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Saki: Achiga-hen episode of Side-A – 02 »

Saki: Achiga-hen episode of Side-A – 01

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「邂逅」 (Kaikō)
“Chance Meeting”

Let’s get this out of the way first – you do not need to have watched the original Saki to enjoy this show. That said, certain details will make more sense if you have. Fortunately, I marathoned nearly the entire original series in the past couple of weeks to get ready for this (also, because it’s awesome), so I should be able to fill in the gaps. Likewise, you do not need to understand mahjong to enjoy this, though it might increase your enjoyment if you do. Personally, I only have the most basic of ideas about how mahjong works, but it didn’t impede my enjoyment of the main series, nor my enjoyment of this episode. So, with that out of the way, let’s get on with some lolis-playing-mahjong, shall we? First, the episode preview, j-just this one time! *tsun tsun*

The story starts three years prior to the rest of the series, with the highly energetic (and slightly stupid) Takakamo Shizuno (Yuuki Aoi) meeting up with her fellow sixth-year elementary student and best friend Atarashi Ako (Touyama Nao) early one morning. While waiting for the bus, they meet up with the frilly, big-boobed transfer student Haramura Nodoka (Koshimizu Ami). They soon find out that Nodoka plays mahjong, so they take her to the children’s mahjong class they attend at Achiga Girls’ Academy. There Nodoka meets the college student in charge of the class, old Achiga ace Akado Harue (Shindo Naomi). Nodoka wins the first hanchan (match), so Shizu calls in the club’s #1 player, Matsumi Kuro (Hanazawa Kana). They play again and everyone has fun, and before long the girls have all become friends. However, it was not meant to last. Soon, Harue is scouted for a corporate mahjong team, and the class she is teaching is shut down. With Ako going to another middle school in preparation to attend Bansei High School, the local mahjong powerhouse, the friends drift apart…and then Nodoka moves away completely. Fast forward a few years, and Shizu is in her third year of middle school when she sits down to watch TV one day…and sees none other than her old friend Nodoka competing in the national middle school mahjong tournament. What’s more, she won! After a quick freak out, Shizu decides she’s going to reestablish the Achiga mahjong club so that they can go to nationals and play against Nodoka again. She goes to the club room, and finds that Kuro has been faithfully cleaning it for the two years since everyone left. With the fire in their hearts re-lit, the two of them wonder how they’re going to get three more members before the next inter-high tournament, when suddenly a wild Ako appears! Only two more to go…

Phew! How do other blogs summarize so much? Glad I only do that for the first episode of a show. Now, the first thing that struck me about this show is that it’s a spin-off. “No duh,” I can hear you all saying. Well, the reason I say this is that, if this were not a spin-off, the story construction would be pretty odd. Here we have a character introduced at the beginning of the episode who acts like a main character (Nodoka), only for her to suddenly be written out of the show by the end of episode one. What’s more, she is held up as the protagonist’s whole reason for shooting for the nationals. If you’ve seen the original Saki, this makes sense, because Nodoka is an old, beloved character. It’s all self-referential, where fans of the original series go “Ohhhh, neat! Yes, this makes sense. Nodoka is kind of a badass,” while new viewers might not know this. So here, let me clear things up – Nodoka is kind of a badass. Them chasing after her is completely understandable. I know I would, oh my.

The second thing that struck me is that we have another potential “monster” player in Kuro. For new viewers, bear in mind that the original series was a sports anime, with all the tropes that entails, chief among them the character’s tendency to do completely bullshit amazing stuff that simply does not happen in real life. Think of The Prince of Tennis, and the crazy things those kids could do with a tennis racket. Same thing, except with Saki it had more to do with luck, intuition, pop-psychology, and borderline mind reading. Monsters like Amae Koromo and the titular Saki were able to pull off big wins not with quiet, deliberate play – that’s always been Nodoka’s schtick – but with crazy luck and insane skill. That’s what it looks like Kuro has in her ability to attract all the dora. What does a “monster” in the cast mean for the story? I’ll get to that in a moment.

(By the way, none of the above was criticism. I love it when anime characters do crazy stuff, as long as it’s entertaining. If I wanted realism, I’d go to work or watch sports. When it comes to anime, I like things crazy, just so long as it’s crazy awesome.)

