Anime Best in Show

Review: Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 2 Best in Show

Quick Summary

In Somali and the Forest Spirit episode 2, “Edible Herbs and the Oni’s Dwelling,” Golem and Somali were having breakfast when some horned rabbits visited them. Golem invited the furry creatures to join them, and all went well until one of the rabbits decided it wanted to eat Somali’s honey mushroom. When she objected, it tried to escape, and Somali raced after it. Unfortunately, she tripped and fell, and her left knee hit some stones. Golem found that the wound was deeper than he’d thought, and he noted they were out of medicines. That’s when Shizuno, an oni, introduced himself and offered to help. Golem had sensed the oni tracking them. Can he trust Shizuno now? Or does the oni have nefarious plans for Somali — and the Golem himself?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

Best Moment in the Show

Thinking back to when Somali hurt her knee beside the river, Golem realized he never wanted to see her in that state again. He wanted to learn enough about medicine to heal her quickly — before she cried. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

For being emotionless, Golem is an interesting character. He earned this week’s Best in Show moment not because he started to show any emotions, but because he didn’t — and because of what that just might mean for the show.

While Somali helped Yabashira clean the house and wash the clothes, Shizuno taught Golem how to make basic medicines (at Golem’s request). Golem was an excellent student. He absorbed everything the herbalist taught him. Shizuno was so impressed that he asked Golem why he was so interested in learning about medicine (14:39).

After trying to argue it was more efficient, Golem finally came clean. He said that when Somali had fallen in the forest, her injured knee hurt so much she cried. “The muscles in her face distorted,” he said (15:21), “and moisture filled her eyes. Somehow, that expression disrupted my thoughts.”

He placed his hand where his heart would have been (he said in this episode that Golems don’t have hearts — not sure if that was meant figuratively or literally) and said that part of him because agitated. He said that he never wanted to see Somali look like that again.

How could you look at that face and not want to help her feel better? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Now, part of me wanted to interpret that moment as Golem’s developing emotions. He’s starting to love Somali! What other explanation could there be?

That alone earned it the Best in Show moment.

But another part of me dared to hope it meant something a little different. What if Golem’s not developing emotions? What if the love he’s feeling is a different kind? I think if we try to define love as only an emotional thing, we’re missing out on a lot. We’re missing out on the implications of love also being an act of will. Independent of emotion, what if Golem decides he will love Somali and keep her safe — not because of a feeling, but because of a conviction that it’s what he should do?

To me, that’s an alluring idea. I’d love to see this show make such an unusual statement about love. I won’t be disappointed if Golem develops mere emotions — that’s still interesting! But I’ll be elated if the show goes beyond that idea.

What did you think of the oni? What was your Best in Show moment? Let me know in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “Review: Somali and the Forest Spirit Episode 2 Best in Show

  1. I think that Golem already loves Somali -he just doesn’t realize it, but his body/feelings/reactions tell him what his mind cannot understand. One aspect of the story that puzzles me a little is the timeline. It seemed apparent to me that Somali spent a year or two with Golem before they started on their journey – she looked a bit bigger (to my mind) than when he first found her. However, the fact she did not know he spoke to animals argues against this and suggests that Golem started them on their journey very shortly after he found her.

    1. “I think that Golem already loves Somali -he just doesn’t realize it, but his body/feelings/reactions tell him what his mind cannot understand. ”

      I think that you and Dawnstorm are both likely right. I saw that moment and had a hope they’d go a different direction with it. I won’t be disappointed if you’re right, either. It’s a timeless idea for a reason.

      “One aspect of the story that puzzles me a little is the timeline. It seemed apparent to me that Somali spent a year or two with Golem before they started on their journey – she looked a bit bigger (to my mind) than when he first found her. However, the fact she did not know he spoke to animals argues against this and suggests that Golem started them on their journey very shortly after he found her.”

      At the very least, several months had passed because she really did look more healthy. Her personality had recovered to a remarkable extent, and even for a child, that’s not a fast process.

      Maybe golem took off right away, treating her and feeding her on the way? Or maybe her first few months in the forest were such a blur given her psychological state that she doesn’t remember?

  2. I find it hard to make sense of this:

    I think if we try to define love as only an emotional thing, we’re missing out on a lot. We’re missing out on the implications of love also being an act of will.

