Somali and the Forest Spirit – A bittersweet tale of love, loss and racism

When this season first started off, this was the show that did the most for me right from the get-go. As it went on at its own leisurely pace, it became a story with two major messages to put forward; how adorable yet doomed the relationship between Somali and the Golem was and how both welcoming and horribly exclusionary the world around them could potentially be.

Somali the most energetic, adorable little pain in the ass you’ll ever love to love. So much so that she could inspire emotion and feeling in a near 1000 year old golem who has never experienced any of it before. That’s the core of the story being told here, one set in a world of monsters who, for the most part, are the most welcoming, friendly and selfless collection of people you’ll ever see.

That is unless there is a human in their midst. As the story goes on, we learn of the deep seeded, yet unjustified sense of racism both humans and monsters feel for one another based on little more than their differences and an escalating number of misunderstandings based on their fear of one another. Of course, Somali is the exception to this rule, existing as a being of pure love and acceptance no matter who you are nor how you try to murder her.

Somali and the Forest Spirit - A bittersweet tale of love, loss and racism

The entire show seems to hinge on how lovable both Somali and the Golem are, and just how much it makes the audience root for them and their happiness to continue. Yet it constantly reminds you of how bittersweet and doomed it all is. We learn pretty early on that the Golem has only a year or so left to live thanks to his nature as a creature created to last exactly 1000 years, to the day.

Unless, of course, he were to go into overdrive and shorten his own lifespan to transform into a vengeful monster, but we’ll get to that later.

As the story follows the pair and their journey from one fantastical fantasy location to the next, they encounter monster after monster who prove to be kind, selfless and while mischievous will almost always have a good heart in the right place. The only time things begin to sour is when humans are brought up.

While Somali herself wears a pretty shoddy minotaur disguise, everyone seems to buy it. The first time we meet another human, we learn that he is from a village that used to fear monsters and war against them, after murdering and consuming one of the monsters hunting him, his entire family died and he contracted a fatal illness. He keeps the child of the monster he murdered out of pure guilt.

Somali and the Forest Spirit - A bittersweet tale of love, loss and racism

By the end of this story, he opens up about everything, but before that he is shown to be fearful, regretful and full of self loathing. After that we learn the story of a Witch (which classifies as a monster in this world) who found herself in a human settlement. While they thought she was human, they treated her well. But when learning of how they become a twisted, hateful mob whenever monster appeared, our perception of them changed. Even as it begs for its own life.

Humans called the monsters “grotesques” and seem to hate them for no real reason aside from the fact that they’re different. Within this story, a young child the Witch befriends is the one human who seems to get past this hatred and see her as a friend rather than a “grotesque”. And despite saving the kid’s life, the humans still cast her out, the only kindness they give her being that they don’t murder her on the spot.

In this story, from what we’ve seen so far, it’s the humans who seem like the worst offenders. While much of these stories are from the monster’s perspective, their now violent approach seems to have been born from self preservation. And any animosity between them now comes from that war that the human’s instigated.

Yet, the little child who befriends the witch and Somali herself show that this trait is not inherent from birth, but learned as both of them seem welcome and loving of anyone they meet no matter their actions. Which shows Somali to be an important factor in the future of this world and bridging the gap between monster and human.

Somali and the Forest Spirit - A bittersweet tale of love, loss and racism

That’s not the aspect of the story we care about though. As important that could be for the future of this world, what the audience cares about is relishing what little time left both her and the Golem have left before either one of them meet a premature end.

The entire journey to reunite Somali with the humans seemed doomed on so many levels. Either the Golem will expire, leaving Somali alone and vulnerable, or he succeeds and reunite her with humans that will no doubt teach her the discrimination, bigotry and intolerance she currently lacks.

Although a pretty good alternative plan presents itself by the seasons’s end as the Oni Shizuno and Yabashira befriend and come to love Somali despite knowing her true nature, to the point that the Golem tries to leave her with them and end his own life.

The Golem’s evolution throughout the series is very sweet, despite his continuing insistence that he lacks the capacity for emotions, he continues to observe and learn from the people around him in order to become a better “father” to Somali. Over time, his actions become more selfless and he becomes more willing to endanger his own life for hers, not really realising he is doing it.

Somali and the Forest Spirit - A bittersweet tale of love, loss and racism

He eventually realises he is doing things because he wants to see her happy. This culminates in the final episodes where a community of monsters learn that Somali is human and decide to chop her up to sell. Despite his body falling apart at an increasing rate, the Golem burns up some significant remaining portion of his life force to become more monstrous and save her life.

Surprisingly, it’s Somali who calms him down, saving the life of the very monster who lied to her and sold her out in the first place. These final episodes play up the bittersweet tragedy of the pair’s relationship quite a bit, playing sad, solemn music and showing how much more capable of loving and caring for Somali the Oni pair are than a cold, emotionless Golem. Not that Somali cares about any of that.

The beautifully tragic note is the one the series decides to end on. As I mentioned before, the Golem, who is now without one of his arms and unsure of just how much life he has remaining leaves Somali with the Oni, deciding to end his own life. Somali takes exception to this of course and managed to find him before he can walk into depths of a peaceful pond.

Somali and the Forest Spirit - A bittersweet tale of love, loss and racism

He decides to lie to Somali again, saying he fear he will lose control again and hurt her, instead of telling her just how little time he has left. In the end though, an emotional speech from her finally breaks through to him and he finally realises what he’s been experiencing are emotions, and that he does want to relish every moment he has left with her. Making a change to his core beliefs that he, after all, may have a soul.

I really did enjoy this series. And while tragic inevitability of their relationship is undercut slightly by the continued presence of Shizuno and Yabashira right up to the end of the series. I found the pair so incredibly endearing that the Golem’s self realisation was a much more compelling story for me than the potential importance of Somali to peace between humanity and monster kind.

While the plot held an important message of tolerance and acceptance, it was the story, the one between the Golem and the little human child he found in his glade, that really compelled me. It was a very sweet story, full of endearing characters full of charm and personality. Set in a beautifully realised world of high fantasy and beautiful design.

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