The Infinite Zenith

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

Saki Zenkoku-hen: Final Reflection

“A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation.” ― Saki

What the quote means is that in fiction, sometimes, a little creative liberty is preferred over supreme accuracy, and in a series such as Saki, this idea is quite useful, allowing the anime to focus on the character development, rather than the specific mechanics behind mahjong. Surprisingly enough, the above quote isn’t from Saki Miyanaga or Saki, but rather, Hector Hugh Munro, who was a British writer with the pen name Saki, and specialised in writing short stories satirising Edwardian society and culture. I’ve finally finished all of the Winter 2014 offerings. As far as Spring anime go, I’m still deciding which series I wish to watch, and as circumstances change (their reasons will be explained in due course), I probably won’t be following my traditional style of doing first impressions, midseason impressions and final reflections. For now, though, we return to Saki Zenkoku-hen, or more appropriately, what I consider as the first installment to the second season. After a harrowing back-and-forth match between Kiyosumi, Eisui, Himematsu and Miyamori, Kiyosumi wins thanks to Saki’s über-micro. Himematsu also makes it to the semi-finals as well, but the journey here was accompanied by the mahjong, as well as the much-welcomed exposition into each of the character’s motivations for being here. In particular, Toyone Anetai’s backstory was particularly enjoyable, presenting her as having a very sentimental side; she aims to win because it would allow her to continue spending time with Miyamori, and is seen asking for Jindai’s, Nodoka’s, Saki’s, Kasumi’s and Kyouko’s autographs. As the quarter finals come to a close, it seems that Saki Zenkoku-hen also ends here for the present.

  • I’m  not entirely sure if I actually have twenty figure captions’ worth of content for Saki, but I will try my best to make sure that all of the screenshots are accompanied by something, seeing as this is one of the few talks that feature a good number of screenshots. Here, Nodoka reacts to Hatsumi’s headdress, which seems to frighten her.

  • I’d figure I’d actually include a picture of Yuuki with her trademark tacos, which have origins in Mexico and predate European arrival in Mexico: the earliest tacos were filled with small fish, and the name is derived off Mexican Spanish for “plug”.

  • In her match, Nodoka wastes no time in bringing out her equivalent of the RG System; after she settles into a match, Nodoka depends on logic and reason to determine her next move, rendering her impervious to the über-micro other players wield. While common sense dictates leaving these trump cards for when one needs them, there are some cases where they are immediately activated. One of the best examples I can think of would be in Gundam Build Fighters, where Reiji and Sei immediately activate the Star Build Strike’s RG system during the match against Nils Nielsen’s Sengoku Astray.

  • Matches are paced slowly enough so that while the characters contemplate their next move, flashbacks can be fit into the game. During her match against Nodoka, Kinue Atago recalls a conversation with the team captain, Kyouko Suehara. She makes an entrance by kicking Etopen, frightening Nodoka again, prior to the start of the match.

  • Miyamori hails from the Iwate prefecture, the second largest prefecture in Japan after Hokkaido and has one of the lowest population densities in Japan. Despite only having three members initially, things have since picked up, and their school is known for defeating Makabi.

  • I finished Saki: Zenkoku-hen a ways back, watching the episodes as they came out and therefore cannot recall any specifics about the matches anymore.

  • Saki prepares for the final match that will dictate who gets to advance to semi-finals: she’ll be taking on Miyamori’s Toyone Anetai, Eisui’s Kasumi Iwato and Himematsu’s Kyouko Suehara. As the match kicks off, Kyouko finds herself under heavy fire from the other schools after scoring several wins. It’s said that the tide of battle can change in the span of minutes, or even seconds; this holds true in Saki, where the state of a match at any given time is insufficient to determine the final outcome.

  • Toyone’s story is explored in greater detail, illustrating her desire to remain with Miyamori’s team and play mahjong with them for as long as possible. Becuase she lives in the rural area of Iwate, and the fact that her village does not have many young people, Toyone learnt to play mahjong by watching televised matches and eventually desired to play alongside other people. Her experience at Miyamori marks the first time she is able to do so, so for Toyone, these times become a memory to treasure, and she resolves to preform her best so that she can continue playing mahjong.

  • Despite being pressured by other players and dropping into third place, Saki eventually manages to get into her groove and devastates the other competitors, raising an aura that frightens her opponents and even shatters Sae’s monocle.

  • After the match ends, tensions ease off, and Saki moves on to show the post-game results: Eisui and Miyamori are eliminated, while Himematsu and Kiyosumi go on into the semifinals.

In my previous reflection, I mentioned that the series was ill-paced for a one-cour series, given that it would not be able to focus on the secondary characters. I take it back: in the second half, things settle right back into the old pace, giving all of the competitors a human side, and as such, despite being highly proficient mahjong players, they are also people with motivations and feelings. This contributed to the first season’s enjoyment factor and here, also breathes depth into the quarterfinal’s competitors, meaning that the second half of Saki: Zenkoku-hen is able to maintain the viewer’s interests and ends up being quite fun to watch. However, since the season ends with Yuuki stepping up to the plate for the semi-finals, it could be quite a while before the finals, where Teru and Achiga will probably present a fierce fight for Kiyosumi. I imagine that Saki Achiga-hen episode of Side-A will need to be watched in order for their reasons for fighting to be known.

