Saki is some godly mahjong player that has absolutely no desire to win or lose due to some childhood pseudo-trauma. Somewhere in the mix is an insanely annoying loli, a boring pink-haired girl, a genki seito kaichou, and a guy. Something tells me none of the girls has any interest whatsoever in him, as they’re too busy rehearsing their eventual lifelong roles as old ladies in the Joy Luck Club. I’m sure many of you play mahjong (neither me nor Omni do), but you’re likely to find this as ridiculous as we did…
Some might say that my time is better spent blogging about shows that I actually enjoy, that I should just leave their precious favorite guilty pleasure shows alone, but what’s the fun in that? Enter Saki, the next item up for flaming at jaalin’s grill and bistro. You want that well done or burnt to a crisp?

In the past, I’ve picked on the weak and laid waste to travesties like Ninomiya-kun and Kono Aozora, but I’ve since graduated from bullying on those that accept their role as bottom-feeder. Instead, I’ve turned over a new leaf, and am now saving my flame spells on those epic high-profile shows that assume their success is guaranteed, but are actually catastrophic train wrecks right as they depart on their maiden episode.

Saki, Saki, Saki, where to begin? First of all – elephant in the room – yes, it’s an anime about mahjong. It’s really not that big of a deal, considering Hikaru no Go made an absolutely black-and-white board game pretty cool, Naruto made something awesome like ninjas farking boring, and Queen’s Blade made something humans are genetically hardwired to stare at into something unbearable to watch (ok, gonna lay off the QB references for a bit before I exhaust it). Saki does get quite technical with the game and keeps things surprisingly focused, but the entirety of it just comes off as being really freakin’ corny. To put it simply, where I was expecting something like Hikaru no Go, I was instead treated to a rehash of Yu-Gi-Oh with moe-fied character designs.

And maybe that’s my own fault, but given the rather nice character designs, decent art quality, and an amazing voice cast which includes Koshimizu Ami (Nina Wang, Horo), Ueda Kana (Hayate’s Sakuya, Maria-sama’s Yumi), Shiraishi Ryoko (Hayate), Itou Shizuka (Hinagiku, Index’s Kanzaki), and Kugimiya Rie (um… Al Elric), can ya blame me? Gonzo might not be the best studio, but they’re definitely a big name in the industry.

And maybe they were doomed from the start in attacking a game typically played by old loogie-hocking Chinese ladies with too much time and memory to spare, but something about this show just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s Kugimiya Rie’s overtly loli voice that’s just begging for attention, maybe it’s pink haired chick’s overly-indulgent character design, maybe it’s the awkward fanservice and yuri moments, maybe it’s the 300-esque slow motion scenes (THIS… IS… MAHJONGGGGG), maybe it’s the OH SHI- *thunder and lightning* moments when a tile is played… but whatever it is, it’s clear that the show is just trying too hard in all the wrong ways. And I’m not that easy to win over!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch this show – quite the contrary – the first episode was entertaining and even reached “epic lulz” (or whatever the new 4ch lingo is these days) levels at the end, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of those one-episode wonders and just fall off a cliff from hereon out. The only way I can see this show working out is that it picks up the whole “Dragonball Mahjong” vibe like Prince of Tennis had, but none of these characters have any of the “mada mada dane” swagger or personality of Seigaku. Still, I’m hoping to be surprised.

Anyone that plays mahjong have any idea what’s going on in this show?


  1. yea i was gonna say that, but “bloody as hell” would entail that i barely flamed it

    always wondered what a $5 shake tastes like… hmm there’s a denny’s about a mile away…

  2. Although I don’t want to see Gonzo relentlessly bang one of my favourite series in the ass, I don’t think I have much of a choice, I enjoyed the manga so much it’s compelling me to watch this. At least the good cast should ease the pain a bit.

