Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 02

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This was a tough one to watch, but it still felt good to watch it. Though I don’t have any kids, I could feel my latent parental instincts kick in on multiple occasions. What I do have is a little niece going on three, the same age as the girl who serves as a conduit for this week’s murder mystery, which turns out to be a lot more involved than last week’s century-old skeleton or the suicide-not-suicide.

The little girl, who only has the most basic grasp of communication, and will default to “no” when confronted with strong direct demands, is like a lock that Sakurako and Shou must pick in order to figure out who she is and where she came from. I like how such a lockpicking must be undertaken by a lad too young for kids and an older but still young woman too involved in her work to bother with things like husbands or children of her own.

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In spite of this, Sakurako and Shou become the kid’s surrogate parents for the duration of their investigation. Shou is the one who brings her to Sakurako, who quickly notices the child is suffering from a poorly-healed bone injury; the likely result of abuse. As luck would have it, a classmate of Shou’s knows the kid and her real name, leading them to her house: a pigsty strewn with bags of garbage and a likely den of neglect and abuse. Then they find the corpse of the mother, and a new story emerges.

The mother is dead of an apparent stab wound, with only one defensive wound, and died in a very strange position that turns out to be one best-suited for covering a trap door in the kitchen where she hid her other child, an infant boy. When Sakurako moves the mother’s body and finds the babe, she wastes no time attempting to revive it, pumping his tiny heart to provide his brain with enough oxygen to stay alive.

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Before help can come, the father does: a knife-wielding drug addict looking for “butterflies.” Saku is unable to move to protect herself, lest she risk losing the baby, and the cop who accompanied her and Shou is the first one stabbed. That means Shoutarou has to step up and save everyone, which he does thanks to some karate he learned from his gramps.

Far from impressed, Saku is angry at Shou for acting so recklessly. As he acted, she remembered a young boy running from her in a similar fashion, and being unable to stop him. A younger brother she lost, perhaps? In any case, all’s well that ends well. The baby wakes up (thank GOD) and the police and ambulance arrive. And throughout all of this, the three-year-old has been kept safe by Shou’s classmate in the other room, shielding her from further trauma.

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The house may be the dump of a destitute couple unable to properly care for their two young children, but in Sakurako’s reconstruction of what happened (which happens with all of the pieces having been previously, carefully laid out), the mother is redeemed as a Mother, one who did not hesitate to sacrifice her own life to save both of her kids from her insane, homicidal partner. She may not have been the best mother in life, but she did the one fundamental thing required of her, and all mothers, when it mattered: she protected her children.

This was more than just a rich spoiled genius girl solving a another mystery for her own satisfaction. The show successfully drew me even further in by upping the stakes considerably. This was about continuing the work the murdered mother started: making sure those innocent kids survive. And Saku couldn’t do it alone; she needed the help of her “Watson” and the plucky cop, and they delivered.

With this latest case closed, a deeper mystery remains: the truth of Saku’s memory.  Shoutarou is surprised when she calls him by his first name in the aftermath of their ordeal, but also remembers her shouting “Soutarou” during it. Calling him Shoutarou is a sign of intimacy, yet when he asks her to confirm calling him that, she backs away, careful to maintain the same distance between them. Something haunts her; something Shou wants to uncover; and I want to see him uncover it!

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

5 thoughts on “Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 02”

  1. Is it rare for anime to cover child abuse, drug use, and social neglect in such a direct way? I’ve never seen a show do that before in such an honest fashion. I used to work in that field and they got so much right, it was riveting. A great episode I thought

    1. Agree with all parties involved: a brilliant, hard-hitting episode that really stood out above the usual anime fare with its subject matter.

      The fiercely honest portrayal of the little girl, and the discovery of the infant whose mother protected till with dying breath, were among the scenes that brought tears to my eyes during episode.

      Sakurako remarking that the dead mother saving her infant doesn’t absolve her for neglecting to treat her daughter’s injury (to say nothing of the destitution in which they were raised).

      And while there’s a good chance those kids will go on to live better lives, we’ll never know for sure; only that they have a fighting chance. Simply devastating.

      If the “mysteries of the week” are going to be this earnest and powerful, Sakurako-san may be the sleeper hit of the Fall. Subete ga F certainly has its work cut out for it…

      1. Even the weakest part of this episode—Sakurako’s memory involving a confident brother figure running away from her—wasn’t terrible, and has potential for future solid character development.

        In the imagery you chose above, you made sure to capture that moment when everything’s over, Sakurado and Shoutarou are standing shoulder to shoulder, their faces cropped out of the camera frame, and Shoutarou draws a little bit closer to her, causing her to move away.

        It’s a slight moment, but I loved it, and it’s full of meaning. Sakurako isn’t ready to let anyone close to her again, perhaps in large part due to that memory, and some as-yet-unexplained guilt. But Shoutarou’s continued tagalongs and leaning on her expertise will ensure these two draw closer together in spite of her reticence.

  2. This episode also follows another rule of the good detective story. It follows the “Detective is a Social Explorer” rule. That is, a well rounded detective story uses the detective to explore worlds the reader (or viewer in this case) usually never see. The detective by his efforts reveals a unknown, or alien or unspoken world to his audience. The unspoken, sad, tragic, and sordid world of drug addiction was revealed to us in this episode by Sakurako and Shoutarou without judgement or obfuscation and with a great deal of humanity… and without a magical girl in sight…

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