The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Yuuki Kataoka

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.

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).

Saki final reflection and Saki Zenkoku-hen first episode impressions

“I demand your best!” —Graham Aker to Setsuna F. Seiei, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 2 Episode 21

This marks a deviation from my typical posting format, since I am going to do a combined season reflection and episode one reflection at the same time. The approach is simple enough: the paragraphs will be used for a talk about the original run of Saki, and I’ll make use of the figure captions to bring readers up to speed about Saki, as well as talking about the first episode to season two. I immediately begin by noting that Saki shares much in common with Girls und Panzer, except the former precedes the latter by three years, and rather than dealing with armoured warfare, speaks of mahjong. Other than that, both stories are driven by tournaments and a team’s rise to the top from obscurity thanks to newfound spirits introduced by its members. Both stories also feature a protagonist who is initially distant to an activity from their past, and through their experiences with newfound friends, rediscover their love for that activity. The similarities even extend to familial constructs: both Saki and Miho have an elder sister that is very distant, appearing as a cold construct whose talent and skill surpasses theirs. Indeed, these similarities is what led me to pick up Saki, even though my mahjong skills are virtually non-existent (and my familiarity with armour warfare doctrine is much greater). At the end of the day, though, this deficiency wasn’t enough to take away from the anime, which, while I imagine would be immensely enjoyable for those familiar with riichi mahjong, is nonetheless enjoyable for someone such as myself. Before I go further, I would like to mention the seemingly supernatural capacities some of the more skilled players have, which manifest as sparks and flames during matches and can be focussed to trigger localised events under moments of extreme stress. The last time I saw something in a similar vein was in the mockumentary Pure Pwnage, where gamers of a great skill are said to have über-micro. Because micro is defined as a capacity to masterfully rapidly handle decision making and react on instinct to a shifting battlefield, I will continue to refer to the girls’ skills as micro, since similar skills are needed to excel in mahjong.

  • Saki was released in 2009, if I’m not mistaken, while the Saki Achiga-hen episode of side-A was released back in 2012. That is to say, it’s been a long time for Saki fans since the last installation came out in the series.

  • This time around, I decided to do things a little differently, so this post is a sort of two-in-one where I will discuss the entirety of the first season set to images of the second season. For practical reasons, I was only able to acquire a DVD-quality copy of the first season, but this time around, since I’m on the ball, I’ve got access to HD video.

  • Saki looks so much more amazing in high resolution. The first Saki season was animated by GONZO, the same studio who animated the first season of Strike Witches. As such, Saki’s previous incarnation bore resemblance to Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji.

  • Let’s introduce Nodoka Hanamura first (left): she is a first-year, who was the previous year’s National Middle School Individual Champion and plays the vice-captain position (4th) on the team. Contrasting the other skilled mahjong players, who draw upon their micro to win, Nodoka depends on her experiences online, entering a zen-like state where she depends entirely on heuristics to determine the best play.

  • As I will note below, I shot through the entire season one in less than a week-and-a-half; after finishing the first episode, which sets the stage for the remainder of the season, I realise now that to fully enjoy what is going on here, one will require some familiarity with the first season.

  • Mihoko Fukuji is Kazekoshi Girls School’s mahjong captain, and is gentle towards everyone (including her mahjong opponents). Mihoko is a perfect figure in her school and takes care of the house chores in the Kazekoshi mahjong club, thinking in doing so allows other members to practice with ease. Like one of my instructors, who had done the same for our for cell and molecular biology class, she is able to remember the names of all hundred members in Kazekoshi’s mahjong club.

  • The first episode is very laid-back in tone, contrasting the thrilling mahjong battles from the first season. However, in the first few moments of the second season’s opener, viewers are treated to some of the same mahjong antics characterising the first season.

  • Despite lacking the air of a nigh-unparalleled mahjong player, Saki Miyanaga is masterful with the rinshan kaihō, or winning off of a tile taken from the dead wall after calling kan. It can even go to the extend that she can call multiple kans off of the dead well en route to the win. It is because of this ability that Hisa places Saki into the captaincy position. Away from the mahjong table, Saki is very shy, an avid bookworm, and has deficiencies in spatial coordination, leading her to lose her way at every tournament she attends.

  • To the left is Mako Someya, a second year who was introduced to mahjong by her grandfather, and Hisa Takei is to the right in this image, a third year student who is the club president. The former is able to use her memory of similar board patterns to try and determine the best means of victory, while the latter is able to utilise “hell waits” – waits with those with just one tile to win. Mako was the first person that Hisa recruited for the mahjong club and became someone that Hisa coould rely upon and she share her concerns to. Hisa exhibits great leadership skills over her team as well as organizing events and communicating with other schools in the prefecture. In addition, she’s very caring towards not just her teammates, but for other players as well.

  • One may notice that my posts completely dispense with any of the specifics behind the riichi-mahjong, which I have no understanding of. Instead, to gauge each match’s directionality, I rely entirely on character reactions and atmosphere to determine who has the advantage at a particular instance, although as with most things, the tide of battle can turn in an instant, as Saki demonstrates during the prefecture team competition.

