Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation Complete Series Anime Review

There are some things that have value because they're pointless, you know?

What They Say:
Sakurako Kuj┼Ź is a genius beauty in her mid-twenties whose life is centered around one thing and one thing only: bones. With little tolerance for others, she would be completely isolated in her study full of skeletons if it weren’t for high school boy Shotaro—her new assistant and constant companion. Why exactly she has taken a shine to him remains a mystery, but one thing is clear: Whenever the two go out together, the chances are high that they will come across a human corpse.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Everyone has that one show every season that they're super excited for. Whether it be a continuation to a former series, an all-new creation from a favorite studio, or even a show just has an extremely pretty girl on the promo poster, us anime fans get ourselves psyched up over basically anything. For me, the conductor of the primary hype-train for Fall 2015 was Beautiful Bones or A Corpse Is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet

This mystery light novel adaptation follows the unlikely crime-solving duo of Kujou Sakurako, a well-off osteologist from a wealthy background, and Shoutaro Tatewaki, who is basically just some high school kid. This directorial debut from Makoto Katou is equally as youthful in the animation department, being only the second series animated by studio TROYCA (Aldnoah.Zero). The light novel, which goes by the same title as the anime, began publication in 2013 and is currently still adding more volumes to its name. The author and artist, Shiori Ota and Tetsuo respectively, once again exemplify how fresh this series is when you take into account just how little they worked on. Hell, even the two main voice actors have never been in an anime before. With an entire staff of people who could be considered "freshmen" by some others in their field, Beautiful Bones busted onto the scene with the notion of proving that the new guys in town can be just as good as the old veterans.

The series follows the typical arc format that many other series, primarily mysteries, have been utilizing as of late -- meaning that each individual mystery could consume anywhere from one to four episodes. As these arcs progress, the underlying plot line does as well. Actually, I'm not sure if "Plot line" is the right term to use there. The biggest part of this entire series is watching how the two protagonists grow and develop in terms of their relationship. As Sakurako and Shoutarou solve these mysteries, which are occurring at a suspiciously alarming rate, their thoughts of each other progress, in the same way, that the cases do. Shoutarou sees Sakurako as this astoundingly beautiful, overly smart grown woman that he still needs to watch after due to her sometimes absentmindedness. Sakurako, however, seems to view Shoutarou as sort of a replacement to someone she may have known in the past.The two become rather codependent on each other, and watching them grow is honestly the most entertaining (And important) part of the series.

Each arc and each mystery you will encounter in Beautiful Bones is quite different than the next. Seeming, more often than not, like typical "Foul play" murder cases, each story has something buried deep down inside it that literally turns the case on its back. But, I mean, it wouldn't really be a mystery without that, right? More than half of the arcs wind up being exponentially darker than they seem at first which, depending on how you view the series, can be either incredibly entertaining and gripping or just flat out disturbing and uncalled for. My particular favorite (And I won't spoil it for you) is the final arc that details one of the strangest love triangles of all time. This arc actually goes on to introduce a bigger continuing plot that I'm sure the light novels make a huge deal of. However, considering this plot doesn't spring up until the last three or four episodes (And we only have 12), we don't get to see much of it. The plus side to this is that it leaves a metric ton of room for a second season if this one is received well enough.

This isn't a series where you're going to see Square Enix style, fashionably gorgeous characters, but instead characters that accentuate the realism of...well, reality. Each one seems more like someone you might encounter in town rather than an anime series -- which is awesome. This creates sort of a subconscious tie that viewers can create with particular characters that may remind us of some people we've actually met in real life before. Except Sakurako -- she's too perfect to be an emulation of an actual person. Along with character design, location and landscapes display a sense of realism that is both rejuvenating and nostalgic. Even the music shines in this series, spiraling into a chorus of enchanting violins when Sakurako activates detective mode. Beautiful Bones is well rounded in a multitude of ways, leaving only some rushed and confusing story aspects to drag it down.

The strangest thing about this series is how Sakurako is introduced. One of the first times we hear Shoutaro talk about her, he mentions that she is engaged to some guy somewhere or something. Then, we never see that guy, or even hear about him again. Hell, I don't think she even mentions him at all for the entire series. Maybe he shows up later in the light novels or something, but the way it seems to me is that this fiance guy was just thrown into the mixture to dispell feelings of intimacy between Sakurako and Shoutaro (Or, if you want to get weird, just make it more taboo). Not only is this weird and unnecessary as far as developing characters goes, it's just too safe of a decision for me. I mean, this is a series that highlight suicide, child abuse, more suicide, and a plethora of other things. But it draws the line at a relationship between an adult and kid who will be an adult in, what, two years? Personally, if you're going to weave a tale centered on co-dependency, I don't think you should throw random obstacles in the way. Any obstacle introduced should have a reason -- it shouldn't just be there for the sole purpose of complicating things.

In Summary:
Beautiful Bones boasts an "Impressive on all fronts" personality which only becomes bigger when you take into account how new every staff member is to the anime industry. Story arcs are deep and detailed with little self-censorship, which is essential for a mystery series. Character design is realistic while character personalities are relatable and intimate. Art design evokes a sense of nostalgia while still painting a beautiful portrait of an enchanting environment. The only thing that comes as a true hurdle to this series is some rushed conflict in terms of character relationships. As a whole, though, Beautiful Bones is a refreshing story of codependency between unlikely candidates that harkens back to stories like The Garden of Words. Room for a second season only makes it better.

Grade: B

Streamed By: Crunchyroll/Hulu

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