One of my personal challenges for this year is watching more series that I usually wouldn’t. Last year, the focus was on some magical girl shows, Love Live, and whatever the hell the genre of Wixoss is. This time, I want to check out more mystery shows. So far, I have only dived into only two so I have to get into more of them in the near future. I’m still lagging behind on my other challenges. Especially with me discussing the two parts of Yuki Yuna next week. I still am in the middle of the first Love Live series (which is oddly enough the last one I have to watch). That watch through will be followed by the Mankai chapter of Yuki Yuna. Finally after that, it’s time for more mystery anime. I know of some that I want to try out, but if you have a recommendation, please let me know.
So with that comes this series, Beautiful Bones. A series about the strange relationship between the high schooler Shotaro and the anime hot mid 20’s Sakurako Kujo. A very Sherlock Holmes and Watson relationship with the mysterious Sakurako being a recluse who is completely obsessed with bones. She can really tell everything about an animal or even a human being what happened or their past lives just by looking at the bones of anything that is on the ground. She is also just generally intelligent and very observant on details of the people around her. On the other hand, Shotaro himself is a decently smart Watson character who picks up on a lot of Sakurako’s interesting teachings by just following along. A particularly good point of view character for this particular anime.
I really like the amazingly simple structure of Beautiful Bones. I mean, it is like a western sort of police or crime drama. Its something that not a lot of anime series do these days on in general. Especially when it works for this format in general. Anime series really don’t do that. Episodic anime like Trigun or Cowboy Bebop usually have noticeably short, to the point arcs which shorten their ideas into a small package. I can only think of Darker then Black and Vivy pushing their arcs and stories by being two episodes or more in length. It only works if a series has enough story and emotional weight to carry the whole mini arcs that way which is half of those. Beautiful Bones easily has all those because it’s very well written.
What makes me like it more is that each case is not an immediate murder case. The opening case itself is just Shotaro and Sakurako digging for the bones of animals on a random beach. That does happen, but they come across human remains from a fair time ago. That it’s a mystery that has gone cold for some time until they were found. Another one just featured some missing children at a festival. At the same time, there are some clear ones with a family man wanting to kill himself to pay off debts or an immediate murder with the killer still out there. Not just all tension all the time, there is a very relaxed mystery of a child at a festival missing their family and then next arc will have lives on the line. Some are hopeful, others aren’t. The variety is good because each of the mysteries somehow belongs to the next.
Then we learn that there is a massive through line for it too. A mysterious guy who has connected a lot of the larger mysteries together. A man who is never captured but is obviously there to push some of the dangers and tensions of Japanese society or just murders in general. I also really like the small hints of Sakuroko’s life that is slowly dripped into the series. A lot of natural writing in which we learn more at very key emotional moments that just feel genuine. One that creates a good bond for our two main protagonists too. A very solid mystery shows with great characters that I really enjoy seeing together. Even the side characters are wonderful too. Simple characters that have their own arcs.
The mystery even increases with on a lot of good visual direction. There are hints or small moments that the camera focuses on so many moments which build up to something later. Clearly, they are either from Shotaro or Sakurako’s point of view as they see things that can help the viewer to solve the mystery before everything is summed up by mostly Sakurako or Shotaro in some unusual cases. Some things that shows like Sherlock or Rail Zeppelin don’t do for the most part. (The Rail Zeppelin special does a little more with this.) Sakurako is very intelligently put together in a lot of ways that sells the experience of what some mystery anime should be. I hope that there is more like it out there.
Pushing the visuals a little more, I think this show is generally well put together as well. The character designs are rather simple and clean. I mean, they are pretty much Aldnoah.Zero character designs which are not the weakest part of the show at all. I really like Sakurako’s glove wearing like magical girl sequence even if that is dropped later for some good reasons. The series does have a lot of good focus and direction, but those moments are obviously the most highly animated moments in the entire show in almost a fetishy way but not really. Lots of good locations for mysteries in a Japanese forest or just in the city. Great mood coloring of each scenarios. I just like how it looks in general.
So yeah, this show is really good. I mean, possibly a favorite mystery shows in anime if I don’t find anything better later down the line. Could happen, but who knows? Something which doesn’t matter when giving this show any sense of a score. Yeah, this is just a solid anime. Beautifully written, well characterized, good visual direction, and just has great mysteries of all types which helps create the whole thing in such a varied way. It didn’t matter that they didn’t catch the guy in the end for me. He didn’t matter as much. I hope this show gets a second season at some point even if that feels unlikely at this point. I just want to see these characters again.