Somali and the Forest Spirit
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Somali and the Forest Spirit ?
When I first saw the image for this week's episode on Crunchyroll, I was afraid that it was a recap. As it turns out, it's about as far from that as you can get, and despite not being the strongest of Somali and Golem's adventures, it has several very key moments that advance, if not the plot precisely, than at least Golem as a character. Since he was very clear at first that he thought he had no emotions and his voice is very even-keeled most of the time, that's impressive, and, as with almost all things Somali and the Forest Spirit, is likely to make the end of the series even more heartbreaking than it already stands to be.
In this specific case, that's because we find out for the first time that Golem sees himself as Somali's father. She's been calling him “dad” from the get-go, and we've certainly seen him panic over her health or otherwise act in a parental manner, but he's never actually stated that he sees them as parent and child – it's all things we've inferred from his actions. We do get a few more of those scenes this week, with the most striking being his decision to take the dentist up on his offer of a case for Somali's baby teeth. He refuses at first because it's just one more thing to carry with them, but abruptly changes his mind. This may be because Somali looks a bit downtrodden at his refusal, but when Golem calls the teeth “a memento,” it takes on a different tone: he either wants it as a memento for himself when he and Somali part ways so that he has something of her to the very end or he wants Somali to have it as a way to remember him when he's no longer around. Either way, it's the first real indication we've gotten that his fears of dying before he gets Somali to safety aren't just based in ideas of her physical safety – the thought of leaving her also makes him sad.
This isn't the first time we see signs of his sadness this week, either. When he agrees to cook for Somali as a pre-bed snack (and yes, cake is even better at night!), that's the kind of caring behavior we expect from him. But when she starts crying because she's so happy that he did it and that she got to eat the first thing he ever baked, Golem quickly turns around. If he were human, or at least had tear ducts, we'd say that he was doing it to hide his tears. That he does it at all is interesting, because it might say something about the origins of golems or their evolution, but that he's so touched and doesn't know how to handle it is one of the most telling signs of the love he feels for his adopted daughter that we've seen. For better or for worse, Golem is catching humanity.
This doesn't just become apparent in his more parental moments, although that is where it shines. The scene where he and the oni (who have happily returned to the story for a bit) are beating up thugs in the decidedly rundown Bygone City is another good indication. The thugs aren't technically a threat to Somali, or anyone, really, and so by rights Golem should be fine just leaving well enough alone, as he's done in the past. But instead he jumps right into the fight, buying into the line that they're just “following local customs,” which is the kind of suspiciously emotional reasoning that he never would have partaken of before. Whether he's protecting his daughter or backing his friend up isn't clear, but in either case, it shows a definite trend towards the human and the sort of self-awareness that the scene in the kitchen and the dentist's office both highlight.
That's what makes his final statement of the episode so touching. When he's asked how he ended up being Somali's dad, he says that when he found her, he felt that he stopped being a guardian of the forest and instead became an individual – that he morphed into Somali's Dad from just Golem #120. Somali gave him purpose, or at least a greater purpose than he felt he had before. This brings us back to the origins of golems in Jewish mythology, because in the Talmud (one of Judaism's texts), there's an oft-quoted line that simplifies to “save a life, save the world.” Golem's original purpose may have been to protect “the world” – the whole forest – but now his mission is to protect Somali, a single life – and to him, the two may have become the same thing.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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