Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
Episode 3

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?

In a startling change of pace, for this week's episode of Beautiful Bones, Sakurako and Shoutarou ended up stumbling across a human corpse. They don't find it immediately, though; first there's some preamble back at Sakurako's home, and then the two of them head off exploring a cave, and then they wander their way into corpseville. Unlike last week's body, this one's been around for a while - as Sakurako explains after a mercifully abridged transformation scene, this particular spooky skeleton has likely been decomposing in the woods since last autumn. But Sakurako's explanations are cut short by the blustering cops (who are no more competent this week than either of the prior two), and so this week's mystery ends up being cut awkwardly short.

This shoving away of Sakurako was actually my favorite sequence of this week's episode. After the second episode, I'd figured we were going to be stuck in weekly mystery territory for a good half of the show's run, with Beautiful Bones baiting the identity and story behind Sakurako's mysterious “Soutarou” character all the way until the second half. Instead, the show seemed to already be messing with its formula, and even offering something of a genre-savvy wink by having Sakurako not actually get to solve a mystery. Couple that with the next scene's immediate revelation that Soutarou was Sakurako's deceased brother, and it really felt like Beautiful Bones was about to defy all my cynical expectations.

Of course, that didn't actually happen. The reveal of Soutarou's identity didn't go any further than that, and basically as soon as that happened, Shoutarou got a message from his classmate Kougami. Apparently the body they'd discovered belonged to her grandmother, who'd been missing all that time. The police labeled her death a suicide, and Kougami blamed herself - she believed that the strain of acting as caregiver for her bedridden grandfather had driven her grandmother to throw herself off that hillside cliff. But of course Sakurako had other ideas, and in this episode's final stretch, she revealed the actual and significantly more heartwarming story behind her grandmother's death.

This episode definitely surprised me, but not in a good way. It really did get my hopes up for a formula break, but then the formula returned, and the formula remained not particularly strong. The mysteries in this show are just not that compelling - there's no complexity or suspense to them, and Sakurako's deductions are based in the kind of fantasy logic that really demands more showmanship than Beautiful Bones can offer. Instead, the show attempts to ride on the emotional journeys of its characters - the story of the mother last week, and Kougami's feelings for her grandmother this week. But these characters are only given a few minutes to lay out their stories, meaning there's no time for the audience to get invested in them, either. And unless Shoutarou or Sakurako start talking like real human beings (or at least actually witty fictional characters), there's not much investment to be drawn from their interactions, either. There were a couple funny lines this week (“And why must I come along? I was planning to assemble a monkey skeleton today), but overall I can't say anything in this episode did much to improve my impression of the show.

Rating: C

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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