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Saki: Achiga-hen episode of Side-A – 12 (END)

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「約束」 (Yakusoku)
“Promise”

The first players’ match of the Side-A semifinals is finally over! After a lot of hand-wringing and some stunts that would put the most hot-blooded of shounen protagonists to shame, the other players finally put a stop to the champion’s rampage. This was really a two character show, with a little extra something at the end.

First of all, Toki. As I mentioned last week, Toki is a textbook example of a writer making his us like a character, and then putting them through the ringer so that their pain is acutely felt by the audience. Apparently they didn’t feel this was done well enough last time, because they amped up both the emotional attachment and the pain. The pre-OP scenes with the younger versions of Toki, Ryuuka, and Sera reeked of death flags to me – flashbacks + desperate gamble by an already exhausted character? Oh noes! – which made the Triple Toki had activated at the end of the last episode (and which we hadn’t seen the results of yet) even more anxiety inducing.

Then there was the pain. Seriously, the exhaustion on Toki’s face this episode was worse than I’ve seen on characters in far more dangerous situations. Call it a luxury of animating a show with lots of panned shots while characters talk, but Studio Gokumi clearly put a lot of effort into making Toki look as heart-wrenchingly beaten as possible. Toki!! T__T

Yet it wasn’t totally Toki’s show this time. During her second Triple – that was too much Toki, shouldn’t have done that, it was way too much! – she realized that Kuro was finally going to break out and make a move. Thank the gods! I’ve been really harsh on Kuro ever since this match started, so it was nice to see her finally reclaim a measure of the respect I once had for her (though only a bit). I know it was hard for her, because they remind her of her mother and all that, but she finally did it – she discarded a dora. Huzzah!

Here’s the thing about Kuro. She said it herself – she’s the waiting type. I think that’s an aesthetic that the Japanese are probably quite fond of, but it’s one that is utterly frustrating to my active, go-getter Western upbringing. Seeing Kuro sit there and meekly whimper while she waited for a chance that was never going to come was just friggin’ annoying! That’s why I was so glad when she finally got over it. So the dora are special to her. So what? Her friends are special to her as well. If she’s not willing to (briefly!) give up a mere reminder of her mother for the living reality that is her friends and their dreams, then she’s shackled to the past, and those friends aren’t all that important to her after all. I’m glad she proved that wasn’t the case.

So Kuro finally did what I’ve been ranting about for weeks now – something different. Anything different! Finally. It was nice to see her regain some of the steel in her spine and dispel the champion’s hurricane. She may have been bitching out most of the game, but she got a cold 16K points back and made the God-Champion bleed, so not a bad round of work. But that’s when the part of the episode that most tugged at the heart-strings happened – Toki collapsed. With Ryuuka crying and all of her teammates running alongside her stretcher, how are we supposed to not cheer for Senriyama again? Ahhh!!

Finally, and as I expected last episode, the girls of Achiga did in fact meet up with Nodoka. Alas, it felt forced as hell. They couldn’t exchange phone numbers, catch up a bit before the match, or even just hug each other like the long-lost friends they are!? How cold! I won’t rant on this too much though, because it reeked of something anime original that was shoehorned in to give some flimsy semblance of a resolution to the whole Nodoka thing, which I’m sure it was. Not great, but it would have been worse without it, at least for those who don’t see the upcoming OVAs. Let’s leave it there for now, and head on into the (quasi) final impressions!

tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The first players’ match is finally over! Thanks for finally showing up, Kuro. But at what cost? Toki! T__T #SakiAchiga

Random thoughts:

  • A long-haired Toki is nice too. But raep face Toki? AHHHHH, do not want!!
  • Oh man, those camera angles. Trembling thighs. Nopan Kuro. I will miss this show. Miss it sooo much.
  • Looks like Akado inadvertently got a compliment from the rival who once broke her. How good for you. You’re still a crappy coach though, so go back to the pros.
  • That lens flare. What is this, directed by J. J. Abrams?

Full-length images: 03, 16.

Epilogue:

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Final impressions:

From a storytelling perspective, Saki Achiga is frankly a mess. The first part of the series zoomed forward with ridiculous speed, completely abandoning any of the fun that could have been had in training arcs or the prefectural tournament in favor of racing to nationals. The main characters’ personalities were never really explored well, leaving them as shallow characters who possessed none of the flair, characteristic striving, or yuri subtext of the original Saki. Then they get to nationals, and their much more likable rivals in Senriyama start dominating the screen, while the rest of the time is given over to cameos from old characters from the original series. I could go on…so I will.

