Pic264While our anticipated lunch interval didn’t really achieve much, it was great seeing some of the characters from Side-A after they’ve been out of the spotlight for so long – Sukoya and Kouko have gotten little cameos here and there, but their presence has been sorely missed! Not that there’s anything wrong with Kainou-pro of course. It was also nice seeing the Achiga girls and Arakawa Kei once more, whose friend seems to be targeting Jindai Komaki in the individuals – which, as I’m sure you know, won’t be happening for many, many moons. Lunch also served as a interlude period for the unfolding of Hisa’s many worries this episode, which was a rather strange sentiment for her to carry – and it was one steeped in lots of foreshadowing. Not much attention is usually paid to the pre-match thoughts of any character, let alone Hisa. And putting that aside, I’ve never associated her with any emotion resembling anxiety before – all along, we’ve known her as a confident buchou with a calculating, devious streak. She was capable of sinking someone below zero in her first round match, and yet we’re seeing that same person feeling the pressure of the Nationals all of a sudden… it’s pretty unsettling. Hisa herself identified Eisui and Himematsu as potential threats, so maybe she’s intimidated by the prestige of her opponent schools… I don’t know about Eisui and their team of Nodoka-size boobs, but she’s probably made the right call in being wary of Atago Hiroe.

Pic268Hiroe is loud, confident and almost seems arrogant – the complete opposite of Hisa’s current demeanour, which is not helpful for Kiyosumi. I loved it when Miyamori essentially just told her to shut up! Up till now, mahjong matches have involved all these internal monologues only broken up by the occasional call, and yet here we have this awesome girl being extremely loud and breaking protocol left and right with her stupidly hilarious jokes involving a humble 6-pin and an accidental suji trap. She could have gone for the tsundere reaction (i-it’s not like I wanted to declare riichi, or anything) but that would have gone completely against her image 😀 Seriously, though. Hiroe, the after-riichi suji trapper. Never have I been so glad to be able to understand an inside joke.

Pic292All joking aside, Hiroe is a very strong player – I have a feeling she’s serving as Himematsu’s ace, while leaving Kyouko in the taishou position against Saki. I honestly don’t think Hisa’s quick recovery will be enough to surpass her, impressive as though that may be – if she plays her cards right, it’ll give her a fighting chance. Eisui and Miyamori are being warily aggressive too – in quickly ending Hisa’s dealership with a cheap hand, they got rid of the possibility of having to deal with a long renchan. And most of all, they managed to crush the momentum she built up with that epic tile-slamming win on a terrible wait (she even managed to win back the lost pinfu and iipeikou han through a couple of dora). Awesome hijinks will go down in the second half one way or another, but it won’t be smooth sailing like the sergeant match was.

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  1. Katreus

    Re: Fujiwara Rise – Not surprising she’s targeting Jindai given Toyone’s comment that Jindai basically owned her.

    Re: Hisa’s worries – As Mako thought earlier in the hotel room, Hisa worries about the rest of her team… but who worries about Hisa? Well, Mihoko and Mako apparently do but they’re a little hesitant to directly confront Hisa on this issue. (Hisa would likely laugh it off anyway given her personality.) In addition, this is Hisa’s first – and last – attempt at a deep run into the nationals tournament, and she’s been waiting for 3 years for it. Lot of pressure there. The 1st round was too weak for them to take advantage of Hisa’s nervousness, but Eisui and Himematsu are top ranked schools so they’d have the players that potentially could. I thought it was a really neat way to take Hisa’s characterization … make her a bit more human and 3D as a character.

    Re: Lt. Ace – There are three modes of thought on line up strategy. The first is to leave the Ace as Captain so that they can wrap up. This places a lot of pressure on the Ace, of course, and no matter how good the Ace is, going into the last match with a huge deficit can mean it’s impossible to make up the difference. Schools that ascribe to this thought are: Ryuumonbuchi, Tsuruga, Shindouji, and Kiyosumi.

    The second and modern / current thought is to set the Ace as Vanguard to get your team off to a great start. This puts pressure on following matches and your own team can focus on quick wins and defense, which is easier than having to chase points. Yuuki’s comment in S1 on even the best pros winning only 1/3 of the time gives an idea of how hard it can be to just win, much less win big. On the other hand, if your school gets in trouble at the end, your Ace won’t be around to clean it up. If your school is lucky enough to have a ‘back-up Ace,’ they’d take the Captain spot. Schools that follow this thought are: Eisui, Shiraitodai, and Kazekoshi.

