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Literature / Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation

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The relationship between the two... is a little bit complicated.

"A story dedicated to those trapped in the past."
— Exposition for the novel series.

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation or its Japanese title, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru (Literally translated as "A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet), is a novel written by Shiori Ōta with illustrations done by Tetsuo. It is released in Japan only by Kadokawa Shoten since 2013. 8 volumes are out to this date.

An anime adaptation premiered on October 7, 2015 in Japan with animation done by TROYCA, with 12 episodes aired. Crunchyroll streams the show in English-speaking territories while Anime Digital Network streams it for French-speaking territories. A radio drama briefly aired online and is still available for download. A manga adaptation was created. A live-action adaptation has aired in April 2017 under Fuji TV.

The series centers on a high-school student named Shōtarō Tatewaki, who lives in the city of Asahikawa in Hokkaido Prefecture. One day, he meets a young woman named Sakurako Kujō, the daughter of the prominent Kujō family, as an osteologist who has a fascination with skeletal remains. In her free time, she uses her osteology skills to help the Hokkaido Prefectural Police in solving crime, thanks to the skills she learned from her uncle, who was an ex-HPP forensic scientist. Because of this, Shōtarō gets tagged along from case to case where he assist Sakurako while making sure she doesn't make things difficult for him or get in trouble with the prefectural police.

The series is licensed to Sentai Filmworks for release in North America.

There's an effort to get the novels translated in English since it's not available outside Japan.

This work contains examples of:

  • Arranged Marriage: Part of the novel's arc involves Sakurako and Naoe getting engaged thanks to the former's family. Sakurako rejects this idea.
  • Big Fancy House: The Fujioka estate in the outskirts of Asahikawa.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Strongly implied in episode 8, when the teacher Sasaki recognizes after the death of her lover that she was highly likely to have been his younger half-sister. However, the show does not give a direct answer to how close they really were.
  • Bloody Horror: The presence of blood on Ii-chan's bag allows Sakurako and Shotaro to establish in "Where Do You Live?" that something may have happened to her mom. In this case, she was attacked by a knife-wielding drug addict and died of severe blood loss.
  • Canine Companion: Hector. He initially is one with the Fujioka family. Following the conclusion of the "The Cursed Man" arc, he stays in Sakurako's mansion.
  • Cherry Blossoms: They can be seen everywhere in the episode "The Princess Who Loves Bones" and the Japanese title of the series is a reference to the legend that cherry blossoms are pink because a body was buried beneath the tree, which is mentioned in the said episode.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Just as the protagonists' leads on Ii-chan's identity dry up in "Where Do You Live?", Shotaro's classmate Kougami jogs up to them and is recognized by Ii-chan, leading them to find her home and her mother's body.
  • Cozy Mystery: Noir fiction this is not. In the 12 episodes of the anime, there were only 2 or 3 crimes that had been committed. The other deaths were accidental, while the rest of the anime involved mysteries that were about discovering what event had just taken place (such as a "supposed suicide" being just a case of a girl getting a new love). Fits other parts of the Cozy Mystery definition, in that it takes place in a small tight-knit community and when Sakurako isn't being childish, she's rather like a retired old lady with too much time on her hands.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "Asahi Bridge Irregulars" centers on Yuriko and Itsuki in a local summer festival in Asahikawa.
    • "The Entrusted Bones" centers on Sakurako and Shotarou in a school festival, at least in the Part 1 episode.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Sakurako calls them out as such because they don't carefully examine a crime scene and just take it at face value.
    • Even worse that they assume every corpse they find in a crime scene to be suicide. While unjustified, it has its reasons since Japan has a high suicide rate.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Viewers were furious as to why Hiroki didn't fire his sidearm after he was stabbed in the chest by a drug addict in "Where Do You Live?". This is mainly because of the rules stipulated in the Police Duties Execution Law, especially since the addict was already walking away from him.note  Simply shooting him from the back would cause some bad light on Hiroki himself if he opened fire.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: In "The Princess Who Loves Bones", Sakurako was able to uncover the murder suicide of an old couple as an actual case of murder because the rope used to tie their arms together was tied in a way that would have been impossible for either victim to tie by themselves.
  • Running Gag: Sakurako always calls Shōtarō as Shonen (Boy) when the latter insists that he wants her to call him by his first name.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Sakurako perceives Shotaro as a her younger brother, especially in connection with her loss of real brother in childhood.
  • Murder By Proxy: "The Sphenoider", also known as Hanabusa, uses several proxies to commit murder or convince people to commit suicide. He then digs up the graves of his victims to claim their sphenoid bone for himself as a trophy. Sakurako's uncle first tipped to his existence, and Sakurako herself takes up the investigation, aware of the Sphenoider's involvement in many of her other cases and in the fact that he's now aware of her.
  • Scenery Porn: The anime (at least) showcases Asahikawa and the Hokkaido countryside, complete with snow.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Takeshi Fujioka like to smoke, but his wife tells him not to do in the house. So he has to do it outside.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The Asahikawa City Zoo's entrance is properly shown in "The Princess Who Loves Bones".
    • Meisei High School exists in Asahikawa and is shown in its entirety.
    • In "Asahi Bridge Irregulars", Sakurako explains the concept of mourning jewelry.
  • Sinister Nudity: In The Stinger for episode 10, we see Minami in the shower, crouched down, her arms wrapped around herself. She has a flashback to meeting Hanabusa, and then we're shown a shot of her back, which has a scar in the shape of a butterfuly that Hanabusa carved into the girl. This is the first bit of Foreshadowing that Minami is still in the thrall of Hanabusa, especially since butterflies represent death in the symbolism of the show.
  • Surprise Incest: Having unearthed the bones of her lover, Sasaki learns about their probable half-sibling status after the discovery of his hereditary features in her skeleton.
  • Urban Legends: "The Cursed Man" arc centers on the Fujioka family with most of the male members dying either early or in unknown circumstances. This is due to a painting that was improperly stored. With mold and arsenic from the paint dye, it releases a deadly gas that causes stress.
  • You Remind Me of X: Shotarou's constant presence around Sakurako makes the latter remind her of her deceased younger brother.

Alternative Title(s): Beautiful Bones Sakurakos Investigation