Somali and the Forest Spirit
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Somali and the Forest Spirit ?
Get your tissues and teddy bears ready – this episode, which marks the halfway point of Somali and the Forest Spirit, is the most difficult to date. I don't think it's a happy accident that has it coming at this point in the series, either; the finale of the Uzoi/Haitora arc has some distinct parallels to Somali and Golem's journey even as they aren't technically all that similar, and it also engages with the major themes that the story has hinted at before. It feels, if I may make a strange comparison that not everyone will agree with, like what Cowboy Bebop does with the “Jupiter Jazz” episodes in comparison with “The Real Folk Blues” episodes that close out the series – stories that foreshadow and parallel each other in just enough ways to highlight their eventual differences.
The major difference here is likely to be what Haitora reveals – that he ate Uzoi's mother, which is how he became infected in the first place. (So yes, those are feathers, not petals.) That he only did so to survive doesn't seem like a good enough excuse to him, because in Haitora's eyes, it just highlights the inhumanity of what he did, especially since he only killed and consumed the harpy woman because the so-called Grotesques (the human term for beastpeople) destroyed his village and ate some of the people living there while engaging in other acts of cruelty. To Haitora, that simply drove home the point that the Grotesques were Other – after all, no human would do something like that unless the only other option was death, which is what made him decide to even try. But when he was punished for his act with the sprouting feathers, an affliction which killed his wife and daughter before his eyes, he believes that he is unredeemable, punished for his actions in the worst way. When little Uzoi, who looks slightly younger than his own daughter, shows up looking for her mother, Haitora seizes on raising her and keeping her alive as the only possible way he can atone for his actions.
The entire sequence with the human village and Haitora's family is hard to watch. The intense cruelty is somehow more intense for not being fully shown, and the screams of his family dying are haunting. Seeing Haitora hunted and driven to despair is almost like watching any episode of historical cruelty; it remined me very much of family history in relation to the Holocaust and the family that didn't survive. That's part of what makes this episode so very effective – it doesn't try to deny that anyone is wrong, neither the attackers nor Haitora. It simply lays it out for us from Haitora's perspective, providing a side of things we haven't seen before as well as a solid reason for Golem to want to keep Somali hidden. It reminds us that people are capable of terrible things even as Somali has charming adventures safe under her dad's watchful eye.
Ultimately, though, the episode also grounds itself in the idea that you still need someone to love. Haitora is ready to die to atone for what he did to Uzoi's mother, but Uzoi isn't willing to accept the sacrifice. She's old enough to understand the story she overheard at least a little and to realize that Haitora was in an untenable position. And now he's all she has – whatever you might think of their relationship or how it started, as far as Uzoi is concerned, he's still the only family she knows, and she's not willing to let him die. Maybe a piece of her does realize that forcing him to live on is a little cruel, but even if she doesn't, she can't just turn off her feelings. It's always easier to give up than to force yourself to struggle and keep on, and there's no way that she's going to let Haitora take the easy way out, whatever her conflicting emotions may be.
Is that going to be how it is for Somali and Golem in the end? Haitora may conceivably find a cure at some point, but Golem's body is literally falling apart, so Somali's pleas may not turn out to be enough. The emotion involved may be “purer” in the sense that Golem hasn't committed any atrocities like Haitora did, but there's no guarantee that love is going to be enough. That's an idea that will continue to wait in the dark corners of this series as it heads into its second half as we leave Haitora, Uzoi, and their complicated situation behind.
There are more stories to be told waiting up ahead.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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