Beautiful Bones – 07/08 Review
This series is such a try-hard to make us relate to Shoutarou’s being disgusted with how Sakurako likes bones. And not very surprisingly the end of the story is that Shoutarou should be less of a judgmental prick.
This time I review:
Beautiful Bones 07/08: A festival at Shoutarou’s school ends with him having to show Sakurako the school’s extensive bones-collection. As it turns out this is a school with a TON of bones – and some of them are human. But as all mysteries a couple plottwists await at whose end you’re left with one old lady confessing to being a huge dick to another dead lady. And the man in this triangle was virtuous in all regards, though.
Good thing we have Shoutarou in this series to constantly remind us just HOW abnormal Sakurako. Imagine if Watson’s whole shtick would be “Sherlock SHOULD be more normal!”and you’ve got Shoutarou. He likes her but he also constantly judges her. Man, I can’t wait to see when he finds out that she only tolerates him because he reminds her for her first love…
This is a series with a lot of heart. The ideas at the core of each story are filled to the brim with powerful emotions. Instead of turning every death into a procedural, this series wants to hone in on what death means for those who still live and by talking about the meaning of death the series indirectly also talks about the value of life. That’s the core-idea at the center of this series. Here and there you actually notice that but just like how everybody except Sakurako is a moron the series itself seems to not have a lot of respect for what its audience can handle. The series seems to be settling for less than what it could offer to the audience.
What is the meaning of death in life? The series already hits you over the head with its talk of bones, of course. Bones are the remains of death reminding the living of what has disappeared. Of course, it hasn’t really disappeared if there’s still something to remind us of who has died and that’s the whole point of the series. Death doesn’t render everything invalid associated with the dead person. Death isn’t an escape from life, it’s a natural part of it and no matter how violent the confrontation with someone else’s death is at some point one has to learn to accept it and move on. Somebody’s life has ended but that doesn’t mean all life has ended. Death doesn’t disrupt the connections people build up during their lives and so death merely changes those connections. That’s the whole philosophy behind this series and it’s a great one. I just wish the stories were actually better at showing off these ideas.
It just comes down to storytelling, really. For example with how Shoutarou reacts to Sakurako’s bone-fetish or when nobody realized that the guy in the two-parter wanted to kill himself or when multiple people in this series assume every death is a senseless suicide: For how much emotional gravity this series gathers by wanting to talk about death it portrays its cast (with the exception of Sakurako) as incredibly shallow and incapable of empathy. It’s like the series thought that the best way to talk about death is to have one Know-It-All and the rest being all complete noobs when it comes to the topic of death with the exception of Mr. Milktoast who’s the dude-protagonist we’re supposed to actually empathize with.
In the first of the two episodes, the major dramatic point is Shoutarou having a bit of an argument with Sakurako. The lack of empathy plays a big role here because it’s ridiculous how judgmental Shoutarou is here. He thinks Sakurako should’ve buried her cat or something and he thinks her turning her cat into an object is crazy. Even setting aside all of the general philosophical discussion here, the simple characterization of Sakurako already explains it all. She LOVES bones and so it isn’t far-fetched at all to imagine that for her any act of assembling a skeleton of an animal is an act of love. What she’s doing is to preserve death and keep it in her life. Her attitude towards death is actually far more interesting characterization-wise than Shoutarou having an issue with that. Normally all the cultural death-rites try to push death away as far as possible or at least mark a hard line between where you go about your life and where you deal with death (like a graveyard for example). But Sakurako’s obsession with death leans more towards her being surrounded by death. That’s the interesting stuff!
*gasp* So she isn’t superhuman?! It’s almost as if eccentric behavior doesn’t automatically imply a lack of humanity!
Meanwhile, having to deal with Milktoast McGee being upset over how eccentric Sakurako is becomes immediately a groanworthy subject. Shoutarou is such a bad protagonist. He’s the kind of mediocre figure that just performs a role. It’s like you’re watching a robot with a set number of directives: One, he loves Sakurako; two is that whenever Sakurako is being weird, eccentric or unnormal in some way, he has to do the whole straight-guy-routine; three, he has to be as nice/pleasant as humanly possible. There’s no character here! Shoutarou as a character is functional but never feels alive. So when you come to this scene where you’re supposed to buy into this conflict between these two characters you actually can’t empathize with Shoutarou at all.
