Pic847It’s the start of the vanguard match! Firstly, in terms of announcers I’m really missing the presence of Kouko and Sukoya here. It’s just not the same without them! I’m not sure what’s happened to Kainou-pro’s Engrish (it looks like she’s up to something though) but this new announcer is far too… orthodox, dare I say it. Kouko would have gone wild over Yuuki’s renchan! And speaking of Yuuki, her explosive east round is as strong as ever – looks like Himematsu’s Suehara Kyouko was right in identifying her as a threat (for now). Yuuki’s hands are incredibly fast, and she knows how to alternate between calling riichi and going damaten in order to confuse her opponents – it worked pretty well on Ueshige Suzu at least. And even when Jindai Komaki attempted to disrupt the flow through calling tiles, Yuuki still managed to complete her hand, albeit at half value; a dealer baiman would have been nice. I must admit, her daburii did remind me of Oohoshi Awai a little (minus the evil smirk and tile spinning), although in the end Yuuki isn’t a national-class monster, nor is she able to end a match in East 1. Unfortunately real life doesn’t work like that! I did appreciate how she loudly announced her intentions to the table though.

Pic884Of all the vanguards here, Jindai Komaki scares me the most, and she does so by reputation alone. What’s really unsettling is the fact that she hasn’t done anything yet – I was actually expecting some awesome wins from her this episode, and instead she even played into a mangan despite having “woken up”, whatever that means. All the players there felt the pressure of a national-class monster, so it’s gotta be significant in some way – it just hasn’t quite revealed itself yet. It nearly did, though – before Jindai dealt into Suzu’s hand, it looked like she had a closed chinitsu of souzu, and all the tiles we could see were triplets. That adds on toitoi or chiitoitsu at worst, and suuankou at best – it’s a beast of a hand, and it’s a pity she lost it. Also, if you’ll allow me to digress, her boobs are massive! I bet the media loves her just like they do Nodoka! I sometimes mix Jindai up with the other Eisui girl on her team who’s probably related to her… the size of her chest isn’t helping me tell them apart.

Pic869Suzu seems like a normal player (I’m sure Himematsu will shine when it’s Hiroe time) so the only other vanguard with an ability is Miyamori’s Kosegawa Shiromi. Her “Mayoiga” is sort of eerie in its own way… I’ve always found something unsettling about folk tales in which people are led astray or spirited away. But it’s a useful power to have – the more she hesitates, the more expensive her hand gets. It’s not too hax, and definitely doesn’t predetermine her wins (see Himeko and Ryuuka), although I was hoping for something bigger than 3000/6000. It probably won’t be featured for much longer though, especially now that Jindai’s letting herself loose. I’ve said it before, but it really does seem ominous, and Eisui were talking amongst themselves as if they expected her to lose a lot of points. She’s their ace, isn’t she? Why on earth would they be doing that?

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  1. Katreus

    Ah, the earlier posts don’t seem to allow comments now. I hope you don’t mind if I take the opportunity to comment a bit on them as well as this episode.

    Episode 1 – Introductions and lots of foreshadowing.

    Re: Kiyosumi vs. Himematsu draw reception – Well, this being Kiyosumi’s first go at the national tournament doesn’t help, but it’s not really a matter of whether they are a regional powerhouse or not so much as whether they are a national powerhous. Determining whether a school is a national powerhouse is usually based on historically good performance in the national Inter-High tournament. Schools like Rinkai, Senriyama, Himematsu, and Usuzan would be good examples of this. The only other famous schools nationally would be repeat appearances by schools that made a deep run in the tournament the previous year, but this is a much more temporary consideration as in ‘flash in a pan’ or ‘golden generation’ idea. Incidentally, at this point in time, Shiraitodai and Eisui is an example of the latter. It’s unclear if they can sustain their success without, respectively, Teru and Jindai. If Ryuumonbuchi had made it back to Inter-High, they’d also fall into this category.

