“Under Sakurako’s Feet…”
Ending with a Prologue:
In a surprising and belated turn of events, Sakurako-san ends with a prologue – showing us what could (and perhaps should) have been the very first episode, rather than the last. We had been teased of this for so long that I had grown tired of the wait, and started to assume we would never get the answer to the ever prevalent question we had from the first episode: how did Sakurako and Shoutarou meet? It was on my mind when I watched the premiere, and I’m glad we finally got some answers, but for me it came a little too late. And by a little, I mean a lot too late. If this had been the first episode, and didn’t cut back and forth from the past and present – rather having the past as the present – then I feel this could have been a solid opener and would have given us a better sense of these characters and their odd dynamic.
What we did get, for the most part, wasn’t too bad. But it wasn’t particularly interesting, especially as a final episode. We saw that Shoutarou’s senile neighbour often wandered off, and he went out late at night to find her, which is when he ran into Sakurako. We get some inner monologuing explaining that Shoutarou in fact saw Sakurako for the first time two summers ago, when she appeared the picture of beauty in her glowing white dress and floppy hat. Paired with the heat of summer and the vibrant colour of her garden flora, she was striking enough that Shoutarou became smitten with her. However, he did not know what she was truly like, as he witnessed her gathering some bones and looking jolly about it.
In hindsight, you can see why Shoutarou reacted by phoning the police and then assuming she was the one who had kidnapped his neighbour. I do like seeing characters (usually male characters) falling in love or becoming smitten with an idea of what a person is, before the woman or girl in question steps down from the pedestal they’ve been put upon and delivers a slap to the jaw. Not literally, of course, but there’s something satisfying in seeing a female character prove to be more than what a male character presumes/wants her to be. I’ve never been a supporter of Sakurako and Shoutarou as anything more than a partnership, but I did enjoy seeing their first encounter play out the way it did.
Back to the Present:
My main problem with this episode is that I don’t think it worked as a finale. Without the cut to the present, this could have been the very first episode. And even as we did get it, it felt like a penultimate episode. We got to see our pair meet up once again and make amends, as was already very obvious. Last week’s final few minutes were made out to be game-changing, yet looking back it didn’t really change much, did it? Just a few days/weeks of them not seeing each other? They met back up until that familiar tree, had a heart-to-heart, and that was that. What was even more of a letdown was the absence of Hanabusa up until the final scene. I expected to get some resolution to the series’s villain, but instead we got a teaser for the endless abyss that awaits should this ever get a second season.
Overview – Final Impressions:
And just like that, it’s over. I’ve had my ups and downs with Sakurako-san, but I don’t regret blogging it. Perhaps my expectations were too high after the first episode, which I really enjoyed. Initially, I thought Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider was going to be the superior of the two mysteries, and then Sakurako-san’s first episode stole the spotlight, before Subete eventually became a more grounded and enjoyable mystery series. Both were very wacky, and very different. Subete stuck with a single mystery for 11 episodes, whereas Sakurako-san balanced nine scenarios – some of which were better than others. In the end, I have to give it to Subete. That could be down to my preference for one fleshed out mystery as opposed to the episodic approach we got here, but there were plenty of moments where Sakurako-san failed to impress when it could have.
The only mysteries I really got behind were the ‘pointless’ festival episode, and the ‘Three Sisters’ case. Everything else was a mixture between just good and fairly disappointing. It didn’t help that I never truly got behind our two main characters. Sakurako annoyed me for the most part, though she had moments when I managed to enjoy her eccentric ways. Shoutarou didn’t do much at all; even in this finale I don’t think we learned anything of note about him. He’s barely even a character – he’s there to be a sidekick to contrast with Sakurako. I honestly felt he could have been replaced with any other character, and that would have made for a more intriguing dynamic. As for characters I did like, I much preferred Kougami and Isozaki whenever they appeared, and tended to appreciate the characters that showed up for a single mystery, only to become irrelevant down the line. It’s not a great thing when every side character is more appealing than the main characters…
As for the positives – I thought the show had a nice aesthetic, even if it didn’t always pack that punch that a more refined studio would achieve; the festival episode was pretty brilliant; and Hanabusa was an effective final foe (even if we never got proper resolution). Everything else came and went depending on the case at hand, and which characters were involved. It wasn’t the most consistent show I’ve blogged, nor the most conclusive, but it always kept me somewhat interested until the very end. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end I would have liked. Even if we do get a second season announced (which I think is unlikely), I honestly feel it will be too little, too late. Hanabusa is still out there, painting a picture of Sakurako, hinting of the endless abyss, but I don’t know if I’d care enough to see him meet his end, when it could have ended here instead.