Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?
Beautiful Bones went big this week, in the way only a show with no understanding of its own dramatic reach can. Minami decided to help Sakurako find her friend within moments, and Hitoe was discovered not long after that, meaning the vast majority of this episode was dedicated to unraveling the truth of Futaba's disappearance. Using Hector's bizarrely specific sense of smell (Hector was honestly the MVP investigator this week), Sakurako's group were able to uncover Futaba's bones, which led into a long series of reveals and counter-reveals regarding the nature of her mysterious death.
Minami led the charge on these revelations, describing the days of happiness she and the other two spent out in the woods. This flashback was actually one of my favorite parts of the episode, mainly because it reflected how Beautiful Bones is more willing to engage with the ugly side of adolescence than most anime. In contrast to the whitewashed lives of most anime teenagers, Minami and her friends experience abuse at home and even self-harm, and the ways they dealt with those problems felt pretty true to life. It's understandable that Futaba might want to kill herself, and it's understandable that someone as insecure as Minami would get swept up in the honeyed words of the Butterfly Bandit (that sneaky painter, who's technically referred to as the 'Sphenoider,' but that doesn't really roll off the tongue).
But the sensitivity expressed through Beautiful Bones' framing of unhappy adolescence sadly did not extend to its execution of this episode's dramatic turns. Sakurako seemed almost determined to permanently scar these girls, first mocking them for being shocked at their friend's bones, and then literally using the femur as a stick to interrogate them with. And for their parts, Minami and Futaba's reveals here fell squarely into the bulging-eyed melodrama school of dramatic affectation, with things only getting more absurd as the two traded off revealing the truth of their friend's death.
Futaba wanted to die while they were happy, and Hitoe agreed… but Minami was frightened by this talk, and so ran away. Fearing for her friends, Minami decided to turn back to their clearing, only to find Futaba was already dead. Minami assumed Hitoe's explanation of Futaba's suicide was the truth, but Sakurako's examination of the bones reveals that Futaba was actually strangled - and so Hitoe reveals the real truth, that she was essentially forced to kill Futaba and then lie about it.
All of these shocking reveals were unveiled with the nuance of a daytime soap opera, with Sakurako acting as some kind of demented ringmaster, driving the traumatized girls into a frenzy. Sakurako has always come across as emotionally distant, but her treatment of the other characters this week veered sharply into the sociopathic. Beyond not expressing sympathy, she actively jeered at their troubles, and when Minami tried to cling to her feelings for the Butterfly Bandit as one last fragment of self-worth, Sakurako seemed to take pleasure in describing how the villain was only using her. When that declaration led to Minami trying to stab Sakurako, I actually found myself rooting for Minami.
Unfortunately, Sakurako doesn't actually get stabbed - Shoutarou takes the fall, leading to a final scene dominated by one of those cliche “we need to break up for your safety” speeches from Sakurako. Overall, while this episode was certainly more action-packed than Beautiful Bones tends to be, I can't say that was really a good thing. When this show has been decent, it's been because it slowed down and treated its characters with dignity. When it attempts to rile them into hysterics like this, it mainly just comes off as ridiculous.
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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