“The Princess Who Loves Bones”

「骨愛ずる姫君」 (Hone Mezuru Himegimi)

Rivalling the Competition:

I was hopeful going into Sakurako-san. Hopeful, but skeptical. Good mysteries are hard to come by these days, and with Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider airing the day after, I was prepared for Sakurako-san to be the lesser of the two. Even so, I kept my fingers crossed that the title for best mystery of the season wouldn’t be a one-horse race, because even though there is more hype and acclaim surrounding Subete ga F ni Naru (and for good reasons), it would be boring not to have some competition between the two. I had all those thoughts running through my head seconds before I started this episode, hoping that we’d get something good. And we did. In fact, Sakurako-san was better than good; it was beautiful, disturbing, and it completely drew me in.

A Normal Highschooler in a Stagnant City:

It all starts off with ominous narration from out protagonist, Tatewaki Shoutarou (Enoki Junya), who seems like your typical high schooler. However, within a minute or two you can see there’s something different about this kid. The moment he steps forward and picks up the corpse of a ran-over kitten is when my brain clicked and I thought ‘even if he’s a little plain, he’s definitely interesting’. In a way it’s refreshing to have a character whose apparent normalcy doesn’t exist to show off the ridiculousness of a rainbow-haired harem of girls. Shoutarou isn’t a secret badass, he just comes off as an average boy in the same way that Hibike! Euphonium’s Kumiko is possibly the most realistic depiction of a high school girl in modern anime. Of course there’s more to Shoutarou than meets the eye, even stating himself that he also would have flinched at the sight of death if it wasn’t for him meeting a certain woman under a cherry blossom tree.

The other part about our lead that I appreciated was his voice, by which I mean his narrative voice, not his actual seiyuu’s voice (though that’s pretty solid as well). “I was born in a city where time has ceased to exist” is a strong opener, and it only becomes more interesting from there. We learn a few details of his home: Asahikawa City, a stagnated city in the northernmost prefecture of Japan. I always find Hokkaido to be a compelling setting in modern-day anime, if only because it’s nice to not always be thrown into the bustle of Tokyo or seeing those familiar rivers and bridges running through in your typical suburb setting (once you’ve seen one grassy slope overlooking a canal with a walk-path behind it, you’ve seen them all). So although Shoutarou is bored with the straight and unmoving nature of his home city, to me it feels like a breath of fresh air. I’m sure it’s different to live there, but as a setting for the story I’m already keen to see where we can go from here.

An Eccentric Osteologist and Bone Collector:

While Shoutarou serves as our point of view (quite literally in some shots, which I also liked), his bone-loving companion is the true star of the show. Kujou Sakurako (Itou Shizuka) is an oddity; she’s the compelling eccentric counterpart to our straight-man. If you got Sherlock vibes from her strange behaviour and mannerisms, then you’re not likely to be the only one. The normal and the eccentric make for a classic duo, but once you factor in the noteworthy age gape (7 years, Shoutarou is 15 and Sakurako is 22) you’ve got something you don’t see that often in anime: an adult woman as a main character. Not only that, but Sakurako doesn’t seem like an anime character, by which I mean she doesn’t fit into your typical selection of character archetypes. I’d stick with my comparison that she’s more like a female Sherlock than anything else, which isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s a different sort of character from what we’ve come to expect from most female leads.

In this episode alone we see the dips and peaks of her personality, showcasing that she’s capable of some humour along with her serious obsession with bones. Satou Michio’s work as both the character designer and animation director pays off in the moments where she drops her obsessive mask and reveals she’s got a softer, sillier side to her. All in all, she’s a compelling character, and one that I’m sure many people will wish to see more of.

Mystery of the Bones, Not the Killer:

I wasn’t sure how the mystery of Sakurako-san was going to play out, and it’s still difficult to tell from this episode alone – which appears to be a standalone that serves as an introduction to the characters and their dynamic more than anything else. If this is an example of what we can expect from the series going forward, then we’re more likely to focus on revealing the truth behind the bones rather than the hands that dealt the blow. Less whodunit and more whatdunit, or howdunit, or whendunit. Both the case of the woman from a century ago with the battered skull and the double suicide/homicide victims were more about revealing the truth behind their remains, which, if continued, might prove an interesting take on the mystery genre. Still, I suspect we’ll get into more of an overarching story involving various characters (the housemaid and the yet to be seen husband, for example), which will perhaps force Sakurako and Shoutarou to investigate crimes further than what we saw this episode.

