Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru
June 24, 2016
I thought Japan had come out with their own version of the American TV series, Bones. But who am I to compare since I never watched that show anyway. Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru might be a mouthful to pronounce and the title itself might be misleading because it literally means Corpses Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet. Saying this is a horror-cum-murder-mystery wouldn’t be exactly accurate either. Our titular character has always been fascinated with bones and an expert in analyzing it. She can tell and describe with intricate details of any bones you present to her. Yes, each bone tells their own story and you can safely guess that there will be murder mysteries that need to be solved based on her expertise in examining these bones. Interesting, no? If she isn’t weird enough for you, why the heck does she have an ordinary high school boy who isn’t exactly a bone freak following her around in her investigations?
Shoutarou Tatewaki sees people gathering before the school gates. A dead cat. He requests for newspaper and cardboard box and Yuriko Kougami brings it for him so he buries it under a sakura tree. As he narrates, the reason he doesn’t freak out as much as others is thanks to Sakurako Kujou. She is a princess who loves bones. She isn’t interested in human relationship (though it is sad she has a fiancé) and has dedicated her life and passion to bones, making a career even out of it. Her home is filled with assembled skeletons of animals. It is a scary place considering she lives alone with only a housekeeper, Ume Sawa. Shoutarou’s relationship with her isn’t clear but he follows her around to dig for bones. And so here they are at the lovely beach and he is made to dig for bones. To motivate him, she will treat him to Alaskan prawns if he finds a good specimen. After all the common animal bones dug up, they stumble onto a big one: A human skull! Sakurako waxes lyrical about the skull and from her touch and knowledge, she can tell the gender, age, race and even how this person was murdered! Yes, Shoutarou lets us know that each time they go bone hunting, they are very likely to find those belonging to humans. All the time. He calls the cops but Sakurako wants to keep this skull to herself and runs away! The policeman comes anyway to take their statements and all of that procedures, blah, blah, blah. Sakurako is confident they’ll never catch the killer. Because this skull is at least 100 years old! She can deduce from the molar cavity and such.
While giving a ride back to the police station, the policeman mentions about finding bodies recently because there is a double suicide washed up ashore just up ahead. This immediately piques Sakurako’s interest as she orders him to stop. I can’t believe that without any identification whatsoever, she barges into the scene and orders the forensics to show the body. Who is she to give orders? She can tell this isn’t a double suicide. It is a murder masked as a double suicide. It took Shoutarou to explain about her relation with her retired uncle who is a great forensics so the police agree to go for her advice to conduct autopsy. After giving her statements at the police station, Sakurako explains how she knows it was a murder to satisfy our curious brains. From the implausibility of tying the knot with a weaker hand and how the knot is facing the wrong way, there is also no obvious evidence that they died drowning and must have been murdered beforehand before being dumped. Shoutarou thought she was acting suspicious when she wants to use the public phone to call instead of borrowing his handphone. He discovers she is trying to smuggle out that skull as her reward! She is still adamant it is hers. Eventually she couldn’t keep it and Shoutarou couldn’t get his Alaskan prawn reward. But back home, Ume has prepared a lavish dinner (Sakurako’s call earlier). She mentions Shouko, Sakurako’s aunt who runs a rose garden visited while they were out. She also left a gift that would delight Shoutarou: Alaskan prawns!
When Shoutarou is at a convenience store late one night, he sees a little girl in the middle of the streets. Naturally he takes her to the police station so he could call her parents. But as a 3 year old, she can’t speak well. I guess police officer, Hiroki Utsumi lacks child diplomacy so she’s not showing him anything. Shoutarou fares better. Trading his candy to take a look at her backpack, they find a teddy bear with a bloodstained handprint. No, it’s not paint you dumb officer. Shoutarou has an idea. So he goes to bug Sakurako at an ungodly hour just to hear him out. After changing her clothes, Sakurako notices something wrong with her left arm. The girl won’t show it to her but after talking about that crap about regenerating bones, I don’t know if she understands it but she lets her see. Sakurako deduces there is some sort of fracture and possibly by force twisting. She could be a victim of child abuse. Although there is no pain and she could go on with her daily life, there will be swelling. This means there must be a time her mother must have brought her to a hospital to check so they can find out her name and where she lives from the hospital’s records. Although Utsumi did find the hospital, however the name and address are fake. It can be concluded the mother fears being reported for constituted abuse. While hanging out at the playground, Yuriko is surprised to see Shoutarou. Even more surprising is that she knows the little girl since she used to volunteer at a children’s centre and they used to play a lot. This means she knows where she lives and her real name: Yuuka Tominaga. At her house, Yuuka is happy to come home but upon opening the door, Shoutarou stops her from entering. He knows that foul stench. The stench of a corpse.
Time for Sakurako to work her magic and unveil the mystery. Checking the mom’s body, she feels there is something off. From the slash wounds, she deduces it must be a surprise attack and the killer must be someone she knows. The sound must have woken up Yuuka. Mother tried to save her daughter but the room is filled with garbage and the only way out was through this kitchen window. But why didn’t she escape herself. When Sakurako accidentally steps on a milk bottle, she believes there is another child. Turning over her body reveals a trapdoor and underneath it is a baby boy. Due to the heatstroke of being trapped, the baby is barely alive so Sakurako proceeds to do CPR. But the mad killer is back and stabs Utsumi. Now he confronts the duo. Sakurako cannot stop her process and Shoutarou is scared stiff. Wounded Utsumi returns to restrain the mad guy. Shoutarou turns into a brave lad to tackle this guy. Don’t worry, he has training in martial arts. But this brave act has Sakurako remember a traumatic event. She screams for Soutarou not to go. When it is over, she scolds him for doing something reckless and having a death wish. In the aftermath, Yuuka reunites with her baby brother, mad guy gets arrested and Utsumi is wheeled into the ambulance. He’ll recover in no time since the attack missed his vital organs. Sakurako deduces what happened although most of it would be speculation. The guy is a drug addict, returned for reasons unknown. He slashed the mother. She tried to get her kids to safety but only Yuuka managed to ‘jump’ to safety. Although she defended her children, it still doesn’t absolve the guilt of letting her child’s injury go untreated. Shoutarou is surprised she called him by his name. But he wonders if he misheard Soutarou then.