As far as individual characters go, most of the really good ones were in schools other than Achiga. Toki, Ryuuka, Sera, Kirame (subara!), and Teru were all much better characters than anybody Achiga put forth. I mean, I’m still quite fond of cannot-be-broken Shizu and pretty-good-without-hax-powers Ako, but Arata is uninteresting and Akado-sensei is a terrible coach. Of course there’s Kuro and Yuu-nee, both of whom I started off liking, but Kuro’s epic uselessness in most of the tournament thus far has even made me doubt Yuu-nee. That hurts to say, but it’s true!

But Saki Achiga’s gravest sin is that it cannot stand on its own. Why does it exist, again? No matter how much it wants to focus on Achiga or Senriyama, it’s clear that the girls of Kiyosumi are still the protagonists of this world, and the whole point of this side-story was to give us a preview of Teru’s (and Shiraitodai’s) power before Saki and the others go up against them. They couldn’t make Achiga more likeable than Kiyosumi because then people might start rooting for Achiga when they (presumably) go up against Kiyosumi later on. This story was hamstrung from the beginning! Though that makes it even stranger that they made Senriyama such a better, more likeable team. Not sure what the thought was there.

Yet, that’s not to say that this hasn’t been an enjoyable series to watch, at least at times. Setting aside some of the epic camera angles for the moment (though only for the moment! *drools*), the match between Teru, Toki, Kirame, and Kuro was one of the most tension-filled ones I’ve seen in the Saki universe so far. Teru truly is a Saki-caliber monster, save that she’s more calm, business-like, and less easily flustered than our beloved Rinshan-san. I heartily enjoyed seeing those four go at each other, even if it took me about five minutes to realize that I would prefer Toki or Kirame to come out ahead of the whimpering Kuro.

I enjoyed the original Saki for three reasons: 1) crazy overblown mahjong, 2) interesting characters striving to do their best, and 3) yuri subtext. The problem with Saki Achiga is that for most of its run, it lacked all three. They actually showed very little of the mahjong until Nationals. The characters weren’t fleshed out, and their goal – to see an old friend – could just as easily have been accomplished with a phone call and a train ride. As for the third point, the only ones bringing the yuri were Toki and Ryuuka. Which brings me to my point – why wasn’t this Saki Senriyama again? Well, other than the fact that Senriyama’s yuri couple is arguably better than Kiyosumi’s. (Though don’t fear, they don’t have Tacos molesting Kyoutarou or the glorious “bad waits” Hisa, so Kiyosumi is still my favorite). Clearly, we can’t have them getting to the finals then!

In conclusion, Saki Achiga is a flawed show, though it sometimes managed to entertain despite that. If you like this and haven’t seen the original, go do that now!! It’s better in all ways. For the rest of us, we’ll have to sit around and wait for the three Saki Achiga OVAs, so we can see who will go to the finals…and then wait around some more for Saki season 2 to be announced. So much waiting. What are we, a bunch of Kuros? Gaaah!!

End Card

Saki Achiga hen episode of Side A   12   End Card
July 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm
42 comments »
  • July 1, 2012 at 9:25 pmSceptile

    needs more Hisa

  • July 1, 2012 at 9:37 pmAegiS

    Kiyosumi ftw!!!

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:08 pmWatt

    Aww, little Yuu with the grey scarf looked cute (even though you cant really see her). :3 I really wanted to see her (and Ako’s) match but I guess I’ll have to wait till the OVAs. Though as of the moment, I’m still rooting for Senriyama to go to the finals. And if the point of this side story really was just to show Teru’s abilities, I would have honestly preferred if they just made Shiraitodai the focus. I really wanted to get to know their other members more since we all know that they’re definitely going to the finals (then again, they’ll probably show that in the finals o.o)

    And that encounter with Nodoka did seem a bit forced (and short), but I guess Nodoka only has eyes for one mahjong girl in her life now – her hand-holding partner, Saki, of course.

    • July 2, 2012 at 11:09 amMyssa Rei

      Someone else mentioned it succinctly, that Saki, on some level, is about cheering for the underdog, and Kiyosumi, despite the talents under its banner, is literally a no-name school with no history in the Nationals. It wouldn’t be right to be focusing on the pinnacle that the upstart wants to topple now, would it?

