Sakurako-san is another one of those unfortunate anime which could potentially have been really good had it just done a few things differently, but instead sadly ends up fumbling upon itself thanks to a handful of slip-ups. It’s quite similar to Hyouka as far as its theme and plot progression goes, but the pacing is significantly worse. The story follows a normal high school boy named Shoutarou who has a not-so-normal friend called Sakurako. She has an unhealthy addiction to bones of all things, and finds it fascinating to study their history. By some strange coincidence, whenever the two of them are together they just so happen to get themselves accidentally involved in numerous bizarre cases, usually where a corpse or a skeleton is found and they have to figure out its story. So it’s a mystery anime, which is definitely something I appreciate since we don’t get to see too many of them nowadays, and it’s also one of the more interesting genres in fiction in my opinion.
With the amount of mystery, it’s hard to deny that there’s some pacing issues. The first episode only sets up the general concept of the series while the majority of the remaining ones mostly adapts a non-linear story. Sakurako’s interest about bones is also highlighted easily with her fascination. She’s the type of woman with a level headed coolness and possesses an intimidating intellect. On the other hand, Shoutarou is more of the typical schoolboy who tries to make a difference. The two are hardly alike but does manage their time together to solve cases. Mystery shows like this is also crafted by its thrilling atmosphere. There are some episodes that are prime examples of this such as the case of “The Cursed Man”. Then, there are some rather sincere cases about family like the one about Yuriko’s grandmother. This can be a hit or a miss and sometimes can feel distracting. As I’ve mentioned before, pacing of the show is really a nag. At times, it offers a twisty, stylistic mystery with promise while other times leaves disappointment in the eyes of a boring resolution. It still relies on some old school mystery formula and recycled ideas that isn’t so thrilling. This doesn’t help by Shoutarou’s personality as he is a guy with little characterization but plays as more of a supporting player at each case.
Unfortunately however, Sakurako-san is not what I would call a “satisfying” mystery anime. The reasons being a) it’s episodic, and b) it’s rushed. All of the cases in this anime are resolved in either 1 or 2 episodes, resulting in a myriad of short stories instead of a longer ongoing problem. And quite frankly this is a very bad thing for a series of this genre. There’s simply not enough time to go through all the steps properly without either rushing it completely or making the mystery so simplistic that it’s not even interesting to begin with. And this is the main problem with Sakurako-san as an anime, namely that it time and time again tries to do too much in too little time. Instead it almost feels like the anime is trying to cheat the system by skipping a step or two. The whole investigation and pondering phases are almost cut off completely. How? Well simply by making Sakurako be absurdly overpowered as a detective. By that I mean to say that it doesn’t matter whether the case in question ends up revolving around human biology, psychology, chemistry or 19th century painting techniques; no matter what it is, Sakurako knows everything. She can figure out any mystery within minutes with almost no clues to work with. In other words: Every case ends up feeling very unimportant due to how quickly and easily they are solved, it gives the viewer almost no time to think for themselves (which is without a doubt the #1 most important thing in a detective story so this is a huge problem) and there is very little semblance of tension since you always know that Sakurako is going to save the day within the next minute no matter what.
Despite being a mystery show the colors were oddly bright, it didn’t fit the presentation and comes off as “off-putting”. The art is still good, despite not matching the overall tone of the show, it is just weird. The colors also take away from the atmosphere of the show, unless you just like the pretty colors then you should have no problem with it, this is suppose to be a mystery so you typically expect darker shades of colors but with this it’s too bright. The opening song is quite nice, nothing noteworthy, it’s just nice. The ending song is decent. The OST is pretty forgettable since it doesn’t stick out it is just more of a background thing, like it should be, though I feel disappointed on that part. Voice acting? It was alright, voices matched, kind of. Overall I have no real problem with the sound. In the end though, despite the fact that there are tons of issues with Sakurako-san as an anime, they all stem from the exact same source. The heart of the problem is quite simply that the total episode count is *way* too small. They should have taken the same amount of content and adapted it in maybe 24 episodes instead of compressing it into merely 12.
The rushed pacing means that every mystery story gets way too little exposition and instead they have to fill the holes by using Sakurako as a cheat code, enabling them to skip out on half the steps in every arc. That’s like a band aid measure, it doesn’t actually resolve the problem itself whatsoever. What makes the mystery genre so fascinating is the process of solving the matter at hand; you investigate for clues, try your best to put them together, and then finally present the solution. Sakurako-san however basically skips out on all that and just blatantly gives you the answer right away. Talk about taking just about all the fun out of it. With all that being said, Sakurako-san is still a decent anime which might be worth checking out. It just annoys me because I sincerely believe that it could have been really damn good had it just been paced better (or not been episodic to begin with), but instead we’re left with an incredibly flawed final product. Good mystery anime are quite rare to come by, so it saddens me when a series like this pops up with all the potential in the world, only to fall flat for a quite needless reason.