There are a lot of series this season that tackle the issues of murder, death and the mystery that often stems from those things. What makes Sakurako-san unique, however, is the markedly human flavor in its storytelling and characters. “Human” was indeed the word that came to my mind as I went through this week’s episode, and… I daresay, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa shitai ga Umatteiru managed to do what generally takes a series three episodes or more; it won me over.
At this point, the series has more or less presented itself for what it is and what it isn’t. One of the things that this series isn’t, is a crowd-pleaser. It isn’t the sort of series that’s going to appeal to everyone, and its one of those series that has the right combination of elements that appeal to me, on a personal level. This happens every season, where an anime series will emerge that I just connect with and like more so than the general public because… It has specific things that just call out to me.
What is it about Sakurako-san that calls out to me? Well, the first and most important thing is that I really really dig the characters. Both Sakurako and Shoutarou are just endearing, loveable and flawed characters that strike a particular chord with me. There’s an element of tragedy to both people and they’re both far from perfect. The best characters, however, the most interesting ones at least, have flaws that give their personality color, yet are not overpowering as to make them dislikable. I was slightly intrigued by both leads last week, but last week was all about their personal relationship and how well they played off of one another.
This week? This week felt personal, and it showed us each of the two as separate individuals. Shoutarou was actually the lead-in into the story this time, running into a young 3 year old girl during a late night run to the convenience store. Before we get into the actual nitty gritty of the episode, its important to note what we learned about Shoutarou’s personal life in the brief scene we got of his home.
Shoutarou seemed to be a diligent and dedicated student, up late at night actually working on homework. The messy state of his house and the unconscious woman on the couch near his fridge showed off an interesting home environment. As is common in the anime medium in general, we see yet again a case of a kind of lax or lacking parent kind of taking it a bit too easy, and the child maturing beyond their time to compensate. Its something that not only anime but popular media plays with every now and then, with the child almost making up for an overly carefree parenting by becoming more concerned and attentive about things.
Its no surprise that Shoutarou is the way he is, and at times act likes the adult in front of Sakurako. But make no mistake, as the series like to show often, Shoutarou as much of a child as anyone his age is. Case in point is the “mystery of the week”.
When Shoutarou finds the young child I mentioned earlier, he first does the responsible thing and takes her to a nearby police station. Of course, with not much to go on, the police are not really able to do much about the lost child situation. In what would probably only fly in a fictional story, Shoutarou ends up bringing over the kid “Li-chan” to Sakurako’s place, and waking her up at a rather odd hour.
Sakurako responds about how you’d expect her to at this point. She’s annoyed by the sudden intrusion, and wants to go back to bed. Once she sees the young 3 year old at her doorstep, her heart clearly softens, as I suspect Shoutarou expected it would. There’s a remarkable sense of trust and belief there, as Shoutarou respects and admires Sakurako enough that he’ll go to her whenever things are beyond him. But Sakurako is the kind of person who’ll take in a young 3 year old at an odd hour and do her best to see to the issue.
And I’ll admit, while it was a bit emotionally manipulative, I did feel a special attachment to the storyline and the stakes because of how effectively the show used cute and adorable children as the victims in this story. Li-chan was pretty adorable and props to the seiyuu involved for really selling the idea of a young and adorable three year old. It was gut wrenching too, to see that this child had first been sent out to the street late in the night, and then later clearly been abused.
Now, some people will probably find the use of a cute adorable child as pretty despicable and cheap. I know there were people who hated Nagi no Asakura for similar reasons, but I have to say, I respect a show that can push my buttons and swell up my emotions so well. There’s a very fine line between using tactics like these to elicit powerful emotions from the human side of the audience, and going a bit too far. I think what made the episode so darn satisfying for me was that the show never quite went too far with its whole child angle.
Don’t get me wrong, the tragic story of Li-chan and her brother was beyond tragic, but I think there was just enough protection of the children and care put into not traumatizing them that I got behind it all. Also, in a welcome twist, the way Sakurako and Shoutarou ended up tracking Li-chan’s home was from none other than Kougami Yuriko. I admit, when we met Yuriko in the premiere, I thought she was just a one off character that wouldn’t have quite that much of a role in the show.
It is interesting though, that Yuriko will end up playing what I’d call a “series regular” role in the show, appearing often, and being a more prominent supporting character. And support Yuriko does, leading Sakurako and Shoutarou to Li-chan’s house. It turns out that Yuriko was a volunteer at the child center nearby and knew Li-chan from there.
Of course, as you’d imagine, when Shoutarou and Sakurako arrive with a Police Officer, Yuriko and Li-chan in tow, the place is not only mess, but is home to a corpse. Its Li-chan’s mother, clearly dead. Now, its here that you’d think that the show would devolve into a “how did it happen and who dun it?” mystery show, and for a few moments, I thought it very well would. But thankfully, Sakurako-san not only didn’t go the tried and true route, but upped the stakes considerably.
