Somali and the Forest Spirit – Mid Season Anime Review
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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Somali impressed us early on, offering a mixture of slice of life and drama as the forest guardian Golem took it upon himself to act as Somali’s guardian, helping her to brave a world ruled by man-eating monsters, and hopefully find other humans she could come to be a part of. The series managed to strike a balance between both types of content, offering sweet, easy-going imagery and shenanigans as the two journey from one town to the next, while also instilling a greater purpose to the narrative. By Episode 6 though it becomes clear that Somali and the Forest Spirit is much less a slice of life series than initially billed, putting an increasing amount of emphasis on the Golem’s quest, and other nuggets of trouble that make the series far more melancholic, if not outright saddening, than it initially let on.
Linny: While the story is set in a high fantasy world filled with unusual beasts and beings of all kinds, its clear that drama is Somali and the Forest Spirit’s main priority. The plot evokes plenty of emotion through its unlikely father-daughter dynamic and the various situations and troubles Somali and the Golem find themselves in on their dangerous quest. However, for those who like their drama to have some serious and long lasting consequences, Somali might be a bit of a disappointment as there is quite a bit of plot armor going around. Even though Somali herself is often in danger, she usually comes away with little to no harm and remains her cheerful, trusting self. Prepare for further disappointment if you enjoy dark and twisted characters because Somali will often redeem these individuals, revealing them to be victims of circumstances or incapable to being totally evil. This is probably where Somali’s ties to its Slice of Life tone hold the more dramatic elements back, not wanting to go totally dark and grim, attempting to strike a balance between something like Made in Abyss and If It was For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord.
Tom: I think that balance largely works though. It’s thanks to the threats of the world against Somali, and a few other narrative twists introduced later on, that make it feel harrowing enough to avoid coming across like another ‘nothing of consequence will ever happen’ slice of life, but not so grim as to turn the core demographic away. (Though Episode 6 has certain sequences that I imagine slice of life fans were not at all expecting.) Somali is also helped by its visuals. While the series is hardly a looker, the background artwork is fantastical and vibrant enough to breath life into the world, and when more dramatic elements start to crop up the visuals get just enough of a boost to really sell these darker turns.
Linny: Ultimately, Somali and the Forest Spirit feels like a good fit for those looking for strong emotions but prefer things to often end on a good note, with love and kindness capable of saving the day time and again. It does a decent job of injecting tragedy, going especially dark in episode 6, revealing just how dangerous this world really can be for Somali. There’s hints of this early on, but Episode 6 visualizes it in a way to hammers home the potential horror. It’s a great mid point note to hit, bringing a renewed sense of fear, and even sadness, keeping you invested in the possible fate of our characters. If you haven’t had a chance to check this series out yet and consider yourself a fan of lighter fantasy tales with a tinge of something more dramatic and harrowing, you’ll want to try Somali and the Forest Spirit ASAP.
Tom: Somali was something I was cautiously optimistic for. I was dubious about how much danger Somali was truly in, fearing that the series might eventually tone that angle down in favor of exploring this fantasy world with an increasingly easy-going, laid back vibe. Yet here we are, six episodes in, and events have happened that I wouldn’t have even dreamed the series would touch on. This drift towards something more dramatic, and potentially upsetting, makes you fear for Somali, even if we all know, at the end of the day, she’ll be fine. Somali has a difficult road ahead, balancing these darker elements, while foreshadowing a tragic conclusion, but also allowing us respite with events in their journey more light-hearted and whimsical. It’s a hard balance to strike, but one I think the series can accomplish, particularly with how well it’s handled things up till now. This is definitely one of the Winter titles you don’t want to skip out on.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.