      And Achiga is even in a worse boat than Kiyosumi in that regard, literally an underdog’s underdog. The focus on Senriyama really shortchanged the titular cast (oddly enough, it wouldn’t have been much of a big deal had the series been much longer, but four-five episodes is a HUGE chunk of a 12-episode series), which brought about the comment by the staff that the extra episodes would rectify that shortcoming. Hopefully. I mean, not everything goes as planned after all, especially when we call to mind Ritz’s release schedule.

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:09 pmtendo

    now are you all finally convinced that achiga will win over senryama.
    how this this show called again: achiga. gee who do you think will win? eh…. maybe achiga?
    senryama strongest already played while achiga strongest has not played yet. to me this is the main reason. the obvious reason is the title of the anime. just look the at fire in Shizu eyes; doesn’t that remind you of saki.

    • July 1, 2012 at 10:43 pmStilts

      Check out this chart, which was supplied a few episodes ago. Power-wise, it seems about right to me. And while you’re right that Senriyama’s best has played and Achiga’s best has not, Senriyama’s 2nd and 3rd best are better than anyone Achiga has.

      Really though, I think most people expect Achiga to win, but quite a few now want Senriyama to be the ones to advance. Kind of a mistake on the storytelling side there, heh

      • July 2, 2012 at 12:47 amName (required)

        i didn’t belive the chart, the chart is fan made

      • July 2, 2012 at 1:15 amStilts

        Perhaps true, but it looks pretty good. Take the Achiga girls’ relative ranks. I would definitely place Yuu-nee above Kuro, and Ako within their range, whereas the other two definitely aren’t as good (probably…we’ve never much seen Arata play). Then consider that Sera was the ace of Senriyama last year, with Senriyama being a school that routinely goes to Nationals, and does so well that they were seeded. Then compare the gap between Toki and Kuro, and how effortlessly Senriyama stayed ahead of everybody (and slowly increased their lead) in the last round…and well, yeah, Achiga still comes out looking like the weaker team to me.

        Still, they’ll probably win due to storytelling reasons if nothing else. The lone hero doesn’t succeed against the Big Bad (with all his resources and minions and etc) because the hero is stronger than them, he does it because he’s the hero, and the story would be really weird if the hero lost. Same thing here.

      • July 2, 2012 at 1:53 amAnte

        However, remember that Shiraitodai has Awai who is a demon like Saki and Teru…
        Unless you are a demon, the only way to come second is to actually has undying spirit that is why I believe Achiga will pass (by targeting school in second position like before) beside the fact that they are the protagonist…

        However, if you have followed Saki for long, you will know that the one that will likely pass is Shindouji…
        Show Spoiler ▼

      • July 2, 2012 at 1:56 amAnnyms

        I always felt sorry for Bundou’s spot on that list. Then I realized that the well-endowed beginner’s luck girl from Tsuruga isn’t anywhere near this list haha.

      • July 2, 2012 at 3:48 amFencedude

        Ryuuka will choke in the last match. She won’t be able to make Toki play Teru again.

      • July 2, 2012 at 6:31 amStilts

        You know, I could see that happening, Fencedude. Would be kind of lame, but doesn’t mean it might not happen, lol. Ryuuka is a little bit baka kind like that.

      • July 2, 2012 at 12:06 pmtendo

        I believe Shizu will make Achiga win second place. Just as Saki was way behind from koromo and won. Shizu will come from very far from behind (points) and win second place with a baiman haneman mangan sanbaiman yakuman in alphabetical order.
        Also it is just me or Shizu does not wear anything from the middle downwards (no pants, shorts, etc).

      • July 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm40

        Sera and Ako played pretty evenly. Senriyama is not that much better.

    • July 2, 2012 at 11:04 amMyssa Rei

      Judging from the raws coming out of Chapter 12, it’s already happening. I’m not too sure given the images, but it looks like Shiraitodai is about 3000 points or so shy from destroying everyone. Again.

      • July 2, 2012 at 6:54 pmKJacket

        I thought the next Achiga release is on the 12th……?

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:11 pmQwert

    I don’t know what’s worse, not knowing how long until the last 3 episodes come out or knowing that since she’s been relegated to a hospital Toki likely won’t appear in any of them anyway.

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:26 pmKamiyaCheap

    I love Saki! Even Achiga-hen, been following both manga series since it release!!! Toki is sooo Main Character Material *Please don’t die T^T*. I enjoy it a lot! 3 more episode!!! Let’s go!!!

    Time to give Oohoshi Awai some dialogue!!! I want to see some Awai Action!!!!

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:34 pmFiShar

    Ending with Onee-chan. Satisfied.

