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Saki: Zenkoku-hen – 01

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「上京」 (Joukyou)
“To Tokyo”

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

Random thoughts:

  • 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!

Check out my blog about storytelling and the fantasy novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Urgency & the rush to come, Explain yourself, Mix it up, and Look for execution.

OP Sequence

Saki Zenkoku hen   OP   01 Saki Zenkoku hen   OP   02 Saki Zenkoku hen   OP   03
Saki Zenkoku hen   OP   04 Saki Zenkoku hen   OP   05 Saki Zenkoku hen   OP   06

OP: 「New SPARKS!」 by Hashimoto Miyuki

Epilogue:

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Preview

Saki Zenkoku hen   01   Preview 01 Saki Zenkoku hen   01   Preview 02 Saki Zenkoku hen   01   Preview 03

End Card

Saki Zenkoku hen   01   End Card
January 6, 2014 at 12:16 am
42 comments »
  • January 6, 2014 at 12:22 amsinkingmist

    Those magical towels are on the same (godly) level as Toori’s God Mosaic…

  • January 6, 2014 at 12:30 amthenightsshadow

    Sorry Stilts, I may have sent you a copy of the draft I was planning for my own blog.

    Anyways, Saki’s back~

  • January 6, 2014 at 12:50 amviss

    Yuuki: Saki-chan, we can see everything!

  • January 6, 2014 at 12:50 ambolton

    i watched through all of saki in anticipation for this! while this first episode was whatever, it is setting the stage. apparently it’s going to be a 1-cour and the nationals arc is not even finished in the manga, so while i hoped to see a lot of mahjong action it looks like it’ll be properly paced. can’t wait to see the OP and ED, i really love how cute this anime is.

    and yeah, holy shit! stealth momo must be powering down because she isn’t playing in the nationals, nobody would be able to ignore her if she didn’t hide those knockers!

  • January 6, 2014 at 12:53 amLonghaul

    Dat Wahaha, Dat super serious old man, Dat long skirt, Dat carrying a shopping bag together. I enjoy this series far more than I should.

  • January 6, 2014 at 1:11 amWanderer

    Whoa, was Momo (Saitou Momoko) always that stacked? Not that I’m complaining.

    Well, I don’t recall us getting a lot of views of her out of uniform, but she always filled it out pretty well, that’s for sure, so I’m going to go with yes.

    Saki-chan, you need to wear pantsu!

    And become the only girl in Japan who does so? Madness! :P Besides, I’m operating on the theory that the funding that our world puts into lingerie was channeled into mahjong instead in Saki’s world, so they don’t even have pantsu as a concept. I’m prepared to ignore any evidence to the contrary. ;)

    • January 6, 2014 at 1:32 amSK

      I think it’s like Saki playing better after taking off her shoes (and socks?). At some early point in history, someone discovered that playing no-pan gave godly mahjong powers, thus it spread and now that’s just how life in their universe is.

    • January 6, 2014 at 8:47 amStilts

      I like Wanderer’s concept. I’m adopting it immediately.

    • January 6, 2014 at 9:26 amJ-Luke

      She was indeed wearing a blazer in season 1 most of the time, so the were kind of suppressed, but they were definitely there:
      http://randomc.net/image/Saki/Saki%20-%2013%20-%20Large%2031.jpg

    • January 9, 2014 at 2:28 amRob

  • January 6, 2014 at 1:28 amsilentv

    No idea why but Saki reminds me of Girls und Panzer, vice versa

  • January 6, 2014 at 2:15 amSK

    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.

    Aren’t most tournaments like this? I’d expect ~80% of a national tournament to be powerhouses that consistently get there, which leaves about 8 spots in the 48-team field (excluding the 4 seeded teams, which are, by definition, not dark horses) after accounting for Achiga and Kiyosumi. Assuming the seeds advance to at least the semis, Kiyosumi will only encounter 6 teams besides the seeds prior to the finals (since we know who’s waiting on the other side of the bracket from Achiga-hen). Best opportunity to encounter another unknown would be in the 1st round, but that’s pretty much a foregone conclusion since only 1 team advances from each 1st round match.

    • January 6, 2014 at 8:49 amStilts

      You’re not wrong in the least. It’s not surprising, but I felt it was worth pointing out for those who didn’t think about it. Honestly it would be surprising if there WERE more powerful dark horses than Kiyosumi and Achiga, and the fact that there are two is probably pretty rare in and of itself.

  • January 6, 2014 at 2:27 amGiorno Giovanna

    • January 7, 2014 at 6:29 amThundershock81

      God I miss Mondatchi……..

