What is it with Sakurako-san and these amazing, stand alone, self-contained episodes that just completely and utterly knock it out of the park? Its almost uncanny how this show’s best episodes seem to have two very important ingredients; Small, little contemplative moments and a girl named Yuriko.
At this point, I’d say Yuriko is the Harbinger of good times when it comes to this series. Every episode where she’s had an active role in the story has just been good to phenomenally great. And, it all started with Yuriko’s grandmother at that. Grandmothers were pretty much the highlight and focus of this episode, and with it, Sakurako-san moved from its usual thoughtful look at death, to that of old age and the cherished memories we all have of our grandparents (if we’re lucky enough to know them).
Its an episode like this one, that really plays to Sakurako-san’s strengths. The stories this week, all focusing on lost grandparents, are both highly sentimental and very touching. I think what was especially surprising, at least for me, was how the show was able to mine the already covered issue of Yuriko and her grandmother.
That was our starting point of sorts, or at least, the first story that we took a nice, longing look at. We rejoin Yuriko a few months later (I assume), as she starts to heal a bit after losing her grandmother, and having had Sakurako solve the mystery of her death. What’s so powerful about the opening scene, with Sakurako and Shoutarou running into Yuriko, is how darn realistic it feels.
There’s this atmosphere, this feeling of “its just another day” that this show does so darn well. It really does feel like we’ve stepped into the world where these characters reside, and are just kind of there, visiting. Its almost like catching up with an old friend after a long time apart, and Sakurako-san just friggin nails that feeling of familiar nostalgia and a welcome reunion.
There’s some nice continuity at play with the story too, as Yuriko mentions her grandmother’s monthly death anniversary, and conversation sparks up because of it. Small talk leads to bigger things, however, and soon Yuriko has Sakurako (with Shoutarou tagging along) helping with a personal problem. The problem in question? Yuriko’s late grandmother wanted to give her granddaughter one of her grandfather’s paintings, but passed along before she mentioned which one.
The big mystery, and the quest, is to find that painting among quite a few. I have to say, as a plot device, a mcguffin, or whatever you want to call it, this whole scenario is genius. With it, from it, we get another look at the amazing person that was Yuriko’s grandmother, and the unique and special bond the two shared.
Its a common enough story, that I think anyone who’s had a wonderful grandparent can relate to the stuff in this episode. Having lost one of my own grandmothers, I definitely felt the emotion swell up inside me. Even if you didn’t have that personal connection, however, I still think that the story is warm and touching enough that it works on its own. Its a story about a grandmother and a granddaughter that really loved each other, cared for each other, and went on to truly develop a love of trust and caring for one another that was selfless.
I think its Sakurako, that distills the idea down to its essence. The mystery of the painting can’t be solved by her, because she never really had that bond or connection with Yuriko’s grandmother. Its Yuriko, and Yuriko alone that can figure that out. Its not just the idea, but the way Sakurako (and therefore Shiori Ōta-sensei) presents it.
The story of Yuriko and the letter she sent after receiving a doll as a gift in her first year of middle school is powerful. Its powerful because it takes something mundane and normal that many of us reasonable folk do on a daily basis, and highlights it. Yuriko receives a gift that she doesn’t want, but rather than mope and whine about it, she communicates a put-on happiness and gratitude to her grandmother, knowing full well that her grandmother will be happy as a result.
Such a beautiful sentiment, such a heartwarming idea. Indeed, I think Sakurako-san, as a story, as a series, comes from a writer that’s lived, and loved. Its this kind of thing that’s so timeless, so great about Sakurako-san, and what sets it apart from the other mystery shows. The mystery isn’t at all important here, its the people and the emotions and intentions they felt that really are key here.
And its important to note, that all of this, is pure conjecture. Sakurako chooses to interpret the situation in such a human and optimistic way, that just warms the heart. For how cold and logical she claims to be, there’s genuine love, affection and caring for other people buried in there that frequently bursts out onto the surface. Shoutarou isn’t outdone either, throwing in an excellent line about “pointless things being the most precious”.
Sakurako’s reaction that statement is equally fitting though.
Yeah, I realize I’m quoting the show a lot more than I usually do, but its just so brilliantly written. It touches just the right notes, says the right things, and does it in a very human and believable way. I just can’t help but smile at how well done the whole story about Yuriko and her grandmother is, from the start, to the end, to the reflection afterwards.
But! But… If you thought that Sakurako-san was content to be done and over with that sweet little story then well, yeah, You’d be in for a surprise. I know I was surprised, because that sweet little story was only part one. Part two was all about Shoutarou and HIS grandmother.
This is another moment where I just want to gush and gush about how well written and well adapted this whole thing is. See, the episode is titled “Grandma’s Pudding”, and while we open up with Shoutarou visitng his grandmother’s grave, the episode immediately focuses on Yuriko and her grandmother for most of the first half.
Its in the second half, that we get into the story behind the episode’s title. And Man, is this story a powerful one. Shoutarou’s story with his grandmother is a lot more tragic, a lot more heartbreaking, but its also a story about a very compassionate and caring grandmother that loved her grandson to bits.
Shoutarou’s story is also very relatable I’d say, and much like Yuriko’s story, you don’t need a personal connection to the story to really appreciate it. Having that personal connection though? That’s bound to bring you to tears, and I’ll admit shedding a tear or two by the end of the story, right alongside Shoutarou and Ba-ya-san.