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:58 pmKJacket

    >>Akado still a crappy coach
    Hahahaa, I’m sure she’s just under appreciated since Hisa took on that position for Saki and we’ve haven’t been treated to how awesome Akado can play either.

    I’m thinking that the OVAs will be about once per month, to adjust around the manga releases. Maybe we can get a Saki S2 spring of next year.

    Any waiting is better than the Bakemonogatari waiting since that one was unplanned for. Besides the OVAs was an add on to the 12 episodes so no complaining there :)

  • July 1, 2012 at 11:35 pmtaiakun

    Was this series based off the manga equivalent? Cause if it was, I think someone got too eager to animate it and started without there being much content in the manga. I think they should have waited for at least another 6 months and then decide where to go from there.

    Heck, Shizu was the main girl on the titlecard for Saki-Achiga, and yet we really only saw one round from her. We saw much more of Taco in the original Saki series!

    • July 2, 2012 at 1:24 amAnte

      Actually, tha manga is released one month after the anime announced so actually the anime doesn’t adapting anything but create from same script of the manga (the manga also not drawn by Ritz) which created by Ritz, the mangaka of Saki…

      My take of Achiga-hen is that this series created with side-character in mind, so instead of seeing the playing from monster player, we see it from the perspective of normal and most of the time forgettable character…

      I don’t say this is a good or a bad thing, but as a Saki reader and viewer, it actually create a unique experience…

  • July 2, 2012 at 1:08 amAn

    Awesome Kuro! You’re not only made the Champion bleeding, you made me bleeding as well. *Cleans nose with tissue…*

    Studio Gokumi did a Subara job; better detail of mahjong gameplay, great bgms, the game’s tension, and character expressions (Tokii!!). Dayum, I’m missed this nopanshow already.
    3 episodes left with unknown date huh.. Better keep sticking to the mangas then. Saki 2nd season come on! :D

  • July 2, 2012 at 3:16 amAnimesetsuna

    Kinda sad… I wanna see more but this is the last episode. Hoping for S2.

  • July 2, 2012 at 6:18 amsarcastic_weasel

    I just want more Saki in my Saki.

  • July 2, 2012 at 6:39 amYalvyn

    Still want teru to somehow change position to the captain.

    • July 2, 2012 at 10:50 amMyssa Rei

      Not possible, since the positions are decided during the sign-up for the competition, and once submitted they’re pretty much set in stone. The only way for Saki and Teru to really meet up at this point is during the Individuals, and who knows when that will be, especially since the Saki manga has a rate of a chapter per MONTH, and they’re not massive chapters like Achiga-hen churns out, but tiny 19-page chapters.

  • July 2, 2012 at 7:28 amJ-Luke

    http://randomc.net/image/Saki%20Achiga-hen%20episode%20of%20Side-A/Saki%20Achiga-hen%20episode%20of%20Side-A%20-%2012%20-%20Large%2016.jpg
    So maybe that’s another reason why Kuro was freaking out: she feared exposure (or maybe it was a bit breezy in that hall…)

  • July 2, 2012 at 7:33 am†Croos†

    I really want the ova to be named Saki Side Senriyama.

    • July 2, 2012 at 11:02 amMyssa Rei

      They’re technically not even OVAs, but non-TV aired extra episodes, and the producers even mentioned that they’re going to use them to put the spotlight squarely back on Achiga.

      Incidentally, raws of the latest chapter are starting to come up and things are looking grim again.

  • July 2, 2012 at 7:43 amShinji

    To be honest, I only smiled when I saw the original Saki’s characters appearing in this show.
    Bring on Saki S2…Seriously.

  • July 2, 2012 at 12:19 pmBasilikos

    What is the Background song, when kuro puts down the dora till Ron. That song was pretty epic.

  • July 3, 2012 at 12:47 amMetaDrow

    When Kuro looked like she was going to cry, I wanted to give her a hug to cheer her up!

    • July 4, 2012 at 2:03 pmdranon

      Me too. I guess everyone copes with loss differently. Discarding that dora while difficult may make her a better player. Also, I expected the Nodoka/Shizu reunion to be more amicable than that. It was the central reason for having this show.