Then there’s the characters. Of the ones I’ve seen so far, Shizu and Kuro are the ones who stand out the most. Well, and Nodoka, but I’m going to set her aside since we probably won’t see much of her anymore. With Shizu, I really like her energetic, straight-forward personality. She may not be real smart, but she charges straight towards what she wants, which is always refreshing to see after all the emo and/or reluctant protagonists I’ve seen over my anime-viewing career. Also, Yuuki Aoi really sold the role with her silly, high-energy voice. It was like hearing Oshiroi of Ben-to all over again! As for Kuro, I’ll admit that I’m highly biased towards HanaKana roles, but her earnest attitude in cleaning the club room for two entire years also struck a chord with me. That and perverted HanaKana is always a good thing! Ako and Harue haven’t really established themselves too well so far, but I’m sure there’ll be more from them soon.

Gods, I don’t know when to shut up, do I? I’m going to try to wrap this thing up before I start making people’s eyes bleed. In watching this spin-off, a comparison with the original Saki is inevitable – hell, I just did it for most of this post. From this episode + the preview + everything I’ve heard, it’s looking like this show will have less focus on mahjong and more focus on slice-of-life moments between the main characters. But – and let me pause, so you are forced to spend more time on this sentence, thereby imparting the gravity of what I’m saying – I do not think mahjong will be completely absent. The entire goal of reestablishing the Achiga mahjong club is for Shizu and the others to beat Bansei (their version of Kazekoshi / Ryuumonbuchi), go to nationals, and play against Nodoka again, and to do that they’re going to need to play some mahjong! Plus, the presence of a potential “monster” in Kuro practically ensures that this will be explored more.

Let me summarize things this way: if the original Saki was a mahjong sports anime, then this is a slice-of-life mahjong anime. Slice-of-life moments still happened in Saki, and mahjong will still happen here, it’s just not going to be the primary focus. And here’s the thing – I liked both of those things in the original, so even with the ratio flipped, I expect to enjoy them here! If you haven’t watched the original, I still suggest you do, but not because it’s necessary to enjoy this one; it’s just a damn good series. Hopefully this one will keep the fire burning!

tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – #Saki spin-off starts w/ loli Nodoka, genki Yuuki Aoi & ecchi HanaKana. I feel like I was watching Nodoka play just yesterday. Wait a sec…

Random thoughts:

  • Not many yuri undertones so far, other than various women oggling Nodoka’s chest. But honestly, who can blame them? I mean, look at that!!! Remember what I said earlier about crazy stuff? Now that is crazy awesome. Totally unrealistic, but no less awesome for it.
  • The name of this show is also crazy. Saki: Achiga-hen episode of Side-A? I have no idea what that means, and I strongly suspect that no one else does either. The original creator included.
  • I forgot to mention the animation. It’s pretty good over all, but what I really liked was the character animations / expressions. They were crisp and really lively, which really helped make the show more endearing. Sure, it’s your standard cute-girls-doing-cute-things, but…well, it was really cute! =X
  • If anyone asks, tell them I watch this show for the mahjong. Wait, crap! That’s the wrong picture! Uhm, uhm…I watch it for the mahjong. Yes, the mahjong…

Full-size images: 16, 17, 35

 

OP Sequence

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OP: 「MIRACLE RUSH」 by StylipS
Watch the OP!: Streaming ▼

Preview

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End Card

Saki Achiga hen episode of Side A   01   End Card
April 9, 2012 at 12:55 am
40 comments »
  • April 9, 2012 at 1:12 amelior1

    @STILTS actully you wrong there will be lot of majong games soon in the nationals i wont spoil to you anything but i will just say lot of the old characters will return including the main one

  • April 9, 2012 at 1:14 amelior1

    @STILTS also you will do short reviews for the rest of the episodes or not?wait for your answer

    • April 9, 2012 at 1:18 amStilts

      I tend to have problems with brevity (in that she’s a saucy bitch and will have nothing to do with me), but it’s pretty safe to say that the lack of an episode preview + not needing to talk about series-wide stuff will make the other posts shorter.

  • April 9, 2012 at 1:28 amMarina2

    I will explain the name for you guys then….

    Saki: Achiga-hen episode of Side-A

    Saki = Name of series
    Achiga = Achiga school
    “Hen” means chapter in english (ever watched Higurashi? It’s also named its chapter like this – Onikakushi-hen, Minagoroshi-hen)
    episode of = Notig to explain
    Side-a = this a bit spoiler..
    Show Spoiler ▼

    So, to translate the name

    This spin-off is the story about Achiga school who is on the side A of…. (look in spoiler above)

  • April 9, 2012 at 1:50 amCroos

    You guys shouldn’t miss that the heroine has no pantsu

    • April 9, 2012 at 2:21 amAngelus

      Actually you shouldn’t miss that, true to the original Saki vibe, no female character has pantsu.

