out all episode reviews of Somali and the Forest Spirit.

Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.

Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 2 Review

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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.

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Though it does also play heavily on the cute kid likes animals angle.

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’.

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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.

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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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Karandi James


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Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.

Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 1 Review

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Reminder to vote for the best anime of 2019. The poll closes today.

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Tranquil and Adventurous

It’s a new anime season and I’m so behind on the last one that I’m going in even more blind than normal. That said, there’s fun to be had in starting a new anime knowing nothing but the title as was the case with Somali to Mori Kamisama. At first glance it is a visual feast with some beautiful landscapes and a lot of focus on rays of light all accompanied by suitably atmospheric music. Needless to say I had no idea what I was getting into but this first episode left me feeling quite chill.

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It almost seems a reverse of If It Was For My Daughter I’d Even Defeat the Demon Lord with a golem finding a human child in his forest and taking care of her rather than a human adventurer finding a demon child. In this world humankind annoyed the other creatures so much they drove them away and there are none left. Whether that means they were killed or simply went back to some separate place remains to be seen but the golem is travelling with the child, Somali, in search of other humans.

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It would be impossible to watch this so soon after If It Was For My Daughter and not compare Latina and Somali. They are certainly working the cute child angle here but unlike Latina, Somali is a mischievous and free-spirited girl who doesn’t hesitate to correct her ‘father’ when he tells her not to leave his sight. She regularly gets distracted and wanders off to play and while she has no ill-intent, she isn’t the flawless child that Latina always seemed to work at being. It makes for a somewhat more genuine tone to the relationship even if the golem literally has no obvious emotions and likes to call holding hands an ‘effective means of inhibiting activity’ or something to that effect.

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That said, the slice of life label I found on this anime after watching the first episode isn’t joking around. After the opening we simply follow the golem and Somali as they visit a city, eat lunch, stay at an inn, trade, chase a cat and then watch the golem track Somali down and the two leave the town. Everything is charming enough but it isn’t exactly working to build any kind of tension or drama. It just is.

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Try and hide from him.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll follow this one weekly, watch a couple of episodes at a time, or just let it go. This season I am going to have a reduced watch list and this one isn’t a really high priority even though it looks like it should be relatively fun to watch. For now I’ll wait and see.


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Karandi James


Join the journey with Somali and the Golem and check out all episode reviews of Somali and the Forest Spirit.

Images from: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Dir. Kenji Yasuda. Satelight. 2020.