  • July 3, 2012 at 7:15 amYes!@

    Well like some others said Achiaga will advance… still I can rage: death to Kuro. We got three chapters of Teru awesomesness, Toki killing herself giving her all to stop her, the survival girl and Kuro in a corner hogging the doras. For what? To see Kuro win ?! Nooo!!!
    I have to agree with all Stilts said. The only diference will be that Kuro won because Toki forced her into a corner to toss that dora. That’s show when Teru picks the tile and Toki is like “yes teru that’s Kuro’s victory tile”.
    Which brings me to another point if Toki could see two or three times ahead: Why not try to change the outcome? I know she thinks of this as “cheating” but stressing her body to see 3 times into the future is not worth it if she can “change” the future in her second move. The third move int he future is not going to happen. Becuase the future got changed in the second turn and she will need to “re-see” the game play again. we all learned this before: el psy congroo !!
    With that out of my chest is sad the way the writers/producer let the show get out of their hands like this. Is a common issue with series that have way to many characters. The good one get written off and we are left with a team that will plot win in a lack luster way. I’ll watch the ova’s and Saki nd2 when they air notwithstanding. Not happy with Achiaga rigth now. end rage…

  • July 3, 2012 at 5:17 pmPeteL

    I had to have a few days to digest this all, and still I think it’s criminal that Teru would stop her screwball windup knuckleball (yes baseball reference–but what the hell) for a flimsy 16.6k pt loss from a flimsy (yes flimsy, as in underhanded softball) Kuro. It sure the hell was gift wrapped and delivered to her courtesy of Toki using X-men powers (yes X-men, mutants who pwned all but Magneto) and her partner in telepathy, Subara.

    Before I continue, let me just say Awai, using her powers, she must be related to Son Goku, she’s SSJ4, and not even fabric softner could reduce that static cling, and at the same token she might be related Chuck Norris (on a bad hair day.). Thinking more on her powers, I’d say she reads the flow and reduces others success percentage, so in that way her demonic powers are a combination of Koromo and Jun.

    Ok back to the saga, which it wasn’t really, thinking of saga, hmmm…. Guin Saga was a saga, except that part where he crow punched… nevermind… This was neither here or there, it was filler (beautiful one at that because it got us thinking about Saki again), so it was like dessert without a main course (Saki Season 2). More to the point if Kuro played smart (like Hisa and Yumi smart) from the very beginning, then Teru wouldn’t have a huge build up like she’s really Monster X and Saki is Godzilla, they (producers) have to make Teru the very monster that Saki has to destroy. (With love and understanding I’m sure, Oh gawd!)

    The reason Achiga are the main protagonist is to balance the final table, Eisui full of potential demon players and Shiraitodai their bookend demons, and Kiyosumi with only one demon and one other potential demon in Hisa. The Achiga with a potential scared demon in Kuro and another potential demon in Yuu, but to put Senriyama, who has one certified to be demon in Toki and that’s it. We can’t have Toki fainting everywhere, at first because of Saki’s Kans and then because of Eisui, gawd knows what they do next? It’ll be Weekend at Bernies moment (Yes I went there! Sue me!!) and here I was thinking fainting? She’ll be on Grim Reapers doorsteps very soon.

    And finally I have good lawyers! Good luck with that. xD

    *Throws the kitchen sink*

    Done and Done!

    • July 7, 2012 at 8:17 pmPeteL

      And so only 2 people missed my sarcasm, it’s my dry English humor you see. Never take me literally, as I’m more of a ham than from first impressions. ;-D

  • July 4, 2012 at 3:14 pmPeteL

    If I hear about a release date for the OVAs I’ll be sure to post on here. Till then, enjoy 4th of July! I’m out!

  • July 6, 2012 at 10:23 amshin

    I think the main problem is that this cast lacks charisma and chemistry. The lead is too simple lacks a charm point. Sisters are rather plain. Ako is the coolest of the bunch. Series is far too rushed, plot is a simple Akado/Nodoka question that ultimately feels like it lacks a good resolution.

    One of the most interesting parts of Saki was its lighthearted nature, interesting characters and over the top battle of the powers. In this regard, I must say Teru is a total let down. We see almost no personality only a dumb whirlwind arm. Yeah it seems shes a beast in the sack but definitely not someone that can make a table shine like the old Saki stars. The cameos didn’t really bring that much either.

    I guess I would think of this series as something like a fun OVA.

    • July 11, 2012 at 6:00 pmtendo

      whenever I read “sisters” I think of catholic sisters like in mariasama ga miteru or in dance in the vampire bund. And since there is a miko team, there should have been a sisters team.

  • July 6, 2012 at 8:36 pmPeteL

    There are some countless possibilities with this pic

  • July 9, 2012 at 7:11 pmPeteL

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Final Thoughts, even if Saki and Teru will not face each other on the team finals, I think they will have chance encounters in the halls, perhaps face slapping and arguments will ensue and this will be the build up when they finally battle in the individual tournaments.