Yu KobayashiAyahi TakagakiYoshiko SakakibaraRie Shibata
Somali and the Forest Spirit
Also known as: Somali to Mori no Kamisama
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2020
Director: Kenji Yasuda
Writer: Mariko Mochizuki
Original creator: Yako Gureishi
Actor: Ai Kayano, Ayahi Takagaki, Daisuke Ono, Hiroki Nanami, Inori Minase, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Rie Shibata, Saori Hayami, Sho Hayami, Sora Amamiya, Suzuko Hara, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Tomokazu Seki, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Yu Kobayashi, Yuki Ono
Keywords: anime, SF, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=22014
Website category: Anime 2020
Review date: 27 September 2022
Somali and Forest Spirit
It's another world, in an ultra-detailed way that could be either SF or fantasy. Every species we see is unique, be it animal, vegetable or sentient. What's more, it looks peaceful and pleasant. Despite the odd thief and thug, there's peaceful coexistence between hundreds of very different species. There are villages and towns. The tech level is sophisticated upper-medieval, with plenty of magic to make things more interesting.
The only minor downside is that mankind has been hunted almost to extinction. There used to be plenty of humans, but they behaved in a typical human way. This ended in war. Look at the ep.8 flashback, for instance, in which the humans' bigotry is rendered farcical by the fact that they're living with a gigantic and screamingly non-human golem. Frankly, the non-humans' genocidal response was reasonable and proportionate.
The show has two main characters. One is a golem, i.e. a fantasy robot. He's seven foot tall with a skull face and he talks like Mr Spock. He doesn't understand emotions. He has a preset lifespan of exactly 1000 years (to the day) and his expected role is to be a forest guardian, but these days he's in a parental role and doing surprisingly well at it.
His adopted daughter is a human girl called Somali. She's tiny, carefree and adorable. (Very occasionally, she also gives the impression of having picked up a little of the golem's speech patterns.) She wears a horned hood so that, if anyone asks, she can claim to be a minotaur.
It's a gentle, pastoral show, despite the dangerous world and genocidal backstory. The golem and Somali are looking for her parents, because the golem's got less than two years' lifespan left and Somali could never survive in this world on her own. (He hasn't told her. She thinks they'll be together forever.) They wander the world, see cool places and meet nice people. We explore Anthole City. There's a beautiful mushroom underworld in ep.4. The people they meet are often thematic reflections of themselves, illustrating another angle on their choices and personalities. Sometimes, the golem takes a part-time job to earn what they need to continue their journey. I didn't believe ep.12, though. Even the golem should surely have realised how stupid his decision was. Well, no matter. We all know how it'll work out and a series finale needs drama for its heroes to overcome.
Would I recommend this series? Maybe. It's nice, but I can imagine more people starting than finishing it. It's thoughtful, though, and giving us a strong question in whether or not the golem should tell Somali about his lifespan. Sometimes it's exciting, or moving, or funny. I certainly wouldn't call it gripping or unmissable, but it's rewarding if you show a bit of patience.