    Re: Himematsu – Well, it came and went so quickly in the anime so it may have been hard to pick up, but there is a certain intrigue about the matchup categories this time around. Himematsu is ranked no. 5 in the nation and the only reason they’re ranked 5 is because they were shut out of a spot in the finals last year by Eisui. So yeah, it’s not really played up since we don’t see Himematsu’s reaction to this draw but the QF is a grudge match where Himematsu is almost certainly looking for revenge against Eisui. And oh yes, the Atago sisters. Fun note is that they have ties to Senriyama, the other Osaka representative, because their mother, Atago Masae, is Senriyama’s coach, which of course, makes FunaQ their cousin.

    Re: Rinkai – A bit more than just bigshots in their domestic tournament. Kyouko mentions that the (presumably mahjong) world’s attention is focusing on the three new scholarship students and that’s probably not even (much of) an exaggeration. Hao is mentioned to be the silver medalist at the Asian tournament in Incheon, Virsaldze was a major contender at the world junior championship, and Myeongha has played at the European championships and has a fairly high international ranking that Kokaji is also ranked in. This is verging on picking up ringers for their team.

    Re: Seeded Teams – Good guess. It’s shown in the screen of the tournament brackets, but the seeded teams are: 1. Shiraitodai (Side A); 2. Rinkai (Side B); 3. Eisui (Side B); 4. Senriyama (Side A).

    Re: Shiraitodai – The latter half of that team is overly dependent on their powers, and the inability to play basic mahjong defense was shocking. Seiko losing -59k points, 2/3 of what Teru gained, is a horrendous performance. I’m not sure how, but someone really needs to pound that in in the day or so between the SF and Finals for them.

    Episode 2 – Training camp start.

    Re: Hisa x Mihoko – Well, the one at the training camp was fairly obvious… but did you pick up that Mihoko’s Kazekoshi uniform is hanging up right next to Hisa’s at the Tokyo hotel? Heh. Kazekoshi was staying at a room on the same floor. However, apparently, some of them (Mihoko…) just decided to move straight in and stay in Kiyosumi’s room.

    Re: Ryuuiisou – Mako likes that yakuman and likes bamboos. She’s also shown she can get something like honitsu in the prefectural qualifiers. … So what happens if she meets someone that likes, say, warm tiles and will take all the red (bamboos)? It’s something I’ve been musing about off and on ever since end of Side A SF.

    Re: Cold Touka – Well, she is Koromo’s cousin. Anyway, actually, Touka did trigger her Cold Touka state once during the prefectural finals (Hajime and Jun both comment on it). Touka’s jealousy and desire to outshine Nodocchi in the digital style leads her to take herself out of it. So. Yeah. Touka could have dominated that match, but uh… Touka was Touka. In any case, given the characters for Kuraokami next to her picture (legendary Japanese dragon and Shinto deity of rain and snow) and the later discussions, it’s pretty obviously a (perfect) flow control ability. Given the earlier shot of Touka staring at the river (literally and in riichi mahjong, the river also refers to the discard area) and the records, it seems to show that while her wins were pretty, she was somehow just winning constantly. By contrast, her opponents were not able to build viable hands (i.e. break her flow control). Notably, both Koromo and Saki as seen in the records aren’t even in tenpai and in Saki’s case, nowhere close to getting a kan.

    Re: Rinkai’s Davin – Davin’s comments that she ran away last year but could face her head on this year implies that she’s been training and playing with a flow controller. Given who’s available to play her, that flow controller is probably one of the three new scholarship players. It’s also an indication that flow control disruption both indirect (aiming at a weaker player last year) and direct (her comment) is quite possible among the top high school players.

    Re: Yumeno Maho – Her full name. Or spread out – Yume no Maho. The power / magic of dreams. Ritz likes to play around with meaningful names.

    Episode 3 – Training camp end.