Shoutarou accompanies Sakurako on a hiking trail to find more animal bones. He is still irritated that he returned to calling him his unwanted nickname and doesn’t remember calling his real name for once. As he is about to ask who is Soutarou, they hear a woman’s scream. She has found a dead corpse with bones exposed. That sound is like music to Sakurako’s ears, no? And it’s time for Shoutarou to call to police too. As usual, she ignores all protocol to examine and deduce about the hiker of how he died, when he died and even the possible age based on the bone structure and fractures. I guess the detective wasn’t listening to her awesome theory and takes her away. Thus she has been sulking in her room ever since. Shoutarou brings cold watermelons to her room. He sees a photo of her and a young boy. She explains that is Soutarou, her dead younger brother. At the end of the school term, Yuriko wants to see Shoutarou. At the café, she starts getting a little upset. Uhm, is it about the chiffon cake he offered? But she thanks him for finding her grandma. Eh? The police was the one who told her. That dead hiker is her grandma. The police had classified her death as suicide but she kept believing it wasn’t so since the last time she left, everything in her place was left as it is.
Shoutarou brings Sakurako to Yuriko’s place as she explains about how grandma offered to take care of bedridden grandpa by herself. His dementia worsened over the years and the family continued to believe grandma’s words that she could do it herself. Yuriko feels guilty that maybe they just pretended not to know and pushed all the responsibility to her. After all, taking care of an aged person is very stressful and that must have driven her to suicide. As thanks for listening to her story, she gives them a piece of grandpa’s painting. But since she wants to know how grandma really died, Sakurako brings her to the site. She is very sure her grandma didn’t come here to die and thus did not commit suicide. It is true that she might have fallen off this cliff but it is not a height that would kill you. She just fell in a bad way but thankfully she didn’t have to suffer long before she succumbed. But as to why she was here, they head up the cliff. A very beautiful scenery of the mountains and town. This scene is in one of grandpa’s paintings. But the painting is not sunset but sunrise based on the direction he painted it. Therefore grandma got up in the wee hours to just catch the sunrise. Then there’s some scientific explanation about the sunrise rejuvenating your cells. Thus grandma came here to cheer herself and continue to live. Yuriko realizes she wanted to see the sunrise so she could continue living with grandpa.
With the things he has seen, I’m sure you can’t blame for Shoutarou to be worried about his mom and wants her to live a long life. After all, dad passed away when he was young. He gets a call from Utsumi needing a favour because his friend, Fujioka thinks he is going to die. Apparently all the men from his family die premature deaths so he thinks it is a curse and his turn is next. Did he mention Fujioka has got a family too? Of course Sakurako rubbishes this curse thing as mere coincidence. Utsumi wants a favour from Sakurako to tell him the curse is not real. Oh, there is one more thing. He has a cursed dog too. Apparently the dog that has passed through several owners, all of the owners died! The last owner was his uncle and he too died shortly after. The dog was supposed to be euthanized but Fujioka pitied it and took it in. Fujioka’s house is a large custom designed mansion. Must be his lucrative trading business. They meet him and his family. Their dog, Hector instantly jumps on Sakurako and takes a liking for her. They talk more about Hector. Utsumi thought Hector warms up to Fujioka but he says it feels like the dog is more of watching him like as though it has been staring at him for some time. Fujioka still believes in the curse and has already taken steps to assure his family lives comfortably without him. Since Sakurako calls all this crap, Fujioka shows a book containing the names of all the family members throughout the generations, their age of death and even their existing or pre-existing maladies.
Fujioka is even serious when he wants Utsumi to help his family when the time comes and protect them on his behalf. The argument gets too intense that Fujioka decides to cool off and go get his birthday cake. It’s his birthday today. The wife then continues about Hector. Maybe it likes dead animals because when uncle was found dead after a week later, it was seen next to his corpse. Sometimes during walks, it would run off and bring back dead animals in its mouth. She thinks it can smell death. Aside of finding Hector another owner, she also mentions a cursed painting he took in. Since this forest landscape picture was creepy, she has her husband kept it in the storage. They continue examining the various diseases the other men in the family died before they reach 50. Sakurako thinks it might be genetic and skin disease and respiratory illness might be the source. After all, Fujioka previously had asthma treatment. Hmm… Maybe he should just quit smoking? When Fujioka returns, Sakurako immediately wants him to show the cursed painting which she believes is close by here. Everyone is left shock at her actions but she knows the answer to solve his curse.
