Somali and the Forest Spirit was an impressive Winter 2020 title that gave us slice of life elements in a fantasy world. The story, however, goes beyond the journey of a cute kid and their father—more so, Somali as a character, offers the series a lot more than the fact that she is a young child in a world that is hostile towards her kind. Somali is a curious child, one with unspeakable horrors in her past; horrors that are only alluded to in the context of the series and the series’ timeline.
Somali’s curiosity is augmented by an innate intelligence as well as her incredibly bright and peppy attitude. We’re told through the events of Somali and the Forest Spirit that Somali is what would be considered “one of the good guys”; however, in a world that is literally out to get her, one where she is raised by an amoral, non-human entity, it seems rather difficult to see where Somali would’ve learned such good-naturedness. Considering the fact that she is still a child, Somali’s character is impressive for its fortitude, curiosity, and goodwill as well as her agency and impact on the actual events of the story. Here it is, 5 times Somali proved to have a strong personality and managed to steal our hearts!
-- Spoilers Ahead! --
“Dad, I’m Not an Object!”
In the second episode, Somali and her father are camping at a riverside. When Somali trips and falls on the uneven ground on the riverbank, Golem asks if she has “sustained any damage”. Somali takes offense to this, and tells him that she is not “damaged” because she is not an object. Golem rephrases his question and tends to her wounds. This early scene sets Somali up to be a child who is self-assured and understands her worth as a living, human being. This is something Golem could never have taught her himself, at least not on purpose.
Locating the Wish Flower
In episode 3 of Somali and the Forest Spirit, Somali and Golem make the long walk to Anthole City, where they go to a restaurant for a meal. There they meet the wooly shurigara owner/chef and his son, Kikila. Kikila is a child with a lot of energy, so he and Somali get along very well. On their way back from an errand, Somali and Kikila take a detour to the underbelly of the city, a secret place where children play. It’s a strange place of luminous flora, strange bioluminescent creatures, and glowing carnivorous mushrooms. In this place of fantasy, Kikila tells Somali about the mysterious Yozame flower that is fabled to grant wishes. Determined to make a wish to stay with her father forever, Somali sets her sights on finding the largest Yozame flower–and so she does.
Somali Forgives Uzoi
Somali and her father find themselves in the company of the human and harpy pairing of Haitora and Uzoi. The two have their own tragic history that influences their journey; a history that involves a harpy curse and Haitora’s rapidly declining health. Desperate to save Haitora, Uzoi attempts to use Somali as a sacrifice to reverse the curse because as the only other human Uzoi and Haitora know of, Somali is the only viable way to lift the curse. Despite Uzoi’s betrayal, Somali can relate to the feeling of wanting to be with someone forever and is quick to forgive her.
Uzoi herself had been wrestling with her deeds and it was evident that she did not actually want things to go this way. When Haitora and Golem arrive at the scene, Somali actually stands in between Golem and Uzoi, making the point that despite her atrocious plans, Uzoi still saved Somali’s life.
“I Wanna Learn About the Humans!”
Somali and her father arrive at a hustling and bustling village of witches, where they are guided to their library filled with unique knowledge from all over the world. They ask the witches for information on humans, but they think the books on humans will be too complex for Somali to understand. However, Somali indignantly declares that she wants to learn about humans, and if reading complex literature is what it took, she was going to do it.
“You Have Feelings Too”
In the final episode of the series, after the dramatic conclusion of Somali’s near-abduction at the hands of a hunting party, Golem is rendered unconscious for several days. When he comes to, Somali, Golem, Shizuno, and Yabashira head to a nearby town and immerse themselves in the celebrations of one of their annual festivals. Feeling that it is time for him to go, Golem sneaks away from Somali and the rest. When Somali realizes that he’s gone, Somali finds him in a nearby forest. He tries to explain that he has become a threat to Somali’s wellbeing and that Golems lack emotions. However, Somali begs him to stay with her and in a well-articulated argument, Somali convinces Golem to see the truth that he does, in fact, have emotions.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is an endearing story; however, such things are only possible with interesting characters who are capable of driving the narrative in ways that are strong and profound. Somali has this kind of impact both actively and passively, being the little girl who sticks very close to her father’s side all while being the very reason for his evolution. Throughout the series, Somali makes choices for herself, asserting her autonomy in ways that are impressive because they’re still very much the choices of a child who is growing and learning about the world around her. Who are your favourite Somali and the Forest Spirit characters? Drop a comment below and tell us all about them!