Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 09

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Sakurako-san holds back from revealing more about it’s titular character’s central mystery, while hinting at some similar themes that drove whatever it was that happened. The wonderful Yuriko returns, who bumps into Saku and Shou at the pastry shop and solicits the detective’s help in determining which painting her departed grandmother would have chosen to give her on the occasion of her wedding. Note that Yuriko isn’t actually getting married (though let’s not forget that Saku is technically betrothed).

What follows is a wonderful train of thought as Sakurako explains the choices she made based on the information she knows. Her best bet for Yuriko is a painting of Kamuishu Island, which means “God-Grandmother” in Ainu. Sakurako refers to the story that the island is actually the remains of a grandmother who collapsed looking for her lost grandson. Her body gave out, but her spirit never will.

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Sakurako believes it’s best because it reflects Yuriko’s grandmother’s desire to always watch over her with love, while dismissing the whole painting enterprise as “pointless sentimentalism” she claims not to understand. Shoutarou chastens her after a fashion, telling her some things have value because they are pointless.

That’s a remark that Sakurako is able to return to Shoutarou, when the young lad pays her a visit on a rainy day with the gift of several flavors of his favorite brand of pudding, embarrassed both Saku and her Gran laugh at the oversized clothes he has to borrow to dry off, but well aware of Saku’s well-honed sweet tooth.

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Like Yuriko’s story, Shou reminices about his grandmother, who in his case was dying of bone cancer. He recalls coming to visit her in the hospital, and how she’d always ask him to pick up pudding beforehand, which perplexes him, because she never liked the stuff before. But Saku’s Gran figures it out even before Saku. No surprise there, since her life experience more closely matches Shou’s gran.

While Yuriko’s mystery involved which painting would bring her closer to her gran, Shou’s mystery of why her gran wanted pudding for their visits is solved by taking both what is known about the subject and what one’s own wisdom and experience provides. Gran and Saku settle on the notion that Shou’s gran asked him to buy pudding because it would allow her painkiller injection time to kick in before he arrived.

Just as Yuriko’s happiness was her gran’s happiness, so too was Shou’s. Shou’s gran left this world on her own terms, spending time with someone she loved. Shou can’t initially fathom how his presence at his grandmother’s bed did any good or had any point, until Saku repeats his line about pointless things having their own value.

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Saku’s detective skills can’t help but notice her own gran’s back is ailing, and tells her they’re going to the hospital. But that ain’t happening; her gran, like all the other grans before her, aren’t going to be pushed around by youngins. Speaking of gran, she seems to be aware of Saku’s deep dark secret, and the significance of Shou’s name.

As for Sakurako, she seems to have gotten quite a bit of something pointless yet valuable from Shoutarou, but makes mention of bringing it all to an end, which this show has to do soon. The “cold ending”, if you will, does not do much to clear up her mystery, as we watch a girl who looks similar to Saku but whose name is Hitoe tighten up her boots and head out as her parents loudly argue about her, and she looks at the moon and momentarily grows butterfly wings as she tells her “sensei” she’ll “fly up to him.”

I have no earthly idea what any of this is about, only wild speculation, but as usual, I’m interested to learn the truth.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 08

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In this, the finest episode of Sakurako-san to date, One solved mystery leads to a second, than a third, and opens up the possibility of the larger, deeper truths involving Sakurako and her brother, whom Shoutarou reminds her of so much. Shoutarou feels he’s created a rift between him and Sakurako after his outburst about her cat Ulna.

Asking if she’ll accompany him to personally deliver Sasaki-sensei’s effects to his surviving relative is a way for him to reestablish contact, but she claims she’s just “tired”, not avoiding him, and must have been mistaken when she mentioned cat bones at the school, noting quite pointedly “Even I make mistakes, sometimes.”

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Sasaki’s sister, the wheelchair-bound Haruma Sayuki, greets them warmly and thanks them for bringing her brother’s belongings. She’s also able to confirm the identity of the bones in Sasaki’s office, those of Sone Natsuko. The alleged child of a sex worker who came to live with Atsurou and Sayuki, her brother fell for “Nacchan”, but she had a baby out of wedlock—not by him—that was born premature and died soon thereafter.