Fujioka brings them to the room where he kept the cursed painting. Immediately Sakurako has everyone put on mask and gloves because it is toxic. That smell that permeates the room is arsenic. The mould of the painting is the culprit since it is kept in poor conditions and with the humid weather, the mixture of chemicals from this painting that was painted hundreds of years ago out. The easiest way to solve this is just to open the window and let some fresh air in! Thus it can be explained that many of the premature deaths are from arsenic poisoning that could lead to respiratory and digestive system failures. Sakurako notices his nails and coughing as symptoms but assures them his daughter has not shown any signs but to be safe, take her to see a doctor. Sakurako also deduces why only men in his family die young. Something about stress levels releasing dangerous chemicals that constricts blood vessels and thus increasing cardiovascular risk. Women on the other hand have higher tolerance to stress. With the myth of the curse busted, everyone focuses on celebrating his birthday. He is going to continue to live, right? Relieved Fujioka wants to go wash his face and take his last smoke. But it seems he is contacting with some shady guy. The rest continue to talk about Fujioka. Utsumi and Fujioka’s wife knew him as a nice person but after they had their daughter, it’s like he started to change. It’s like he has accepted his curse and worked hard so he would leave enough for his family. When Hector couldn’t stop barking and Utsumi only recently met after having seen each other for a long time, Sakurako feels something is not right. Then it hit her that everyone has been deceived by Fujioka. He is the one who made that detailed family tree. Noticing Fujioka is taking too long, they head outside to see him bleeding to death. It might look like a mishap from the axe handling but Sakurako knows he is trying to kill himself from the way the wound is created and how the handle is broke.
Sakurako continues that Fujioka went to great lengths to adopt a cursed dog and cursed painting despite knowing and fearing the curse. His detailed research of his family and the trouble he went through to print it out so that he could conceal his suicide as accidental death by taking advantage of his family’s cursed history. Utsumi was used because a police officer’s words would have more credibility. Besides, isn’t it strange for him to suddenly trust Utsumi after not seeing each other for so long? Fujioka reveals after the birth of his daughter, he really wanted her to have a good life so he started investing heavily but a year ago the stock market crashed. Truth is, they don’t have enough to survive for next month. Sakurako is a little upset because he came up with this ridiculous plan not knowing how those left behind would feel. Hector was always watching him probably to stop this foolish act. He has fears like when his father died, the family suffered financially. His wife doesn’t care about the money because it’s her dream to grow old with him and they can sell the house to start over again. Although the ambulance siren is heard, they remember a car blocking the path so it will take time for the detour. Utsumi carries Fujioka and makes a mad dash for help. He owes him big time for this. In the aftermath, Hector is now adopted by Sakurako. Fujioka has got a job and doing fine. Sakurako is still puzzled about the appraiser of the painting who convinced Fujioka to keep it and even showing it to a baby. Sakurako believes curses exist but not in supernatural sense. By magnifying the anxiety, death can be easily triggered in some situations. The wind blowing in Shoutarou’s face surprised Sakurako a little as she saw shades of Soutarou.
Yuriko’s friends want her to invite Shoutarou in a group date for the festivals. I suppose she knows Shoutarou is into more of that woman so she didn’t invite him. It feels odd she turns up alone while her friends are with their dates. Yuriko thinks she sees a lady trying to jump off the bridge. A slight distraction and when Yuriko looks back, she is gone. But a letter is dropped where she last stood. Her homeroom teacher, Itsuki Isozaki happened to be here on patrol so she tells him what happened. As the letter has no name, he opens it. It sounds like an apology-cum-suicide letter. There is also a ring. Using a marker pen to determine the authenticity of this diamond ring, Isozaki can deduce it is a wedding ring and there is a date that goes back 3 years ago. Could it be the woman wants to follow her husband in death? Isozaki doesn’t want to search for her claiming it was her choice. Utsumi patrolling the area hears them out. Teacher and policeman get into an argument about saving this woman. I mean, how could they find a total stranger whom they don’t know how she looks like in this sea of crowd? Yuriko tries to reach Shoutarou to reach Sakurako but he isn’t picking up. The argument is escalating so she draws a hideous portrait of that woman so they could at least have an idea on how she looks like. The search remains futile and Utsumi has to go tend to a lost child. When Isozaki gives up, Yuriko chides him for not having someone close to him die. Before she could go look herself, he tells her he still believes he is right. However if Yuriko gets into trouble, it will be his responsibility. Therefore he will accompany with her to search for only an hour. Only an hour? He wants to watch the fireworks…
Yuriko happens to stumble upon Sakurako. And then the lost child announcement paging for her to return to the information centre! You can imagine Sakurako’s embarrassment as she chides Shoutarou for doing such a thing. I mean, she has no handphone, how is he going to contact her? Now Yuriko scolds him for not telling her he is here! His handphone? Forgot to bring. Unbelievable! Yup, looks like his worth is only his connection to Sakurako. Back to the case, Sakurako laughs at everything after reading the letter. This is not a suicide note and this ring is a mourning jewellery. It is practised in the west and often the hair of the deceased is used. However this ring is different because it is made of bones of the departed. Some high compression theory to explain why it became synthetic diamond. It is believed that woman has found a new partner in her life. Therefore she wanted to say ‘goodbye’ to her departed ex-partner and thus the letter. As the ring cannot be simply sold anywhere and she doesn’t want to keep it while with her new partner, the only way is to throw it in the river. There is a way to return this ring to her but to save all the hassle, Sakurako throws it into the river. She’s already starting a new journey in life and you don’t need this kind of things to bog her down. Case solved. Oh, and just in time for the fireworks.