    Re: Saki vs. Maho pt. 1 – It’s been very interesting to me to see that Saki, if Maho had not preempted her, would have won with a West kan – again. The symbolism is… striking. We’ve seen West kans before in the early episodes of Saki s1, and in the promotional images for Zenkoku-hen, Saki is holding a West tile. West is frequently associated with death and Enlightenment (think: famous story Journey to the West with Sun Wukong, the monkey king, accompanying Buddhist monk Xuanzang). As it relates to Rinshan Kaihou, Saki is pulling a tsumo / flower / life from the dead wall. So, perhaps Saki has an affinity with West…

    Re: Rinshan Kaihou – Hrm. I don’t think it’s pride. Saki doesn’t seem to have much pride at all in anything. (Maybe possessiveness if Saki considers that her ‘territory’?) But Rinshan Kaihou was pointed out to her by her sister, who told her to bloom as hard as she could on the mountaintop. Every usage of Rinshan Kaihou seems like an affirmation of the sisterly bond she had with Teru, a message that she is doing what her sister told her to, she’s blooming with all her might. I’ve always wondered if someone else winning on a Rinshan Kaihou was like a slap to Saki’s face, that someone is stealing her (win) tile … someone is stealing the representation of a treasured memory / bond with her sister or someone is stealing her sister directly.

    Re: Misc. Training Camp notes –
    1. The flashback with Hisa and Fujita-pro has Hisa suggesting that Fujita is looking for special players for selection to two possible tournaments: the World Junior Championship (the one Virsaldze was a contender at for Georgia) and the National Mahjong Tournament. Someone who performs well against Virsaldze may be getting hard looks from the selection committee.
    2. A telling note on Mako’s power. Her power is apparently a souped up, mahjong-based Fusiform Face Area, which is believed to be a part of the human visual system that is usually specialized for facial recognition (but can also be used for other-object visual expertise). This usually comes up in relation to chess… Mako thinks of the river / discard area as a face wherein she can visually recognize similar or identical patterns and then change it (disrupt) so that it’s bad for her opponent.
    3. Hisa, as Club President and strategist, arranged for her team member’s matches and spec. did so with the hope of improving their abilities. She’s shown that she’s arranged for Saki to get a wakeup call (the dead wall may not be her territory at the nationals), Nodoka can’t really be trained unless she recognizes occults (not happening yet), Mako plays different people, including newbies, to be able to add them to her memory bank, Hisa herself plays games against strong players, and … arranges for Yuuki to play with Koromo and Jun. Huh.

    Re: Chinroutou – Hiroe is a national ace tier player so not everyone is as awesome as her, sadly. (I would consider everyone who got over 30k in one match at nationals as ace tier or above. Incidentally, this would make the ace tier or above group that we’ve seen thus far be: Toki, Sera, Mairu, and Teru. Hisa may or may not have reached this level with her renchan in the 1st match.)

    The 1 wan was pretty fortunate, but the added kan was an amazing(ly evil) trap. Added kan tiles can be called on for a ron and opens a dora, which usually helps the dealer (who is in riichi), so it seems exceptionally risky for Hiroe to do this. Hiroe is selling the idea that she is in tenpai and can benefit from the added fu of a terminal kan and/or dora. This allows her also to say “rinshan kaihou… not,” which further sells the lie. (A chinroutou is a limit hand and cannot benefit from added yaku. No player would ever say “rinshan kaihou, chinroutou” so saying that it’s not rinshan kaihou seems to indicate she’s not going for a yakuman.) 1 wan discard just makes it even more unlikely that she’s waiting on a hell wait chinroutou and that instead, she was going for chanta or toitoi. It was a risk, of course, but 9sou is a safe tile w.r.t. dealer riichi. Kuratsuki is bailing so 9sou would look safe with Hiroe’s misdirections, Hida has to drop it if she drew it due to riichi, and Hiroe probably judged that Karouto is going for honitsu or chinitsu in bamboo.

    For Karouto, 9sou both seemed safe and allowed her to stay in tenpai with pretty good waits for a sanbaiman. Honestly, given her hand, it’s hard to see what she could drop safely anyway with not many bamboo discards out nor honors. I guess hope 8sou lasts long enough to give her more safe discards but that would require her to move away and possibly give up on sanbaiman altogether.

    Episode 4 – Vanguard Start.

    Re: Kainou – Her pro card reveals that she’s known as the Spook and hopes to show her “phantasmogoric play.” Unfortunately, I have no idea what this means with respect to her power other than she apparently wants to watch a lot of good players intently.