It continues with the eighth episode but the series somewhat tries to write around the clumsiness of this drama with a little bit of lampshading (Shoutarou acknowledges that he knows of course that Sakurako is kinda weird) and eventually giving him a rare moment of intelligence where he manages to empathize with Sakurako via deduction. The conclusion of the drama certainly feels forced as Shoutarou rattles off all his deductions regarding Sakurako’s behavior. After all, the drama of this whole scenario is so introverted where it really just exists in Shoutarou’s head. The series makes some stupid decisions like giving Sakurako an over-the-top crazy look while talking about bones and Shoutarou being absolutely incapable of relating to Sakurako’s mindset despite having spent SO much time with her. In the end, there’s nothing that feels natural about this drama. Maybe it would’ve felt that way if it were the beginning of the series but at this point it’s laughable how the series has been trying here to get some drama out of the central gimmick of its Sherlock-figure.
But there’s also a “mystery” to deal with as Sakurako finds some bones (like always) and the bones have some history (like always) that needs to be explored. Actually it’s less of a mystery and more the most boring case of “All-tell-and-no-show”. The ideas at the core of these episodes is always sound and you can always see what the emotional beats are supposed to be here – but the storytelling has always sucked so far! On a book-page you could maybe get away with a character telling a story because there you would have more space for that sort of thing and you could add some flourish to the narration in the writing. But this eighth episode which got stuck with unimaginative direction and a dull script it certainly ends up feeling like a missed opportunity.
After all, it never feels like the story manages to sell its story – even after its plottwist in the second half. The eighth episode certainly doesn’t do the story justice which the old lady is telling. Especially the girl who made the most selfless sacrifice imaginable to help wheelchair-girl never gets her due in that story. And wheelchair-girl’s laments certainly didn’t ring true. She lamented that she got punished for fooling around with another man despite the other girl helping her and got left alone. But let’s remember: In a traditional Japanese arranged marriage the woman is actually supposed to leave her home and live with her mother-in-law as her boss in the household of the husband’s family. And also that wheelchair-girl was somehow able to just let go of this girl who knew her darkest secret…? The more I think about this story the old lady is telling the more she seems like the bad guy in this story.
It’s this sense of lacking self-awareness that hurts the storytelling the most. You could easily imagine a version of this series heavily reliant on flashbacks and with the present-day-characters really just being the conduits for telling these stories from the past. If you look at the stories you would certainly think that what happened in the past is more important but of course there’s value in exploring the present as well. Except this series’ present is seemingly more concerned with unearthing the past which calls the focus on the present into question, of course. It’s like structurally the series isn’t telling the stories you’d expect it to tell. Therefore the storytelling-mode this series finds itself in is often completely unsuitable for what stories it tries to tell.
That’s why for all the heart this show has none of the story-beats are effectively able to connect with the viewer. Instead of actually enabling the audience to get into the heads of suicidal or grieving people, the series would rather lecture these characters about what they’re supposed to think and imagine its audience to be so simplistic that the mere proposal of grief and depression being less great than nice thoughts is substance enough for a touching story. This is a series more concerned with talking about stuff than letting said stuff speak for itself. It’s a series obsessed with the past unable to leave the present.
- That old lady in the wheelchair is an asshole!
- The dead teacher thinking that at least having his love’s bones is a sort of fateful reunion is far creepier than Sakurako wanting to have the bones of a cat.
- And I don’t get how Shoutarou STILL doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of bones. After all this time together with Sakurako you’d figure he would be somewhat able to relate to Sakurako’s passion but no… he just thinks it’s “unnormal”.
- This arc’s “mystery” was all about shaming an old lady for past mistakes, I guess. But since it’s an old lady nobody’s gonna question her too hard about why she, for example, never confessed to her brother that his fated lover actually didn’t have a baby. And we’re also not gonna question why the old lady stopped giving a shit about the girl who covered for her after she left. Also, it was a great idea for the dude to NEVER confront the girl he was in love with about the whole baby-thingy and only was interested in keeping her close after she died… alone.
- In the seventh episode I assumed Sakurako’s meeting with this hospital-patient was related to this story-arc but I guess it’s build-up for a future story-arc. Can’t say, though, that I give a shit. Seriously, does anyone actually care what happened to Shoutarou’s previous-life-incarnation? This is the sort of overarching story that does too little to be interesting. It’s vague instead of mysterious and overly sentimental instead of relatable.
Posted on November 28, 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. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.