Shoutarou is surprised Sakurako turned up for his school cultural festival. Didn’t she say she would? His class is running a maid-butler pancake store. His friend wonders who this pretty lady is and they couldn’t believe she is just somebody he knows. But they start to believe they may just be casual friends when she got up and left after she finished. Shoutarou goes to find her but it doesn’t take long because he knows she went to the science lab to check out the bones. This place is off limits so Isozaki catches them. However Sakurako isn’t happy how the bones are treated. They are placed like as though to collect dust. She makes a few adjustments and this impresses Isozaki. He then has a favour to ask of her. The prep room is believed to be haunted because of the bones assembled by a science teacher, Atsurou Sasaki long ago. He died on the job and the bones were left ever since. The principal has been bugging him to go through them but he remains sceptical. Since she is here, he thought of asking her to help go through them. She will in exchange for cakes. As a start, she looks through the list of all the items in the prep room. She is impressed with the large number of animal bone specimens. Shoutarou feels uneasy some are of pet category especially the skull in her hand is that of a cat. He then remembers Sakurako’s first pet was a cat and connects the dots that the cat specimen at her home is her cat. He gets upset to learn she only felt sad for a while. She even dissected and did autopsy on it to find the cause of death. I don’t know what’s his problem of getting so worked up. I know, nice memories with pets but doesn’t that differ with everyone? Shoutarou and Isozaki go through other boxes, one that seemingly contains the personal belongings of Sasaki. Then there is a huge chest in which Sakurako picks its lock. Inside are bones of a human. There is fire damage on it so it is believed instead of burying the bones after cremation, Sasaki took it back here. Soon, this is all over the news. The bones are confiscated by the police and even some of the animal specimens. It is learnt the bones belong to a woman named Natsuko Sone. She used to take care of Sasaki’s sister. Shoutarou remembers that name in one of the belongings. Shoutarou notices the cat bones missing. However it is also not on the list. He fears that Sakurako may have smuggled it out. When he goes to visit her at her home, nobody is in. Sakurako seems to be communicating with him via words on a monitor. This bed-ridden guy is supposedly her forensic uncle, Masamichi Shitara. She gets a book of unsolved cases he used to handle.
Isozaki is tasked to mail Sasaki’s belongings to the family since they find it troublesome to come and get the stuffs. But Shoutarou offers to go delivery it personally because he wants to know what kind of a man Sasaki is. So he goes to bug Sakurako and they drive over to the place of Sayuki Haruma, Sasaki’s older sister. Although wheelchair ridden, Sakurako notices her odd toe sizes. These Celtic toes run in the family. Sayuki confirms the bones were of Natsuko who was also her best friend. She asks if there are more bones found and of course they say there weren’t. It supposedly belonged to Natsuko’s baby. Sayuki narrates when Natsuko was first brought into the household to look after her after Natsuko’s mom who worked in the red light district passed away. The trio became close friends. When Sayuki was in her teens, Natsuko became pregnant. Although Sasaki was fond of her, he was not the father. The baby died because it was born premature. Natsuko knew of her position and had to dispose the baby. The family disowned Sasaki when he went into the teaching profession but even then, they did not get married. When Sayuki married, Natsuko immediately left and only a few years later they learnt she died alone. She feels bad and wants to give them a proper burial but it is sad the baby is not among Sasaki’s belongings. However Sakurako believes they are buried in a different place and by following the clues from the poem, they dig up an orgel buried underneath a tree. Inside contains a few bones. Sakurako deduces one of them to be a grown female so it may be possible Sasaki dug up her bones, placed them here and reburied them again. But she senses something amiss from the other bones. They confront Sayuki again and Sakurako believes the real mother of the baby bones is her because of the Celtic feet. She also found holes in her story that if Natsuko buried the child immediately after giving birth, wouldn’t that pose a threat to her life? And why did Natsuko gave birth in Sayuki’s room in the first place?
Sayuki explains the truth that she fell in love with an acquaintance of her dad. Natsuko would help write love letters on her behalf to him and such. They parted ways after they found he had a family but by then Sayuki was already pregnant and her dad was trying to arrange marriage for her. The rest was the truth. Natsuko protected her even it meant destroying any hopes of being with Sasaki. Shoutarou still doesn’t understand even if it was so, why didn’t Natsuko and Sasaki end up together. Sakurako says that Sasaki believed the baby belonged to Natsuko and that she might be his half sibling. Because Natsuko never knew her father and how could their dad bring in someone unknown into the household at that time? Later Shoutarou returns to Sayuki to hand back the poem. It isn’t about something grim but about goodbye. Shoutarou then investigates why Sakurako bothered to steal a cat’s bone when the creature is so common. Realizing her naming sense of why she named her cat after a bone part, he realizes there is a pair of cats. He explains his findings to her and knows she is an alumna of his school. Because she was able to find her way to the lab without getting lost and already knew Sasaki’s name. After all, his school was only opened to girls until 10 years ago. Sakurako claps his brilliant deduction and admits Sasaki was her teacher. A brilliant one that taught her the skills of the trade. In this box contains the bones of her other cat that she believes belong to her. Her cats were poisoned one day and Sasaki without saying a word understood what she wanted. Sasaki also viewed completion and peace in death so when Natsuko died, her bones were already with him and they were already together. He was happy indeed. Sakurako’s day is brightened up when Shoutarou says he already spoke to Isozaki to allow her to keep the cat bones and could just replace it with fox bones.
