Somali and the Forest Spirit – Anime Preview
Synopsis: The world is ruled by a diversity of inhuman beings, who persecuted humans and drove them to near-extinction. One day, the forest guardian Golem meets a human girl. This is a chronicle of a journey that would bind a member of the dying “human” clan to the forest guardian Golem, as father and daughter. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Somali’s lush opening imagery of other worldly nature and fantastical wildlife immediately evoke feel good vibes that the rest of the episode reinforces. While there are some dark notes here and there; such as seeing a predator beast running off with its kill and later on with Somali herself being found in chains, most of this first episode feels like a sweet journey of a young, playful child and her golem father-like figure. For as much as the show contains plenty of darker mystery and danger, there’s equal amounts of cute moments to appeal to the slice of life audience.
Tom: The above synopsis makes the series sound far more dramatic than it is. Somali and the Forest Spirit is, by all accounts as Linny described: A generally sweet, innocent, easy going Slice of Life. But it is those darker elements, however brief, like Somali being potentially the last of the humans and the danger of anyone finding out her true identity, that help to instill just enough drama to keep Somali and the Forest Spirit engaging. A big problem with the Slice of Life genre as a whole, and something that keeps it more often a niche experience, is a distinct lack of drama. There’s no stakes, no goals, just life. And while I understand that’s appealing to the genre’s core demographic, Somali’s insistence to instill at least a little dread as to Somali’s safety, and giving her Golem guardian a goal of finding humans for Somali to be with, helps to add a kind of importance to the series that makes it gripping and interesting for a more general audience. The show doesn’t feel aimless or pointless and that gives Somali a much needed hook over other Slice of Life.
Linny: For as much as Somali might be able to balance its minor boats of drama with an easy going atmosphere, the art and animation in this first episode isn’t exactly top notch. There’s a consistent lack of detail, mixed with underwhelming animation that doesn’t always manage to make the creatures of the forest or the monsters living in town feel as vibrant or alive as ideal. but thankfully, what’s presented isn’t unbearable either. It doesn’t interfere or detract from the episode enough to ruin the experience, but it also doesn’t bode well that the very first episode of the series, the one that’s usually supposed to sell the show and dazzle the audience, already displays such middling animation.
Tom: I do have to bring up some issues with the designs too. For as fantastical as the monsters of the series look, there’s places where wild life, or smaller monsters, are merely regular animals with a few extra bits tacked on: Like a cat with three extra eyes, or a bunny with antlers. It’s visual elements like this that feel underwhelming, especially when other aspects of the creature design really work to make the world feel ‘alien’ or ‘otherwordly.’
Linny: Somali and the Forest Spirit definitely has potential though, largely thanks to an appealing story that mixes adorable moments with a darker vein of danger and mystery. This first episode does a good job of balancing the lighter moments with the potential danger that Somali is constantly facing just by existing. There’s so many questions this first episode throws into the mix that will likely have viewers staying around for the answers. If you tend to enjoy anime that feature adorable kids and your interest is piqued by the story being more than just cute kid doing kid things and actually having a larger, dark overarching plot, I’d definitely urge you to pick up Somali and the Forest Spirit this season…just mind the animation.
Tom: I’m cautiously optimistic that Somali and the Forest Spirit is going to be a decent title for this Winter. Assuming the animation doesn’t tank too hard, and the series keeps those darker elements on a light simmer, but ever present throughout its run, Somali could end as one of the stronger Slice of Life titles from the last few years. Right now I think the series has enough potential that it’s worth the look in.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.