    The most traditional school of thought, one that has fallen out of favor, is placing the Ace in the Lt. round where they can best choose on how to approach the round. If their school is behind, they can make a comeback when it’s not too late or the difference isn’t too big. If their school is ahead, they can push the lead out so that it’s easier on the Vice-Captain and Captain. Himematsu, with their long tradition of success, is pretty old-school … is it any surprise their school ascribes to this line of thought? Senriyama, to a certain extent, also follows this thought.

    I mean, there’s obviously some playing around with the lineups based on past experience / other schools’ lineups (i.e. everyone has to figure out how to deal with Teru as Vanguard) and the team makeup (having 2 Aces makes covering the proper spots easier and special abilities / requirements may require certain lineups), but even so, there’s a fair bit of synergy with the character and history of the school.

    Incidentally, figuring out the team strategy can give a fairly strong indication of where a team’s point gainers vs. defenders are.

    1. Vantage

      Re: Aces – From what I’ve seen in the Sakiverse, putting your ace as the vanguard only tends to be useful when your ace is clearly a cut above the rest, like Mihoko for Kazekoshi or Teru for Shiraitodai. I think what happened with Shindouji on previous attempts was that Mairu and Himeko were caught up in the ace battle to begin with, and that limited their effectiveness – they did great with Mairu as the vice-captain this time, as it seems like very few schools put their ace there. This then left Himeko with some firepower to duke things out in the final match. Achiga did pretty well with sorting out their line-up too, even though it may have been designed to maximise their chances of meeting Nodoka as you said previously. Shizu could deal with all the monsters in the captain’s match, while Ako was a solid point grabber (one of, if not their best player). The idea behind Kuro as vanguard was probably to dish out some heavy damage as their only ostensible occult player. Then Toki and Teru happened.

      1. Katreus

        Re: Shindouji – Well, they did great because they had Kirame (Subara!) there so they could afford to place her in the vanguard and not worry about being zeroed. If Toki had done the pragmatic thing (and Shindouji doesn’t know enough about Toki either way to guess she wouldn’t), she could have focused on defense, allow Kuro to be zeroed, and sail through in 2nd place. That being said, given what they had to work with in terms of team members and abilities, their lineup is very good. I would say that it can be worth it to sacrifice an Ace against another Ace to mitigate the damage as Senriyama did with Toki if you have another Ace (Sera) available to point gain. Eisui’s strategy vs. Shiraitodai would be similar (although their point gaining player is in the VC spot).

        Re: Achiga – They have a decent line up but I don’t think it was on purpose. Shizu’s ability appears out of nowhere in the SF match so I don’t think we can say that Achiga really knew about it and deliberately placed her there. It’s a fortunate circumstance but after-the-fact is not a reason we can point to to explain the before-fact strategy.

        Honestly, their team is really weird to me. In general, I’d say that some of their members have giant skill fluctuations from hand to hand (and crippling ability penalties) but the gap between their nominal Aces and the remaining players is little. In fact, their Aces perform pretty badly in comparison to other teams’ Aces but it seems their remaining players perform above average versus the non-Ace opponents we’ve seen thus far. Their middle players are very stable, point-gaining players that chip away or steadily increase a lead, and Achiga wins if their inconsistent players minimize point loss (both Kuro and Shizu have lost points in the QF and SF), almost the opposite of most teams’ strategies…

        I would say that one of their problems is that they don’t have a player who can gain a lot of points at this level (i.e. no national Ace-tier players). That’s fine — tech., I don’t think we can say definitively that Kiyosumi has an Ace tier performer either — since they make it up with several decent performers (Yuu, Ako, Arata), but I do think that means they’re an obstacle but not a serious challenger.

        I don’t see where else they could have put her because Kuro’s ability and weak point is both crippling and obvious such that all national players can see and probably take advantage of it (note: Yumi and Mihoko could and the shot suggests Kana could as well and while I’d consider them national-tier players, they’re not significantly better than other national-tiers either), but I cannot imagine that Harue, having seen Kuro’s level and power, didn’t know that Kuro was going to be thrown out there like meat to the wolves.

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