Opinions (A):

There’s a running theme of “death” in Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Umatteiru, and this week is no different. Each week, in almost every episode, the show will look at death from an interesting new perspective, and its one that highlights both the logical and emotional aspects of death itself. Its kind of amazing how different a mystery story Sakurako-san really is, because all the solutions to the quote-unquote mysteries are all about people and the general human condition.

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There’s nothing new about that, as Sakurako-san is a show that expertly weaves intriguing mystery with tragic but moving human stories. This week, however, was special in that it served as a kind of a peek into Sakurako’s origin story. It also gave Shoutarou, our male lead, a chance to shine and really wade through all the weird barriers he had run into with Sakurako last week.

The story this week, was another somber tragedy that had happened in the past. I think the most telling moment of the episode, was actually in the very first scene. It was when Shoutarou mentioned that understanding Sasaki-sensei (the owner of the bones they had found last week) would be the key to understanding Sakurako as well. How right he was, even more so than probably even he realized at that point.

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I have to give a few props to Shoutarou before I say anything else though. It was he, who was the driving force toward solving this week’s mystery and in reconciling with Sakurako after their “fight”. I’d say Shoutarou was pretty apt in his deduction that Sakurako was avoiding him, so good on him for volunteering to give Sasaki’s remains to his family. This served as an opportunity for Sakurako and Shoutarou go on another drive afterall. The destination this time was the deceased Sasaki-sensei’s sister, Haruma Sayuki’s home.

The initial meeting is about what you’d expect. The old woman is thankful for receiving her brother’s personal effects and Sakurako goes off an odd tangent with regard to the woman’s celtic feet. Things get interesting, however, when all of Sasaki’s items are laid out on a table and the woman asks if there is anything else. The story takes a less than standard approach from there.

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Once again, the story in question is a sad one, and has a very japanese edge to the whole affair. It all relates to Haruma and her caregiver Sone Natsuko. Sone Natsuko is the true hero of this little story, because it is ultimately about her  selfless sacrifice. Haruma starts off by telling the duo a bit about Natsuko, and how the girl was born of a prostitute, had an unknown father and came to live with the family. Despite the odd nature with which Natsuko joins Haruma and Sasaki’s family, however, the three quickly become very close friends.

Of course, when adulthood hits, things get infinitely more complex. At this point in the story, Haruma actually lies and lets it be known that Natsuko became pregnant out of wedlock during their teenage years, only to have a stillbirth and lose the child. On top of losing the child, however, its also stated that the child in question creates a serious divide between Natsuko and the man that she potentially loved, and who may have loved her back, Sasaki himself.

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There’s a lot of complex things at play here. Its not so odd that Natsuko and Sasaki developed feelings for one another, especially since they weren’t related but simply being in love with each other was hardly enough in those days. See Japan, like many eastern asian countries, was all about arranged marriage, about making alliances between families and about people of similar social standing getting together. Archaic is one word for it, especially in today’s world where the reasons for marriage can vary to a much larger degree.

However, given Haruma’s age, its very probable that the more classic Japanese societal norms were prevalent back then. That created a ton of challenges for the two potential lovers, Sasaki and Natsuko, especially given that Sasaki was the son of a well off family. So when Haruma says that “Natsuko knew her station”, its pretty possible to see that she got over Sasaki and moved on to someone else, getting pregnant in the process.

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Of course, when Haruma mentions that Sasaki got disowned by his family later on by becoming a teacher, things start to feel a bit off. Haruma’s speculation is that Sasaki and Natsuko had a falling out beause of the pregnancy. What’s so odd about that idea is that we already know that Sasaki loved Natsuko to an extreme degree. He kept her bones with him in a box, till he himself died afterall. That level of love and dedication, almost bordering on obsession? I think someone like that would be able to forgive a pregnancy or indiscretion, as hard as it may be.

It turns out, however, that things weren’t quite as Haruma told them. After hearing about Haruma’s story, Sakurako and Shoutarou go on a little quest to find the stillborn baby’s bones themselves, and upon finding them, things really fall into place. It all comes back to the unique “celtic” shape of the Sassaki family’s feet, and how the child in question actually has the same foot bone structure.

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The real story turns out to be that Haruma was actually the one who got pregnant, with a man that apparently already had a family. Upon realizing her mistake, Haruma cut off ties with the man, but had already gotten pregnant at that point. To make matters worse, her father had an arrange marriage planned for her around that time as well. To help her life long friend, Natsuko graciously covers for Haruma and ends up making it look like SHE was the one who got pregnant. Haruma is able to get married and potentially saved from a huge scandal, and Natsuko is forever isolated from the family, and from the one she clearly loves, Sasaki.