Sakurako and Shoutarou visit Yuriko. Today happens to be the monthly anniversary of her grandma’s death. There are a few belongings from grandma that was supposed to be for her but she can’t figure out which of them so she has Sakurako help out. Yuriko remembers grandma talking to her just before entering high school. It was something about a time when she will get married. Sifting through boxes of letters and poems, Sakurako shifts her attention to the paintings. One is a painting of lilies which is an obvious reference to Yuriko. The other is some island and despite its tragic grandma-grandchild story behind it, the painting represents a happy time for her. Sakurako tells the truth that she doesn’t know which painting supposed to be for Yuriko. Based on a letter she read, Yuriko received a doll for Christmas. She knows Yuriko doesn’t like that doll but her frustrations were never shown in any of the letters. The conclusion is simple. Grandma’s happiness is her happiness and Yuriko’s happiness is grandma’s happiness. In short, only Yuriko can solve this mystery herself.
When Shoutarou brings several puddings he bought at a local store for his next visit at Sakurako, he remembers he used to buy only this brand of pudding from that particular store when his grandma was dying of cancer and hospitalized. He kept wondering why and surprisingly Ume can solve this mystery. After asking Shoutarou a few questions that include the time and distance he cycles to the shop and hospital, the key issue here is time. His grandma was suffering from some bone cancer in which the cancer destroys her bones from inside out and it is a very painful illness. Each time Shoutarou visits, she will have the nurse inject pain killers as she doesn’t want him to see her in pain. But since the pain killers take time to be effective, the reason she sent him to buy those puddings to buy some time. Shoutarou realizes he had been a burden without knowing grandma’s suffering. But they tell him grandma know how he felt. Because you cannot take possessions to the afterlife, memories and times spent together are all that are left. The reason grandma chose pudding was because Shoutarou liked it and she wanted to see his smile. After Shoutarou leaves, Sakurako tells Ume that she will be taking her to see the doctor tomorrow morning as she knows her back hurts each time she stands up. However Ume has her pride and refuses till the day she dies. Sakurako notes it is time to put an end to this.
Before the snow covers the forest, Sakurako and Shoutarou walk through for the ‘final’ bone expedition. Isozaki also tails along but he is more interested in the plants. When Sakurako catches glimpse of a certain butterfly, they follow it and it leads them to a corpse. Thankfully, a hare’s carcass. Isozaki then gets a call from the parents of one of his ex-students. Because it sounded urgent he had to leave. Of course he had no car so the only way is for Sakurako to drive him back to change first. Isozaki explains the case about his ex-students. Hitoe Madoka, Futaba Nishizawa and Minami Tsutsumi were so close to each other that they were like sisters. In the second year of their high school, Futaba suddenly vanished. A note that sounded like suicide was found and the case was closed although her body was never found. Ever since, Hitoe and Minami grew distant so much so they were like strangers when they graduated. Now, 2 years later, that call was from Hitoe’s parents and she is also missing. They meet her parents but seeing they are like the rich noble kind, Sakurako isn’t kind enough to mince her words. Because why bother to call her ex-teacher instead of the police? Save face? Some family they are. Instead of talking to them to find any clues, Sakurako searches her room for better chance. The missing items are a large back and a handphone battery so it seems she must be going somewhere for a few days and without signal. None of Hitoe’s friends knew of her whereabouts and when asked if she had contacted Minami, the parents don’t think so because they believe their friendship is irreparable after so long. Shoutarou notices Hitoe was in the tennis club and suggests calling ex-members to find out. How? Conveniently Yuriko is part of the tennis club and agrees to help get in contact with some members. But all she could find are rumours about Hitoe might be dating a painter whom she became a model for.
They pay a visit to Minami’s household, which is a total opposite of Hitoe’s. Her parents don’t care and they look like a drunk or slut. As they search her room, mom mentions their fight stemmed from Hitoe sleeping with Minami’s boyfriend who was some painter. After Futaba went missing, Minami got a boyfriend but recently she found out Hitoe slept with him. Sakurako pulls out a painting from underneath Minami’s bed. Isozaki confirms the girl in it is Minami. This painting is also very similar with the one in Fujioka’s house so it is very possible that painter is connected in both cases. She also found receipts in the dustbin. This must be her favourite restaurant. They see her sleeping there and as they try to get more answers from her, she becomes more defensive. Sakurako even mentions Isozaki’s plant hobby was because of Futaba’s disappearance. Because he failed to save a student, this became his atonement. It’s like if he cares for them, they will respond and won’t leave. Still, she won’t help. Noticing Minami’s anaemic behaviour, she has Shoutarou call Ume to prepare dinner and a room for her to stay. Shoutarou wonders why she is being so nice suddenly. Sakurako observed her behaviour in such atmosphere, they won’t be getting any answers. Besides, if you want to lure a kid, always use food. It’s something she learnt from Shoutarou. And Minami sure tasted the best dinner and dessert ever. It brings back happy yet sad memories how Hitoe used to make such pies for her. At the end of the day as Shoutarou leaves, Sakurako invites him to join her for breakfast tomorrow. He is so happy about this food invitation (I guess kids do love to eat) that he couldn’t suspect Sakurako’s intention. Minami remembers meeting the painter, Hanabusa who was looking for butterflies. I guess she got taken in when he said he found her ‘butterfly’. She was so madly in love with him that she’d do anything. And that meant carving big butterfly tattoo on her back.
