The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Saki Zenkoku-hen: Mid-season reflection

“I’m coming at your base with two rockvees and an ambo – you’ve got a Jarmen, two scorps, and a quad. What do you do?” —Pure Pwnage

If I am playing Zero Hour and encountered such a scenario, I would use my jarmen to snipe the soldiers from the rockvees. The scorps can mop up the rest, and the ambo can be taken down with the quad. This is the solution to the age-old problem posed in Pure Pwnage, although I imagine readers might be wondering what place it has in the middle of a Saki Zenkoku-hen talk. The answer is simple enough: if that question didn’t have much meaning, then one has a reasonable idea of what it feels like to be watching Saki given my level of mahjong comprehension. However, I emphasise that Saki can be enjoyed anyways, and thus far, at the halfway point, Yuuki and Mako have played their turns, and Hisa has just regained her flair for the game. The series flashes back to the training camp, but as the episodes approach the halfway point, the games begin in earnest, and it’s enjoyable to see Kiyosumi duel other schools. As far as the new schools go, Eisui seems to be the most interesting of the three competitors thus far: the other just don’t feel like they can put up much of a fight.

  • Before I continue with the talk about the first half in Zenkoku-hen, I bring attention to the soundtrack, which has not been mentioned at all in the previous discussion. For me, the music simply serves as ambiance and doesn’t particularly stand out, hence the minimal mention of it.

  • From left to right, Hajime Kunihiro, Jun Inoue, Koromo Amae, Tomoki Sawamura and Touka Ryuumonbuchi. Last time, I never got around to properly introducing the Ryuumonbuchi cast. Despite being depicted as faceless champions early on, the first season did a spectacular job of painting them as human, attesting to the significance of being able to give viewers a chance to see characters from multiple perspectives.

  • I’ve already introduced Tsuruga’s cast, but I’ve included them here anyways. I will take the time to mention Satomi’s infamous “~wahaha” laugh and lethal driving skills. At the time of writing, my driving is now acceptable, and aside from merging, my basic skills are largely present.

  • Of course, I will need to continue practising so I may pass one final driver’s exam and get my full license. Before the tournament starts, Hisa receives a video from Kiyosumi cheering them on. While uplifting, this video may contribute to Hisa’s stress later on.

  • This is a rare image that features all of the main teams featured in the first season. I argue that because the national tournament is greater in scope, the second season would have benefited substantially from having twenty-something episodes’ worth of space to work with, given that it would have allowed for matches to proceed at a reasonable pace while simultaneously presenting character and school backgrounds.

  • Yuki explodes out to a massive lead over her competition in the East wind, but the tide of battle can shift in a heartbeat, hence the importance of building up insurance points, so to speak, so that if things go south, they don’t go south all the way.

  • Much like Girls und Panzer, there are a lot of characters in Saki, far more than is reasonable for people to remember from memory. I feel no inclination to do a post featuring all of the characters just yet, although as with Girls und Panzer, things could change in the future if time permits. Kasumi Iwato, Haru Takimi, Tomoe Karijuku and Hatsumi Usuzumi observe the progress of the match.

  • Komaki Jindai is a second year who acts as a vessel for 7 out of the 8 Goddesses. In the previous year, she pushed herself too hard, causing the lineup for Eisui’s team to consist entirely of the branch families. She bears a limited resemblance to Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita. Speaking of Tari Tari, I’ll probably get around to discussing why Tari Tari deserves a second season or movie after I conclude the half-way point talks and the Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate OVA reflection.

  • After a thrashing from Sawa Komaki sinks Kiyosumi to the bottom, a dejected Yuki returns to the waiting room. With only thirteen episodes, Zenkoku-hen must and does progress at a very rapid pace to ensure that all of the battles can be shown.

  • Mako’s last showing in Saki was a little disappointing, but she shows the extent of her skills in Zenkoku-hen and single-handedly restores Kiyosumi’s lead.

My impressions of the second season so far are that it is strong where the first season is strong, continues in the same spirit by balancing mahjong matches with a bit of downtime in between matches. However, characterisation of the other schools to give them a more human side was one of the strengths in season one, and this time around, though, I have yet to find the raison d’être for each of the schools, beyond entering for enternal mahjong glory à la Adam Richman and Man v. Food. While the mahjong and graphics have been improved from the first season, the other schools don’t appear to have reasons to win in the same fashion as did Kazekoshi Girls’ School, Tsuruga Academy and Ryuumonbuchi. As such, the other schools feel more like nameless competitors that are waiting be squashed. This is probably a consequence of the series’ shorter length, although I will note that the series is paced appropriately, and now that I’m fully caught up, every subsequent episode will be greatly anticipated.