  3. Well i’m guessing miyanaga & nodoka will be the hikaru & akira pair in this show.
    Seeing nodoka chase after miyanaga after learning she has done ‘something’ [which i actually have no idea what it was] that could not usually be done in 3 straight rounds, makes me remember on how akira chased after shindou at the start of the series. Although nodoka does not have the same ‘genius’ presence as akira had..
    Saki might have some potential in becoming a ‘hikaru no go’ but time [more episodes] can only tell…

  4. I read some chapters of the manga and it’s not bad.. But it might be boring for those who don’t know how to play mahjong..
    The problem is that Gonzo will fuck up everything and add a lot of ecchi scenes

  5. ive played mahjong now for awhile and although they have slightly different rules (red tiles?!!?) it was alright following along. Anywayz i find this show actually interesting cuz its not the cliche type mahjong story where some loser in life gains fame and money at a mahjong tournament either through cheating or overexaggerated/corny skills(like every other mahjong movie thats ever made). TO have the main character so godlike that she can keep her score at +/- 0 is much more interesting to watch.

  6. Jaalin, I think you summed up all the reasons why to watch Saki. It’s the seasonal “Oh Gonzo!” show at its finest. And me not knowing a whit about Mahjong makes it all the better.

  7. @Jaalin
    yea, i love that movie. in fact, i have all the version of it including the spin off version except the third one of the original. those movies are the greatest chinese classic movie.

    anyway, since i play mahjong in Canton style, i won’t be able to understand Japanese rule . I also tried in pc game 2 but still don’t understand the rule much.

  8. all steven chow movies are hilarious but any mahjong based movies ever made have been so repetitive with nothing new im going to stick with saki. Even with all those overdramatic twist that really does resembles yugioh (lolol) and those lightning effects are just too hilarious.

  9. i get the feeling viewers will get negative effect from this anime. It is like producer are saying “hey, kid. Know what, you can be just like us, a person who has gambleholic. After watching this anime, you will know more about mahjong. so get out there and lose all your money to us, muhahahahha!”

  10. The funny part is the manga is pretty much more of the same from what Jaalin gripes about but, to me anyway, I found the overly dramatic reactions and friggin lightning crackling from Saki’s fingers as she plays a tile to be hilarious. It’s not that they’re trying too hard to be dramatic and serious, it’s clearly intended to be over the top and somewhat absurd. Yuki’s obsession with tacos should have told you right away not to take it too seriously. I like the manga for that, so I’ll see if this show provides that same corniness.

  11. Errr…so what, you don’t like series that have a purpose like Saki with it’s Mahjong, premise, but you like shows with absolutely no direction like K-On. Sorry, Jaalin, but you are pretty lacking in taste. I mean if you want to talk about shows trying to hard, you had it last time.

    Also if you don’t understand the rules of Mahjong why do you even presume that you can properly evaluate this show adequately?

  12. For those that want to get into Mahjong (or just watch something like this but not really retarded) watch Akagi. REALLY fun stuff and they explain a little bit of Mahjong in the beginning (be sure to take notes because after that they won’t explain it).

  13. Don’t know why you didn’t liked Omni. Imo first episodes is pretty good. With great characters designs +likable, interesting plot, animation/artwork is great. I see no reason to not watch this. You overreacted, probably because it’s Gonzo. 😉

  14. @Kcirnal

    Actually those red tiles are very popular among contemporary players of Reach Mah-Jongg. They are known as “Red Lucky Dragons”. Each of these multiplier tiles doubles the value of your hand, making for an exciting game. You can choose whether you want 3枚 or 4枚. In this ep they used 4枚.

    Something to think about.

  15. @TadloS: This wasn’t Omni, it was Jaalin and there is a h uge difference. Omni evalutes by the show, Jaalin evalautes by whatever fanboyish standards and predetermined opinons he has on shows based on the studio that made them. This show got the dud blogger. He doesn’t even understand the rules of Mahjong by his own admittance so how could he ever really appreciate Saki?

  16. I think the show was alright. i’ve read some of the manga and enjoyed it. I don’t know how to play mahjong, so the details of the scoring goes right over my head. This story does have a plot, as least as far as any sport-type story have. I am looking forward to this series.

