Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
Episodes 1-2

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation ?

Beautiful Bones is not a good show yet.

That doesn't mean it couldn't become a good show! That just means it has a lot of work to do. So far, these first two episodes have introduced a clear premise and two central characters who actually work well together. We have Shoutarou Tatewaki, the soft-spoken high school boy who feels somewhat adrift in his life, and Sakurako Kujou, the strange woman with an obsession with bones and clear knack for mystery-solving. These episodes have played out like classic mystery procedurals, with Shoutarou and Sakurako running across first an ostensible double suicide, and then a missing child leading to an unexpected murder. Bodies have been discovered, bones have been analyzed, and Sakurako has rendered final verdicts on all she sees.

As a strict mystery show with episodic adventures, Beautiful Bones has yet to really impress. With only twenty minutes an episode, the mysteries can't really bloom into any surprising shapes, and Sakurako's deductions have often felt less about her being incredibly clever than about her being the main character who just says something and that makes it true. Beautiful Bones lags far behind primetime mystery dramas in terms of pure dramatic plotting, and primetime mystery dramas aren't a particularly high bar. Hopefully the show will stretch out into multi-episode arcs that give it more room to develop complex stories, but so far these episodic adventures have not amounted to much.

Fortunately, Beautiful Bones is not purely an episodic mystery story. There's also the running thread of the main characters, whose relationship is so far easily the best element of this series. Sakurako isn't a particularly unique character - she's the classic eccentric detective, obsessive and standoffish and haunted by vague demons (in this case, seemingly the past loss of a boy named Soutarou). But she has fine chemistry with Shoutarou, whose own relative wit and excellent practical skills (good with people, handy in a fight) make him a strong counterpoint to Sakurako. The role of “bumbling fool who prompts Sakurako to answer detective questions” has so far fallen to this show's various police officers, all of whom are so incompetent at their jobs that they may or may not break your suspension of disbelief.

That's not the only element threatening belief here. Beautiful Bones also has a serious problem with ornately awful dialogue, from Shoutarou's self-serious monologues in the first episode to Sakurako shouting “living is your duty, as one so young” at a comatose baby. On top of that, there's also Sakurako's abysmal “magical detective transformation sequence,” where she goes into bones-vision and sees a bunch of rainbow CG skeletons before intoning her catchphrase, “let's solve the mystery.” So far, almost none of this show's humor is intentional - it breaks out sophomorically overwrought prose without a hint of a smile. Sakurako and Shoutarou's general banter is solid, but the show's going to have to level up its writing if it wants any future drama to elicit more than a groan.

Outside of those mercifully brief bone-vision scenes, Sakurako's visuals are generally strong. The show has a tendency towards oversaturated lighting, and some early scenes beneath a cherry tree were basically drowned in rainbow colors, but the color work outside of those sequences has stuck to muted but rich tones. The backgrounds have a detailed but nicely faded look to them, and though there isn't that much standout animation, the character designs are expressive and consistent.

Overall, Beautiful Bones is watchable, but definitely not something I'd yet recommend. As a mystery show it's fairly unimpressive, and as a character story it's got potential, but no real spark yet. We'll have to see if it finds its footing in the coming weeks.

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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