    To me, will implies emotion. Absolutely nothing has any value unless you link it to an emotion. That’s why I’m already stumbling over “only an emotion”. Emotion is the very origin of each and any value. Okay, imagine golem is really a man-made robot, and he has some sort of ingrained programming, like Asimovian laws. And this is the first time in memory (after he’s been repurposed somehow by… something?) he encounters a human, and this triggers a part of the programming he didn’t know was there. How would this feel inside? “Emotion” is the only way we can make sense of this, no?

    It’s the same with humans, really. Fishing with a fishing rod is only as popular as it is, because humans have a hard time reading a fish’s emotional expression. Do you think people would like fishing as much, if fish were capable of, say, screaming? We’re basically driving a hook into their mouths and then we’re yanking them into a lethal environment.

    To me, there is no act of will, without a corresponding emotion. In fact, if your a sentient creature, you’re incapable of surviving without emotions, such as the unpleasantness that is hunger or cold. I mean if golem isn’t organic, then his highs won’t be enhanced by hormones, and clearly he can’t react to pheromones. But how important is bio-wetware for the development of emotion? We’d have to solve the “hard problem” to tell, I think.

    In any case, if you remove emotion from love, your end up with simple behaviourism, IMO – i.e. you get rid of the love, and supplant it with empty (because unfelt) behavioural cue. It’s rules all the way down. Not love at all.

    1. There’s a reason I say I’m wired differently from most humans. This is probably very close to the heart of the matter.

      So to speak.

      One of the reasons I found Aristotelian Thomism so fruitful as a philosophical and theological framework was that it talked about issues like this in ways that seemed sensible for me.

      For example, consider Divine. Completeness; no lack; no potential because all potential has been realized.

      Aren’t emotions tied to our animal aspect — the desire to move from an unrealized state (I want that food; I want that warmth) to an at least temporarily satisfied state (I’m full — for now; I’m warm — for now).

      From this perspective, if we tie love to emotion, then there is in the Divine no room for the emotion of love. There is no movement from want (i.e., a lack of a thing and a desire for it) to acquisition, because the Divine has no lacks to fill.

      That opened the possibility, at least intellectually, that love might not be tied only to emotion.

      Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say some _forms_ of love aren’t tied to emotion.

      Romantic love is tied to emotion (physical attraction, etc.). But what C.S. Lewis called “disinterested love” isn’t specifically tied to emotion. It’s tied to a desire to put faith into action. That’s an act of will (though some faiths do seem to place a ton of emphasis on the emotional aspects of faith — I never was comfortable with that sort of thing).

      As far as the will, in my view of the world, the will is tied to the intellect. I decide (i.e., a logical, rational process) to do a thing or not to do a thing; I decide to put my will into motion or not. There are times when the emotions seize control, but that often seems to end badly.

      Or very very well, depending on your perspective.

      Honestly, I don’t expect anyone to get where I’m coming from. In all the years I’ve talked about this sort of thing, I can count on one hand the number of people who got it.

      That’s also why the potential here is so appealing. I might actually have to use two hands!

      1. First, I’ll have to say that, as an atheist, I’m sort of lost when faced with the concept of the Divine by default. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be or how to visualise it. My basic intuition is that emotions are, of course, tied to our animal aspects, because we are… well, animals. It’s a really trivial thing to say in my world view. I frequently find myself at odds not only with theists, but also with secular humanists on that topic. I sense a disire for humans to be special, and at times it feels like people overestimate humans in the process, and at other times it feels like humans underestimate animals in the process, and sometimes both.

        And this:

        “From this perspective, if we tie love to emotion, then there is in the Divine no room for the emotion of love. There is no movement from want (i.e., a lack of a thing and a desire for it) to acquisition, because the Divine has no lacks to fill.”

        I think underestimates emotions. I consider things like happiness, or most notably, contentness also emotions, and they’re not really related to any lack, except maybe by contrast. And then there are negative emotions like boredom or anxiety, which are maybe about lack, but not nearly as specific as hunger.

        I just think emotions are inherently tied to our perceptions of value: without emotions nothing is worth anything. So when you then get to this:

        “But what C.S. Lewis called “disinterested love” isn’t specifically tied to emotion. It’s tied to a desire to put faith into action. That’s an act of will (though some faiths do seem to place a ton of emphasis on the emotional aspects of faith — I never was comfortable with that sort of thing).”

