Please note this review is intended to be read by those that have watching Somali To Mori Na Kamisama and while care has been taken to minimise story related spoilers there may still be spoilers within character analysis. You have been warned.
Based off a popular web manga of the same name Somali To Mori No Kamisama otherwise better known by its English title of Somali and the forest spirit is an adventure, drama and fantasy genre anime, that gives us the unique opportunity to see what will happen if one day a human child were to one day encounter and adapt the first being that they encountered as their father. What will happen if one day this unlikely pair were forced by circumstance to embark on a continent-spanning journey that will see them journey across vast lands to make contact with the remnants of the human race and in doing so bring the child back to its race before the end claims the brave watchmen of the forest. Within the anime world, Adventure and drama genre anime that takes place in a fantasy setting can be said to be one of the more popular combinations due to both its popularity among both fans and creators and the sheer amount of freedom that a fantasy setting can give to the creation of not just races but also lore and relationship dynamics as well. In my case what served to draw me to this series was both the fantasy and adventure genre combinations which are ones that I always liked to see but also the unique element of the unique bond and relationship that exists between the two main characters of Somali and golem. The fact that both are beings of different races and ages only served to intrigue me even more. The first ep of the series I felt was an interesting one that while doing well in setting the series main setting and circumstance that led to humanity’s fall from grace also did well to showcase the unique relationship that existed between Somali and golem a fact that convinced me to watch the series to the end to see how this will end a decision that I never regretted.
Taking place within a fantasy-themed world where humans are but one of many races that inhabit the world and a world where most races seem to exist in perfect harmony with each other the overall story follows the life and journeys of a most unlikely due who met by chance within the sacred forests that Golem was tending as part of his duties. As if destiny had intervened Golem’s encounter with the human girl Somali not just awakened within him a desire to not just understand the curious manifestation of the feelings and emotions that have arisen inside him but also create a new spark inside him that will motivate him for the first time in his century-old life to not only step foot outside of the forests that had been both his home and his area of responsibility but also embark on a perilous journey across the world to find the remnants of humanity that had withdrawn from the world in response to the hatred their actions had generated in the past and deliver Somali to them. But as Somali and Golem embark on their quest and step foot into the world they soon realize that while on the surface the world outside is indeed beautiful and peaceful and one where the various races work in harmony together to live their lives free of conflict that beneath this is a dangerous undercurrent of hostility that’s directed at not just strangers but also at the remains of humanity whose past crimes and actions had not been forgotten by the races of the world. In the face of this threat, Golem must exercise not just every bit of caution that he has but also for the first time in his life seek to understand and make use off the unique advantages that’s one bond can bring in their quest to ensure that both will reach their destination before the end comes.
Somali portrayed by veteran seiyuu singer Inori Minase of 5 Toubun no Hanayome and Daimachi fame is one of the main characters of the series and is the main female lead of the series. A young human child that was encountered by golem deep within his assigned forest Somali on initial appearances was shown to be a positive, cheerful and innocent person by nature that like most children her age was energetic and possessed an infinite amount of curiosity at everything that she encountered in life an aspect that I felt added significant charm to her character. As a result of being the first adult that she met after waking up, Somali was shown to view golem as her father despite the obvious differences in race something that is seen to be the defining trait within their relationship. While their initial relationship, in the beginning, was shown to be rather rocky and somewhat lacking in resemblance to actual parent-child relationships that were apparent in other societies it can be seen that despite this Somali believed wholeheartedly that she and Golem were a family as seen in not just her physical imitations of the actions that she seen other families partake in as well as in her strong belief that she and golem remain together never to separate.
At the beginning of the series, Somali due to her young age was shown to be someone that took life rather care freely and only saw each day as a new adventure that was to be used to the fullest. As a result of this mentality, Somali was shown to prioritise fun over-caution which more often than not often caused her to be put into precarious situations that required intervention from others. However, as the series went on and Somali began to see the amount of effort that Golem put in to protect her and take care of her this gradually began to change both physically and mentally. While remaining energetic and positive in attitude Somali gradually began to rein in her often infinitely desire to explore new locations and meet new people becoming much more cautious of not just her own actions but also of the many new areas and people that they meet in their journey. While knowing that her small size means that she will be unable to do many of the more difficult tasks that are necessary Somali nonetheless readily steps up to take up new tasks that arise during their journey showing a determination to not just improve herself as a person but also attempt to lessen the burden that Golem has in taking care of her.