    • April 9, 2012 at 2:31 amBenigmatica

      Well, every girl on this series (who competes in Mahjong) has no pantsu since the staff from Saki are back!

    • April 9, 2012 at 12:21 pmKyzel

      Pantsu is a myth. But I watch this for the Mahjong just like Comrade Stilts said.

  • April 9, 2012 at 2:21 amTrombe

    Can’t wait to see Ryuuka and Toki <3!!
    Oh god Kuro has almost all my love.

  • April 9, 2012 at 2:35 amCroos

    Best line: 大変な失礼おば

  • April 9, 2012 at 2:47 amLightnDark

    I haven’t watched the episode yet but to be fair, the I watched the original Saki series for the mahjong. (The fan service and other things were just bonuses)

    I know how to play mahjong and I gotta say the Japanese scoring system is one of the more complex ones, and thus it is also more fun (except when it comes down to calculating the scores) since you can win in so many unique ways. (eg Richii; dora)

    Reading this post though, I hope they add in more of the “sport” aspect instead of slice of life cause I watch it for mahjong, really >_> Apart from making our eyes bleed, are you in a competition with Verdant or something? /jesting

    • April 9, 2012 at 8:02 amStilts

      There is no competition. I have beat him soundly. >_< I really ought to work on that…

  • April 9, 2012 at 3:00 amelior1

    @LightnDark dont worry they will add lot of the sport later when the old characters apear

  • April 9, 2012 at 3:06 amzzeroparticle

    This episode manages to be fun on sheer entertainment value. They manage to retain the energy that made the original Saki so enjoyable and hopefully, we’ll have more of the same fighting spirit. It’s already off to a good start.

  • April 9, 2012 at 3:13 amConfused

    Shizuno has the strangest uniform I’ve ever seen. She isn’t even wearing a skirt. This has always bothered me ever since i read the manga.

  • April 9, 2012 at 3:25 amJo

    Did this episode remind anyone of Chihayafuru with the whole “as long as we keep playing, we will meet again etc etc. but first we must form a club…”?

  • April 9, 2012 at 3:53 amKirin

    Miyanaga Teru in the OP… F*** yeah!

    I like how the OP parallels the one in the original series. Now we have a feel of the main rivals of the Achiga team for the duration of the tournament.

    Manga spoiler:
    Show Spoiler ▼

  • April 9, 2012 at 4:13 amAnimesetsuna

    How I love to hear their voice (Aoi, Nao, Kana). Thinking about watching TWGOK Heroines back then. I will continue to watch this series because it’s interesting.

  • April 9, 2012 at 4:33 amDayriff

    One thing from the original Saki series that I think it could have used was the explanation in the opening about how this is an alternate universe where mahjong is hugely more popular. Otherwise stuff like, “Harue is scouted for a corporate mahjong team” ends up seeming weird.

  • April 9, 2012 at 6:07 amricz

    well it’s pretty big for an elementary student (talking bout nodoka)
    So yeah I might continue to watch this one :D

  • April 9, 2012 at 6:21 amNovice

    finally I can watch Saki…
    I’ve been waiting for this

  • April 9, 2012 at 7:39 amskylion

    How she gets away with the lack of pantsu is a secret to which we all desire a revelation. And to think, I like her for the whole package, not just the service.

    • April 9, 2012 at 8:05 amStilts

      Seriously! Screw the higgs boson, I want to know how Shizu goes around all no pan and gets away with it. The mysteries of the universe must be unraveled!!

      • April 9, 2012 at 12:59 pmskylion

        Physics could very well be the way to go. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that a genki object moves so fast that once you observe it is is already in another location making any and all data gathering pointless. So let’s not be screwing the Higgs Boson to soon. It could be the path to the No Pan Observation.

  • April 9, 2012 at 7:43 amRC fan56

    Stilts, E+ cups are totally overrated to death~~. Okay it may look glorious, but at best they have 10 years of good shelf life before the inevitable gravity shift (ahem, sagging) occurs as Harmel the butler from Okami-san said. Once it starts, it’s all downhill. Such tragedy indeed.

