What They Say:
Shotaro Tatewaki knows that Sakurako Kujo isn’t a normal person. After all, most young women have multiple interests revolving around things like work, fashion, and sports, but Sakurako is fixated on just one thing: bones. While she already has a huge collection of them, mostly animal, she’s always trying to gather more, especially those of the human variety. This can be quite a problem for Shotaro: especially since he and Sakurako have a positively unnatural aptitude for discovering dead bodies together.
Fortunately, Sakurako is a naturally brilliant detective who unearths the mystery of what happened to the owners of those bones, but it’s up to Shotaro to make apologies for Sakurako’s odd quirks and tendency to make off with the evidence. It’s a grave business that can leave him literally bone-tired, but for the wheels of justice to turn, there are always more skeletons to be bared and new secrets to be exhumed in BEAUTIFUL BONES -SAKURAKO’S INVESTIGATION-.
The audio presentation for this release brings us only the original Japanese language track in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that really is all about the dialogue and ambient music moments as it’s a talkative show with some exposition goals to it. This keeps it from really having to stretch much at all as it plays out with it largely being between two or three characters at a time and rarely a raised voice at that. The mood is well handled by the music that gives it some additional life but it’s not meant to be full of huge swelling moments or anything. What we do get is solid and appropriate for the show at hand and it comes across as a clean and problem free mix throughout, which is exactly what we want.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Troyca, the show has a very strong design to it overall, but not quite as vibrant and colorful as some of the key visuals prior to broadcast indicated. It’s a slightly earthy show in some ways but it works its color design well with a real world approach and some great moments of popping colors when it comes to the plants and the like. It has a rich palette overall but not one that will jump out in a huge way. Colors maintain a solid feeling throughout and the detail in both designs and backgrounds is really well handled, making it worth pausing to check out how much goes into each of the locations throughout the series.
The packaging for this release comes with a standard sized blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls where there’s no reversible artwork. THe front cover uses an interesting choice of Sakurako sitting under the tree cradling a skull, but it’s partially obscured by the logo along the bottom. The framing for the artwork is quite nice with the bones and ornate old school widget which gives it a dark and foreboding feeling. The back cover continues this framing and puts a lot of text in the middle which is a bit difficult to read with the font used of thin white on black that’s not fully formed, reducing the effectiveness of it. The top has a few shots from the show while including the episode and disc count while the bottom breaks down the extras, production credits, and a clean and easy to read technical grid that lists everything accurately. No show related inserts are included with the release.
The menus for this release riff off the cover artwork in a solid way as we the usual fifty/fifty split where the left side has the artwork and the right side the navigation. The navigation has some old design elements to it from the cover with the framework and such as well as the decaying logo that runs down the middle. The episodes are listed by number and title with a mix of red, white and black that works well and is easy to navigate as there’s little here beyond the show itself. The left side with the artwork uses some good pieces from the Japanese run with the two leads together in the first during a spring day while the second goes for a winter image with them that has a gray and more oppressive tone to it. Everything works smoothly as both the main menu and the pop-up menu, making for a problem-free experience.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the light novel series from Shiori Ota with illustrations by Tetsuo, Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation or A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet is a twelve episode series that aired in the fall of 2015. Animated by Troyca, the show is one that has a certain visual appeal to it as it plays to strong set design and composition that makes you feel a part of a world that exists and isn’t just a clean and fabricated piece. What the show wants to be is a standard kind of murder mystery piece but with an angle that we don’t get to see often. What I always find interesting about anime to some degree is the ability to find these kind of smaller paths in life and give them something much bigger than they would elsewhere in treatment, showing a different kind of world than most of us walk in.
The series revolves around a young woman named Sakurako Kujo, who is seemingly post-college age and pretty well settled into a home that she maintains due to being part of a prominent family and the seeming last of her line. Sakurako is definitely an oddity as she has an endless and deep fascination with bones that’s tied to a lot of knowledge, giving her the ability to fine focus like a detective and see things that your average detective would miss. She’s long collected bones and has a pretty good conservatory of them, including her own cat that started her fascination with it and showcases how she views the living versus the dead in how she interacts with them. Though she tries to be kind of cold about this in a way, there’s a good bit of emotion there and you can see in her own way how she views understanding the bones as a method through which she can bring those stories to life – and sometimes closure.
To provide balance with her we get seventeen year old Shotaro Tatewaki, a young man that ended up crossing paths with her (in the twelfth and final episode as a flashback for the most part) and ended up being drawn to her. Sakurako certainly has a presence about her and Shotaro finds her fascinating, though it took him time to warm up to all the bones in her house in the year since he’s known her. It’s also obvious that he’s got a bit of a crush on her but that’s fairly well downplayed and she’s not exactly nudging him on about it either. What Shotaro brings is the everyman view into the show where she can lecture him a bit about what she sees and he can offer his own insights at times that surprises and helps her. It’s a pretty good working dynamic since it doesn’t overplay his attraction to her and she’s not encouraging it in the slightest either, though it’s obvious she certainly does care about him as a friend at the least.
The structure of the series is one that’s appealing as it plays to the idea of her regularly coming across bones buried or found somewhere and getting caught up in the investigation itself. It’s a typical trope of murder shows so you kind of give it a pass and they alternate it well enough with how it happens and by doing a bunch of single episode stories and a couple of two-part stories. It’s within these instances that we see Sakurako realize the hidden truths that comes from how the bones are laid out, the things around them, and the motivations of those that are still living. Each mystery is certainly interesting enough – I particularly liked the two-part story about the curse painting with the reveal of why there’s a long line of people that died young in the family as it really felt unique. There may not be anything revolutionary about it but it plays as a more serious Case Closed in some ways with an attention to science that may be a bit light but makes for some engaging tales to be told. The dynamic between Sakurako and Shotaro is what works, especially when they have to deal with others like the cop Utsumi or how Shotaro’s science teacher Isozaki is brought in to help from time to time. And there’s a lot to like in that it avoids muddying the waters with relationship material between Shotaro and a classmate named Yuriko, though I imagine the light novels play that up more as they progress.
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation is a series that is certainly familiar in its overall idea and structure and that’s not a bad thing. What gives it something to stand apart is Sakurako herself and her obsession, which she avoids being a fanatic over like some shows do, instead giving a more measured performance here. This makes the show more of a slow burn, particularly with the overarching storyline that’s only just scratched here in favor of more standalone but connected tales. I love the visual design of it and I like the characters and concept, but it’s the kind of show that probably needs three or four cour to really come together in a stronger way depending on how well the source material hands its approach. Fans of the show may be miffed at the lack of a dub but Sentai put together an otherwise solid release here.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.