I expect some will be iffy about Sakurako’s ‘concentration mode’ when she analyses the second case. I can see how some would consider it a little outlandish, but I wouldn’t take any of it too seriously. I don’t believe Sakurako has any sort of superpower when it comes to identifying bodies – that scene with all the skeletons just symbolises her accumulated knowledge in a single moment so she can put all that information to use. It’s merely a visualisation of the inner workings of her mind, which doesn’t detract from the very realistic revelations and reasonings behind her analysis. The 100-year-old cavity, the rope-tying dilemma, and the lack of evidence of the couple drowning are all sound reasons, and I’m hopeful that all future cases will be solved in a similar fashion, rather than relying on other-worldly powers that require little explanation and expect us to just accept the results.

Overview – First Impressions:

I am over the moon that I’ll be blogging Sakurako-san. Part of me was prepared for this to be the lesser of the two big mysteries this season (and it still may be, we’ll see how Subete turns out when it airs), but early signs are positive. In fact, I’d go as far as to say this was the best non-sequel first episode of the season. I’m already loving the character dynamics as well as the vibrant colours and excess of falling sakura petals. The result is a lovely balance between style and substance – both things that any good anime any needs, it’s just finding the perfect half-way point that’s the hard part. I can’t wait to see what direction the story takes from here. Whether episodic or overarching, I’m sure these bone-related mysteries will keep me thoroughly entrained for the foreseeable future.

In other news: I posted an Anime Summer 2015 Review on my personal blog. Feel free to check it out and see what I thought of the past season – I even ranked all 24 shows I watched in order from worst to best.


  1. Definitely enough to hook my interest. I’m loving how he has the gusto to stand up to her when necessary, and she doesn’t just smack him down whenever she feels like it and call him annoying. There’s already mutual understanding and appreciation, something that usually takes at least three episodes of one or both of the leads being pretty damn annoying. This feels like a really good relationship already: even though Sakurako is obviously in charge, it isn’t overbearing. She actually hears Shoutarou. That’s pretty fresh, and I like it.

  2. I’m glad to see you picked up both mystery series, Samu!

    I’m already loving the character dynamics as well as the vibrant colours and excess of falling sakura petals.

    Falling sakura petals are always welcome in anime.

  3. Kinda gimmicky, if you ask me. Those skeletal dinosaur/animal/fish scenes were there for no reason other than to fancify what was a pretty bland bit of “detective” work…. and those falling petals? Shinkai pandering? Trying to tell us this show is a one-trick pony?

    Other than that, passable. I actually watched the whole thing without fast forwarding. Compared to the LN Gakuen Rakudai junk which felt like watching an annoying j-pop music vid, or the new whatevermonogatari which was as fatiguing as a bad rapper who thinks he’s smart, this one was pretty jazzy.

    Might not be a keeper, but I’ll probably catch the second ep.

  4. I’d like to say it’s a merely a matter of the “why”, but I have a sinking suspicion that even knowing that wouldn’t quite do it for me with Sakurako.

    To put it bluntly, it lacks passion.

    Don’t get me wrong; Sakurako’s certainly an interesting character in some respects and there’s a charm about her that feels like, at the very least, I wouldn’t be bored watching her (that, and that she’s voiced by Itou Shizuka certainly helps).

    That said however, it feels like she’s the only one worth watching. I honestly couldn’t care less about anyone else.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Regardless of my first impression though, it’s at least worth the requisite three episode watch. We’ll see if things pick up from here.

    Ryan Ashfyre
    1. At least his not being so affected by death didn’t make him just dump the corpse of the cat into a trash bin like a certain someone initially did with a puppy in a certain other awesome anime, lol.

      1. Being an avid animal lover myself, I appreciate Shou’s sentiment as much as anyone. Regardless, at least right now, that doesn’t make him anymore than a standard cookie cutter cutout with a sense of decency.

        That aside, I’d say you’re wrong about his not being affected by death. It’s just the opposite. It’s because it affected him so much that he went out of his way to give that cat a proper burial. It was everyone else that came out as so disaffected that it was just easier to not do anything at all.

        Ryan Ashfyre
    2. “To put it bluntly, it lacks passion”

      That about sums up my opinion as well. There was no real hook or intrigue for me, the characters for all their “different” traits (especially Sakurako) just felt flat. The opening narration probably turned me off the most though, IMO it sounded a little too artistically pretentious.

