Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?
Beautiful Bones really impressed me this week. I've gotten accustomed to not really feeling invested in its mysteries, and also getting very little at its attempts at characterization, but this time, basically every single thing worked. This was a quieter episode than usual, with a very narrow focus - in fact, essentially the entire episode was composed of two important conversations. But by honing in on a few small emotional themes and giving its characters time to express themselves, this episode succeeded far more gracefully than the show ever has before.
The first half of the episode was consumed by a meeting between Shoutarou, Sakurako, and Yuriko. The sleuthing pair run into Yuriko as she's on her way to her grandmother's grave, and are then asked to help solve a minor mystery. Yuriko's grandmother told her that when Yuriko married, she'd give her a painting as a gift - but Yuriko isn't sure of which one her grandmother had in mind. And so she enlists Sakurako to run through a set of paintings that Yuriko and her grandfather painted together, with Sakurako dutifully extrapolating the potential emotional significance of each subject in turn.
This sequence first of all worked much better as a bit of small detective work than the show's usual mysteries. Sakurako's analysis of the paintings actually felt like clever deduction, and not just magical mystery reasoning. It was still Holmes-style high improbability, but there's a reason people actually enjoy reading Doyle.
But more importantly than the strength of the mystery solving, this sequence was also enriched by some real emotional weight. Yuriko's initial story was weighed down by narrative baggage and too absurd of a concept to really offer much resonance, but stuff like Sakurako explaining why Yuriko lied to her grandmother to pretend she liked her presents is totally grounded and relatable. “You knew that your happiness was her happiness,” Sakurako said, to which Shoutarou added “there are things that have value because they're pointless.” Meaningful insight and intimate emotional truths made this sequence easily one of the best in the show so far.
The episode's second half formed a nice mirror with the first, shifting the conversation to Sakurako's home as Shoutarou and Sakurako's grandmother joined her in eating some pudding. Shoutarou mentioned that he'd purchased the pudding as an offering to his own grandmother's grave, which led into a discussion that once again focused on how we sometimes lie to those we love in order to preserve their happiness. After Shoutarou's grandmother was bedridden with cancer, she shifted from disliking pudding to requesting it whenever he visited - but as Sakurako's grandmother revealed, this was reflective of not a change in tastes, but of a desire to spare the pain of her circumstances from the grandson she adored. And even Sakurako's grandmother ended up playing into this central theme of deception reflecting love, as Sakurako's request for her to see a doctor for her own pain were met with “I do have my dignity. You don't have to worry about me - I want to be your gran until the day I die.”
“Quiet dignity” is a good description of this episode in general. By focusing on smaller, more engaging mysteries and buttressing those with moments possessing real emotional weight, Beautiful Bones was able to pull off a randomly excellent standalone episode. Color me impressed.
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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