Beautiful Bones: Sakurako Review — Character Without Purpose

Except for perverts to leer at, of course.

You know what my big problem with light novel adaptations are? They never have a good story. Okay there’s one or two exceptions, but for the most part, when their plots aren’t being dumb, they’re just non-existent in general. It’s always world-building or character-building for its own sake, which is basically showcasing the finest bullets in the world without a gun to actually fire them with. Impressive-looking bullets my friend, but unless you’re planning to make the bad guys swallow the damn things, I don’t see how they’re going to help us here.

Well, impressive may be giving most light novel adaptations too much credit because they generally look like ass on top of their other problems. But to be fair to Beautiful Bones, it does look nice for the most part – even if said niceness is often undercut with choppy direction and awful usage of filters. If this is going to be the norm for all of Studio Troyca’s output, then you can add them to the list of fledgling studios that failed to make it big, because it’s not a good look. I guess we’ll see what happens in their future stuff, but for now, let’s focus on Beautiful Bones. From what I remember, there were a bunch of people who were excited about this because it had the mystery label on it, along with word that it looked like Hyouka except not boring. Word of advice my friends. No matter how bad a KyoAni show is, any anime where the phrase “it looks like this KyoAni show except actually good” can be applied to it will always turn out bad. No exception (edit: unless it’s KyoAni themselves who are making the similar anime of course).

And Beautiful Bones is pretty damn bad. It’s not just the direction that’s choppy, but the storytelling is mismanaged as well. For starters, just like the other Fall mystery show, it begins in medias res so it pretty much assumes you already know who our main duo is and thus we’re supposed to find it cute when Sakurako guzzles over bones and solves mysteries with a Deus Ex Machina power because that’s who she is. And also like that other Fall mystery show, the characters have no personal stakes in regards to any of the cases besides revealing token bits about Sakurako’s past, which I’ll get to later, so I’m not really sure why I’m supposed to care about them or the mysteries they’re involved in.

I’m not sure if Beautiful Bones is worse than The Perfect Insider, but it’s definitely not as fun to take the piss on. They both take their premises seriously whilst being horribly paced and completely lacking in tension, but whilst Perfect Insider couldn’t stop banging on about how intelligent it is despite not realizing it was playing with a firework that had been soaked in sewer water, Beautiful Bones is sort of comfortable in its own inanity and proceeds to just go about its life like it’s nobody’s business, wallowing in mediocrity rather than striving to be anything more. There are multiple episode where there’s not even a case happening, instead taking time to focus on the characters just going on about their lives despite the fact that I have no reason to care about seeing their lives. And when a case does happen, it’s always clumsily executed due to the police being legendarily thick and the motivations being as sensical as Michael Jackson’s singing.

Not that Sakurako’s or her boy toy’s motivations are any better. Beautiful Bones tries to sell us on their relationship as the glue that holds everything together, completely unaware that it’s the cheap kind you’d use in elementary school because it’s completely lacking. A good relationship-driven show is supposed to have the characters complement each other in a way that drives the story, but Beautiful Bones can’t even get as far as to do the complementing in the first place since Shotaro is mostly there to act in awe of Sakurako’s skills whilst being her morality pet and personal joke-punching bag whilst Sakurako…just goes on about life as always except now she has a kid hanging around her. Actually, I don’t recall what the two do either together or separately other than hang out and solve mysteries. I understand it’s supposed to be some Holmes/Watson thing, but Watson had a story. He was an army doctor who just got back from Afghanistan and needed to settle down. We never learn about what Shotaro’s deal is until the final episode that details how he and Sakurako first met, and without spoiling anything, let’s just say I don’t see him going into any war zones soon.

As for Sakurako herself, the show builds up a story regarding her past and some villain that’s manipulating all the cases around her to the point of ridiculousness, because my suspension of disbelief doesn’t go so far as to accept that one man can manipulate both the case about a trapped child under a floorboard and the one about a cursed painting considering how little they have to with each other. And all it really tells us is that Sakurako is fragile on the inside. Wow. Great characterization there, Holmes. Not that that’s automatically a bad story, but in addition to all the crap surrounding it, when I see buildup happening throughout the course of a show, I expect there to be some fucking payoff! And that’s another problem with light novel adaptations by the way: they never end. It’s like in order to get your series approved, you have to aim to be some Tolkien epic despite the fact that you don’t have nearly the same amount of world-building skills that he did and you never will because you’re working in an industry where all talent is to be left at the door when you enter the publisher’s office. I’m pretty sure it even spells that fact out in the contract you have to sign with those guys.

So between a mismanaged cast, shoddy direction, tension-less mysteries, tension-less non-mysteries, and an ending sequence where you leer at Sakurako’s naked body for some reason, at the end of the day, the show is basically like an un-sharpened #2 pencil: completely pointless.

Minor Quips

  • I was surprised that many people actually liked this show. Apparently “one intriguing character” is enough to carry anything these days.
  • Given the number of people who hated Fall 2015 as a season, I’m thinking they weren’t so hot on One-Punch Man either.

8 responses to “Beautiful Bones: Sakurako Review — Character Without Purpose

  1. I’m not sure why anyone would like a character like Sakurako, especially after the episode where she was prodding teenagers with the remains of their friend

    • Something about her being a flawed prodigy is what I’ve read in those positive reviews. Personally, I never reacted as badly to that specific scene as you and a few others did because at that point, the whole case was too inconsequential and overcomplicated for me to take seriously.

  2. I never made it past the first two episodes of this. The fact that the camera kept panning to Sakurako’s breasts made me pretty uncomfortable, and the relationship between her and what’s-his-face struck me as more creepy than amusing, and so made me equally as leery. I can’t claim to know how good any of the later mysteries were, but with first two being run-of-the-mill at best, the only redeeming feature of this series for me was the artwork – which would have to have been absolutely spectacular to get me to keep watching for that aspect alone. And it wasn’t.

    • I seem to recall it was the other female character (the one in the kimono on my last image) that camera was leering at. Otherwise, no I can’t say the show got better from the first two episodes. Some people claim “3” was an improvement, but it had zero tension and the resulting characterization was mundane, so I have no idea what they were talking about.

      • I don’t even remember that character. Possibly she was never introduced within the first two episodes, or possibly she was just that memorable.

  3. Well, I really think it was mislabelled as a mystery series because it felt like a slice of life for me. At least, it’s not as sleepy as The Perfect Insider?

    … and I am one of the few who loved Fall 2015 the most that year. Something must be wrong with me. Hahaha.

    • At least, it’s not as sleepy as The Perfect Insider?

      Maybe, but it sure wasn’t as fun to write about as Perfect Insider. I was struggling to get 1000 words for this review because there’s not much to say about this show other than it’s really boring. Perfect Insider’s pretentious nature at least gave me good material.

      • That, I don’t know if rage (The Perfect Insider’s pretentiousness) or giving up over a series premise (Sakurako) is worse. Nonetheless, these are duds I won’t bother touching again aside from The Perfect Insider’s OP. That was… wow.