|Happy holidays, Metanorn! It’s been about half a year since the the final episode of Saki Achiga-hen, but as anyone who followed the series already knows, 12 episodes just wasn’t enough to wrap up Achiga’s bout for the finals. With that said, over the next few months three 30 minute specials will be airing to conclude the first half of the 71st Inter High School Mahjong semi-finals.
Also, for anyone who hasn’t heard yet, there was also a recent announcement that Saki’s next arc, following Kiyosumi up through to the finals, will be animated in what will probably be the final season of the series. But, let’s not jump ahead! The fate of four schools still hangs in the balance, which two will make it to the finals and inevitably face off against the demon of Kiyosumi?
Mahjong is serious business.
I’ve read in numerous places that the pacing of the second match felt rushed, but it should be mentioned that nothing was cut from the source material, in fact the anime followed it quite closely. And though both the manga and the anime left us in the dark with regard to the second half of the match, by then we’d seen enough of the four players to know where the match was going. Keep in mind, the full match of the first round took four episodes to animate! Despite the shortness of it all, it was easily one of my favorites of Achiga-hen, not so much because of the strategy involved, but more so because of the imagery used to heighten the thrill of the match. One of Saki’s strong points has always been its incredible ability to rope even the most inexperienced people into the excitement of mahjong, in which I would include myself. I knew absolutely nothing about mahjong when I first started watching the original series, but over the course of a few seasons I’ve been roped in by the sheer exhilaration of the matches. The supernatural elements like Sumire’s ability to “sharpshoot” opponenets, or even something as simple as Yuu’s ability to gather “warm” tiles combined with the passion and inner thoughts of the players make it easier to grasp onto the basic concepts and strategies at play, as unrealistic as they may be. (But hey, this is only a cartoon after all!)
At this point in the semi-finals it seems quite obvious that Shiraitodai will be moving onto the finals, in part because of their clearly superior score and also because of the fated Teru/Saki reunion, so I’d say we’re looking at the second seat to the finals being a competition between Achiga and Senriyama. (I don’t want to count Shindouji completely out just yet though!) With that said, I’ll have to admit I’m supporting Achiga! That’s why it was relieving to see big sis Yuu once again clean up the mess left by her sister. Thanks to Yuu Achiga was able to steal second place from Senriyama, who completely crashed this round. Watching Izumi fall from grace was painful, but thankfully her first year spirit wasn’t completely crushed. (-30,000 points is a huge loss though!)
One of my favorite moments, from manga to anime.
Power to the pigtails!
The third match pits Achiga’s Ako against Senriyama’s big-winner Sera, Shindouji’s conspiracy theorist Hitomi, and Shiraitodai’s mysterious Takami. I’m not a big fan of Ako, and her play-style got a bit on my nerves this week, but she did manage to rack up some needed points. It felt like the entire match was simply building up the final seconds however, when Takami could finally reveal her presence in the match after making no real impact during any of the hands. That “reveal” was truly an exciting one, and I guess it goes to show that you shouldn’t underestimate Shiraitodai, a lesson that Ako failed to take. Her “garden” ability seems like it’s going to be quite the powerful one and it’s a shame the episode had to end right at the moment it was used!
Whether or not Takami lives up to the Shiraitodai name is to be said, but the next episode should be an exciting one. Honestly, I’m more excited about the fourth and fifth rounds than I am the current one. I’ve been looking forward to watching Arata show us more of her play-style and against three high level players she’ll need to really put it all out there. But! Even more exciting is the final round. First, we’ve heard plenty about how powerful Shiraitodai’s Awai is, but we haven’t really gotten a chance to see her in action. Likewise, Ryuuka, the captain of Senriyama, has also been said to be very powerful, but so far she’s seemed pretty underwhelming. Being a side story, Achiga-hen could go anywhere in terms of who makes it through. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shindouji ends up kicking everyone’s asses and going on to the finals. (More Subara~ wouldn’t be too bad!) See you again with another Saki post in another month!
Is your body ready for Harvest Time? kukuku~