Somali and the Forest Spirit
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Somali and the Forest Spirit ?
It's one of the difficulties of parenthood that no child comes with a manual telling you how to raise them. Yes, there are parenting books, but that's not the same thing – those are about generalities, not specific things any one child might do. Things get substantially more complicated when you're a golem just discovering his emotions, as we see this week in Somali and the Forest Spirit. Last week Somali and Kikila managed to get themselves in a lot of trouble by venturing into the fantastic underground caverns beneath the city unbeknownst to their parents, and while Kikila's parents are at least moderately equipped to deal with their son's behavior (and the fact that he's not always going to do what he's supposed to), Golem has zero ability to cope with similar behavior from Somali. He tries desperately to ignore the fact that he's worried about her taking so long to come home, and then when she does, full of excitement about the magic wish-granting flower she secured, he snaps at her, sending her running off in tears.
While this may not be as exciting or beautiful as Somali and Kikila exploring the caverns, it is really the heart of the episode. Golem's been very clear about not believing that he has emotions, so he has no idea what's going on with him when he frets about Somali being late or takes his fear out on her by using his yelling-voice (when someone feels yelled at even though no one raised their voice) the minute she got back. Kikila's dad recognizes the moment for what it is, as does Musurika the wolf(ish) man, and both try their best to tell Golem what he's doing poorly, which is tricky, because most people would agree that telling someone else how to raise their kid is a poor plan. But the fact of the matter is that Golem does listen and does figure at least one thing out, because he does something he's never done before: he tells Somali the little white lie that she needs to hear.
If you think about it, previous to this point Golem has consistently told Somali things in exacting, precise language that doesn't hide anything. He's been careful not to specifically tell her how long he has left to live or that he's going to leave her at the end of their journey because he knew it would upset her, but that's a lie of omission not one he actively told her. He's the father who wouldn't let his kid believe in the Tooth Fairy, for all intents and purposes, because that would be lying to her. But when Somali gets sick after going after something that she believes can keep her father with her, Golem breaks that trend and simply tells her what she needs to hear in the moment, even if it might not turn out to be true. It's a huge departure for him, one that speaks to his growing love for his daughter and tells us that this journey is no longer just about making sure that she survives – it's become about making sure that his child is happy. It's a beautiful moment and an important one, because it acknowledges that Golem truly is Somali's father. The scene that precedes it, when Golem runs out of the house in the middle of the night to find medicine for her and then has to struggle to keep her race a secret, is also a tacit admission that he more than cares about her well-being; that he gives up everything he's earned to get that medication says more than any words he's capable of speaking.
It opens up the story to become even more heartbreaking in the future, of course, because now we know that leaving Somali at the end of his life will hurt Golem just as much as it will his daughter. But in some ways that's important. This isn't just a fantasy story or a journey through a post-apocalyptic world. It's not really a discussion on humanity or man's inhumanity to man. It's about a father and a daughter, about their relationship and how it keeps both of them going and helps them support each other emotionally. As lovely as the backgrounds are, Golem and Somali's relationship is what makes this show truly beautiful.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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