  17. Most mahjong styles adopt the same (more or less) playing rules, afaik. It’s only the scoring system that really differs.

    Whatever I feels like saying has been said by Kaioshin Sama so I won’t continue on that. Saki >>> K-On!

  18. This is by the same studio that brought you Strike Witches, you thought there would be something serious for even one moment?

    I will be watching this btw :3, it is entertaining after all… xD

  19. I play mahjongg on the PC and have a real set but don’t have anyone to play against. I haven’t seen this yet, waiting for the subs, but I will not watch just for gaming, has to be a real plot line.

  20. OK, didn’t know crunchyroll is playing this one. The play is normal, but they use the Japanese scoring which I am not familiar with. The scoring and hand combinations are complex and convoluted. Plus this anime definitely has its yuri moments, but I think I will follow this one. I think I’ll play some this afternoon.

  21. I always wonder how they could count so fast. I can only play non japanese mahjong, and IMO, their abcissa and fan point counting system is really different than what I play. I understand their gameplay, but having hard time counting the points.

  22. I’ve been looking at the many blogs posting about Saki. There seems to be one big thing in common. No one really knows what they are doing.

    I’ll provide a very basic crash course on what they are doing when they are playing.

    First of call don’t let the tiles fool you. In many ways it’s still like a deck of cards.
    The closest game I can compare this to is Gin Rummy. By the end of the game you goal is to make sets of tiles to score points. The big difference is usually one person can get points at a time.

    Everyone starts out with 13 tiles, except the dealer who gets 14, but he discards first.
    The way to finish is have 4 sets of 3 tiles. And a pair of two tiles. Sets can be like “Chi” straights (1,2,3) or “Pon” three of a kind (1,1,1). Of course suits matter (numbers, balls, sticks).

    The funny thing is you can actually can complete a set of 14 tiles and not score any points. These are where Dora (multipliers) come in. This is what makes Mahjong much more difficult. There are strict conditions to getting these Dora. If they aren’t met, you can finish a hand, but have a multiplier of 0x.

    Things that can effect this are whether or not you picked up someones discarded tile, which USUALLY gives you a -1 dora. Let’s put it this way, the more difficult it is to make your hand, the more multipliers you will get (a la poker).

    Say you finish a hand if you get your last tile from the “deck” the 3 other players split the points to pay you. If you get your last tile from a player, that player pays the whole cost to you. When you take your last tile from someone you call Ron.

    In Japan they play two whole rounds with each person dealing once. Everyone starts out with 25000 points. This is where the whole plus minus thing comes in. It essentially ends up being how many points you won or lost, but honestly I still don’t know exactly how the plus minus thing works.

    I will spoil what happened and explain their hands.
    Show Spoiler ▼

    I’m sure if any of you managed to read this you are even more confused than before. This game has many exceptions and I’m certain I didn’t manage to describe things exactly how they were done (I only play for fun). In reality Mahjong is no where near this fast pace and it can take almost until the end of the deck for someone to finish. Also because people are trying to get as many Dora as possible. In Saki’s case what she does is extremely unlikely unless she was playing a bunch of chumps. But maybe that’s where the Ungodly Luck comes from.

    If you want anymore explanation on anything just ask and I’ll try to clear it up a tiny bit.

  23. The majority of people who will watch this show probably don’t even know how to play mahjong. If you’re an anime fan and love mahjong you’ll likely watch it regardless. Chances are the average fan watching this will have a blank look on their face. The manga doesn’t really explain much, you have to know the game (Japanese version of scoring in particular) to appreciate the series. So if you don’t love mahjong, I can’t really say it’s worth getting into.

    I’ve read the manga and it’s alright. Won’t watch the anime because game/sport type animes aren’t my cup of tea. Not to mention that I find mahjong boring (then again, I find most gambling to be boring)

    Thanks for the snapshot jaalin, entertaining to read as always

  24. Haha, as I thought HnG > Saki. Well, I thought Hikaru no Go would be boring, but I liked it quite a bit. I still might give this a shot when I get the chance, but that Yugioh comparasion sort of lowers my expectations of this =_=.

