Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation – 01 Review
Usually you only stare at skulls like this if you’re about to deliver Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be”-monologue…
This time I review:
Beautiful Bones 01: There’s an ordinary dude in an ordinary place who likes doing ordinary things and who, uncharacteristically, helps a Sherlock-like woman deal with her bone-obsession. It’s an obsession that for some reason usually leads to murder-cases which she then will resolve.
Of course, the Sherlock-character says stuff that makes her seem like a sociopath.
How much does an introduction-episode have to introduce actually? Some series just need an inciting incident, some sort of plothook or just a mere overview of the basics of the setting. What you see less is that introductions happen without a full story-arc. This episode more or less just goes through various incidents that are only connected via a timeline and otherwise just serve as a way to throw as much exposition at the audience as possible.
If this first episode is any indication Beautiful Bones is the sort of detective-show that focuses more on the analytical part of that genre than the adventure-stuff. If you try to neatly separate the detective-genre you got Poe’s Dupin on one side and Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe on the other. The former solely focuses on the solution of a mystery while the latter just uses the mystery as a plothook for an adventure. There are a lot of neat little differences between those two approaches but usually it’s a mixture of both. If this first episode is any indication, though, we’ll have to talk about the flaws of the former approach.
Of course, you can’t be too sure because this episode has no arc whatsoever. Well, I guess, you can count the progression of Shoutarou wanting to eat shrimp and ending up getting a full-on little buffet prepared by Sakurako’s maid at the end as a “little arc” but let’s face it: It barely is one. Aside from that you get a lot of scenes that are just there to introduce characters and their little ticks.
It has to be said, though, that I absolutely hated the opening-monologue of this series. Look, I get it that your typical Hero’s Journey starts with being in an ordinary setting but you know, don’t just deliver a fucking speech about how ordinary your main-chara’s life has been at the start of a series, please? In this case I’m pretty sure the lines were stolen from the original Light Novel because those lines would sound pretentious when they would be written and spelled out as an introduction in an anime they sound like the shittiest way to present the most generic setup imaginable. There’s an ordinary student with an ordinary life in an ordinary town and then he goes on a Hero’s Journey. Boo-fucking-hoo!
And the whole school-section was absolutely terrible as well. A bunch of characters I imagine will become important later trade generic lines while presenting themselves to the audience with the subtlety of an anvil getting dropped on everyone’s head. The whole thing about a famous Japanese poet once saying that corpses are getting buried beneath Sakura-trees…? That’s pretty stupid as well. Who cares if he said that? I’m pretty sure he didn’t talk about a random cat getting killed by a car who got buried here under a tree. But of course, the comment makes sense if you read it as metafictional commentary. Like, there’s this idyl on the surface presented by the sakura-tree and beneath it are the proverbial “skeletons in the closet”. Eurgh, if you ask me I would have preferred the anvil to getting this turd of storytelling dropped on me. This is akin to that needlessly lengthy introduction Heavy Object did in its first episode. This episode tries to ease people into its premise as if normal people can’t handle the stress of seeing fictional victims of fictional crimes in a fictional story.
The episode gets a whole lot better after Shoutarou has met with the Sherlock-figure of the series who is called Sakurako and of course she has a gimmick. I mentioned previously that I have started watching J-Dramas and a large portion of those were mystery-shows and if there’s one thing you can count on in Japanese mystery-shows it’s a detective-figure with a gimmick. In this case it’s Sakurako having an unhealthy obsession with bones. And of course this is as much a plothook for the mysteries as it’s an explanation for why she’s such a “Sherlock” as it also is a hook for comedy (the boy plays the straight-man-role, of course).
There are two mysteries in this first episode. One is the skull found on the beach and the other is the “double suicide”. In both cases the police are involved, both times it’s a mystery what exactly has happened and Sakurako is able to resolve the mystery (more or less) and both times the whole thing is accentuated by comical moments initiated by the guy. You can already see the rhythms the series is falling into which is actually a good thing if the series wants to be a full-on analytical detective-show.
That’s the thing you have to realize about a show that only cares about presenting mysteries and solving them: Characters are irrelevant. The most important element of the show is the plot and the plot is the mystery. Characters merely become glorified agents of the plot/mystery and the audience is supposed to keep watching because it wants to know the resolution of the mystery. And the better the mystery the easier it is to overlook the obvious problems of such an arrangement.
