Sakurako’s Investigation – All the Anime

March 20, 2024


By Zoe Crombie.

Genius detective Sakurako Kujo is constantly surrounded by death, regularly finding the bones of murder victims that aid her constant study of skeletons and forensics. Accompanying Sakurako on her deadly excursions is high school student Shotaro Tatewaki, a grounding influence who keeps some of Sakurako’s more questionable impulses in check. Together, the pair solve mysteries, combining an unrivalled knowledge of human anatomy with an innate ability to understand those around them in their quest to get to the bottom of each case, and hopefully solve the mystery linked to each death.

On the way, we discover that Sakurako might not be as cold as she seems, slowly warming up to Shotaro (despite simply calling him ‘boy’ most of the time) and gradually understanding those around her. Thankfully, this doesn’t blossom into anything romantic with her fifteen-year-old sidekick, and you can argue that the two are hardly even friends – instead, their odd relationship and their motivations for working with one another become the lynchpin of the series, even amongst the spectacle of the murders they frequently come across.

Though usually relegated to live-action TV shows and movies in Western media, animation in Japan is frequently used as a medium for mysteries and detective stories, from the Gothic fantasy Black Butler and the fuchsia blood splatted Danganronpa: The Animation to the child friendly crowd pleaser Detective Conan (a.k.a. Case Closed) and can even be traced back to the 1970s with releases like Hayao Miyazaki’s Sherlock Hound. On that note, as you may have already guessed, Sakurako and Shotaro share a similar dynamic to Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous heroes, with the former serving as the genius Sherlock figure and the latter as her more affable Watson.

Impressively, Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation – or A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet when directly translated from Japanese – is the first independent production from Troyca. This relatively young studio has become known more recently for its adaptations of video games like the rhythm game Idolish7 and the visual novel Atri: My Dear Moments (coming in 2024), but they also did a fantastic job here with the source material of Shiori Ota’s original light novel and manga series. Though the animation isn’t always the flashiest, Troyca do a respectable job at conveying the darker tone of the series, ultimately succeeding in their aim of creating an anime that celebrates the beauty in death and despair.

Like other detective series, Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation effectively balances an overarching plot with the appeal of having a new mystery in each episode, giving viewers a fresh set of bones to take on along with the promise of developing the central relationship of the two lead characters further. These bones lead to different places – some tragic, some darkly funny, and others shocking – but many point toward a central mystery, which follows our heroes to the eventual unmasking of an apparent serial killer. It’s an effective arc, and in a sense it’s unfortunate that the show only received so few episodes – it’s easy to imagine as a multi-arc mystery series like Hyouka, only with more blood spilling involved.

Aside from the strong bones of its structure (sorry!), the main appeal of the series is its gothic aesthetic. Sakurako herself is a raven-haired queen of all things dark and deathly, seeing the beauty in the macabre as the title indicates, and the OP of the series emphasises this theme with a collage of bones and haunted mansions for the pair to explore. However, don’t worry if you’re horror averse – there might be a fair few skeletons in this series, and its seinen status suggests an older audience is intended, but it’s far from an ultra-gory show, so there’s no need to cover your eyes for the most part.

If you’re looking for a juicy mystery series to keep your mind occupied, Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation is a great option, providing a captivating conundrum in each episode for the compelling protagonists to solve. Comprised of only twelve episodes, this is a tight anime that’s easy to binge in an afternoon, but you might be better off making it last with an episode each night, especially as the mysteries are generally well contained to a single twenty five minute segment each time. Fans of the previously mentioned Hyouka and Black Butler are likely to have fun here, and Sakurako more than deserves to be in the canon of memorable anime detectives.

Zoe Crombie is an associate lecturer and PhD candidate at Lancaster University working on Studio Ghibli. Beautiful Bones is released in the UK by Anime Limited.