The world is ruled by spirits, goblins, and all manner of strange creatures. The species known as "humanity" once populated this world as well, but upon encountering monsterkind, humans grew fearful and lashed out. Now human beings are persecuted to the very point of extinction, and to most monsters are nothing but a distant memory.
In a lonely forest, a golem resided as the guardian spirit. Its purpose was to protect the forest and ensure its continued survival, though without interfering with the individual cycles of nature. One day, that golem came across a child in rags and chains- a child that lacked claws, horns, or fangs. Upon seeing the golem, the human child uttered a single word: "Dad."
This is a record of the pair, one a member of a ruined race, the other a watchman of the forest. It tells of their travels together and of the bond between father and daughter.
Somali and the Forest Spirit (ソマリと森の神様, Somari to Mori no Kamisama) is a Japanese fantasy manga series by Yako Gureishi. It has been serialized online since April 2015 via Tokuma Shoten's online manga magazine Web Comic Zenon. Unfortunately, the manga was cut short in December 2020 due to the author's health. An anime television series adaptation by Satelight and HORNETS began on January 9, 2020, and can be viewed here.
Somali and the Forest Spirit provides examples of:
- Adapted Out: The anime did not adapt the story where Somali and Golem met Zaza, a human who is the only survivor of the massacre of his village.
- Art Shift: The waiter's story of what happened to human beings is rendered in a painterly style reminiscent of storybooks.
- Big Damn Heroes: Muthrica saves Somali and Kikila from an underground cave monster that resembled a giant mushroom.
- Body Horror: What happened to Haitora and his family after eating the flesh of Uzoi's mother. While Haitora was lucky (or more accurately UNlucky) enough to only have feathers burst from half his face, his wife and daughter experienced a Cruel and Unusual Death by way of feathers growing out of every part of their body, causing them to die from a combination of shock, suffocation, and blood loss.
- Cerebus Roller Coaster: The show is chock full of this:
- Golem is told of how humans first mocked the creatures they meet, called them "Grotesques" and waged a war where they were defeated. Consequently any surviving humans fled and tried to hide, but they were hunted down by the creatures to the point where they mentioned to Golem that they haven't seen nor eaten any humans in a while. Golem disguises Somali as a minotaur child to lower suspicions as he journeys with her to find her parents.
- Haitora puts this backstory into the limelight again during episode 6. He killed Uzoi's mother, and later eats the body along with his wife and daughter. The latter two end up dying from food poisoning, while feathers grows on the right side of his face. He then sees a young Uzoi who mistakes him for her father, and travels with him to find a cure for his sickness from eating the harpy's flesh.
- Dying Race: Following a Great Offscreen War in the distant past, humans have been dwindling as a species due to the efforts of the various non-human races, with them nearing extinction. It's to the point where many non-humans these days have never even seen a human.
- Easily Forgiven: Somali towards Uzoi in episode 6 after nearly being killed by her earlier. When Golem and Haitora show up, Somali actually defends her and tells him Uzoi rescued her after she fell into a lake. He doesn't press the issue any further, discussing it with Haitora later that what she did was due to familial ties, and leaves it at that.
- Fantastic Racism:
- The various monstrous races are heavily prejudiced against humans, considering them nothing more than weak beasts to keep as pets or eat. Humans were apparently also prejudiced against non-humans, but as this was told through a story heavily tinted in racial bias, how much of this is true and how much is justification for their bigotry and hunting of humans is unknown.
- It's eventually revealed that around 200-300 years ago, humans really were heavily prejudiced against the "Grotesques", being just as willing to murder completely innocent monsters as the monsters are willing to murder innocent humans. That said, following the near-extermination of humanity, in recent times their hatred of monsters is no longer out of fear towards the unknown, but fear for their lives, with the rare cases of humans seen alive in the present day being shown as capable of getting along with monsters that aren't trying to kill them.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Haitora drops a wrench in golem's plan to rescue Somali and Uzoi from a desert creature by yelling and attracting its attention, then running away in the hopes that he could lead it far enough before he was killed. Instead he's saved by Uzoi, who accidentally overheard his conversation with golem about how he killed and ate her mother while she was still very young. She tells him his "punishment" for this was to stay alive, and spend their remaining time together as much as possible, having forgiven him for that act after Somali talks to her.
- Holding Hands: In Episode 1, Somali witnesses several children holding their parents hands as a gesture of affection. The end of the episode reveals Golem saw this as well, and suggests it- purely as a logical way of keeping Somali from wandering off once again, of course.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Inverted. Whilst we have heard tales of wicked and destructive humans in the past, so far it is the non-humans who have not only been more racially intolerant but utterly genocidal to the point of seeing humans largely as food. Haitora's backstory has his village wiped out by non-humans, who killed and ate the inhabitants, mutilating the captives who tried to escape or fight back. Further played with when we meet the witch who wrote a book that depicted humanity in a dark light based on her experiences in a human village, witnessing their intolerance (to the point of needing to hide her own race from them at a Golem's advice for her safety) and the murder of an innocent "grotesque" that happened to show up on their shore even after learning "it" could talk. As horrified as she was by their cruelty and her exile after exposing herself to save her human friend, she had hoped humanity would overcome their fears to make peace with the other races and deeply regrets her book's role in the war that left humanity nearly extinct. Further exemplified with Aunt Rosa whom spends a whole day playing with Somali. However, once Aunt Rosa finds out Somali is human she sells the information putting Somali's life in danger. Her gloating over how the human hunters are going to eat Somali piece by piece, mark her as more monstrous than any human.
