Saki: Zenkoku-hen Episode 1 [First Impression]


Pic146Wahaha, welcome back to another season of Saki! This was the Winter 2014 show I looked forward to the most – and although nothing much actually happened during the premiere, the tension is already thickening with the introduction of all those intimidating schools. It’d probably be apt to mention how familiar I am with both this series and riichi mahjong in general; knowledge of the latter in particular is useful, but definitely not necessary. While I’ve watched both the original Saki and Achiga-hen, I’ve deliberately stayed away from the manga in order to make the anime a more exciting experience – as this will only be one-cour (and will thus only cover the quarters, as I’ve heard) I may decide to skim through the manga once this ends. As for my mahjong experience, I’m a casual player. I know all the yaku and stuff, but I wouldn’t say I’m particularly strong. I like aesthetics, so when I’m online I prefer Janryumon over Tenhou.

Pic150But anyway, let’s focus on Saki. Given that the combined training camp precedes Kiyosumi’s time at the nationals, I’m not sure why they’ve decided to skip that out – perhaps it’ll be shown through a series of flashbacks next episode or something. I don’t actually mind, as it’s so exciting finally seeing them heading to Tokyo! I love how all the other Nagano schools decided to turn up as well – Kazekoshi have a valid excuse due to Mihoko’s spot in the individuals, but that’s not really the case with Ryuumonbuchi and Tsuruga xD And as I really enjoyed Kouko and Sukoya’s commentating in Achiga-hen, I’m glad they’re back this time as well!

Pic155This episode introduced pretty much all the prominent schools competing in the nationals – and in one way or another, all of them are menacing. You could sort of tell from the lack of enthusiasm at their draw that Kiyosumi is an anomaly in many ways. In all of the other regional finals, it seems like the regional powerhouse has won to little surprise – Eisui even won by knocking one of their opponents below zero instead of holding onto their lead until the all last. Rinkai also seems really scary with their team of foreign exchange students, all of whom are presumably bigshots in their own domestic tournaments. Tsujigaito Satoha in particular is one to watch, especially as she came third in the individuals last year – that’s third only to Teru herself, the Gilgamesh of high school mahjong. Scary stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if both Eisui and Rinkai are the other two seeded schools we haven’t seen thus far.

Pic149Strangely heavy emphasis was given to Miyamori, a team featuring a really tall girl named Toyone – I’m almost sure they’ll be one of Kiyosumi’s rivals in the very near future. And finally there’s Himematsu, another potential rival led by a redhead named Atago Hiroe. Of course, there were some familiar faces from Side-A too, with some cameos from Shindouji, Senriyama and Achiga. We also saw how Shiraitodai smashed their way to victory at their regionals with little effort, after Oohoshi Awai decided to use her double riichi + kan dora combo from hell to finish her victims off. Though after having seen them in action during Achiga-hen, I’ve come to think that the bulk of their fearsome reputation lies solely with Teru. When you take Teru away, the rest of Shiraitodai aren’t all that great (especially when you think about who they’re up against in the finals). Awai will have her hands full with Shizu, Seiko is absolutely useless and Sumire, despite being a good enough player has her tell. And even then she’s no national-class monster. If anything, outside of Teru it’s Takami who has the highest chance of shaking things up – I bet you anything she’s going to be the last dealer during her finals match.

Pic180Amidst all these teams, our heroines in Kiyosumi play the underdogs. They certainly didn’t look that threatening this time – I absolutely loved all the adorable Saki moments we had! I definitely dig her the most out of the entire cast (though Toki and Hisa are close challengers). Those of us who speculated she was just lost when she met Achiga were completely right – she even felt pressure from every single member of Achiga despite radiating her own terrible aura of doom without realizing it. Saki’s even cute while waking up – dojikko characters don’t get much better than this, and Nodoka knows it! Actually, Nodoka’s looking really moe herself these days, now that’s she’s let her hair down. Her boobs are still as massive as ever.

The lottery’s been drawn, and all the schools have gathered under one roof – let the nopan yuri mahjong begin!

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