Beautiful Bones is the story of Sakurako: an osteologist who has a bit of obsession with dead bodies of all sorts. One day, she meets a student named Shotaro who, for some strange reason, she ends up befriending.
The two of them end up spending a lot of time together: Shotaro because he’s looking for something to shake up his boring life, but Sakurako’s reasons are a little harder to glean. While they are together, they frequently go hunting… after a fashion. You see, Sakurako loves finding bones, and when the two of them search together, they have a strange tendency to find human remains, which is the one thing she loves finding more than bones. Much to Sakurako’s chagrin, Shotaro always calls the cops, and she inevitably ends up helping them investigate the cause of death – even though she’d rather simply clean and assemble them for her collection.
And this is the heart of the show… a strange mix of mystery and character drama. And both elements are phenomenally well-developed. Each episode – or 1-2 episode sub-arc – features its own little mystery that helps to not only build the characters but also establish some facet of the two primary overarching mysteries. I won’t spoil them, but one of them ties very strongly into just why Sakurako is spending so much time with Shotaro. These little mysteries are extremely well done, and – despite the show being all about death and corpses – are not terribly gory or too depressing. There were even a few of those small arcs that had a pretty strong emotional impact on me – and not always negative emotions.
What is really impressive is how seamlessly and naturally these little arcs seem to tie into the grand scheme of things. The mysteries stand on their own just fine, but when put all together, you get an overarching story that is building towards something big… something that will sadly have to wait for another season – please Troyca, don’t leave us hanging, produce another season of this show. But, at the same time, these little mysteries also help you to understand the hidden truth behind Sakurako’s mysterious past.
Amidst the mysteries, you get a constant progression of development leading you towards a deeper understanding of this show’s cast. And an incredibly well designed cast it is… Sakurako and Shotaro are – of course – fantastic characters. I particularly enjoyed watching Sakurako gradually develop an affection for her little sidekick. Now, when I say ‘affection’ I don’t mean romantic. This is one of the show’s deepest strengths, the two of them have an entirely platonic relationship – although Shotaro clearly has some attraction to her, he never really acts on it and she never shows any signs of similar. And this was so refreshing to see. It’s all too rare, among all forms of media, to have a male and female act as co-leads to a show without having a romantic relationship waiting in the wings.
Beautiful Bones is heavily focused on Shotaro and Sakurako… but even side characters receive a lot of attention, particularly Yuriko and Itsuki. Yuriko is Shotaro’s friend and classmate, who seems to have a bit of a crush on him. She has a caring but shy personality, and receives some remarkable growth through a few of the show’s episodes and finds herself frequently an accessory to Sakurako’s investigations. Itsuki, on the other hand, is their life science teacher who seems to be cold and distant. Seems is the operative word, but I’ll let you discover his true personality on your own since he features in one of the show’s best moments.
This show’s presentation is some of the best I’ve seen. The music and visuals are both fantastic, but there were a few specific elements that stood out to me. The character models are very detailed and… animate. Sakurako is among the most expressive anime characters I’ve ever seen, with a wide range of subtle emotional states that are completely readable. The other characters are not quite to the extreme that she is, but still very well drawn and animated. There is also one particular repeated scene that I found hilarious… Sakurako has this little ‘magical girl’-ish transformation sequence when she puts her gloves on and starts to investigate. It’s silly, but it’s an awesome nod. Finally, the opening is amazing. Dear Answer is one of my favourite songs of the past year, and a big part of the reason that Sakurako’s opening found its way to the top amid such stiff competition and placed #6 on my list of the Best Anime Openings of 2015.
Beautiful Bones is a beautiful show with stunningly animated characters, a fantastic soundtrack, and a strong plot that does a great job of developing those stunningly animated characters into more than just pretty faces. This show not only lived up to my expectations from my Fall 2015 First Impressions post, but exceeded them in every way.