Title: Somali to Mori no Kamisama / Somali and the Forest Spirit
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Year of release: 2020
While the opening minute or so is essentially all of the material from the trailers, it doesn’t stop the fact that Somali to Mori no Kamisama is undoubtedly a gorgeous anime. Exquisite detail has gone into the backgrounds in particular, and the gentle scoring underlies the natural wonder that is demonstrated. Lighting, in particular, offers complex shades on the world. The rest of the episode continues to rely upon these strengths, with several montages and candid vignettes moseying about in its marvellous world.
Sadly, it is with regret that I must say that the written portions of this show are taking a backseat. Somali is a young girl who is found mysteriously in this supernatural forest, where the forest guardian, Mori, finds her, and is confused when she refers to him as ‘father’. Many beats are skipped between this event and the rest of the episode, and the puzzle of that is gradually filled in: Mori is on a quest to find humans to return her to her kind.
An onlooker hears this, and bemuses to his group of non-humans what has happened to the humans, and a passing waiter begins the rather blunt idiot-dump to explain just where all the people are gone. This is perhaps the biggest blunder of the episode as the sound explanation lacks a naturalistic nuance, but the other aspects more key to the show’s writing performance are not promising, either; the chemistry between Somali and Mori is forced, for example, with the familial bond forming becoming more contrived than chemical. Going back to the exposition incident, the general dialogue feels like a performance moreso than conversation within an impartial trek of the world; this is acceptable when concerning Mori, who is not human and is sort-of the point, but for other characters, such as the shady businessman to whom Mori attempts to sell his forest rocks, this is a concern.
But this is not the kind of anime to engage the white matter in that sort of way. The big world of Somali to Mori no Kamisama is one to get you thinking more broadly about the state of its world. Airy pacing and Satelight’s tremendous work here are the important pieces of that puzzle, engaging in child-like wonder with an imaginative sales pitch. One for the dreamers, yes, but not necessarily one for the thinkers.