Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation (Crunchyroll) features the hoary old trope of an eccentric amateur detective who solves murders that the clueless police would never be able to figure out for themselves. (The Japanese title is Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru or “A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet”.)
This kind of thing always requires a certain suspension of disbelief. How likely is it that a civilian living in a pleasant small town will constantly be stumbling on murders? (And why don’t the police ever wonder whether she’s the evil mastermind behind them all?)
(Of course a writer might go the route of Hyouka in which the amateur detectives solved trivial “crimes” of no interest to the police. But that series, clever though it was, was not a great success.)
But if you’re the type who likes this sort of story Beautiful Bones is a particularly nice example of the trope. It’s stylish and clever with a certain underlying humanity that is often missing from stories like this. (And it’s not entirely a “murder of the week” show since the mysteries are not always murders.)
Our detective in this case is Sakurako Kujou, a young woman of independent means who occupies herself as a bone collector and amateur forensic pathologist.
She lives in Asahikawa, Hokkaido (the boondocks by Japanese standards) in a sprawling old mansion filled with mounted skeletons of various animals.
She is looked after by a sweet old servant she calls “Baayasan” (real name: Ume Sawa.)
Sakurako is generally anti-social. One of the few people she tolerates is a high school boy named Shoutarou Tatewaki, who serves as her Dr. Watson by narrating the stories and asking innocent questions that allow her to explain her deductions.
She drags him along on her bone-collecting expeditions, ordering him around and making him do the hard physical work. The twist is that these expeditions generally turn up human remains, causing Sakarako to whip out her rubber gloves and Shoutarou to whip out his can of disinfectant spray.
This is generally followed by a scene with the police in which she demonstrates with impeccable logic that their conclusions are completely wrong.
It may not be obvious to Western viewers just how arrogant and rude Sakurako is by the standards by which Japanese women are judged. It’s not that she’s coarse; her speech is educated and feminine, though without the elaborate politeness expected from an ojou-sama character. But she’s very direct and dismissive of other people’s opinions. She addresses everyone as a social inferior, even the police officers who she is trying to convince. (They put up with it because she’s brilliant.)
Arrogant though she is, we see regular hints that she is haunted by a tragic past which gives her particular sympathy for crime victims.
Her relationship with Shoutarou is somewhat ambiguous but there doesn’t seem to be any sexual vibe (and he would undoubtedly express horror at the very idea.) My theory is that he puts up with her because solving murder mysteries is exciting. As to why she tolerates him…apparently he reminds her of someone named “Soutarou.”
He does have a circle of friends in high school. Haruto Imai (on the left) is a childhood friend who disapproves of his extracurricular activites with Sakurako. Itsuki Isozaki is a sympathetic biology teacher. Yuriko Kougami is a pretty classmate who thinks the mystery-solving is rather cool.
Sakurako is engaged to Naoe Ariwara, a somewhat neurotic young police officer. He sometimes gets Sakurako involved in mystery cases but he doesn’t seem much help in solving them.