    Re: Yuuki’s renchan – Well. That practice with Jun and Koromo has already started to pay off quickly. Koromo gives her the idea to go for renchans and her presence prepares Yuuki for someone like Jindai. Jun could easily disrupt Yuuki during the Nagano prefectural finals. More practice with Jun has allowed Yuuki to better power through disruptions. She’s also showing off a greater range of attacks by adding in more damaten. Yuuki isn’t a national-class monster as you noted… but she is becoming a stronger occult and more skilled mahjong player overall. As Kainou said, she didn’t pick up a single useless tile before her riichi and both Jindai and Shiro attempted to prevent her from drawing a single tile afterward (similar to how Toki and Kirame attempted to prevent Teru from drawing…). And not necessarily helpful but incredibly funny, Yuuki’s learned trash talking and boasts from Koromo.

    Re: East 1 – In general, we can say that strong occults have some sort of table / flow reading sense that may help them avoid rons, disrupt others, and twist probabilities for better results for themselves. After the 3rd turn riichi, Jindai drops a 8 man. Suzu thinks this is Jindai bailing because 8 man is a safe tile (discarded on 2nd turn by Yuuki). In actuality, I think this was Jindai’s attempt to disrupt Yuuki and Suzu did not realize that (at all; she was surprised Jindai was still in the game when Jindai calls on Shiro’s 5 sou). Suzu has 2 8 mans in her hand, which means if she had called the 8 man that Jindai provided, the 2 pin (Yuuki’s win tile) would end up in Shiro’s hand, who would keep it. Very interesting – Jindai closes her eyes when she can’t call on Shiro’s West discard even before Yuuki calls. In fact, both Shiro and Jindai know that if Yuuki draws, she’ll secure a win (and indeed, she did).

    Re: East 1 Bonus 2 – Not something you mentioned but the superstition is apparently with a fast riichi (i.e. Yuuki’s double riichi), it’s 1sou or 4sou. The tiles that Yuuki is waiting on are: 1sou, 4sou, and North. Ahaha. I suppose Suzu was just destined to play in.

    Re: Komaki – Line may have been missed but Saki’s on the right track as usual with respect to occult-type players.

    1. Vantage

      No problem, it’s fine – in line with its somewhat niche genre I don’t get many opportunities to discuss Saki (at least, not as much as I’d like to).

      Episode 1

      Re: Himematsu – If Himematsu are thinking of the quarters as a grudge match against Eisui, they’re certainly doing well in that respect. As of Episode 10, I think Eisui have pulled themselves up slightly while Kyouko’s been dragged down courtesy of Toyone, but somehow I still doubt that Eisui have much of a chance, even if Kasumi’s decided to activate her power. And as for the Atago sisters… it would have gotten awkward for Masae if Himematsu had ended up facing Senriyama (which would only have been possible in the finals, I think). Sometimes I still lament their loss. Side A really should have been titled Saki: Senriyama-hen.

      Re: Shiraitodai – I suppose Seiko’s mere presence on the line-up is only due to the way Shiraitodai operates. After deciding on groups with a set play style, all the teams duke it out in an internal tournament, with the winner getting to participate in the Inter-High. Naturally, the team that has Teru in it will get through. If there’s any justification for how badly Seiko played, it’d have to be the fact that Mairu was a solid cut above the rest. Seiko’s loss and Mairu’s overwhelming gain helped to normalize things so that all four schools were pretty much on a level playing field for the taishou match.

      Episode 2

      Re: Hisa x Mihoko – Heh heh. Hisa the pimp strikes again!

      Re: Ryuuiisou – Oh wow, I’ve never even thought of that connection. That’s actually… very plausible. While I don’t know about how easily Mako’s able to hoard bamboo, it’ll definitely help a ryuuiisou if there aren’t any red bamboos and wan tiles. Maybe this time Yuu will lose more points than Kuro! (Actually, who am I kidding) Also, have you noticed how unfortunate Achiga’s line-up is in general? The sole motivation of their team is to go up against Nodoka on the Inter-High stage, and there’s a 3/5 chance that Nodoka faces one of her childhood friends. And who will she play? Arata.

