Somali and the Forest Spirit

Somali and the Forest Spirit

Somali and the Forest Spirit anime series cover art
Somali and the Forest Spirit

Series Overview

Somali and the Forest Spirit (Somali to Mori no Kamisama / ソマリと森の神様 ) was my favorite anime of the winter 2020 season. In fact, I expected it would be the best anime of the season long before the season began. Ever since the anime was officially announced, I had a feeling that it was going to be good.

This series is a slice of life, fantasy adventure. It follows two main characters as they adventure through a fantasy world, but it has a focus on the everyday lives of the characters rather than the adventure itself.

I guess the series I would say it’s most like is A Place Further Than The Universe, because that’s also a slice of life adventure series with some drama thrown in. But aside from that one, I can’t think of another similar series I’ve watched off the top of my head.

It’s sort of like Made in Abyss as well, but I do still think those are two very distinct series. Made in Abyss focuses much more on the adventure and replaces the slice of life elements with some horror elements instead. But if you liked the fantasy world of Made in Abyss, Somali’s world is very similar.

One of my favorite things about this series, though, was how the fantasy world it takes place in was physically portrayed. I’ll discuss the world building later on, but the background art used to actually show the world to us was probably the best art of the season. It may have even been better than anything from 2019 as well.

I think I’d have to go back to Violet Evergarden in early 2018 to find a better looking series than Somali and the Forest Spirit.

Main Characters

There are two main characters in this series: Somali and Golem. Golem is the titular “forest spirit” and serves as Somali’s guardian. Somali is a small, human child who thinks of Golem as her father.

Of course, I can’t really review this series without discussing what’s probably the main draw of the series: Somali. Somali is an extremely cute kid, and she’s voiced by Inori Minase — who’s a great voice actress and did an amazing job in this role. I think most people would agree that Somali is the single best part of the anime.

But what I think makes Somali so great is that she acts like a real kid. I know, children acting like children isn’t something that we actually see very often in anime, but Somali does. I think she’s supposed to be around seven years old, and this is illustrated through her inquisitive nature; she’s always wanting to explore the world around her.

Somali and Golem from the anime series Somali and the Forest Spirit
Somali and Golem

Golem, while not as much fun to watch as Somali, is an interesting character in his own right. He’s a golem — in case you couldn’t tell by his name — whose role is to watch over a forest for 1,000 years until he dies. However, upon meeting Somali he decides to use what little time he has left to return her to her people: humans.

You see, this world is filled with “monsters” known as Grotesques — a title given to them by the humans who attempted to kill them and steal their land. But the humans were beaten back by the grotesques and a genocide ensued. Now, there are barley any humans living on the continent, and those which are there are slaves.

So Golem trades in his duty of protecting the forest in order to protect Somali, a small, human child, until she can be reunited with her kind.

World Building

World building in anime is something I like a lot. And Somali and the Forest Spirit is one of the best recent examples of great world building. This shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise though, because adventure series tend to do a good job at this. After all, they need an interesting world for their characters to travel through.

There are many ways in which Somali builds up the world our characters get to explore. Just to name a few of these ways, we have locations that physically look different, different kinds of towns with their own unique cultures, a variety of races which inhabit the world, and of course, maps!

While we are told some of the world building by various characters throughout the series, the vast majority is shown to us. Not only does this exemplify the “show, don’t tell” concept of storytelling (which admittedly Somali didn’t adhere to in episode 1), but it also allows the amazing scenery art to play a major role.

A "Grotesque" town from the anime series Somali and the Forest Spirit
A “Grotesque” town

Each town Somali and Golem visit throughout their travels is unique. They’re located within unique geographic locations, and they have unique town layouts and architecture which reflect this. One is set up like a labyrinth carved into stone, another is a wintry fortress decorated with animal bones, a third is located within the caldera of an ancient volcano.

Every location not only looks different, but feels different too. The people who live there live vastly different lives which reflect the geography which surrounds them. There are forests, caves, deserts, plains, mountains, every kind of region you can imagine — and they all fit together to make a realistic world to explore.

Conclusion

Maybe I rated it a little high, but I ended up giving Somali and the Forest Spirit an 8/10. The art, music, characters, and world building are all extremely good. But there were a few issues, such as an information dump which comes right in episode 1 and was completely unnecessary.

Also, I think I would have liked a bit more focus on the adventure side of things than the slice of life side, but that’s not something I’ll fault the series for.

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