I admit I was equally shocked, and had myself tense up increase exponentially when the show revealed the big twist. Yes, there was something odd about Li-chan’s mother, the way the body was positioned and what not, but it became clear that the real issue was the existence of a milk bottle on the floor. The second the milk bottle came into view, and Sakurako’s eyes widened, so did mine. Not only was the mother dead, and Li-chan basically an orphan, but there was a second, younger child in the house somewhere.
Again, for some, this may very well constitute as manipulative, but it really engaged and grabbed me. I was worried, my heart was racing and I was praying for Sakurako and Shoutarou to find the child and find it quick. There was a sense of urgency, the kind that I think very few mystery shows can accomplish, that erupted out of this particular scenario. Immediately it became clear that the mother had not only protected her 3 year old daughter by having her escape, but also by her own death, hid and protected her young baby boy too.
How Sakurako and Shoutarou reacted upon this news and finding the boy, was what truly set them apart. Sakurako rushed into action, doing her best to save the child, and Shoutarou watched, worried but generally following her lead and being as helpful as he could. But the episode’s excitement and tension hadn’t quite reached its peak yet, and we had the murderer from the previous night make an appearance at the worst time.
Again, I was impressed by how thoroughly the show raised the stakes here. First it had the recently arrived Police officer get taken out by a drug crazed murderer, and then had the same murderer approach Sakurako and Shoutarou as Sakurako was fighting to save the infant that was near death from heatstroke. Sakurako clearly couldn’t move, and focused her attention on the child, while the murderer inched closer. And Shoutarou? He clearly was overwhelmed by the situation, and while I’m sure the audience screamed for him to do something, I’d argue that that would be a bit unfair. Instead we had the Officer redeem himself a bit by coming in and mildly preventing the killer from taking another three victims.
The moment that sealed the deal for me though? Was when Shoutarou ended up taking the opportunity and rushing the killer, effectively disarming him and knocking him out. In that moment, Shoutarou did something extremely reckless, but it was also something that I’d argue won him brownie points. I think that moment exemplified Shoutarou’s character, where he was a kid that went above and beyond himself and what was considered normal as the situation called for it. And the Normally calm Sakurako? She cried out someone else’s name, as an old boy running away flashed before her eyes.
In that moment, Sakrauko’s older maturity dissipated and revealed her more fragile and emotional nature. This also added a new wrinkle to the relationship of the main duo (as did the OP, but we’ll get to it later). I think my observation of Sakrauko treating Shoutarou like a little brother was right on the money, and I think she actually lost someone like him at a younger age. The fact that name of the boy was “Soutarou” is kind of suspect, as it sounds remarkably close to Shoutarou. Do Sakurako and Shoutarou know each other from the past? Or was Soutarou just another young boy that Sakurako knew in her youth? Either option is equally tantalizing to me.
Its something that Shoutarou notices as well, after the whole issue with Li-chan is resolved. As Sakurako finally ends up calling him by his name instead of her typical “shounen” phrase, he wonders about what she called him during that decisive moment. I’m sure the mystery of who Soutarou is will play a heavy part in the coming episodes.
And while we’re on the topic of heavy, its definitely true that the ending to this week’s story is a bittersweet one. It turns out that Li-chan’s mother did end up protecting her children, and sacrificed herself like any mother would. Yet, there were obvious signs of improper parenting at best, and child abuse at most. The living conditions for the children were absolutely horrible, as was the house given that a random druggie came in and almost killed all three of them. There were no winners by the end of the episode either. Li and her brother were alive, and Sakurako and Shoutarou (alongside the Police Officer) had definitely saved them, but they were orphans and alone in the world.
There’s a sense of underlying tragedy that kind of permeated this week’s episode, and set a tone for the series in general. If you’ve seen the OP theme, then I think in there there’s further hints about the show’s cast of characters and an element that kind of ties them together. There’s tragedy in this show, but there’s also beauty, the beauty of good natured people doing good things and saving two lives in the process. Its that kind of powerful, emotional, heartwarming storytelling that makes Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa shitai ga Umatteiru such a winner for me, and why I’d say I’ll be blogging it weekly for sure.
OP [Dear answer] by TRUE: (A+)
I really really liked this OP theme. The animation was top notch, the song was the same great stuff we got as the ED theme last week, and the story hints were just right. The OP didn’t spoil anything too major IMO, and it gave us some key hints into the characters of the show, and what will end up being their particular stories. All in all, the OP is another solid win for this show.
ED [Uchiyoserareta Boukyaku no Zankyou ni] by TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND: (B+)
The ending theme was slightly less impressive, but felt suitable in terms of book-ending the episode on a more mellow note. The song is almost tranquil, but there’s that sense of tragedy that echoes through it, so I’d say it at least matches the tone of the show. As for the animation? I’m not particular sure why we needed to see Sakurako-san in the nude but uhhh… It was an artistic choice? I guess?
Posted by setsuken
Posted on October 15, 2015 at 9:50 pm
Tags: Beautiful Bones, 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 review, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru screencaps, Sakurako-san review, Sakurako's Investigation
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