Somali and the Forest Spirit
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Somali and the Forest Spirit ?
Golem's journey to fatherhood has been shorter than even he understands. While we don't know precisely how much time passed between when he found Somali, the lone survivor of a slave caravan accident, and when he decided that he would keep looking after her, it doesn't seem like it could have taken much more than a month, if even that. (I feel like the level of detail the show typically goes into would have shown sores on her neck and wrists from the chains if it was much longer than that; they certainly don't skimp on making her look pathetically emaciated.) Really his decision was made the second that he brought her food when she was hungry – that's the moment when Golem decided not to leave her to her own devices. Saving her from the river marks the second major realization; as the guardian of the forest, surely Golem is used to creatures meeting accidental deaths, so the fact that he had such a reaction to Somali's near-drowning says that he never was as emotionless as he assumed. His choice may even have been made from the minute she called him “dad” – and maybe that's just what the three-tailed cat who brought Golem to her was counting on. Regardless of the when and how, it's clear that the idea of dying before Somali now truly pains Golem. That's not a feeling he ever thought to have, and it's almost certainly going to form the emotional crux of the upcoming episodes.
I feel like this episode is paving the way to delve more fully into the theme of slavery, prejudice, and oppression that has flared up in the series now and then. If the Haraiso storyline started out showing us that some people can't ever overcome their prejudices (although others are capable of it), the end of episode reveal coupled with Somali's origins take it to a darker place. Somali was a slave, and that was entirely because she's human (so because of her race); the fact that all of the other dead slaves in the wagon were also human indicates that they're a prized and specialized commodity. This is borne out by early-series comments about eating or enslaving humans, but even more so by the fact that “Auntie” Rose, upon ascertaining that Somali is human, immediately goes to her little gang of thugs to arrange for them to kidnap her.
What's particularly horrifying about this turnabout is the fact that mere moments before she figured out Somali's race (from her scent, something which hasn't been acknowledge by the series before now), she was doting on the girl. She taught her how to braid, was excited to meet a child, and was generally just a lovely aunt figure. The very second she realized that Somali was human, however, all of those nice feelings went out the window, and her face almost looked disgusted. It's horrible, although absolutely not outside of reality – I've had people refuse to shake my hand upon hearing my last name – and it rips the pastel fantasy of Somali's interactions with all of the other people she's met wide open. It isn't that there's no prejudice against humans; it's that she's been lucky - no one she's met has cared about her humanity, and given the acknowledgement of her “human scent” this week, that means that it's not that they didn't know.
This means that Golem is going to be in the position of fighting at least a towns' worth of people to protect his daughter. Shizuno counseled him not to give up on seeing Somali smile, on being her father, but there's been no time for Golem to look into repairing his rapidly deteriorating body. (The changes we see this week are upsetting, to say the least.) Is Golem going to die saving Somali? Are we okay with that possibility? Am I the only one worried that we only saw one oni in the preview for next week and that he was crying?
I'm not sure we really want the answers to all of these questions. But we're going to start getting them when Somali and the Forest Spirit rips off the band-aid next week.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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