Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation stands as my favorite show of the new season. I love the beautiful animation, quirky characters, and puzzling mysteries reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. The latest mystery, the one which concluded in episode five, strongly reminds one of The Hound of the Baskervilles with its elements of a cursed dog, “the watchdog of hell,” and the male line of a family suffering mysterious deaths produced by high stress. The first episode of this arc even throws in my favorite Japanese author, Natsume Soseki, through the dog’s name being drawn from the Hector of the collection of Soseki’s essays dubbed Within My Glass Doors. (I started reading the Japanese edition of this only to stall it within a few chapters.) Sakurako also mentions that the Hector of Troy is honored to this day as one of the Nine Worthies. And, what wonderful knowledge of art Sakurako displayed in knowing that arsenic was the base of green paint used in the 18th century, and she even know about the chemical properties of arsenic and the effects of arsenic poisoning.
The above list of disjointed facts has no doubt tired and turned away many of my dear readers. So, I thank those who waited to see the point which I intend to make! Sakurako could never have solved this mystery without having memorized many facts, events, and examples of human behavior. Yet, in modern American education (i.e. the education style descended from Progressive educational theories propounded in the early 20th century), rote memorization has a bad name. Critical thinking, on the other hand, is praised to the skies, as educators proclaim teaching critical thinking skills as their highest goal. “What good are facts?” educators of the modernist heresy say. “Does it make a student a better person to know that the Normans conquered England in 1066?” Yes, it makes for a broader mind than that of the child ignorant of England’s change of rulers in the 11th century. Also, one hears someone say that they are not impressed with children who read fine literature, because they do not reach an adult’s understanding of it. But, they forget Chesterton’s dictum that if something is really worth doing (as reading the classics certainly is), it is worth doing badly. The child who reads Dostoyevsky is better equipped in his twenties to penetrate deeper into this author’s thought and into the thought of many other authors in addition.
Of course, I must add here that my reactionary Catholic educators, adhering to the usefulness of rote memorization and understanding of that finest work of literature–the Bible, and my broad reading allowed me to evaluate ideas and events through concepts of which my peers possessed no knowledge. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance ” (Matt. 13:12). To him who has memorized much, critical thought shall be supplied and sharpened to a razor’s edge. Thinking critically relies upon facts, events, and exemplars which the mind can apply to immediate problems.
This concept is exemplified in Sakurako. She does little besides play with bones and study. It takes the more extroverted Shoutarou to get her to use this knowledge of hers for others, and each employment of her knowledge sharpens her critical thinking. The anime even shows this as a kind of mystical power. Perhaps it appears mystical to her associates–even as Holmes’s skill in solving cases appeared mystical to Watson, but it is no more than deduction or critical thinking. So, it is that the student who simply reads, as long as his material is edifying, stands head and shoulders in the realm of critical thought above his fellows who avoid books. In truth, there is no dichotomy between memorization of facts and critical thinking: they correspond to one another within the same persons–as Sakurako manifests in her perceptive intellect.