        I have to ask, what mechanism inside ourself fuels a “desire to put faith into action”, if not emotion. What if you don’t put faith into action? What if you don’t have any faith in the first place? How does pondering this make you feel? It’s these feelings (emotions) that drive faith, really. The only thing I can get out of this is that sometimes “love” isn’t about “love”. I don’t know anything about God, but I don’t see how a human can have a “desire to put faith into action” without emotions. Sounds very similar to internalised social norms to me. So:

        “As far as the will, in my view of the world, the will is tied to the intellect. I decide (i.e., a logical, rational process) to do a thing or not to do a thing; I decide to put my will into motion or not. There are times when the emotions seize control, but that often seems to end badly.”

        I don’t see how that works. Or maybe I don’t see what the intellect is to you? Logical, disinterested problem solving? The language here is also a little confusing. Decide to put the will into motion? Who? What? I feel we had a similar conversation before, and I’m forgetting something here.

        What makes things more complicated here is an “expanded time horizon”. Because you can imagine future outcomes without actualising them, you can learn to be wary of sudden impulses, but you do so only if you manage to have emotions about emotions: for example, being afraid of your own anger, or disliking the dirsuption of habit.

        Or differently put: being disinterested is its own emotional state.

        1. “My basic intuition is that emotions are, of course, tied to our animal aspects, because we are… well, animals.”

          It’s interesting to reflect on just how much influence my theological education has had on how I frame my view of the world. For example, I completely agree with your statement about humans being animals. What I’d add is that in additional to our intellectual and emotional aspects, we also have a soul. I’ve talked to a number of atheists, and while they all (as a matter of their decision or inclination) reject the concept of the Divine, they don’t universally reject the concept of a non-corporeal aspect of humans. I could suggest it’s the next stage of evolution towards completely leaving matter behind and living as a spirit — Divinity not required.

          Putting aside any answers that would require a faith perspective (which I think would make me a bad host!), I think the idea of a non-corporeal aspect answers what an intellect is to me.

          From a purely philosophical perspective (keeping theology out of it).

          “Logical, disinterested problem solving” would be applications an intellect, but not its nature. My intellect applies logic to solve problems; but it also directs the selection of what problem to solve. It can consult the emotional aspect of a person to direct the will to take a course of action, but it is separate from those emotions and the will.

          “The language here is also a little confusing.”

          I could not agree more! In fact, the lack of a generally understood vocabulary, along with a general lack of examples and references, almost made me decide to take a different approach with this post. For example, if I want to emphasize the concept that the intellect can make a decision without emotional input, I can’t say something like “the intellect desires.” Desire is most commonly understood as an emotional thing.

          It’s not always, but the language is very imprecise.

          “Because you can imagine future outcomes without actualising them, you can learn to be wary of sudden impulses, but you do so only if you manage to have emotions about emotions: for example, being afraid of your own anger, or disliking the dirsuption of habit.”

          And this is another example where language and common experience make the conversation a challenge. I might want to avoid a future condition because I see the result would be disadvantageous — like seeing that smoking could increase my changes of lung cancer. I could say that I’m afraid of dying of lung cancer. But in my current state, the very concept of lung cancer is vague. Sure, it makes me feel uneasy, but I might decide not to smoke to meet a goal of generally increasing my health. For emotional reasons? Well, maybe, but maybe not. I might have cooly and rationally considered the pros and cons and decided the pros won.

          There’s a reason I sometimes joke I’m only partially human. I have a sense that the more I try to describe this, the more I either run into the limitations we’ve discussed (the charitable interpretation) or the more my muddying thinking manifests (the less charitable interpretation).

          1. “I’ve talked to a number of atheists, and while they all (as a matter of their decision or inclination) reject the concept of the Divine, they don’t universally reject the concept of a non-corporeal aspect of humans. I could suggest it’s the next stage of evolution towards completely leaving matter behind and living as a spirit — Divinity not required.”

            I don’t reject non-corporeal aspects of humans, but I also can’t make sense of “evolution leaving the body behind”, because evolution is a biological discipline, concerned with how bodies change over the time (e.g. the evolution of the eye). I am a meterialist in the sense that I think non-corporeal aspects of something corporeal depend on the corpera to exist. An example is “society”: society isn’t a corpereal entity. It’s lived through human beings and secondarily encoded into artefacts. But without human bodies there is no society.