The story in question, starts from the pudding that Shoutarou brings with him after talking shelter from the rain at Sakurako’s place. Again, this is a conversation, a scene, that just oozes with atmosphere and the feeling of real life. The interaction on screen feels like real people having a nice afternoon chat over tea and snacks. Its what Sakurako-san just nails, and makes it look effortless and easy.
Through the pudding, Shoutarou mentions how his grandmother never quite liked the pudding, but always requested it when he visited her in the hospital. Shoutarou’s grandmother, before passing away, was diagnosed with cancer, and bone cancer at that. While Shoutarou muses and wonders why his grandmother suddenly developed a liking for this particular brand of pudding, its Ba-ya-san, Sakurako’s “grandmother”/housekeeper, that actually solves the mystery.
Its a nice moment, one where Ba-ya, from her ages of experience and her loving and tender outlook on life, slowly peels away at the idea. Its a simple idea, maybe even a predictable one, but its beautiful none the less. Shoutarou’s grandmother would use the pudding as a way to delay her grandson, just so she could have the painkillers take effect and greet him with a calm and peaceful smile.
If that kind of story doesn’t touch you, doesn’t make you smile, then I’d wager that you’re dead inside. And I think Shoutarou reacts about how you’d expect, feeling guilty about adding to his grandmother’s worries. Again, its Sakurako and Ba-ya (the real star of this story) that comfort him, saying that him visiting his grandmother was probably what gave her the strength she needed to go on.
Again, that last part is conjecture, but its a pretty solid assumption. It puts Shoutarou’s grandmother’s seemingly illogical effort into context, and it has all the emotional power of a jackhammer. It hurts, it touches, its complicated, and yet… Its so simple. Shoutarou’s grandmother just wanted to see her grandson’s smile, and that smile, was worth all the effort, in the end.
And there you have it, two beautiful stories, all about loving grandchildren and their equally loving grandmothers. Another episode that just sets this show apart and carves it a distinct identity and appeal that you just can’t find anywhere else.
I do have to comment on the bizzare point at which an episode like this debuts, as welcome as it is. See, Sakurako-san is a 12 episode series. We’re at episode 9 this week, so that means we’ve only got another 3 episodes before we say goodbye to this awesome world and its characters in animated form. The stand alone stories are great, but its about time for the major story and plot to kick in.
To that end, this week’s episode does start to lay the goundwork for what I assume is the series endgame, as ominous as that sounds. Ominous really is the word though, because after Shoutarou leaves Sakurako’s place, the conversation turns to something pretty important, and things definitely take a dark tone.
“His name is Shoutarou” says Ba-ya. That line sticks out to me, because its cutting at the core of Sakurako and Shoutarou’s relationship. Shoutarou is clearly smitten with Sakurako, and wants to be acknowledged as an equal. But Sakurako? She’s made Shoutarou a replacement for her long dead brother, and the significance of Ba-ya’s words can’t be understated.
As if to drive the point really home, Sakurako herself, when she’s alone, talks about it being time to “end it”. I’m assuming that declaration is in regards to Shoutarou, and ending this odd little situation that she and Shoutarou are in. I think, Sakurako realizes that she’s leading Shoutarou on, and that she’s relying on him as an emotional crutch. Its not healthy, and it needs to end.
I’m curious as to where the series will go, and how it’ll resolve this central issue between our main duo. As a fan, who loves the two on screen, loves their couple dynamic, I can’t help but cheer for Shoutarou to get what he wants. The logical and practical part of me, though, has to agree with Sakurako. How does the story resolve? Does it give into its more human, more optimistic side? Or does it go for the bittersweet, practical resolution?
That, is the question, isn’t it? To further complicate things, there’s also the series big bad, the guy who seems to be warping people’s minds. We’ll call him butterfly-sensei for now, simply because he seems to have that butterfly imagery associated with him, and because the girl that’s clearly going to kill herself calls him “sensei”.
Who is this sensei exactly and what is his goal? Its unknown for now. I do know that a big confrontation between him and Sakurako is what the series has slowly been building towards, albeit in the shadows. Are we going to see that clash? Is it actually going to resolve? And where will Shoutarou fit in this battle of wits? Those are all really pressing questions.
I know I’ve already blabbed on and one about this episode, and this show, but if you’ve read this post till this point, then I do want to mention one more thing. I really do want to comend the show for its amazing visuals. This show is simply beautiful, and a lot of the atmosphere, the power of this show comes from just how good and well done the production work is. The use of light, the color, the moody sombre tones, the extremely bright and colorful backdrops, its all just so well done. Its a testament to the anime medium, and just how much life and color it brings to what is definitely a stellar and well written story.
You’ve got to hand it to Sakurak0-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru, its certainly set everything up for an interesting finish. This is already a show I’d wholeheartedly recommend to people, even if it isn’t perfect. The standout episodes are just that good. Now… All that’s left is for the show to ride the momentum from this episode and deliver the goods. I for one, can’t wait to see what the show has planned for us in its final few episodes.
Posted by setsuken
Posted on December 3, 2015 at 9:56 pm
Tags: Beautiful Bones, grandma's pudding, murder mystery anime, Sakurako-san anime, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru anime blog, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru episode 9, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru review, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru screencaps, Sakurako-san review, Sakurako's Investigation, shoutarou's grandmother, yuriko's grandmother
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