    • April 9, 2012 at 8:12 amStilts

      Ahhh, but this is anime! Gravity has no effect on Nodoka’s assets. Such is the beauty of fiction. Also, the beauty of Nodoka’s assets, heh

  • April 9, 2012 at 8:23 amJason Isenberg

    When the first episode of Saki came out awhile back the last 3-5 minutes kept me on my seat and I NEVER PLAYED MAHJONGG! I had goosebumps just watching it. Now we pretty much have a prologue of this show except with somewhat unfamiliar faces. Though we already know ONE :P. I hope it lives up, because I hear there wont be much playing of the game (which I find to be stupid). We’ll see, I just like the show because of tho…um because of Mahjongg…yeah… :D

  • April 9, 2012 at 1:32 pmKJacket

    Probably more than 50% of the people who watch saki n this are in for the fanservice (and some of the mahjong) so don’t worry about it.

  • April 9, 2012 at 1:38 pmYakuman

    It’s awesome to see these girls animated. To be honest, aside from Kuro, none of the main heroines seemed to be particularly appealing to me in the manga, but Yuuki Aoi does a very good job with portraying Shizuno and I came to like her in this episode. Ako is still kind of bland as a character to me, but she transformed into a very cute girl at least, actually her design is far above the rest. Can’t wait to see more, and I can’t wait to see the actual mahjong parts because they are epic, like in Saki! *.*

  • April 9, 2012 at 2:20 pmmike

    That dress Nodoka wear at the end
    http://randomc.net/image/Saki%20Achiga-hen%20episode%20of%20Side-A/Saki%20Achiga-hen%

    is that a dress she wear outside or is more of a night gown, but god damn, yay to no bra.

    • April 10, 2012 at 2:15 pmZero Gold

      She actually has worn it outside before during the summer season. Read the extra story at the end of volume 5 of the original Saki manga if you wish to see it. I have to admit, that dress is quite revealing for casual wear.

  • April 9, 2012 at 5:31 pmxephx

    This was a nice episode, and all the 3 mains they’ve shown so far are pretty cool. I just hope this means a sequel to the original may actually appear.
    And yes more Kana Hana is always a good thing (also biased).

  • April 9, 2012 at 6:29 pmKamiyaCheap

    AKO sure transform from a shortcut hair wild looking girl to a complete “Ojou-sama”!!! Right now I’m in love with Ako!!! XD

    “Tacos” At the end! XD Nice to see Yuki again! XD

  • April 9, 2012 at 7:20 pmKit-Tsukasa

    Despite being a slightly different studio now, the budget for this show is incredibly low and still made up with a part of Gonzo’s original staff. A lot of recycled animation and cut-scenes shopped with the new characters. The only thing that actually improved was the Mahjong tiles and its details.

    Regarding this: “The name of this show is also crazy. Saki: Achiga-hen episode of Side-A? I have no idea what that means, and I strongly suspect that no one else does either. The original creator included.”

    Achiga-hen (阿知賀編): hen = episode, chiga = difference/different, A = A. So when they say “episode of Side-A,” it’s likely just saying that the story is a parallel one to that of the original where Side-A can be interpreted as the original series and this sequence we’re watching now is “an episode” of the same timeline.

    Either way, still loving this show just because it’s Saki, especially given the other random garbage this season. Very few shows have really caught my eye.

    • April 9, 2012 at 7:45 pmKit-Tsukasa

      Alternatively, it can also be easily interpreted as what Marina2 said earlier. Whether it’s a coincidence the school is named Achiga is something only the author knows…

  • April 9, 2012 at 11:04 pmBeckett

    This was an interesting first episode. I enjoyed it but I’ll definitely have to download the first season, since I missed it. I feel like I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had seen season 1 already.

  • April 10, 2012 at 3:01 amFreddeh

    Note to self: Go re-watch Saki sometime in the semi-near future…

    I’m glad a lover of the original Saki is covering this, makes it so much more enjoyable of a read, as I was a lover of Saki as well, despite knowing basically nothing of the game beforehand.

  • April 10, 2012 at 7:48 amYes!@

    Saki!!!! after the first season I got so much into mahjong that went into online gambling with it. Kind off like Nodoka did. Never were able to pull a “Saki” , no kon after Tsumo, no wind from the south. Sure did a 3 against 1 table, like president did to Saki. After losing kane was able to break free… Now this!!! my blood is boiling from the nopan err mahjong. I’ll go into “playing” dreaming on the gravity defying clothes and monster moves of hot onnas …. Will we get or share of taco this time around?!! Want more mahjong!!!!

  • April 10, 2012 at 2:49 pmelior1

    if they will keep in this pace we will get a crazy majong battles at least in episode 4 or 5

  • April 10, 2012 at 7:41 pmMarcos

    You should watch “akagi”, i watched Saki and didnt understood the majhong, but after i watched akagi i learned how to play it. if you have some time give it a try
    But Saki is also very good. I will watch this.