Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?
And so Beautiful Bones ends, with a… surprisingly effective episode, actually. I'd assumed that, given last episode seemed to imply Sakurako was now going to hunt down the Butterfly Bandit, this episode would be following in the tone of that one's absurd melodrama. Sakurako would find her prey, Shoutarou would return just in time to be used as a hostage, and the show would end with a climactic detective-battle that forced Sakurako to come to terms with the death of Soutarou just in time to save his replacement.
That didn't happen. I'm guessing that still will happen, but apparently (and fortunately), the fight with the Butterfly Bandit will only come after some number of other mysteries, likely in some much later and never-to-be-adapted chapter of the source material. Instead, this episode focused on a different mystery - the question of how Shoutarou and Sakurako first met.
Like all of this show's best episodes, this one worked because it kept its focus small and gave its stars room to breathe as people. The early flashback scenes of Sakurako and Shoutarou meeting felt more lively than most of their actual show material, both because they were given more minutes solely dedicated to establishing rapport and because apparently both Sakurako and Shoutarou act more like recognizable human beings when they're not already comfortable with each other. An intimate, low-stakes mystery revolving around one of Shoutarou's relatives left plenty of room for both of these characters to express some legitimate humanity.
In the end, Sakurako's first overwrought monologues about Death and The Abyss ended up informing present Shoutarou's renewed desire to see her, as he internalized (but didn't outright say!) the fact that Sakurako's obsession with bones also reflected the importance of treasuring time with people while they're still alive. The classic scene of the protagonist stopping and running back (right after the new year, through the snow) was played against the words of Sakurako urging him on, and cliche but generally effective construction led to cliche but generally effective conclusion. The two reunited, and Shoutarou made his speech to Sakurako, and everything was okay again. It wasn't profound storytelling or anything with real emotional weight, but it was a series of reasonable beats that worked reasonably well.
Aside from this episode having a narrative that actually worked, the show also demonstrated its very lovely backgrounds and color work for one last time. There was no disruptive bone-vision, and even the awful rainbow filters were restrained to just a minute or two when Shoutarou made his “confession” to Sakurako. Overall, while this wasn't a truly remarkable episode, it was a better-than-expected conclusion to an ultimately not very good series. Congratulations Beautiful Bones, you finished with some actual dignity.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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