While changing substantially in terms of attitude Somali’s view of Golem as the series progresses gradually starts to change as a result of the ever-increasing bond that is forged between the two within the series. As noted previously due to the circumstances of the first encounter between Somali and Golem Somali from the onset viewed Golem as her parent and as a result was shown to respect him immensely. However while certainly thankful of both the guidance and safety that was provided by him Somali was also seen to view their bond with some element of sadness due to both the lack of genuine family warmth within their relationship compared to what she see’s other families exhibit as well as the fact that due to his nature Golem can neither express strong emotions or eat and taste which ensured that despite her longing that the family bonds between them were only a pseudo one that was created out of necessity. This somewhat negative view on their bond however gradually began to change due to both Golem’s evolution as an individual as well as Somali’s realization that family does not necessarily mean ones borne of the same bloodline but can also mean bonds between individuals that love and care about each other strongly as well a revelation that served to be the final key that will banish the last of Somali’s doubts and fears and allow her to be more upfront with her attempts to forge a stronger bond with Golem a fact that is shown well in ep11 when she hand created a gift for him to show her love for him as a father.
In terms of overall character development, I felt that as a character Somali was one that was both well designed and developed both physically and mentally with her gradual evolution from a child that only saw each day as a new adventure to one that not only tried to alleviate some of that adventure’s burden by helping when she can but also in the process try to change others nature by leveraging the bonds between them to make them better individuals being especially so. While certainly still a child and one whose knowledge of the world is still lacking I felt that Somali’s innate positivity and determination to trust in the best of others allowed her to not just make many discoveries about life and in the process adapt her own to incorporate said lessons but also allow her to use her views to effectively deescalate any situations that she and Golem encounters along the way in a way that’s always to the best interests of the parties involved with the best example within the series being the resolution of Uzoi and Haitora’s issues that within the series was one of the darker and more serious events that they encountered. While allowing them to resolve issues peacefully and in the process also enabling her to make many new friends within the series this aspect of Somali I felt also represented well that despite the injustice present in this otherwise perfect world that there is nothing else more important in life than friendships and bonds between family and friends that will allow you to overcome any trial that you encounter along the way.
Golem portrayed by veteran voice actor Daisuke Ono of Attack on Titan and Durarara fame is one of the main characters of the series and is the main male lead of the series. A member of the golem race a nigh mythical race that was given the sacred role of being the guardians of the world’s forests long ago. On initial appearances, golem was shown to be a calm, composed and intelligent person by nature that despite the unchanging nature of his role was one that seemed content with the sense of calm and responsibility that the role had given his life. As a result of this Golem, in the beginning, was seen to be wary of outsiders due to both his dictates that prohibit interaction with beings that are not of the forest as well as his own reluctance to become involved in anything that will upset the unending nature of his life as shown in his initial interactions with Somali. However while certainly reluctant to step out of the protective bubble that his role as a guardian of the forest had given him Golem despite his solitude within the forest was shown to be someone that was both surprisingly well learned of the world’s history given his knowledge of the rise and fall of humanity but also surprisingly understanding and considerate of the feelings of others as well as shown in not just the first encounters that he had with Somali but also in his decision to leave the forest that had until now served as his home and embark on a journey to reunite Somali with her people due to his desire to protect her from the dangers of this world.
As the series progresses and Golem and Somali’s relationship improves over the course of their journey Golem’s personality too gradually begins to change as a result of the experiences that both encounter and overcome in their journey. In the beginning of the series Golem as a result of his life within the forest was shown to be someone that was quiet and was someone that approached situations in life with logic that while allowing him to overcome much of the challenges that were encountered in their journey also had the unfortunate effect of creating distance between Golem and Somali due to the almost robotic-like persona that Golem made use off. A distance that while creating both a physical and psychological distance between the two also had the unfortunate effect of creating an image that was far from the idea of a family among the minds of the beings that they encountered in their journey. However, as their journey continued and Golem began to realize not just the amount of physical care but also the mental consideration that was needed to both care for and raise young living beings this aspect of Golem began to change. While still preferring to approach the situations that he encounters with logic Golem also realised that while effective in terms of decision making that this approach will not work with the raising and care of Somali whose unpredictable temperament and unique body structure rendered such logic unworkable. As a result of this Golem was forced to not only reevaluate not just his approach in handling relations with others but also in how he should interact with Somali as well and in the case of the latter opting to for the first time in his life to explore the concept of emotion by showing kindness, care and consideration towards Somali’s nature and unique needs. While certainly a rocky path and one that was not without hardships such as Golem’s inability to sense Somali’s pain that led to her to falling ill this embrace of emotions, in the long run, proved to be a valuable lesson for Golem as it allowed him to not only take better care of Somali both physically and emotionally but also in the process give him the rather unique opportunity to not only improve himself as both a golem and as a father of sorts but also give him the rare opportunity to be able to raise a child that will serve to turn back the negative image that people have of the human race as a result of that races past actions.