      Going to need a couple more episodes to make up my mind on this one.

  5. i’m always open to welcome a good mystery show, sakurako-san might be a good one is the impression i got from this first episode, the animation is just gorgeous. btw the soundtrack is also awesome

  6. This is visually pretty but this is a boilerplate murder case only with quirky (but likable) leads. There are also holes in Sakurako’s reasoning as regards to the double suicide turned murder case but oh well… that is what they want to portray so I am fine with it. Anyway, I think the lighting is too bright at the episode’s early parts. Nonetheless it was a very gorgeous premiere by the way.

    1. What are the holes in Sakurako’s reasoning prior to the double homicide? (Serious question since I’m on the fence with this show, the ending was kind of meh, but I liked the use of mystery show tropes)

  7. This show blew in my face when Sakurako thoroughly explaining the murder to the two dudes like a boss without the bodies around. For detective fictions, it felt so out there that i facepalmed. Hard (Though i nearly did when Sakurako casually tresspased the crime scene and so quickly examined the corpses with whatever super-instinct she had). It didn’t help that her bossy attitude is extremely grating.

    Oh well, at least the petals were pretty.

  8. I have to be honest, i was not impressed by this premiere; the dialogue was uninspired, the characters a bit meh and the forensic work uninteresting. This series still has room to grow but this premiere definitely left me a bit lukewarm. Subete ga F ni naru, you’re next; please dont fail me

  9. Reading this to start my official anime review blog, especially latest/up-to-date ones.

    This series has already got my interest though it’s all thanks to Gosick series that I keep on comparing both of these shows unconsciously. It’s a solid start to find out who, what, when, why and how did this kind of murder happened in a small, quiet town.

    I’ve got lots to say about this show, but that all happens in my new blog of anime reviews.

    Okay, last mention on this show: The visuals are so vibrant…I almost mistake BONES (the studio of course) creating this intriguing show.

    1. The famous American show? I also think so, but this show is like a modern version of Gosick to me, with a mixing of some similar character features from Gosick’s MCs.

      e.g. Sakurako-san being a more mature version of Victorique, and having “Kujou” as her surname (but in different kanji);

      Shoutaro being a calmer version of Kujou Kazuya, but has a strict personality like Victorique.

      Which it’s why this show is having my fullest attention on it this season.

  10. I think the only thing that disappointed me slightly was that there wasn’t a video to accompany the ED song- well, not a proper one. But that’s a petty peeve, and it is only the first episode after all.
    In general, I loved this! The visuals are wonderful (even the ‘trippier’ ones, as they weren’t even that psychedelic/stupid and plus, what’s not to love about a visual representation of the mind?) and what glimpse we got of the characters was enough to intrigue me. I also liked the way there were actually logical explanations for the insta-solve of the mysteries. And there was just this sense of….possibilities. Not sure how to explain it, but I’m already mesmerised.
    Hopefully The Perfect Insider will be just as good <3 Looking forward to that tomorrow

  11. The boy looks interesting. He gives you a natural feeling. But the “girl” looks to pretending. She is “beautiful”, “smart”, “unique”, “lovely” and so on. With wide mimicry. And it’s just different facial expressions without solid feeling of a person. It looks like “they” want me to be interested in her but I can’t cause she is too much. I don’t like unrealistic characters.

  12. I had raised my expectations when I saw the novel’s art, which was drawn by HakoMari’s illustrator. Good that it could holds them well.

    The atmosphere felt like Gosick (with some elements such age and some quirks shuffled) x Bones, which is a good thing. I just wish that it does not become episodic and stick to 2-3 episode per arc, and we would have a solid series here.

  13. pop
  14. Not bad.

    That Galileo moment brings a smile to my face 😛 But she was more pro-active then the reluctant Prof Yukawa. Oh, theres the dash of Kindaichi in there too! Relatives.

    That shonen is living some exciting life.

    Pretty educational.

  15. Caught my interest and didn’t disappoint. Although I did gave myself a pat on the back for correctly guessing every detail of that skull. Killed by a blow to the head, female, in her 20’s and has been lying there for quite some time. 😀

    But I was put of by those over the top fancy animation parts like the “concentration mode”. That really killed the mood and all I was thinking was “go away and let her do her thing already! >:o”

  16. Are the detectives in the later eps as inept as the one in this ep? I guess with the series taking place in a small town, that’s to be expected. Hope to see none of the usual formulas that keep me from watching detective anime!


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