Welcome, one and all, to another thrilling instalment of Matt Doyle Media Dot Com’s yearly tournament, Crunchyroll of the Dice. This post puts us three quarters of the way through the first round, which means that we’re making good progress! As always, before I begin, these are the rules:
- The series must be picked at random
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
- For round one, I use episode 1
- After writing up both episodes, I compare them in different categories to decide the winner
With two 7 – 5 victories already, will the final scores differ here? There’s only one way to find out!
All I know about this series going in is that the episodes are short and that it’s supposed to be cute. Will that be enough to get it through the first round? Well, in the last tournament, four short episode series entered and one made it through to the second round. That series was Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories, and the show that it knocked out was also a short episode title. It then fell in the second round to the eventual runner-up, Flying Witch. So yeah, short episode series don’t tend to do so well in Crunchyroll of the Dice. Perhaps this will be the one to change that? Let’s find out.
We start with an introduction to Konagai Yuuko. She’s sat alone in the middle of her classroom while her fellow students are off in their various groups, chatting away merrily. Our leading lady has never done well at school, and after a few months at the school, she still feels like she can’t talk to the other kids and has zero friends. She watches the popular pink-haired Shiratori Azumi and ponders how people like her live in a different world.
Back home, Yuuko is greeted by her three kittens. She clearly feels more comfortable around her humanised kitties and gives us a quick introduction to them. There’s the mischievous Maa, the laid-back Shii, and the level-headed Rou, all of whom have different outlooks on Yuuko’s friendship situation. They’re all friendly though and, as Yuuko says, cats rock! And so, we hit a chibi kitty filled ending theme that reminds me a little of the opening to D-Frag! Post credits, a voice which I’m assuming belongs to Yuuko’s mum, asks how long she’s going to stay in the entranceway. Yuuko shows no signs of stopping her petting of her kittens.
That was all very inoffensive. It was also certainly very cute. The music was pretty much non-stop too, and certainly helped make it feel like a cutesy video game to me. How it’s going to do in comparison will depend on how well Beautiful Bones pulls off its premise though. So, let’s get going!
This one, I’ve never even heard of. The premise sounds interesting though. Tatewaki Shoutarou speaks to us about how the city where he lives is stagnant (or in a state of ‘peace and quiet’) while cherry blossoms fall across the screen. The episode starts proper and I can see that the backdrops look like still paintings while the characters are animated in a different shade. That’s a little jarring, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Anyway, some students have gathered around a dead cat. Shoutarou tries to take control and asks for a plastic bag or cardboard box to deal with the corpse. He talks about how he would have reacted the same way as the others up until recently, but now he’s met ‘her’.
Kitty gets buried and there’s a short conversation between Shoutarou, his teacher, his friend, and the girl that helped with the burial. It’s mentioned that there’s a story about dead bodies being buried under cherry blossom trees and we get a dreamlike shot of Shoutarou with a mysterious woman. From the way it’s presented, that makes me think that maybe this woman is a ghost? We get some repetition about the stagnation effect, but Shoutarou likes the city anyway as the memories of the past dwell there. He walks to the Koujo residence, where there is someone that cares greatly about those who lived in the past. We see the woman again, this time holding a skull. She gives it a kiss. Well, that sets up some potentially dodgy moments.
The woman is described as a ‘Princess that loves bones’, and we now cut to her driving Shoutarou somewhere. She says that it’s disappointing that he buried the kitten. The woman is Koujo Sakurako, and she lives alone with her elderly housekeeper. She’s described as being beautiful and having a wit to match. She’s disinterested in inter-personal relationships, listens to rock music and harbours a deep longing for bones from all sorts of creatures. As such, she works as an osteologist. Shoutarou is unsure what their relationship is as it’s neither romance or friendship based. The pair make it to the sea, where Shoutarou is upset about spending his time digging up bones. Sakurako says that the sky and sea are wonderful, so he shouldn’t be complaining. I agree. It looks lovely. Shoutarou feels like he’s being treated like a child though, so Sakurako challenges him to impress her with a big find, like maybe some whale bones. If he does, she’ll treat him to Alaskan shrimp as a reward. That kicks Shoutarou into gear and he soon finds a fox’s femur. Sakurako doesn’t need that though. Nor does she need the lump of wood that he finds.