After Minami dreams of the good times with her friends, she wakes up the next morning ready to talk to Sakurako. She believes Hitoe is at the elm house. She brings them there and the cabin is quite messy with all the paint marks. Inside a room, oh, it’s those corpse butterflies again. Don’t worry. It is the carcass of a dog lying next to Hitoe. Seems she has taken sleep inducing drugs but the amount she took isn’t enough to be lethal. Eventually she wakes up and the friends make up. When Hector starts barking, Sakurako is happy that it means Hector has found a buried corpse near an elm tree. Digging the ground, everyone else becomes shock when Sakurako picks up a bone supposedly belonging to a young girl due to its size. Isozaki falls into shock and depression, trying to dig the rest out. With his bare hands. Sakurako wants to know which of the girls killed Futaba but they deny and say she committed suicide. Flashback reveals the trio found this place. Each has their own personal problems in reality and this secret base of theirs they could do whatever they want without a care of what others think. They were the happiest trio in the world. One day, Futaba suggests they commit suicide. Minami was against this but Hitoe agreed. When Minami saw how serious they were, she ran away. Being their friend, she can’t help worry and went back to check on them. Futaba has hung herself and Hitoe in a daze because she tried to stop her but failed. Minami then buried the body on her own. When Futaba’s skull and other parts are dug up, Sakurako easily concludes that Futaba did not hang herself but was killed via strangulation. Because of the force applied that broke certain parts, considering Futaba is light weight, such bones cannot be broken via hanging. Therefore the only reasonable reason is that Hitoe killed Futaba and faked her death. That was how Hitoe injured her hand by trying to fake the hanging. Hitoe continues to deny this but when Isozaki looks serious in wanting her to tell the truth, it is time to let the cat out of the bag.
Because there was only 1 rope, Futaba was going to kill Hitoe first and then hang herself. She was dead serious (mind the pun). No choice, Hitoe strangled her using the rope since she realized she doesn’t want to die. Then she faked her death and lied to Minami. Hitoe continues to blame Minami for abandoning them in the first place. Isozaki stops her from carrying on. Instead he apologizes for not realizing the pain they were all in and couldn’t do anything. Actually he was more afraid of hurting himself. You thought the emotional crying would end everything but Sakurako is further delighted when she realizes a skull part is missing. There has been a guy who has been stealing sphenoid (the butterfly shaped bone around the nose). There have been cases even during her uncle’s time and although Sakurako suggested it could be from the same person, it was shot down/ Because no trace of the killer is found, cases soon went cold. But now she is sure who is behind this: Hanabusa. Minami defends that painter to be her angel and has nothing to do with this. She believes he gave her a reason to live and took good care of her. Flashback shows how he ‘gave his love’ by carving those special butterfly wings on Minami’s back. Sakurako rubbishes all that and the girls were just his pawns. He would never love them. Unless they become bones. Minami becomes mad and is about to stab her. Unfortunately Shoutarou protects her and gets stab. Finally Sakurako shows some shock emotion. Don’t die Shoutarou! Thankfully he recuperates in hospital. She is there to explain the truth about Hanabusa who collects sphenoid as his prize. That is why this is goodbye. Shoutarou’s turn to fall into shock. As a cunning and dangerous man, he probably knows all about them by now. That is why she doesn’t want him to get involved further. She doesn’t want to see his bones. Shoutarou is mad that this is the reason why she never calls him by his name. He is right. I know he feels hurt but he doesn’t know how much it hurts her inside too. Because outside, she cries.
Shoutarou has not seen Sakurako ever since. He tried calling her but she never picked up. Oh, he had no balls to go visit her home too. So I guess it is time to fill us with a flashback of how they met 2 years ago. He used to come visit his grandma and at that time his senile elderly neighbour, Hatsue Yachi went missing. Prior to this, Shoutarou did see Sakurako before because he used to wander in the woods and reached her home. He always viewed her as an elegant lady till one day it came crashing down when he saw her took in some corpse. So when Yachi went missing, he suspected it was her. In fact he found Sakurako with her and thought she was the kidnapper. Actually Sakurako found her wandering in the streets and was trying to bring her home. But this shrine she was brought to, Yachi becomes depressed it isn’t the one. Although Yachi was sent to the nursing home shortly, she went missing again. This time Shoutarou had a hunch who might be behind. He confronted Sakurako at her house and she believed he was the one who called the cops earlier. Then she explains about her bone hobby and shows her entire collection. She puts on a surprised look when she learns his name. After Shoutarou told everything, Sakurako helped look for Yachi based on what she knows. They visited some shrine and the priestess said something about the older shrine was renovated and merged and some sort of god that the shrine was dedicated in praying to. This leads Sakurako to know where Yachi is and before you can guess what she meant by all that, they find her unconscious body next to a tree at the shrine’s old site.
Knowing that Yachi will go missing again, Sakurako feels the need to find what she is looking for. Shoutarou notes that she seems to be looking for something buried underneath a sakura tree. This piques Sakurako’s interest because the only thing buried there would be corpses. True enough, they found one. Sakurako shows off her expertise in telling all about this dead man, his job and even how he was killed! After Shoutarou calls the police and they take the bones away which is confirmed belonging to Yachi’s father, due to lack of evidence, the case is of course cold. Sakurako then sees Yachi and tells her about the bones. She then reveals it was Yachi who killed and buried the body. Yachi is shocked and admits she killed him. He was an abusive father. One day she couldn’t take it anymore and fought back. She didn’t realize she went too far and killed him. With her mother, they buried his body at the shrine seeing it is a place where young children are buried. Sakurako narrates how she closed her heart after that. She asks Shoutarou his opinion about this case and also knows about him being a stalker watching her. Then there are some words about time and being alive. Now Shoutarou will not want to regret anything, he runs over to Sakurako’s place. She is not happy to see him and wants him to go home. Using some of the words Sakurako said to him then, he still wants to be with her despite all the deaths they have seen. She blames Hanabusa as a dangerous factor but he claims because of her, many other lives were saved. He believes only she can take on Hanabusa. Because of that, he will stay close to her to be safe. The reverse psychology works as she agrees because she can’t forgive herself if anything happens to him. After all, he also knows she will be successful because she has a competent assistant. Is that a joke? He sure is looking quite highly of himself. Enough of the chatter, they head back in for some apple pie. Hanabusa is seen with a big painting of Sakurako.