But then there’s one more wrinkle to the whole story, and its Sakurako who points that one out. See… The reason Sasaki actually avoids Natsuko isn’t because of the pregnancy itself, but rather because of the child’s remains that come from it. Since the child’s feet have the same celtic shape as his family’s, Sasaki concludes that he and Natsuko are related and half siblings sharing a father. Remember the fact that Natsuko was a prostitute’s child? And that she was taken in by Sasaki’s father? Sasaki incorrectly connects the dots and realizes that Natsuko is his half sister, and that they can’t really be together as a result.

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At the heart of the big misunderstanding, is Haruma of course, who could’ve cleared up said misunderstanding by telling her brother, at least, what had actually gone down. If there were a “culprit” in this mystery, it would be her, but I think she correctly states that her being left alone, forever with that guilt, is giving her what she deserves.

And yes, Haruma was a weak-willed person that had two other people pay dearly for her own mistake but its to the show’s credit that she isn’t quite detestable. The tragedy of the three people, Sasaki, Haruma and Natsuko results from a combination of the social norms of the times, youthful indiscretion and frankly the power of someone to do anything for their friend. Natsuko could have at any point, let the cat out of the bag, but she suffered, quietly and in silence till her death. The last admission, Shoutarou actually gets himself, through a little digging and detective work, and he even gets his own weird little sequence of looking through at the past through the present.

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At this point, the episode has more or less filled its regular quota of curveballs that it tends to throw in during a regular story but… There’s one more. The last bit, is thanks to Shoutarou’s own detective work. We find out a rather interesting thing about Sasaki and his connection to Sakurako.

It turns out that it was Sasaki that taught Sakurako her osteology, and gave her skills that eventually led her to her current specialty. I was a bit taken a back, but as Shoutarou laid out all the evidence, evidence that we ourselves had seen in the two episodes of this story arc, it all made sense. Sakurako was a student at the High school, she knew her way around and had been a student during the time Sasaki had been teaching. To make matters even more interesting, the cat bones that served as a the reason for the duos little fight, come into play in a rather interesting way here.

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It turns out that both cats actually belong to Sakurako herself, and had been poisoned and killed. One was named Ulna, the other Radius, both being bones that are connected at the elbow. As it turns out, Unlike the air that Sakurako had projected last week, she was very much attached and moved by her cats death, It was these two cats that actually led her to becoming an osteologist and the sort of quasi-detective that she is now.

The death of the cats does indeed turn out to the big turning point in Sakurako’s life, while discovering that, is I think, the big turning point in Shoutarou’s as well. See, up till this point, Shoutarou has left all the detective work, all the reasoning, to Sakurako. He’s merely acted as a dumb sidekick that supports her wherever and whenever she needs it. This week, that all changed, and Shoutarou was not only able to find out something entirely on his own, but also understand Sakurako herself a bit more.

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The final moment, with Shoutarou mentioning that Sakurako could keep the other cat’s bones, and that he had worked it out with Isozaki and the school, was the icing on the cake. Here, I think, Shoutarou proved himself, as a true partner and support for Sakurako, and one that can handle the actual detective work when needed. Even more important, however, is the fact that he’s someone who can empathize with her.

Its an interesting dynamic, because if Shoutarou hadn’t risen to the challenge, then he and Sakurako would’ve likely drifted apart. Its almost like a contrast to the Sasaki family story, where Sasaki was unable to deduce the truth behind his potential love interest’s actions, and ended up never getting together with her as a result. Shoutarou did not only make the effort to understand where Sakurako was coming from though, but he got to the real core of the issue.

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That, I think, is one of the reasons why I continue to enjoy the whole “thing” between Shoutarou and Sakurako. While its unclear what they are exactly, the way the two continue to deal with one another, continue to keep their relationship going with actual work and effort, is something that’s very heartening to see. It makes me want to root for the two of them as a potential couple, as unconventional as that may be.

But beyond even all of that, this episode really served to strengthen the bond between the story’s two main leads. There’s one more hint that the show drops, one of a potential bigger mystery on the horizon. One that probably connects to Sakurako’s little brother, her sick uncle and perhaps even the villainous stranger that’s been manipulating people in the shadows. The show has another 4 episodes to make good on that idea, so lets see if it ends as strong as this second episode in this latest arc did.

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The Owner, webmaster, designer, coder and writer for the site. Anime Evo is Setsuken’s (Hassan's) proclamation of love for Anime, which he can’t seem to get enough of. He’s a 26 year old male, and current resides in the USA . A writer for a number of years Hassan is also a 3D Artist, a Game Designer, a Web Designer and a Huge Anime Obsessed Enthusiast.

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