  • January 6, 2014 at 2:40 amAnnyms

    Wait so is this going to be one or two cour? I keep hearing conflicting things about whether we get 13 or 26 episodes of Saki goodness. Also, if it were one cour, then that would be pretty lame because I know they want to reanimate the mixed training camp arc, since there’s some relevant character development that obviously wasn’t covered in that one episode from last season, leaving us with a season to cover one match at best? Here’s to hoping it’s two cour so that Ritz-sensei is forced to move the manga along faster than the snail’s pace it’s been going at for the past few years.

    Also here’s to hoping for coverage from our one and only Stilts. We need the dual perspectives of critical storytelling and fangirling!

    • January 6, 2014 at 8:52 amStilts

      I don’t know myself. I’ve seen conflicting reports as well. In fact I keep meaning to ask my information hound kouhai (Kairi) to go figure it out, but eh, lazy.

      Yes, I’m too lazy to even ask someone else to do the work for me. New heights!

    • January 6, 2014 at 1:22 pmAnonymosity

      MyAnimeList lists this episode as 1 cour series.

      • January 6, 2014 at 2:08 pmAnnyms

        Ok. That’s a bit disappointing. Hopefully it’s like Valvrave where they just take a season off then do another season in the summer.

  • January 6, 2014 at 2:59 amKinni

    A funny thing to note. The author accidentally wrote Saki wearing a different skirt than usual. When it was pointed out to her, she came up with that explanation.

    • January 6, 2014 at 8:55 amStilts

      Hah, I love this! Retconning a mistake at its finest ^^

  • January 6, 2014 at 3:42 amP Ko

    http://randomc.net/image/Saki/Saki%20Zenkoku-hen%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2038.jpg

    Holy shit. Momo must of had breast enlargement surgery. She’s rocking out a set of DDD’s now.

    • January 6, 2014 at 6:06 amviss

      Nah, it’s because she had her senpai fondle them regularly.

    • January 6, 2014 at 8:58 amStilts

      Stealth Momo isn’t so stealthy now, ufufu~

    • January 6, 2014 at 4:03 pmqwert

      Being able to hide them until now is just a testament to how stealthy she is.

  • January 6, 2014 at 4:50 amJ-Luke

    http://randomc.net/image/Saki/Saki%20Zenkoku-hen%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2007.jpg
    When I saw her, the first thing I thought was “Ecchi na no wa ikenai to omoimasu”…

  • January 6, 2014 at 5:02 amewok40k

    FTW: Floating Towels Wonder!

    • January 6, 2014 at 7:53 amVoyager

      I was more like Wonder Towels Floating … ;)

  • January 6, 2014 at 6:11 amstarss

    I remember liking the first show, so I may check this out. …all I expect are tacos!! >: I mean it!

  • January 6, 2014 at 7:42 amoliviaven

    One thing I always liked about this series is the absolutely monstrous level of seiyuu cast it offers, they added so many more this season too. Saki is literally the grand battlefield of VAs

  • January 6, 2014 at 8:57 amviss

    @Stilts 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!

    Why are you making it sound like top ranked team without coach is a rare thing? Look at Ryuumonbuchi, Shiraitodai for example. There are more of those in this season.

    • January 6, 2014 at 9:01 amStilts

      Hmmm, that’s true I guess. I feel like Shiraitodai has one, but since they have multiple teams (And Teru’s team are pretty much badasses) their coach is never seen. Doesn’t seem like Ryuumonbuchi does though. Still, it’s impressive since Kiyosumi is doing all this with a sempai-player as their “coach” and no winning tradition. That counts for something as well, I think.

  • January 6, 2014 at 10:23 amcassandra

    Oh Saki how I missed thee!

  • January 6, 2014 at 11:19 amZreon

    Yay! I’ve waited for this one. I even rewatched the first Saki season again (for the third time) over the christmas holidays in preparation for this.

    I’m super excited already for what lies ahead.

    • January 6, 2014 at 1:56 pmAnnyms

      Me too! Haha, it’s always enjoyable watching it for the umpteenth time.

  • January 6, 2014 at 11:33 amNamaewoinai

    “Pantsu-Less” People Detected…hmmm i remember someone have saying that…”thou shall not wear panties”…if they are wearing skirt that is, it doesn’t matter if long or short.

    and ahhh…i kinda miss…umm…akagi!…ooops! wrong show!

  • January 6, 2014 at 4:09 pmZhinvu

    What caught my attention in this pilot episode is Toyone because of how tall she is. For a minute I thought the Miyamori girls were welcoming home a teacher or mentor figure for their team. Not to mention that Toyone looks stylish with that black uniform and brim hat. And I’m with you Stilts. I also didn’t expect that Saki and the Achiga girls saw each other as menacing.

  • January 6, 2014 at 7:55 pmJason Isenberg

    The new censorship: Floating genie towels!

    Seriously though I’m excited to watch this, I wasn’t as game as I was with the first season of Saki but now we’re back I’m stoked! This is the show that got me interested in Mahjong!