Saki is able to capture my interest not for the technical details in the gameplay itself, but rather, for its careful pacing to hold the viewer’s interests. Contrasting armoured warfare, mahjong happens at a smaller time-scale and as such, watching a match in reality has a different pace than watching tanks engage one another. As such, Saki is spread out over twenty five episodes, and matches are well-polished. Starting with an introduction to Kiyosumi’s mahjong team, the series depicts Saki Miyanaga’s gradual rekindled love for mahjong, thanks in no small part to Nodoka Haramura. Kiyosumi’s team is composed of Yuuki Kataoka, Hisa Takei and Mako Someya, with Kyoutarou Suga being more of an assistant of sorts. During intermissions between rounds, or during particularly tense moments, characterisation is given to the competitors of all the major schools, providing their backstory into what drives them foreword to strive for victory. Whether it be Kazekoshi Girls’ School’s determination to thank their captain, Mihoko Fukuji, for her sacrifices for the team, Tsuruga Academy’s Momoko Touyoko and Yumi Kajiki, or Ryuumonbuchi High School’s Touka Ryuumonbuchi and Koromo Amae, the other schools are presented in such a way as to give them a distinctly human side in a manner similar to that in Girls und Panzer. The other schools are not merely opponents on the battlefield, but rather, everyone has a reason for participating in the tournament. It certainly adds weight to their fight, even though the title of the series is a clear indicator of the expected outcomes. In Girls und Panzer, the shorter length of the anime precluded exploring the backgrounds behind the other schools, but thanks to its full-length, Saki is able to delve into some of these smaller details. By setting up such a connection, it is, though unsurprising, very rewarding to see everyone gather in the end as friends to play mahjong for fun.

  • Yuuki Kataoka is a first year who dominates the East wind of every game, often jumping out to huge leads against her opponents. She is very fond of tacos and has a child-like personality, but is also is very protective of her friends. Her interactions with Kyoutarou are amusing; she regards the latter as an errand boy, and indeed, Kyoutarou’s presence in the series is quite limited owing to his weak mahjong skills.

  • Because of my lack of familiarity, I cannot assess whether or not a particular play was good or not in the same manner as I had with Girls und Panzer, where my incredibly vast knowledge of military doctrine allowed me to predict the ending exactly as it unfolded.

  • Where as I am an expert at navigation and have full spatial awareness of my relative position even in a new building, poor Saki is the opposite and somehow winds up in the competition hall’s basement. In season one, Saki’s tendencies means that she gets lost while trying to find the bathrooms, leading her team to wonder whether or not she succumbed to Koromo’s play-style.

  • For her reliability and dependable character, Hisa became one of my favourite characters in Saki, providing critical guidance to the mahjong club members during the training camp to optimise their play styles. She manages to draw a 33 in the nationals roster, and with this, the mahjong games will begin again in earnest.

  • Tsuruga Academy’s team include (from left to right) Satomi Kanbara, Kaori Senoo, Yumi Kajiki and Momoko Touyoko. Saki excelled at depicting the different competitors in the prefecture competition, giving them even more characterisation than Girls und Panzer did for the other schools. As such, when the first season ended, the competitors felt more like old friends.

  • Given the intensity of even the prefecture-level games, I imagine that Zenkoku-hen will feature even more über-micro than the first season. I commonly jest that anyone particularly skilled at something has über-micro for their capacity to do it masterfully. In my case, it’s adaptability and prioritisation of tasks, whether it be balancing papers and exams, or deciding what my next move in Battlefield 3 is, granting me what some consider to be unnatural ability as far as finishing things to a high standard goes.

  • This is Kiyosumi’s entire loadout. They captured my interests, and now that season two is here, I’m rooting for Saki as she strives to set things right with her older sister, Teru.

  • I will not bother to analyse the hands as the series wears on, but I can say that this series can be enjoyed fully even if one is unfamiliar with mahjong, rather similar to how Girls und Panzer can be enjoyed fully by individuals who have never heard of the Panzer IV Aus, Kamfwagen or differentiate between a HEAT and kinetic penetrator round.

  • I believe that at the time of writing, three episodes are out. I wonder how the pacing of Zenkoku-hen will go: season one was able to balance the relatively slow-paced matches by using breaks to introduce character backgrounds. Even if Zenkoku-hen is going to be thirteen episodes in length, if masterfully executed, the other teams could get some good stories, and that would be quite interested to watch, provided that they appear quite interesting in their own right.

  • Saki distinctly feels like a cross between Yoshika Miyafuji and Miho Nishizumi. I’ve refrained from introducing anything about the new teams this time: this will be left as an exercise for my next post, where I will talk about purely the second episode and if persuasive in the episode, introduce some of the other teams.

It was a harrowing week-and-a-half for me to catch up with Saki; at present, because term has merely begun and the major deadline of scholarship applications have already been met, things are reasonably light, allowing me to have watched all the episodes quickly enough. Over this short period, the immediate enjoyment factor in Saki stems from a combination of good storytelling to hold the viewer’s interest, capitalisation of downtime to explore backstories, and dramatic visual elements to depict what characters are inwardly feeling during their matches. The design is such that even those with no substantial mahjong background would be able to enjoy Saki. There is one primary element that has not been explored to much detail yet, though: Saki’s distant relation to Teru, her elder sister. The manga suggests that Saki’s incapacity to swim might have a hand in this current status, and with the anime now at the nationals, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, as well as watching Saki reconcile with Teru in the same way Miho and Maho reconcile at the end of Girls und Panzer. Having now finished Saki owing to the overwhelming powers of multi-core optimisation and mobile systems, I have finally begun watching Saki: Zenkoku-hen. I will close off my reflection here, and promise that I will do a talk on the second episode, before returning at the half-way point and finale to provide insights into the Saki about its strongest points. With the sequel projected at being thirteen episodes long, I’m tempted to do talks for each episode, but unfortunately, time is a premium for me, so after my next Saki post, readers will have to wait until episode six for the next one.