Shelf Life
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation

by Paul Jensen,

Maybe it's just my imagination, but it seems like each new anime season usually gets off to a slow start. We get a few days of reasonably average premieres, and then the heavy hitters show up. Well, that ain't the case this spring; both Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia arrived on day one. I guess the headliners didn't feel like waiting around for the smaller opening acts this time. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation

On Shelves This Week

Girls Beyond the Wasteland - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $49.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $36.29 Barnes and Noble|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: High school student Buntarou Hojo has a talent for writing scripts for his school drama club, but he's in for a new kind of challenge when a classmate asks him to help her make a dating video game.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this romantic comedy, and it's available streaming on Hulu and The Anime Network.




Hyperdimension Neptunia - Complete Collection [S.A.V.E.] BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.99
Currently cheapest at: $21.77 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Neptune and her fellow Goddesses rule over the gaming-themed world of Gamindustri, and must work together to fend off attacks from a variety of villains.

Extra: You'll find a review of a previous release here, and we also covered the series in Shelf Life. You can stream it on Funimation.




Martian Successor Nadesico - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 740 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.99|$49.99
Currently cheapest at: $37.39 Amazon|$28.79 Amazon

Synopsis: In order to turn the tide in a war against the alien Jovians, a weapons manufacturer creates an advanced space battleship and staffs it with a crew of eccentric misfits.

Extra: This sci-fi comedy was kind of a big deal back in the day, but I started my anime hobby a little too late to catch the hype train. We have a review of a previous release, and you can stream the TV series on the Nozomi Entertainment YouTube channel.



Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 444 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.99|$44.99
Currently cheapest at: $39.31 Barnes and Noble|$28.79 Amazon

Synopsis: When the last remnants of the Zeon forces steal a Gundam armed with nuclear weapons, the crew of the Federation ship Albion is tasked with stopping them.

Extra: We have an old review of this OVA series here, but nothing for the compilation movie that's also included in this release.




Naruto Shippuden - Set 30 DVD
Viz - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $28.44 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: As Obito absorbs the power of the Ten Tails, Naruto and Sasuke join forces and gather their allies to defeat him.

Extra: Our episode reviews for this series actually start at just about the same point as this set. Ain't that convenient? As always, you can stream the show on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.




Shelf Life Reviews

It's been a while since we last covered a proper mystery series here on Shelf Life. I decided to change that this week by taking a look at Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation.

The ingredients for a good mystery series are deceptively simple. As long as you have a compelling detective character and some intriguing cases for the hero to solve, you're usually in pretty good shape. The reason I tossed “deceptively” into that first sentence is that those two things can be very tough to deliver on a consistent basis. Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation illustrates that challenge quite well, as a very hit or miss series from one episode to the next. When the characters hit their stride and the mysteries are interesting, it can be a very entertaining show. When those elements aren't in place, it's a different story.

As is often the case with this genre, the story follows a brilliant but eccentric detective and her more well-adjusted assistant. This head sleuth is Sakurako, a woman in her 20s who lives in an isolated mansion with her elderly housekeeper. Sakurako is an osteologist, meaning she studies the bones of humans and animals, often assembling skeletons for display. Her unofficial (not to mention unpaid) assistant is Shotaro, a high school student who isn't quite sure what to do with the rest of his life. Whenever the two of them go looking for new bones for Sakurako's collection, they have a tendency to stumble upon the bodies of murder victims and other mysterious crime scenes.

Sakurako has the makings of an interesting heroine. She's exceedingly smart and occasionally charming, but she's also blunt and impatient in social situations, concealing some old wounds behind her creepy obsession with collecting bones. That mix of strengths and flaws should make for a deep and nuanced character, but the series has trouble presenting the different sides of her personality as a unified whole. Her attitude switches from sinister to vulnerable to kindhearted without much reason, and her dialogue is often burdened by strained attempts to make her sound clever and mysterious. The one point that works consistently in her favor is her chemistry with Shotaro, who can be somewhat bland on his own but makes a good foil for Sakurako's eccentricities.

While Sakurako can be somewhat inconsistent as a character, she's steady and predictable compared to the mysteries that the series comes up with. Beautiful Bones tends to be at its best when it resists the temptation to go overboard. The strongest storylines often don't even involve murder, instead focusing on the idea of death in a wider context. It's in these storylines that the show is able to build a creepy atmosphere or bring out the personalities of its characters. On the other hand, the writing tends to lean on forced drama and overwrought moral philosophy when there's actual killing going on. With a little less screaming and a little more thinking, this could've been a consistently strong series.

Beautiful Bones also suffers from being a single-season adaptation of a longer original work. After some small hints in early episodes, it eventually reveals a criminal mastermind who's had a hand in many of Sakurako's biggest cases. Dots are connected, revelations are made, and it looks like the final episodes are headed for a big confrontation. Unfortunately, that's not what we get. The ending offers some closure for Sakurako and Shotaro's character arcs, but gives us nothing on the mysterious arch-villain. That's vaguely acceptable if you're just trying to please existing fans, but it doesn't do much for people who are watching the anime on its own. I had some issues with the ending of The Perfect Insider when I reviewed that mystery series last year, but at least it had an ending. All we get here is a boatload of unanswered questions.

On the production front, Beautiful Bones is decent if unspectacular. The character designs and animation are both fine, but the visual direction has a tendency to go bonkers from time to time. There's a repeated sequence of Sakurako going into super detective mode that looks especially out of place, with multicolored animal skeletons marching across the screen while she puts on a pair of gloves. It's all a bit silly, and it usually breaks the somber mood of the scenes it interrupts. This set is your basic bare bones (get it?) Sentai Filmworks release, with two discs in a case accompanied by clean opening and closing sequences.

I wasn't overly fond of Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation, but it slides its way into a Rental rating on the merit of its stronger story arcs. There's some decent material in here, and it's good enough to justify a single viewing if you enjoy mystery shows. I like some of its calmer, quieter musings on life and death, and it might have been an easier recommendation if it spent more time on those kinds of stories. As it stands, I don't think it's compelling enough to win over a wider audience.
-Paul[TOP]

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Ivan:

"My name is Ivan Ampuero and I'm 32 years old. I've watched anime since the 1990's. But I started collecting anime since 2005. Part of my collection I had to put it in a dvd case because at that time I had to move around to different places so in order to keep my anime with me I had to do that. I used to collect manga but...well for me it was more expensive than buying anime back then. However I'm thinking to get some manga titles now that I have a little more money to spend...hopefully I'won't go bankrupt hahaha. I hope you enjoy my collection"

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I knew a lot of people in college who had big binders full of anime DVDs or video game discs. I wonder if that's still a thing, or if the kids just stream shows if there's no shelf space in their dorm rooms. Either way, thanks for sharing!

If you'd like to show of your own anime collection, send me your photos at [email protected]!


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