It was the bones of that baby—whom Natsuko buried that very night many years ago—Sayuki had hoped Shou had brought, so she could lay them and her mother’s bones to rest in the family grave, something her family would probably never have allowed back in the old days.

Sakurako has all she needs to deduce the location of the babe’s bones: in the vicinity of a monument to Mistletoe, a book both Natsuko and Atsurou loved. Sure enough, they find bones, but she also discovers a different truth that differs from Sayuki’s account, and all because Sayuki happened to be wearing open-toed sandals when she first met her and Shou.

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Sayuki has “Celtic-style” feet, with the index toe taller than the big toe; the same kind of foot Sayuki has and Atsurou had. Combined with the extremely high risk of a woman who just gave birth exerting herself buring a child, Sakurako believes Sayuki is the mother, which she finally admits. Natsuko had helped her get in touch with a man she fell in love with, and she got pregnant out of wedlock.

Because her father had arranged a marriage for her, she could not keep the baby, so the fiction was created that it was Natsuko’s, thus preserving Sayuki for marriage, but destroying any chances of Natsuko and Atsurou getting marrying. Natsuko died alone, and Sayuki was going to as well, but now she’ll be reunited with Natsuko, whom she loved as a sister, and her own child, before she dies.

It is strongly hinted at that Sayuki didn’t give birth to a premature child, but rather aborted her, the means for which must have been crude and dangerous.

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It’s a heartbreaking change to an already heartbreaking narrative, in this show that deals with themes and events in real life that few anime bother to. When Shoutarou wonders why Sasaki-sensei never married Natsuko even after being disowned by his family for pursuing a life of education, Sakurako has a simple answer: he believed Natsuko herself may have been a half-sibling by blood, with a shared father. That may not have been the real truth, but it was still a truth he believed in until his death. “Sometimes there’s more than one truth,” Saku remarks.

Back when Shou gave Sayuki her brother’s effects, he kept the photo with the poem, fearing it meant something bad or sad. But with all this new information coming to light, he does further research, and gives the photo to Sayuki, who identifies the poem as one by Roka, and concluding Natsuko wrote it to express her own grief when she was close to death. For a moment, Sayuki transforms into her younger self, filled with grief but also a sense of closure and catharsis. It’s a very moving scene, and it’s thanks to Shou for not closing the case too early.

But that’s not the end of Shou’s sleuthing this week. Staring at a diagram of a skeleton in his school’s lab and thinking about Sakurako’s comment about “more than one truth”, it dawns on him that Sakurako indeed stole the cat bones, and knows why: Because the ulna is only one of two bones in the forearm: the other is the radius. Sakurako had two cats.

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Sakurako and Shou, who looked so cold and grey and distant during the car ride at the start of the episode, are enrobed in the warm, sensual light of the setting sun as Shou argues his case and she listens attentively. He further deduces that because she knew her way to the lab so quickly, and the school was once all-girls, that she was an alumna at his school. Sakurako heartily applauds Shou’s skills of observation: he is correct.

Someone poisoned her two cats, Ulna and Radius, when she was little. She went to Sasaki-sensei with the corpses, who understood what she wanted to do. In life, the cats were always inseparable, so she wanted to reunite them in death as well once she found Radius again, if only briefly.

She hid the theft from Shou thinking he wouldn’t understand, but ironically it’s because she acts like, as she says, an “emotional, foolish human being” that he can finally realize there are some things about the two of them that are alike; that it isn’t hopeless to be friends with her; that he can understand her, sometimes. When he says she can keep the cat in exchange for fox bones, she shows more of that emotion.

That brings us to the relationship we now know of between Sakurako and Sasaki, who taught her osteology and considered her an apprentice. And to Saku admitting “even she makes mistakes sometimes.” Did Saku and Sasaki’s relationship go even deeper into “absurd emotional human” territory?

Could the titular “bones under her feet” (and the small skull that orbits her in the ED) be not her brother’s, but those of her son? All speculation on my part, but I don’t think it’s that wild. There are many more truths and mistakes and motivations to unpack in the final three episodes.

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