Skeletons In Everyone’s Closet
Eh? So the season ends without our main characters even facing off with the supposedly greatest antagonist of the series? Is this some sort of teaser? If this is their way of ending with some sort of suspense and cliff-hanger for a mystery drama series, it is unique but drab at the same time. But otherwise, personally watching this kind of genre feels a bit refreshing for me seeing I am the type who don’t really favour this kind of category or put it high on my watch list. The mysteries in this series aren’t that complex to begin with that you will be left scratching your head in the end. At least they aren’t as bad as the kind that leaves you with more questions or opened answers left to your interpretation. So at least with answers for each mystery ‘served on a silver platter’ to dumb viewers like me, I guess in a way it is passable.
I am not sure how I should put this about the overall feel of the mystery and drama parts. Although they are interesting in their own right, something in me makes me feel that it lacks something to make it even more epic. I’m not saying the mysteries are generic or boring but it just feels it is missing something. I admit and agree that I am indeed glued to the screen and feeling quite interested in knowing the truth behind the mystery. Furthermore, many of the cases we see they end up solving are mainly revolving and related to the main characters like Yuriko’s grandma, Shoutarou’s own granny, Sakurako’s pet cats and Isozaki’s students. It feels more like a ‘family matter’ than solving some sort of big international case that would have gripped the entire nation or the world. But then, Sakurako would have become an international phenomenon and wouldn’t be able to do her favourite hobby quietly.
On the same topic of mystery and drama elements, a little part of me also felt that Sakurako is more like a local detective than an osteologist. Although it is a good thing they do not spam and over focus on the bone parts but the overall mystery of the case has other elements in it that it somewhat overshadows the bones factor. Bones still do play a part in the unravelling of the mystery (and thus why we need Sakurako to explain the big bulk of it), but in the end of it all, it just feels like a mystery that could be used in other series of the same genre. Like the case of the mysterious death circumstances of Yuriko’s grandma and Yuuka’s broken family story, bones are just the lesser factor in untangling the mystery, which is not really a big deal in the first place. And that I mean, stumbling upon bones of somebody big and important like a VIP that would lead to an international organized crime that would lead them sending henchmen out for their lives that would to our protagonists running for their lives while they uncover more truths (and bones)! Yeah. That.
Sakurako is the most interesting person in the series because her character itself doesn’t conform to the expectations of society. She lacks tact and is not afraid to speak her mind and sometimes she is so blunt in your face that it might hurt sharper than a knife. I’m not saying that her voice level rises but even at such a tender voice, the way she says it so straight that it feels there is sarcasm in almost every of her sentence. It is like if you ask a ‘stupid question’ (for the sake of revealing the answer so that we viewers can understand), you’ll be treated with such an answer that also has an air of authority in it. Sometimes you might feel that there is arrogance in the way she explains it (only because she is the best in her field) but at the same time you cannot help but respect and be awed as well as be all ears when she starts speaking.
You can say that I am a dumb person because sometimes when I hear Sakurako explain her facts with reasoning, sometimes I feel that she is just more than an osteologist because she knows a lot of things. And I mean a lot of everything. I suppose that even with her interest in bones, she has to have knowledge on other stuffs so that she could understand better the history of her bones. Like I said, each bone tells a tale so perhaps in her quest to know what happened to them, she did lots of research along the way and thus adding to her knowledge. I’m not saying Sakurako is so smart that she is a walking encyclopaedia but I find it somewhat convenient that for all the cases, she tends to have the know-how of it all. Conveniently she knows all those stuffs. And I am not saying that Sakurako is like an omniscient God or something but another factor why she could easily prove her facts with such confidence is because of her keen observation. To be fair, I believe the series have put clues for viewers to spot too. I am not sure because I’m not observant enough. So this is one of Sakurako’s better traits and why she relieve us dumb viewers of the mystery that we are dying to know of.
The other characters somewhat feel lacking. Those appearing for an arc would be understandable but for those recurring characters, it felt like their potential is somewhat wasted. That for instance, Shoutarou. Besides being her lackey following her around, Shoutarou’s other role seems to be retorting Sakurako. In the sense that whenever she becomes too blunt instead of being tact, he would scream out her name, as if a reminder for her to watch her words and be considerate of the feelings of others. Like she cares. All she cares are the bones before her. I wonder if Shoutarou has a crush on Sakurako especially that final episode when he declared to be by her side. Doesn’t that sound a bit like a proposal? Too bad for those hoping for Shoutarou x Yuriko romance. It never seemed to take off an inch in the first place. Shoutarou only has his eyes on Sakurako and Yuriko is only using him to get to her (not in the bad sense). Oh, here is another reason why Sakurako is the most brilliant character in the series. With Utsumi playing the dumb policeman, that’s why. He might not be a retard level dumb but his more casual ways certainly make it tempting to put this guy into the dumb cop category. After Hector has become Sakurako’s official pet, he does nothing special except being the series’ mascot. I mean, look at his smiling face which is so suitable to be used as a meme. Yeah…
Another reason why the characters feel weak and lack impact is because that there are other obvious questions surrounding them that we want to know but were never answered. Or perhaps it could be just red herring? Is this their way of really sticking it to the mystery genre? I don’t know but I don’t really like it. For example, Soutarou. All we know about him is Sakurako’s dead little brother. That is all. Nothing is said over how he died and how do we know she isn’t just making things up? I know Sakurako isn’t the kind to lie but I surmised that to her bones are the only truth. Shoutarou may resemble closely Sakurako of him but that itself isn’t enough to make us believe why she is pretty much ‘attached’ to this kid. To protect him? Even if he isn’t the real Soutarou? So why say goodbye in the penultimate episode? How the heck will she protect him if she never sees him again?
