Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
Episode 4

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?

Beautiful Bones did it! One episode after my usual make-or-break point, the show finally pulled off its first legitimately strong episode. And it wasn't through some massive shift in focus, or emerging central plot, or anything dramatic like that. The show simply got what it apparently always needed - a little bit more time.

This week's episode marked the first half of a two-parter, “The Cursed Man.” While out buying groceries with his mother, Shoutarou gets a call from the police officer Utsumi, who asks him and Sakurakou to look into a friend of his. Apparently, his old classmate Fujioka is worried he's about to die, and he has all manner of paranormal reasons to back that up. Not only does he come from a cursed family line full of premature deaths, he's also just recently taken in a cursed dog, who seems to recognize death as it approaches. And he's the proud owner of a cursed painting, because apparently at a certain point you just max out on curses and assume a few more couldn't hurt. With all these curses hanging over his head, Utsumi convinces Sakurakou and Shoutarou to visit Fujioka's home, and so all of them make their way to a secluded home deep in the woods.

Fewer plot events took place in this week's episode than the last several, and that was definitely for the best. Because this episode only had to set up mysteries, and not conclude them entirely within twenty minutes, basically every element of the production had far more room to breathe. This was clear from the very first scene of the episode, where Shoutarou had a conversation about his mother's health that more naturally segued into both information about his family life and mortality in general than basically any topic change in the show to date. That scene was followed by another sequence of excellent character-building moments, where we saw both Shoutarou and Sakurako gradually growing tired of Utsumi's blabbering. Instead of whacking us over the head with character chemistry, we got to see something that unites our two leads play out in real time, over the course of a believable conversation.

As the trio made their way to Fujioka's home, the benefits of this story's two-part nature kept reaping dividends. For one thing, the atmosphere in this episode was far more consistent and oppressive than any of the prior ones. With plenty of time to dedicate purely to building a specific tone, the show was able to use subdued lighting, consistent rain, and a number of incidental shots to create a sense of lurking danger and claustrophobia in Fujioka's secluded home. And the more subdued pacing also made the episode's presentation of mystery clues feel far more graceful and fleshed-out. Instead of simply presenting a mysterious death and then having Sakurako immediately solve it, we learned of many variables that could take the mystery in many directions over the course of a long, natural conversation. We even got to see how important Shoutarou is to Sakurako's investigations, with his probing and general easy manner keeping the information flowing and tempers low as Sakurako made her conjectures.

Overall, this episode presented a welcome and very literal change of pace for Beautiful Bones. By splitting its slow-boiling mystery up over two episodes, the show was able to dedicate key time to illustrating both character and mystery variables through natural conversations, and also evoke a much more consistent sense of atmosphere. It's still not a great show (its writing and visual execution are a bit too mediocre for that), but this was a strong first step in moving it towards being a good one. Hopefully it keeps this up!

Rating: B+

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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