Somali and the Forest Spirit
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Somali and the Forest Spirit ?
This episode hit me hard, but maybe not in the way it was supposed to. As a collector of antique books, I just wanted to scream at that stupid, stupid Praline, the witch who, knowing full well that magical silverfish, er, pescafish, breed in dusty, unclean conditions, still couldn't be bothered to keep her room stuffed with the irreplaceable volumes she nabbed from the library safe. Talk about obnoxiously stupid behaviors, to say nothing of mildly contrived plot devices.
My bibliophile rage aside, this is a pretty interesting leg of Somali and Golem's journey. Most specifically that's because it introduces us to a race of people who appear very, very human – the witches. Apparently they aren't – they seem to be exclusively female thus far and can clearly live over three centuries, to say nothing of using magic – but there are enough outward appearances to make us question whether or not they're a related species (so to speak) and if they ever suffered the same discrimination that the humans did – or if the witches were part of the problem for them during the wars. In some ways this makes their exquisite cavern city a safer place for Somali than almost any other she's been, and it will be interesting to see how and if that plays out when she and Golem spend a second episode there next week.
Also worth noting is the almost throw-away line we hear as Somali and Golem are walking through the witches' library, that they have a vast collection of medical texts. That certainly means that Golem can do some studying for the next time Somali gets hurt or sick (or they bump into Haitora and Uzoi again), but it may also indicate that there's a “cure” or “treatment” for Golem himself somewhere on the shelves. It's not clear whether he's more mechanical than magical, but the witches certainly do seem to be the best placed people to look into a way to extend his lifespan, even if only to match Somali's.
That this may be an increasingly urgent issue is readily becoming apparent. Almost immediately after the episode opens, we see a crack forming on Golem's chest (possibly over where his heart would be if he were human), and later when he springs into action to defend Somali from the evil pescafish he shatters all of the ceramic flesh on at least one arm. We know that he's got a set expiration date, but what happens if he becomes too damaged to make it to that point? Will he cease to function if his body becomes unusable? If so, his leap into danger to save Somali is even more selfless and the act of a parent protecting their child, because it would mean that he's deliberately endangering himself in order to preserve his child's life, something that might not have fully occurred to him before. Yes, he's been solicitous and protective of Somali since the start of the series, but this is a step even beyond that – this is Haitora giving his wife and daughter food before himself (which unfortunately resulted in their deaths since they ate more, adding to the horror of his past) or in a more modern setting a parent jumping in front of a vehicle to save their child. It's a potential sacrifice, and given how afraid Golem has been to just leave Somali alone, it's very significant that he's progressed to this point of paternal love, even if he himself isn't fully aware of it.
It's almost certain that he doesn't understand his own feelings. He's stopped saying that golems have no emotions, but that doesn't mean that he believes that he is capable of them. However, he remarks to Haitora that he “feels lighter right here” with a gesture towards his heart when he hears that he's doing a good job with Somali, and that may be indicative of his changing understanding of himself. After the pescafish threat is over, his first concern is for Somali as he swiftly turns around and crouches before her; he doesn't even seem to realize that his arms have taken damage until she starts wailing.
It is my hope that when they find the head librarian, the one person who has read the book that (Praline allowed to be) destroyed, she will have an answer as to how Golem can be held together just a little bit longer. Otherwise Golem's heart stands to crack in a different way entirely.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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