I don’t know what the TV show Bones is actually about, but I seriously doubt David Boreanaz has as much to say about skeletons as Sakurako Kujo. This dark-haired beauty is about as obsessed with bones as can be, such that she’s completely built her profession and her home life around them. She lovingly reconstructs and preserves full skeletons, and they occupy the majority of her enormous estate along with Sakurako herself and her matronly housekeeper. As an osteologist she’s absolutely brilliant, and together with her high school age assistant Shotaro Tatewaki she spends her free time getting to the bottom of some puzzling deaths and disappearances.
These mysteries serve as the basis for Beautiful Bones—Sakurako’s Investigation-, a 12-episode anime by TROYCA (Aldnoah.Zero), based on the mystery novels written by Shiori Ota and illustrated by Tetsuo. Makoto Kato (episodes of Servant x Service and Aldnoah.Zero) directs the adaptation and Takayo Ikami (Yurikuma Arashi, Penguindrum) handles series composition, and the results are a tight, gripping series that has more ups than downs.
Beautiful Bones’ origin as a series of mystery novels is clear right from the beginning. It’s both methodically paced and beautiful, taking its time to suss out even the slightest of bone-based quandaries. Sakurako herself has sort of a Sherlock vibe about her, in that she’s almost brilliant to a fault. Her infallibly unconventional means of getting to the bottom of things always puts her one step ahead of the bumbling police, who would rather bill something as a suicide and get it over with than dig deeper to the root of the matter. She sees things that your average person would overlook nine times out of 10, and her hunches tend to be right on the money.
As is the case with any mystery-of-the-week show, Beautiful Bones’ episodic structure is only broken by the occasional two-parter—the individual stories are hit or miss. Some of the bodies found belong to recently murdered victims, while other sets of bones tell the tale of something lodged deeper in the past. Stories like “The Cursed Man” are particularly interesting, and others like “Asahi Bridge Irregulars” do a great job of weaving yarns that aren’t quite what they seem on the surface.
What really makes the series special is the narrative thread that is the unusual bond between Sakurako and Shotaro. She constantly refers to him simply as “shonen” (boy), much to his annoyance, and there’s a give and take between the two that makes one essential to the other. You’ll come across a few answers to the overarching plot’s questions over the course of the series’ run, but the charm lies in what remains a mystery. As much as we learn about how Sakurako and Shotaro met, for instance, there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty hanging in the air by the time the final episode’s ending credits roll.
The only true disappointment of Beautiful Bones is that those credits roll a bit prematurely. It seems as if a major plot point is just about to kick off in the last few episodes—which, relatively speaking, include an anticlimactic two-part mystery—but we only really get a tease of what’s to come for the characters. That aside, Beautiful Bones is very much worth the time of anyone looking for something different on the side of their regular season viewing. Recommended.