  • Following the end of the quarterfinals, Miyamori and Eisui decide to hit the beach together. I understand that my image distributions are once again, skewed towards the end of the series. This is a consequence of my recollecting more recent episodes with greater clarity than I do with older episodes, and as such, I have more thoughts about more recent episodes.

  • Saki is seen holding an autograph board, intending to sign it for Toyone’s sake. Despite scoring a victory, Saki wonders whether or not she’ll be able to hold off Kyouko again; during the captain’s match, despite lacking any über-micro, Kyouko manages to hold her own by using strats to compensate. I will continue to refer to the players’ abilities as “über-micro” because that separates my Saki content from other reviews out there.

  • Nodoka runs into the Achiga-hen players. I honestly believed that this series was going to be twenty-something episodes long and was hoping this post would be me correcting myself, saying this was the true halfway point, although it’s been several weeks since the thirteenth episode aired, so I suppose those online sources ended up being right about there only being thirteen episodes.

  • Despite being compared to Girls und Panzer, Saki predates the former, although Girls und Panzer wildly popularised the concept of WWII-era armoured warfare and Saki does not seem to have imparted such an effect for mahjong. Despite this being the case, Saki ends up being quite enjoyable in its own right.

  • As it stands, there will be at least two more seasons, depicting the semi-finals and finals. The manga is still on-going, so this would probably account for why the anime would stop here.

  • Achiga’s lineup include Shizuno Takakamo, Ako Atarashi, Kuro Matsumi, Yū Matsumi and Arata Sagimori, which I have not even bothered to name in order here because of a lack of familiarity. Will I return and watch Saki Achiga-hen episode of Side-A? Only time will tell; exams are nearly upon me, and then I will begin my Master’s of Science in the fall. Over the summer, I will repraise my role as a developer and work on a brain simulation while simultaneously helping out with a start-up company. When I’m not engaged with these things, I will fulfill my promise of living a little more and learn to find more happiness in the subtle things in life.

  • Two new characters join the cast: to the left is Risa Noyori, and on the right is Misaki Murayoshi. The former is a professional analyst whose eternally frustrated appearance conceals her excitement for these games, while the latter appears to be a competent announcer. I look forwards to seeing their dynamics, as well as how they’ll commentate on the matches with their style later on.

  • With the coming of the semi-finals, three new schools are introduced, and once more, Yuuki steps up to the first match. It’s going to be a while before any news of a continuation will arise, but when it does, I’ll be there to see it. Up next will be posts about Battlefield 3 Premium (which I purchased for a cool fifteen dollars on an Origin sale), BioShock: Infinite, and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, now that I’m only two levels from finishing the campaign. The timeline for theses will be before April ends. Once May rolls around, I will open the month by doing a talk on Metro: Last Light (after I beat the game again to get screenshots). After that, comes porting my old website’s Gundam Unicorn posts here, and then two special posts will be published. One of these will be an extended talk on the Gundam Unicorn Finale: Over the Rainbow, and the second will be a very personal reflection on the entire Gundam Unicorn series, which holds a unique place in my life.

Given the current rate of progression in Saki Zenkoku-hen, I would be inclined to think that another twelve or thirteen episodes will be required to finish the semifinals, and from there, the finals might require another twelve or thirteen episodes. Saki generally remains quite entertaining for the fact that the seasons have that balance of character development and actual mahjong, although given its pacing, it could be quite a ways before we see the conflict between Saki and Teru resolved. The specifics behind what caused the rift between Saki and Teru is something I’m quite interested in seeing, especially now that a short hint of it was provided in the finale, and as such, I will follow future installments of Saki, although whether or not I’ll have time to talk about future episodes when they release will be an entirely different story. While I’m hoping that Saki resumes sooner rather than later, at present, I know nothing about when the semifinals will be adapted into an anime. Assuming that I have sufficient time to write about Saki whenever it comes out, I will stick to my current trend of not analysing the individual hands in the game; previously, I noted that the different hands were already predetermined and serve to build suspense, but otherwise, are less effective at conveying a character’s personality relative to their flashbacks and recollections.

2 responses to “Saki Zenkoku-hen: Final Reflection

  1. RyC May 3, 2014 at 04:51

    At the pace the manga is going, Saki might well continue on for the next 10 years before a resolution occurs, since less than 20 chapters come up per year -.-

    And tbh, I don’t really think that they deserved to call this the “Zenkoku-hen”, since only the quarter finals were shown; I, too, believed that it would span at least 2 cours by virtue of the name, but alas, that was not to be😦

    Like

    • infinitezenith March 7, 2015 at 09:04

      I do not doubt the contiuned existence of additional instalments to Saki: it’s a shame that the manga’s updating at such a slow pace, but for this series, I’m quite happy to wait.

      Like

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