- Lies to Children: The Golem promises Somali that they will be together forever, but he knows he only has less than 2 years left to live; he later says that he knows he is going to have to break his promise to her.
- Moral Myopia: Auntie Rosa is massive example. Complaining about humans being intolerant and murderously prejudiced, when she's out to MURDER and EAT an innocent child just because she's a human. Rosa is just as hateful and cruel as the humans she despises. She's arguably worse, most humans acted out of fear and ignorance but Rosa is out to murder and eat Somali even knowing she's an innocent child.
- Nature Spirit: Golems are a type of these. They are born from forests (as in, they literally just come into existence from within one), and from that point on keep watch over them, protecting them and making sure they function normally. Once they reach the end of their lives, they return to the land, revitalizing the life of everything around where they passed.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Somali and Kikila sneak into an underground cave to retrieve a flower that was thought to grant wishes in episodes 3 and 4. Though she manages to get one, and wishes to stay with golem forever, he scolds her for having come back long after the sun set.
- Oni: Shizuno and Yabashiro are oni, with Shizuno being a dwarf oni (an oni that never ages past childhood physically, meaning they never gain the strength of regular oni) with four horns. Both of them live in a hut out in a forest in order to be closer to the plant-life they use in their medicines.
- Parental Substitute: Episodes 5 and 6 introduces Haitora and Uzoi, two bird beings traveling together to try to find a cure for Haitora's Soap Opera Disease. Haitora reveals to golem that he was also a human, and became cursed after killing and eating Uzoi's mother out of sheer hunger and desperation. He then met a very young Uzoi who didn't know about this until she accidentally overheard their conversation.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The anime adaptation changes around the ordering of some events. Specifically, the visit to the witches' village is moved from being after the meeting with the onis to being after the entire situation involving traversing the desert, with the reason for why the golem goes to the village being changed from a random traveler telling them to it being Haitora that suggests it when they're nearly done traveling together.
- Scenery Porn: The anime adaption began garnering attention for its colorful, unique backgrounds after a single episode, courtesy of background director Vincent Nghiem.
- Secret Keeper:
- Golem has to disguise Somali as a minotaur child so as to not reveal she's actually human, and possibly one of the last few remaining, as they were defeated by the creatures the duo runs into each episode, and the remnants were hunted down regularly and eaten to the point that most of the creatures have never even seen a human.
- Haitora, Uzoi's companion Golem and Somali run into during episode 5, also turns out to be one.
- Sick Episode: Somali ends up catching a fever in episode 4. Golem tries at first to feed her some food, but she's unable to swallow. He then spends all the money he earned working at the restaurant to buy medicine for her.
- Shout-Out: What apear to be an Ohm shows up in the underground cavern during episode three.
- Token Human: While a major part of the plot is finding more of them, so far the only human in the story is Somali. At least, that's how it is for a while, anyway. The manga introduces an old man named Zaza, early on. He is the only survivor of the massacre of his village and lives in a small hut in a forest, far away from the monsters and like Somali, uses disguise to hide his identity. Later on in the manga, we are also introduced to another human, a young woman named Sakura. She is actually the descendant of Miya, the human girl who befriended the witch Feodora and currently in possession of the Chronicle of Haraiso, the book that Isolde wrote. Despite being a human, she is the leader of a gang of monster-thieves. She is also seemingly connected to Somali, as she is shown humming a song that Somali also seems to know. It is hinted she and Somali might came from the same village.
- To Serve Man: One of the monsters in episode 1 reminisces about the taste of humans, and many others consider humans to be a rare delicacy. Episode 6 also shows another Flash Back to this, where a group of humans trying to live peacefully in a town that gets assaulted by a group of "Grotesques".
- Ungrateful Bastard: Isolde's ancestor, Feodora, saved a little girl from falling down the edge of a steep cliff by using her broom to fly down and catch her. The human villagers, finding out that Feodora isn't truly human, call her a monster and tell her to leave. Isolde knew this would happen if they found out she was a witch and not a normal human, but is no less heartbroken over it. The only person who actually bothered to appreciate her act of kindness was Miya, the little girl she saved, who eventually realized that even though Feodora was a witch, she was genuinely kind and nice.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Uzoi towards Haitora when he tried to sacrifice himself by luring a dangerous desert creature away from her and Somali in an attempt at Redemption Equals Death. Instead she and golem save him by attacking it and forcing it to flee, and yelling at him for trying to weasel his way out of killing her mother by dying. She tells him instead to stay alive and spend his remaining time with her as "punishment" for his sins years earlier.
- Witch Species: A species of long-lived Always Female witches run the library. They look just like humans, but are considers "Grotesques" by humans.
- Your Days Are Numbered:
- Golems like Somali's "father" live for exactly one thousand years, with them passing and becoming one with nature again when that time is up. By the time the story starts, our golem is already nearing the end of his life.
- Haitora in episodes 5 and 6 is in a similar boat, as he's dying of an unknown disease, and regularly coughs up blood. His traveling companion Uzoi travels with him in a search for a cure, though it's likely he'll die before they can find one.