In terms of overall development as a character, I felt that Golem was one that was well designed and developed with his gradual evolution from a quiet being that relied solely on logic to accomplish his duties in life to one that was forced to not only rebuild himself from the ground up by embracing the very concept that he was so adamant in opposing the use off to both raise and guild the new child that he found himself in charge of being especially well done. While lacking any concept as well as a means to express strong emotions like joy and happiness I felt that even without this ability it was still heartwarming to see Golem’s reactions to Somali’s actions whether they were positive ones such as being awkward in receiving a gift from her or negative ones such as his determination to save her from danger as these proved that strong bonds between family transcend even races and is one that’s universal across every race regardless of age or time.
In terms of animation, I felt that the character designs for the series were pretty well designed and took excellent advantage of the lore of the world to create some unique races. Notable races that I found to be the more curious ones were the wooly Shurigara that Kikila belonged too, the harpy’s that Uzoi belonged too and the witches of the forest that Hazel and her sister Praline belonged too. While each of these races with the exception of Kikila was standard fantasy races I felt that in each case the individual representatives of each race served well to exemplify them and show that even in this world there are many individuals that will treat others not with caution but with kindness and care. In terms of locations, I felt that the series managed to feature quite the impressive collection of locations that were visited by Somali and Golem that were both unique and beautiful which was further aided by the bright and soft colours that were used in animating them.
Music-wise the series made use of one opening and ending theme which was Arigatou Wa Kocchi no Kotoba that was performed by Naotarou Moriyama while the ending theme was performed by veteran seiyuu singer Inori Minase who also portrayed the character of Somali within the series. Both of these songs I felt were excellent ones that conveyed a very different sense of feeling with the former being a slower-paced song that gives the impression of the beginning of a brand new adventure that will allow its participants to not only explore new land but also forge lasting bonds between each other as they travel together while the latter’s equally slow-paced but yet calming tone gave the impression of the fun times that the duo’s many adventures have rewarded them and how their overcoming of the many challenges that had barred their way has enabled them to improve their bonds as father and daughter.
Voice acting-wise I felt that the series main voice cast all did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters whether they were main or support ones. However, among the cast, I felt that Inori Minase, Daisuke Ono, Hiroki Nanami, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Saori Hayami and Yuuki Ono deserve special praise as I felt that they all did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters of Somali, Golem, Shizuno, Yabashira, Uzoi and Haitora respectively.
In overall Somali and the Forest spirit, I felt was an excellent anime and was one of this seasons best ones on account of its unique take on a familiar premise, an intriguing story, excellent cast of characters both in terms of main and guest characters, excellent voice acting and its skilful blending of both hope, despair and a determination to be the spark that will change the nature of the world in which they live in.
The overall premise and story of the series was without a doubt one of the main highlights of the series due largely to the fusion of well designed and developed characters, emotional attachment, and the encountering and subsequent overcoming of the various trials that barred their way trials that were as much physical ones as they were psychological ones. While an anime that features relationships between characters of two different races encountering and bonding with another as they interact isn’t itself rare within the anime medium in the case of this series this aspect I felt was used to great success due to two different factors that served to complement each other. The first of these was the fact that the human race to which Somali belonged too had not only fallen from grace due to their past actions but had also been all but exterminated by the other races and leaving Somali as the only other human her age within the areas in which she and Golem operated in. The second factor was the unique origin and role of Golem who until the coming of Somali served his role as watchmen of the forest with due reverence living a life that was unchanging as time was and having little opportunity to interact with either events or individuals from outside his domain. The combination of both characters being both strangers to each other and relative outcasts to the world itself I felt served to complement each other remarkably well as it allowed both to not just forge an entirely new bond and relationship that while shaky at first gradually become much stronger as both characters learned from each other and in the process developed their personalities to complement and support each other in their journey. While certainly cute and heartwarming to look at I felt that this aspect of having both characters learn from each other and develop their own personalities in response to these lessons was an interesting concept that served to make their relationship that much more believable.
In terms of overall story while the underlying bonds between Somali and Golem served effectively as the underlying foundation for the series I felt that it's pairing with the series primary world setting of a fantasy world that’s seemingly at peace and its cast of well designed and developed characters that have their unique worries and struggles proved to be the perfect recipe that allowed it to showcase not just the extent of the damage that the human race had done to not just the world but to its people as well both in terms of physical relations between the individual races as well as the deeper scars that lay in one’s heart an aspect that within the series was shown perfectly within Uzoi’s story arc. While certainly a daunting environment for both Somali and Golem to operate in I felt that this also provided an excellent source of challenges that not only served to test the bond between the two of them but also in the process allow them to also directly change the world’s perceptions of humans as a whole while simultaneously improving their own.
As an overall score, I would say that Somali and the forest spirit easily deserves a final score of 10/10 on account of its unique take on a familiar premise, excellent story that combined both excellent lore and emotional investment, well designed and developed characters, excellent voice acting and some surprisingly thought-provoking trials that Golem and Somali were forced to confront within the series.