Saki: Zenkoku-hen – 01
Welcome back to the world of Saki, where the girls are cute, the mahjong is crazy, and pantsu are nowhere to be found.
A Sequel For Existing Fans
The first half of this episode largely consisted of character introductions, some of characters I already knew while some where characters I’d only seen hinted at. What struck me was how they were throwing them all out there with little foundation of context, which made them hard to grasp. Then I realized two things. First of all, the initial glimpses of all the teams were the foundation. They were tacitly saying “Hey, these girls are going to be important, so we’re going to show them to you now so you’ll remember them when they appear later on.” That worked, even if for now some of them haven’t really sunk in.
The other realization is that this is a sequel for existing fans, which is good and bad. It’s bad in that it doesn’t provide an easy entry point for new watchers, but in all seriousness, should it? It’s not a good entry point. It’s halfway through the story. Instead they didn’t waste time on boring recaps, and they made no effort to explain what was going on or why we should care about these characters because it was assumed that if we’re watching, we already know and do. On the balance I like it because they know who their audience is (existing fans) and they’re paying attention to them at the expense of all others, and that’s a good way to know what kind of story to tell. If you don’t know what’s going on though, go watch the first season. It doesn’t look like this will be forgiving for you, and you’d be missing out on a lot anyway.
Pure, Unmitigated Nostalgia
What all the character introductions did for me was mostly spike pure, concentrated nostalgia straight into my brain. This not only for the girls from the original series – though seeing Ryuumonbuchi, Kazekoshi, and Tsuruga (“Wahaha~”) sent me tittering with unnecessary glee – but even for the girls of Achiga-hen like Senriyama, Shindouji (“Subara!”), Shiraitodai, and of course our alternate protagonists Achiga themselves. Not much to say there really – for existing fans (which this series is being made for) it was a treat to see all our old friends again. It was like wrapping myself in a warm blanket where I know everything will be alright, and where pantsu are totally optional. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.
Seeing It From The Other Side
Speaking of Achiga, it was interesting to see some of the events we saw back in Achiga-hen from Kiyosumi’s point of view this time. In particular, I’m talking about Saki’s (Ueda Kana) run in with team Achiga. To jog your memory, this was how Achiga reacted to seeing Saki, which never came as a surprise to me because Saki has always been one of the most monstrously powerful mahjong players in the series. What surprised me here was how Saki reacted to seeing Achiga. I had a lot of criticism of Achiga-hen early on and at the very end, especially how Shizuno’s (Yuki Aoi) characterization was mishandled, – portraying her as a mediocre player until suddenly she was playing at monster level during the semi-finals – but here they did it right by foreshadowing her power early on. If nothing else in this episode, that’s heartening, because it shows that the main series still knows how to build up characters into legitimate threats to the very powerful Kiyosumi team. Also it was just fascinating to see the same event from both sides.
That Saki Censorship (& It’s A Good Thing)
I have a lot of gripes about improperly done censorship, and you can refer to another winter show for an example of how not to do it. Saki does it right, even when it’s ridiculous. There’s no possible way that towel should stay there. It’s floating! (This one too.) And you know what? It still works better than the censorship in most shows. Sure it’s obvious, but it’s easier to ignore if you want to because it’s not a big ass black bar streaking across the scene. Plus the ecchi moments in this show are never meant to be seen. The Saki series knows how to hint without showing us, which can be far more titillating than blatant pantsu flashes are. That + not destroying my suspension of disbelief are both swiftly appreciated. Also, Nodoka’s (Koshimizu Ami) boobs.
Looking Ahead – Miyamori Girls’
By the power of obvious foreshadowing, it looks like Miyamori Girls’ will be Kiyosumi’s first big challenge. I don’t know if I’ll be covering this, but I’ll certainly be watching it, so feel free to check in with me on Twitter to hear my impressions of the show week-to-week.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Nostalgia & introductions rule the day as we get back into the swing of things with Kiyosumi & their opponents on Side B #saki #zenkoku 01
- There are mahjong exchange students? European championships? Hah! I gotta love how they so flagrantly make mahjong super popular in the Saki-verse. Hey, it’s their world, why not?
- Le gasp! A male mahjong player. Is that allowed? And does he have to not wear underwear too? *shudder*
- From the sound of it almost all the major teams are repeat powerhouses, save for Achiga and Kiyosumi. They may be the only real dark horses around.
- I had forgotten about this, but it will be nice to see Kiyosumi go far in this tournament when their coach is…well, Hisa (Itou Shizuka). Adults? Screw em, Kiyosumi does what it wants!
- Speaking of, I was surprised that Hisa was actually nervous going up on stage. C’mon Mako (Shiraishi Ryoko), you better watch out for your friend like always.
- Sleepy Saki is kawaii. Lost Saki is super kawaii!
- Whoa, was Momo (Saitou Momoko) always that stacked? Not that I’m complaining.
- Saki-chan, you need to wear pantsu! Wait, no you don’t. You’re perfect just the way you are, ufufu~
- Ohh Tacos–I mean Yuuki (Kugimiya Rie), it’s been too long. Enjoy those tacos girl, you’re going to need all the energy you can get soon!
OP: 「New SPARKS!」 by Hashimoto Miyuki