I have a theory about this. Because of how Hanabusa is connected to all the cases we have seen in this episode, it won’t come to me as a surprise that Hanabusa had a hand in Soutarou’s death. Otherwise why would Sakurako be so obsessed in chasing him since for who knows how long. Why does Hanabusa seem to take a big interest in her? Sometimes I also feel why all the cases are connected is because Hanabusa might be trying to bait and lead Sakurako to something. There is something going on between them that we don’t know as of now. Because of the level of the mystery of that Hanabusa guy is and how late he makes his appearance (despite making very ambiguous and very short appearances in prior episodes), he is another interesting character and sadly with the way things ended this season, it just kills the fun in thinking how much more interesting if these mortal enemies were to actually come face to face sooner than expected. Bone master versus butterfly collector. How epic can it get when you see both ‘mad people’ face off each other. It would be just bone chilling to think about it and how Shoutarou gets implicated in this mess.
Then there are others like Shouko who looks like Sakurako’s twin sister than an aunt. Was her single cameo appearance just some red herring? What about her bed-ridden uncle? Has this guy got his consciousness hooked up to a machine or what? Then there is the case of Ume and her bad back. It could be something big or it may just be trolling us since we are told nothing more about it. Because if it was never mentioned in the first place, I am very sure the story would have even gone by smoothly. It feels like it is foreboding something sinister in the future or a reason to make us worry and something to care about this housekeeper that would otherwise be a minor side character we will forget no matter how nice she is. After all, she is the only real family that Sakurako has got. This leads to the biggest question of them all: Who the heck is Sakurako’s fiancé?! For those who could even remember this, probably it is just something to get our hopes off in seeing any chemistry between Sakurako and Shoutarou. Besides, wouldn’t it be just odd to see a high school boy with an older woman? It is uncommon but it isn’t something you see every day. So this fiancé thingy might just be another lie to keep possible suitors off her back while she continues to happily indulge in digging up bones.
As much as I was hoping this series was produced by the anime studio Bones, not because I am a fan of that production house but rather so I can make a pun for this series (I know, it’s just distasteful), unfortunately this series is made by Troyca. It is a newly formed company and their only other anime it made as of today was Aldnoah.Zero. This aside, but I am impressed with some of the background and sceneries like the sakura petals floating and even the sunrays shining through. Although not perfectly a masterpiece, you can see its effect and it is quite mesmerizing and quite a welcome relief if watching a few bones will make you a little sick. Therefore sometimes Sakurako’s house that is filled with all her bone trophies might feel a bit like a horror house if you are not used to it. Talk about bone and spine chilling… Character designs might feel generic but hey, at least the ladies here look pretty. I mean, take a look at Sakurako. A beauty with brains. Who wouldn’t love a smart slender woman with long smooth black hair? Unless it’s a horror movie… I am not really a bone enthusiast so I am not sure if the bones are drawn to realism. But I don’t want to say bones look cool because I prefer not to look at them. Unless it is the chicken drumstick or lamb chop I just ate…
Voice acting is pretty okay considering this is a drama-like series. I only recognized Akira Ishida as Isozaki and Takehito Koyasu as Hanabusa. I couldn’t for Shizuka Itou as Sakurako but she did quite a splendid job in giving Sakurako the character as we know. The rest of the casts (recurring) are Junya Enoki as Shoutarou (Shion in Cardfight! Vanguard G), Ayaka Imamura as Yuriko (Miyabi in Absolute Duo), Hiroki Takahashi as Utsumi (Hisoka in Hunter x Hunter) and Masako Isobe as Ume (Amaterasu in Inari Kon Kon). The opening theme, Dear Answer by True sounds okay but nothing spectacular. But the ending theme, Uchiyoserareta Boukyaku No Zankyou Ni by Kiyoshioni MkII sounds a bit weird. Somewhat starting off like a slow piece that you’d hear singers sing in a lounge bar. Then it has those funny sounding synthesizer effects that make the song like a dreamy sequence. Probably to add to the mystery feel of the series but it just made me feel weirder.
Overall, the lack of mystery genre animes out there may be a factor for it to stand out among the crowded field of mindless action, mind numbing fanservice, ubiquitous high school romance, no-brainer slapstick comedy and other shonen, shoujo, yaoi, yuri series out there. But that itself doesn’t make this series all that great. Because if you are an avid mystery fan (I am not, by the way), you might be disappointed by some of the less than engaging mysteries that are no biggies in the first place. With some I read complaining about poorly written characters, a dozen episodes aren’t going to help do justice to the series. Especially when part and parcel of mystery series take time to build up strong cast of characters and the plot. I hope people won’t have a bone to pick with this series and make it a bone of contention ;p. And I certainly hope the only bones I will ever see are chicken bones, fish bones and livestock bones after a great meal. Yeah, some bones can taste real finger licking good ;p.