Eventually, Shoutarou finds a human skull. Sakurako is impressed, though Shoutarou is a little jumpier about it. Sakurako mentions that all men have one butterfly in their heads, right between the eyes it seems, and that this skull still has the butterfly bone intact. It’s actually called the sphenoid bone, and is easily broken. Sakurako is going to bring the skull home for her collection. Shoutarou is worried that it belongs to someone who died at sea, but Sakurako points out that the break at the top of the skull indicates that this is unlikely as the damage was probably made with a club-like object. So, murder is more likely. The victim was female, maybe in her late twenties. She starts talking about the differences between Asian and Caucasian palates, and Shoutarou calls the police. Sakurako is not pleased and is rather possessive of the skull already. Apparently, the pair often find human remains.
The police arrive and Sakurako refuses to give up the skull as the police will not find the killer. The reason is that the person lived around one hundred years ago. She can tell because the skull shape of humans changes every hundred years or so due to environment and lifestyle changes. With no sign of treatment for a large cavity and the fact that the teeth are worn down, the skull being a hundred years old makes sense. The police are stubborn though and want to follow procedure. It’s mentioned that that makes three bodies found in one day in the same countryside, as there was a double suicide discovered earlier. That sparks Sakurako’s interest. The two victims had their hands tied together, so suicide was obvious. When they reach the scene, Sakurako demands that they stop the car and immediately sets about stating that it wasn’t suicide. She forcefully insists on seeing the bodies. Sakurako snaps on a pair of rubber gloves and we get a fancy multi-coloured scene where she focuses on bones. She studies the bodies and, when the detective challenges her behaviour, she says that she was going to teach an ignorant country detective that the bodies require autopsies. She declares the case to be a double homicide and we learn that her uncle is a retired forensics expert who helps the police quite regularly. Shoutarou sprays Sakurako in the face with something and tells her off, and we jump to the police station.
The officer that picked Sakurako up knew her uncle and is now talking to her. She says that the knot on the hands was too clean to be a suicide. We get a moment of magic where Sakurako seemingly transports the cop into a flashback. She explains that the man wearing his watch on his left hand and the way his necktie is knotted indicates that he was right handed. Despite this, he seemingly tied his dominant hand to the woman. The cop asks what I wanted to: what if the woman tied the knot? Sakurako can’t deny the possibility but believes that if they’d agreed to a double suicide, it would likely be the stronger male that ties the knot to ensure that they stay together in death. On top of that, the bowline knot on the hands is tied in the wrong direction. Shoutarou questions this and realises that, if he’d tied the knot himself, the rope would be pointing upwards, while in this case, it was pointing downwards. Sakurako also mentions that there are two rules of thumb to confirm if someone drowned. First is that people tend to grab at things in torment when they drown, and in double suicides it’s common to find that the victims tore out each other’s hair. There is no sign of grabbing here. Second, water entering lugs causes mucus in the mouth and therefore white froth in the mouth and nose. No trace of that was found on the bodies either. This means that homicide is more likely and that an autopsy is needed.
The cop asks how Sakurako figured that much out in such a short timeframe, and she says that it’s simple: she wanted to find out that the remains in front of her had been murdered. She says that humans are not wild animals and that it’s rare to find bodies just lying about. When she does find one, that automatically seems unnatural to her. She recommends that the police look into their acquaintances and search among them for someone who can readily tie a bowline knot. She also asks the cop to make a call … but Shoutarou notices something odd. He whips away the jacket that Sakurako has balled up in her arms and finds the skull from earlier. She states that it’s warranted as a reward for helping with the homicide. Shoutarou gets mad, and they go on their way. When they arrive back at Sakurako’s, the housekeeper has made a meal for Shoutarou, though Sakurako is still sulking. Shoutarou realises that she made the call to request that food be prepared for him, not so that she could do a runner like he thought. Apparently, Shouko, Sakurako’s aunt, had also visited earlier. She owns a rose garden and brought a ton of shrimp.