The police being total morons like usual in these types of shows. Someone unknown arrives at the crime-scene and contradicts the present detective’s hunch and all he does is to immediately ask the new arrival whether she’s the killer… Great detective work! It’s like that dude never even heard of evidence!
Sadly the mysteries in this episode weren’t that impressive. First, there’s the skull which was… it’s a skull! Even if it wasn’t a hundred-year-old-skull, I don’t think you would be able to do THAT much with a skull as evidence. At best you’ll track down the murderer and end up standing over someone else’s ashes or skeleton… well, unless it was a toddler who killed that person and threw that person into the sea.
Well, at least that girl’s murderer knew how currents work because the murderer of the two adults in the second mystery managed to drop them somewhere in the sea where they eventually end up on land again. And it’s here where you notice a VERY annoying throughline for the two mysteries which is that the police are filled with fucking morons! The way the police-guy in the second mystery immediately concluded that it was a double-suicide was SO stupid that I would start to doubt that he’s even a policeman. It reminded me of that bit John Mulaney has done about the series Cold Case Files where old murders get resolved:
“On Cold Case Files they show old murders and it was really interesting. Because what I learned from it was that it was REALLY easy to get away with murder before they knew DNA. It was ridiculously easy. Like, what was even going on back then?! What was a murder-investigation like in 1935?! One cop would just walk in and be like ‘Detective! We found a pool of blood of the killer’s blood in that hallway!’ and he’d be like ‘Hmm… gross! Mop it up! Now then! Back to my hunch! Hmm… Look for clues!’ ”
That’s EXACTLY what the policemen’s thinking-process felt like in this episode. It’s like they jumped to conclusions first and then looked for evidence in all the wrong places. I mean, that second mystery is especially groan-worthy in that regard because just the notion that two people tied to each other with a rope around their wrists would be a double-suicide is preposterous! How is that even under consideration?!
But it has to be said that the whole thing with the rope is an intriguing detail as far as sloppy mistakes made by a murder go. As for the whole drowning-thing… I mean, sure, it’s true but more than that you can’t drown yourself by just jumping into a body of water. At some point survival-instinct will kick in. What usually kills you is either the water being VERY cold, being really deep in the water or not being able to swim. And of course there’s water in your lungs if you actually drown and all the temperature- and pressure-related stuff isn’t an option. Sure, there are so-called “dry-drownings” but you can rule out the natural circumstances pretty easily and just come to the conclusion that the people were dead before they landed in the water.
As far as introduction-episodes go, this one does the job but I can’t say it does it particularly well. The mysteries are passable (just rewatch the scenes and you realize that you weren’t able to figure those mysteries out because the teeth of the skull weren’t even shown and the rope was only shown in a very short shot from Sakurako’s perspective which also had some distracting visual effects at the corners of the screen. But here’s the thing: If all you have is an analytical detective story, you need a REALLY good mystery. If the series can’t deliver that, it has to turn the whole thing into an adventure and deliver better drama and characterizations therefore. Personally I like analytical detective-stories more but if you don’t have a good mystery, don’t distract from it in the hopes that that will be enough to entertain and fool the audience. If the mystery isn’t good, you just need to offer a stronger presentation in other areas of the series. But as far as this first episode is concerned, it wasn’t very impressive.
- Sakurako stylishly putting on gloves during the second mystery was completely unnecessary. I mean, if she really had wanted to solve the mystery she would’ve needed the gloves, of course. After all you could’ve done a superficial autopsy at least. You know, identifying rigor mortis for example.
- So… Sakurako has a fiancée in the police but she prefers to travel around with a high-school-kid who she can boss around. That’s a… weird arrangement.
- And then there’s also the aunt with the roses… I get it, she’s a character in the series! This first episode really didn’t need to namedrop the majority of its cast. Like I said, as long as the mystery is good, this series is fine. As soon as that’s gone… oh boy…
Posted on October 9, 2015, in Anime, Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation, Reviews and tagged A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet, Anime, Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation, review, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru, 櫻子さんの足下には死体が埋まっている. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.