This is a project that’s usually a constant bug in the back of my head. Something I am thinking about at least to some extent all year round. A project where I spend the majority of December listing my favourite video games, anime and movies, generally in some kind of ranked list. It’s a method that mostly done me pretty good. After doing it for so long though, there was always going to be one year that surfaced the flaw in my plan, and 2020 was that year.
It’s been a trying year to say the least, one that’s affected everyone. With the entertainment industry being no exception. Like I mentioned when I talked about 2020 being a year to play old video games; some combination of COVID and new consoles coming out has made it so things have gotten delayed.
So the result is that we’ve found ourselves in a particularly heavy backend of the year in terms of the big, anticipated releases. In both video games and anime. Because I’ll be real, a lot of the best anime this year didn’t happen until the final season of the year. Meaning a lot of the anime I want to talk about on this list are still in progress.
I used to be a real stickler about my self imposed rules on what can and cannot qualify for this list. This year, I just decided to say “the hell with it” and just talk about the anime I’ve enjoyed watching while there was a 2020 displayed on the calendar next to my desk.
I suppose I need to actually get into this list at some point, so as one final thing: my plan this year is to post my #10 Anime of 2020 today, followed by my #10 Video game tomorrow, alternating between the two until the final day of the year where I post my favourite video game of 2020.
#10: Somali and the Forest Spirit
Originally aired: 9th January to 26th March | 12 Episodes | Based on the manga by Yaki Gureishi | Fantasy
Somali and the Forest Spirit was a bright highlight to the early parts of 2020, one that ended up turning into sad social commentary through no fault of its own. Set in a world where monsters rule the world and humans are a hated, fearful and violent species, Somali is the sole exception. She is a little ball of wholesome love and goodness, someone who loves and accepts everyone no matter their race, colour or creed.
In a year were people have been at one another’s throats over matters of race, this wholesome anime about treating one another better was very aptly timed.
The premise of the series is about the titular characters; a Golem, tasked with being the guardian of a forest, discovered a little slave girl hiding in his glade. The human girl, despite her circumstances, is a little bundle of obnoxious positive energy and it’s difficult not to love her. Something the Golem unconsciously realises, as he decided to set out on a quest with the girl to find her some more humans to live with.
The series starts off as an adorable little slice of life travel anime, where the pair move from one fantastical location to the next, encountering all kinds of monsters, who all seem very friendly. The interactions between the Golem and Somali are adorable, his endless patience and trial and error method of guardianship combined with her endless enthusiasm and ability to get herself into trouble are very cute.
The real twist in the tail comes from us learning pretty early on that the Golem is breaking down, only having around a year left of his 1000 year, predetermined lifespan. The cruel irony being that he has spent nearly a thousand years emotionlessly guarding his forest, only to meet and learn to love and feel emotion in the final days of his life.
Through the course of the series, the Golem learns how to be a parent to Somali through trial and error and from watching other parents and children in the places they visit. By the end of the series, he comes to realise he does care for the child, like any other parent would and finding a reason to live unlike he had before. While also coming to the realisation that humanity are not the same bright and cheerful people as Somali is.
Rather, they’re fearful, they’re violent and they would just as soon stone a injured monster to death rather than even think of trying to help it. It’s a cute story that turns very bittersweet by the end, with the Golem realising that he needs to find someone to raise this child before he expires, but is quickly running out of options.
I really did enjoy this series. It had a slow and leisurely pace for the most part but also had a very pointed message underneath. Humanity kind of sucks and we need more warm and welcoming people like Somali out there to bridge that gap. It really does show that xenophobia is a trait that’s learned, and isn’t explicit.
Man, why is it our kid’s show are so much more progressive and forward-thinking than anything aimed towards adults. If anything, this anime just cemented my feeling of just how lost we all are.