Ending credits roll on a plain black background, which is unusual for anime in my experience. The song is OK. I must say, that was a surprisingly interesting episode once it got going. But, will it defeat the cute kitties? Let’s find out!
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The battles will be: Best Opening Episode (in terms of achieving the goal of setting the series up), Best Character, Best Individual Scene, Best Storyline, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
This is an interesting one to judge because both did good jobs of setting up what we can expect going forward. Nyanko Days uses bright colours and simple scenes to set up how things are going to feel, while Beautiful Bones goes for a dingy set of colours and some detective work. In that regard, neither one faltered, so I can’t really pick between them. Best Opening Episode: Draw
It’s hard to give much credit to Nyanko Days for the two minutes that it ran, at least in terms of the lead. Yuuko is … it didn’t feel like there was much to her. On the other hand though, I think that Maa has a lot of potential to be a fun character. I mean, she was nomming stuff in a cute manner and was described as mischievous. That makes her like my cat, but less likely to attack you in your sleep. Meanwhile, I didn’t much care for Shoutarou in Beautiful Bones either as he also seems to have little going on right now. Sakurako was a bit more intriguing with her bone obsession and forensic skills though, and her general attitude sets her apart from the others. As much as I’d love to call this one a draw, there just wasn’t long enough for Nyanko Days to sell me on the characters, so Beautiful Bones takes it. Best Character: Sakurako (Beautiful Bones)
Maa nomming. It sounds daft, it was such an adorable moment that it stands out for me, despite Beautiful Bones have plenty of opportunity to take the points. Best Individual Scene: Maa nomming (Nyanko Days)
- Nyanko Days is very simple. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. With the short episode time, trying to be to complex would be a mistake. It does mean that Beautiful Bones holds an advantage going into this one. The whole idea of the main pair often finding human remains and Sakurako working to solve the mystery of how they died is a good one too. Would I have liked them to have a clear conclusion to the mystery on display, complete with a named culprit? Yes. There’s no denying that it’s a good tale though. Best Storyline: Beautiful Bones
Despite a shaky start, Beautiful Bones did a good job here. I’m not as fond of the still backdrops (I think that recent scenic excursions with Flying Witch and Amanchu! have spoiled me with background art), but it does a great job of animating two things. The first is the little trips through the bones themselves. The second is Sakurako’s facial expressions. Nyanko Days is fine at what it does, and probably a little more consistent than Beautiful Bones, but nothing really pops like the bones do. At the same time, nothing really stood out as being bad in my eyes either. While very different, both feel equally competent to me, so this one is a draw. Best Animation: Draw
This one is an easy one. Nothing in Beautiful Bones really leaps out at me other than the piano music near the start. Meanwhile, Nyanko Days has a constant stream of happy, bouncy music that really adds to the feel of the show. Easy win for the kitties. Best Soundtrack: Nyanko Days
Final Scores: Nyanko Days – 6 points, Beautiful Bones – 6 points
Now that’s a first for Crunchyroll of the Dice! Both series ended up in a tie. So, to separate them, we’ll need a sudden death tie-break competition. The first category is: Best VA.
For this, I shall be focussing on the lead characters (so it’s Yuuko and the kitties vs. Shoutarou and Sakurako). There’s nothing particularly wrong with Nyanko Days. None of the characters had voices that annoyed me or seemed out of place. With such a short running time though, it’s hard to get a proper feel for the cats themselves. Shoutarou was fine, though he did nothing to really stand out in Beautiful Bones. Sakurako on the other hand had a much better range of emptions to play with. There’s no doubt that she stood out among those on show here, so she gets the points. Best VA: Shizuka Ito as Sakurako (Beautiful Bones)
Final Scores: Nyanko Days – 6 points, Beautiful Bones – 8 points
Well, that was a surprisingly close one. If I’m being honest, I enjoyed both episodes and I will certainly be sticking with Nynako Days. With such short episodes and a strong execution, I can’t see any reason not to! That said though, Beautiful Bones will be an interesting one going forward especially as it’s paired with Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid in the semi-finals. But have you seen either series? Let me know your thoughts down below.
Thanks for reading everybody, I’ll catch ya later.