            I don’t use the term “soul” myself, but if I were to use the term, the only way it would make sense to me would in a “society” sort of way. human bodies:society = X:soul. I’m not sure what X is; a hunch is “cell”, but it’s difficult for me to figure out.

            A complication is “the hard problem of consciousness”. I have no way to describe why we have experiences. But in theory I have no problem of considering the possibility to tranfer X from “cells” to “computer chips”, for example (a simplistic example).

            And an even further complication is that we don’t always realise when you use a metaphor. Take the scene in question. Golem referred to, I don’t remember exactly, an uneasiness? in the region of his humanoid body where a human heart would be.

            This is where intuitive genre categorisation matters: if the show is SF, I’d hypothesise that golem is the product of a humanoid creature (possibly an environmentalist), and those creatures left the “processing unit” there, in a bid for mimesis. If it’s a fantasy, I’m fine with assuming some sort of governing metaphor, as if the human body were some sort of expression of a platonic ideal, and that – given a humanoid appearance – that’s where feelings manifest. In practise, the categorisation as fantasy ends my intellectual involvement here and now, and I basically treat it as a metafictional metaphor (and in-world uncertain ontology).

            “My intellect applies logic to solve problems; but it also directs the selection of what problem to solve.”

            It does, but only in so far selection of what problems to solve is in itself a problem to solve. But that sort of thinking leads me into a bit of a muddle. At some time I end up just declaring that what moves us is an “emotion”. This has definitory power and directs how I use the word. It’s possible that “emotion” is a foundational principle of my world view. But how will I understand you if it is? If I let go of foundational assumptions, I won’t understand anything any more. I’m running into my limits here. Using different terms won’t help if the problem is conceptual.

            Take “will”, and try to puzzle out how it’s used, for example, by Schopenhauer in “Will and representation”. There seems to be a continuum that includes natural laws and desire? Or something? I’ve never quite understood that, but I do still sense some kind of affinity. What do I make of that?

            I think what we can agree on with respect to the scene, is that the visual and actual language of the scene involved invokes emotion (e.g. manifesting in the “chest area”). At the same time, there’s analytic/neutral language, when Golem draws a descriptive parellel between Somali’s and the oni’s facial expressions. And then there is the fact that golem does not have a physical heart (he doesn’t seem to be a biological creature). This is a constellation that has potential micro-inconsistencies to be interpreted, and I was surprised by your take, less in the sense that I reject it, and more in the sense that it puzzles me.

            I’m not investing much intellectual energy into Somali, so I just take this scene as a literalised analogy. It’s “yet another Pinocchio story”, and the scene felt a little cheesy, but pleasantly so. Beyond that I didn’t think about it at all. I’m intrigued by your take, but I can’t reproduce it (and thus I can’t really comment on its plausibility.)

            I tend to dive off the deep end, when faced with such puzzles. It’s all very abstract, and I’m not always sure just how much I actually communicate to others, or whether I’m mostly talking to myself, and it’s actually a process of alienation, as the more I talk the less I know what I’m talking about, but I think it might also be a sign that I’m learning, because “not knowing what I’m talking about” could be a sign that my worldview’s opening up (or, more pessimistacally, it’s a smoke screen to not let threatening material in – maybe a little of both?).

            For me, the little oni was the star of the episode. He’s a character I really like. A healer who – I’m sure – knows that Somali is not a minotaur (the final line when they were gone suggest this too). I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the oni, and the piece of golem left behind is going to play a future plot role.

            1. “but I think it might also be a sign that I’m learning, because “not knowing what I’m talking about” could be a sign that my worldview’s opening up (or, more pessimistacally, it’s a smoke screen to not let threatening material in – maybe a little of both?).”

              As I tried to explain what I meant (or thought I meant?), I had the same reaction. It’s amazing how hard it is to not only communicate some ideas, but to understand the idea enough to communicate it. And like you said, realizing that I didn’t really know is a step forward.

              I hope.

              “For me, the little oni was the star of the episode. He’s a character I really like. A healer who – I’m sure – knows that Somali is not a minotaur (the final line when they were gone suggest this too). ”

              Great character! I like characters that give me the sense they know way more than they’re telling! It’s like an invitation to stick around to get to know them better.

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