      Episode 3

      Re: Saki vs. Maho – I’ve heard of lots of West wind superstitions, including the one about bad luck befalling all four players if they discard a West in succession as their first discard (or something to that effect). Maybe it’s why a hanchan consists of just an East-South, too. Your insinuation that Saki has an affinity with West (and therefore death) may actually be an interesting metaphor for something – one of the theories I’ve read about regarding Saki and Teru’s estranged relationship refers to the possible death of their mutual friend having driven them apart.

      Re: Rinshan Kaihou – As in, she takes pride in it being “her” yaku, so to speak – possessiveness is certainly a better way of putting it. I’m not sure whether it’s the act itself of someone else winning on rinshan or winning with the ease and confidence that Maho did that shook Saki up. The way I saw it, Saki believed it’s an ease only she should have – the second time Maho called a kan (and started announcing rinshan before drawing her dead wall draw) it really rubbed Saki the wrong way. In any case, the dead wall probably won’t be her territory during the finals, with Shizu and Awai both having an effect on what tile Saki ends up drawing after her kan (if she’s able to make one, that is).

      Re: Chinroutou – Coming to think of it, Hiroe really is amazing… and she’s a normal player as well (although so are Sera and Mairu from your list). Her traps and tricks do really reinforce how different real life mahjong can be from online mahjong, the latter being my only real exposure. Things like body language, facial expressions or verbal comments can influence strategy and predictions to a massive degree. Something like tsumokiri can’t really be recognized over an online game, yet in real life that’s a fairly clear indicator that you’ve decided to go damaten.

      Episode 4

      Re: East 1 Bonus 2 – So that’s what Suzu meant by superstition. I just assumed she was referring to Awai’s daburii and her tendency to always have the kan tile become an ura-dora, but coming to think of it, Side A’s semifinals hadn’t happened yet at that point in time. Although you never know… Kyouko’s meticulous research meant she might have picked up on it, just like Harue did.

      1. Katreus

        Re: Senriyama-hen – I do as well! I thought their team was pretty competent and smart in general. For the Atagos, I don’t think it would have been too awkward. They must have thought about it before and recognized the possibility. There have been cases where coaches of an opposing team has sons or daughters on the other side in RL too. Dramatic importance aside, mahjong is just a game.

        Re: Seiko – Well, I can’t imagine that Teru didn’t get her pick of players (who’s going to say no to being invited or who’s actually going to put a player she doesn’t want on her team?) so Teru apparently wanted her there. Mairu did really well but Seiko basically got picked on everyone at the table. It’s mean to laugh but she is the worst player that we’ve seen in the tournament. Not just her table – of all performances we’ve seen, and some of the others, she really should be better than for a variety of reasons.

        Re: Achiga Lineup – Clearly on purpose though by Ritz. Saki’s not playing Teru either in the team tournament. If they think about it, it is somewhat of a blessing since Arata wouldn’t have emotional issues about Nodoka. As for Achiga’s thoughts, it’s a little funny because they overestimated Nodoka. Well – Nodoka is the Inter-Middle Individuals Champion… So they put the players who knew her in the traditional ‘Ace’ spots. In fact, they expected Nodoka to be Captain. Just didn’t expect a Miyanaga out of nowhere.

        Re: Death – Ah. Yes… Well. Maybe it’ll be covered in this season (and it’s more just ominous portents rather than any real confirmation yet). Didn’t want to spoil the idea if you didn’t know already.

        Re: Territory – Saki’s territory is kans, the dead wall, and … flow control. So, if Awai contests the kans, Shizu the dead wall, then the third Captain in the final should contest her flow control. Saki’s definitely going to have to overcome her trial by fire to bloom on / among the mountaintops at the zenith of nationals.

        Re: Double Riichi – Not likely. Harue’s insights are basically leaps of genius apparently and Kyouko looks at records, not the actual video (which Harue said she needed to utilize her connections to get anyway). A single hand, while strange, is not enough data to pick out Awai’s power, Harue aside.

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