  • Aislinn Wishart reacts to her micro being disrupted by unconventional plays from Mako, blowing away her concentration. Playing for Miyamori, Aislinn is not fluent in Japanese and uses her whiteboard to communicate with her teammates.

  • I hear that Achiga Girls Academy is going to be the final opponent Kiyosumi faces, although this would tend to reduce the impact of Kiyosumi’s victory in the tournament. I think that a final match-up with Shiraitodai High School (however unlikely or disproved by magazine scans) would be a more fitting conclusion

  • Hisa feels out of character prior to her match, leading her to stumble somewhat in her game. Earlier, I noticed a discussion elsewhere about a track on the Achiga soundtrack that “demonises” Teru Miyanaga, describing the song as being cold and formal, being more of a natural force than human. That is not so: I’ve listened to that song for myself, and I find that the song is bombastic, (probably) Vivacissimo and militaristic in nature, reflecting merely on her aggressive and unpredictable play-style rather than her personality. A song that reflects on Teru’s “demonised” personality would be more brooding and have a significantly slower tempo.

  • I know the feeling before a great battle, having stared down exams and even a thesis defense in previous years. I typically count on prep time to ensure that I know the material and have the confidence to execute my knowledge well under all circumstances. If I went into the thesis defense without prep time, I probably would not have graduated.

  • Because it’s the Sochi 2014 Winter  Olympics, I could easily chalk this image up as Yuki reacting to Canada defeating Japan in the Women’s Curling to get a spot in the semi-finals.

  • Admittedly, I haven’t been fully following the Winter Olympics fully, and aside from cheering on Team Canada for all of its events, the main event I look forward to most is the Men’s Hockey.

  • Near the end of the match, Hisa finally settles into her groove and wields her infamous Hell wait technique to make a short comeback. When partaking in an activity, some individuals enter state known as flow and become so focused on one activity that one’s sense of spatial awareness and time become distorted. I add that individuals with über-micro are able to perform the same as individuals in a state of flow, but maintain full spatial awareness.

  • This moment reminds me of Light’s dramatic strokes in Death Note, an anime I began back in 2010 to see whether it lived up to all of the praise surrounding it. Death Note itself is quite interesting, although it was only strongest at the beginning and didn’t really hit the right notes following L’s death.

  • Haru shares some muscovado candies with Hisa: after Hisa begins playing as she normally does, Haru realises that she’s having fun against another opponent. Muscovado is nutritionally richer than other sugars by unit mass, and this moment brings back memories of the MCAT, where I brought a bunch of trail-mix for the exam. Compared to candies, the nuts in the trail-mix provide slower burning calories, while the chocolates give an initial boost of energy, providing a minor amount of support for what is a long exam.

  • The seventh episode is out now, and I’ll get around to watching that. My next Saki post will be a final reflection of the second season. Because of the series’ namesake, I think the probability that Kiyosumi wins is a sure thing. Would anyone else care to challenge me? That’s what I thought.

Where do things go from here, one asks? Simply put, a solid knowledge of mahjong is not necessary or sufficient to enjoy Saki or predict the outcome, in the same manner that I don’t need to be an astrophysicist to enjoy NOVA. There isn’t a need to analyse every play because the outcome is predetermined in a sense: the writers have carefully crafted each play to optimise suspense. Every move that ever was, or ever will be, is already set in stone, being carefully picked to captivate the viewer. As such, even if Kiyosumi is likely to win the national tournament, the journey there will be a thrilling ride, and it would make the reconciliation between Saki and Teru to be a well-deserved one, dispelling the feeling that older siblings are always so cold and distant to younger siblings. One way or another, I am looking forwards to the series’ second half; we’ll return to Hisa getting her act back together and hopefully dispense some hurt before turning things over to Nodoka and Saki. Now that I’ve gotten my Saki  halfway point post out, my attention will turn to SoniAni (there is actually something to talk about) and The Pilot’s Love Song (Superman jokes aside, this is shaping up to be an interesting series).

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