    And no Phantom Snapshot?

  25. @ frubam
    maybe using yugioh comparison was a bit much because even though the end effect is similar yugioh rules are completely made up. The authors can come up with any lame excuse for the hero to win but with saki the rules have already laid out so it can be overdramatic/corny but you can appreciate that the authors took more time to come up with the gameplay script.

  26. Kaioshin, you want to have a go at Jaalin’s tastes or criticize other bloggers opinion on other shows, be my guest, but it’s really beginning to tick me that you use this as an opportunity to have a go at Kyo-Ani everytime.

    For f*ck’s sake, we know you hate Kyo-Ani already, but must you bring your bashing over to non-related topics as well?

    Kinny Riddle
  27. lol some things never change do they kaioh?

    seriously, how many people in japan know how to play mahjong? don’t you think the makers of this show would be shooting themselves in the foot by limiting their viewership to such a minute population right from the get go?

    this show is no different from any sports or game anime in that while knowing to play play the sport/game could possibly add to the viewing experience, it is by no means a prerequisite. hence, the voice cast. hence, the cute character designs. hence, the whole ‘dragonball’ aspect of it.

    and hence, my position with it. as i wrote, the mahjong portion was actually pretty well done – the problem here is all those extra things they do to dress it up. getting a-list voice actors is great, but their performances are boring and uninspired. having cute characters is great, but their performances are boring and uninspired. adding the fanservice and yuri is… just awkward, as they come out of nowhere, and end up just being boring and uninspired.

    it’s the difference between doing something for the sake of doing it, and doing something because it actually makes sense. much of the time this reason gets lost in the transition between manga to anime, as often times the pacing and delivery just doesn’t apply to an animated form – the anime therefore needs to create its own meaning, and it’s something this anime is not doing very well. sure, you could just say “read the manga, it’ll make sense then”, but that’s not why i’m here.

    i’m not even gonna comment on your shot between this show and k-on, that’s just… too easy.

  28. Oh jaalin, I would’ve thought you’ve been around long enough to know not to feed the resident troll. Isn’t reacting to these kinds of things what made you give up blogging the first time?

    I’d like to compare this anime to say, Bamboo Blade. Although kendo is a sport much simpler to understand, they did make it a point to introduce characters at all skill levels, including complete newbies, in order highlight aspects of learning kendo from scratch. A highly intellectual game like Mahjong, especially with the unique Japanese variations to the game (or so I heard), would make anyone think twice before dropping its viewers into the middle of a match among expert players. If this were chess club, or bridge club, or Scrabble club, I’d expect the same sort of easing into the rules, just for the sake of not alienating away everyone who doesn’t already know them. While Bamboo Blade started with Tamaki skill and Dan-kun skill (and those inbetween), Saki so far has just showcased 3-4 variations of Tamaki-level skill.

  29. @Kinny Riddle: I find it kind of amusing that you put the thought of me criticizing a studio (which I wasn’t even doing since I think I mentioned K-On and not Kyoani) ahead of criticizing another bloggers impression of a show (based on a lack of knowledge of the premise in heading into a flaming review mind you and not his opinion which is his to have) in the area of things I do that irk you. Also are you sure you aren’t just imagining that I hate Kyoani? I mean really have you thought about it at all?

    @Jaalin: Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into any sort of long and silly argument over something that you are clearly inclined to like more than this show (unless that’s what you want), but it does sound a lot like you might as well be describing K-On too in that long talk about “having cute characters is great, but they are boring and uninspired” if you are going to go down that road of grill and bistro. Also I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if we see some light yuri and fanservice elements sprung on us too in K-On and my gut tells me if it does happen then it’s most likely to be Ritsu and Mio. The requisite fan arts are already there on 2ch. 😛

    If it isn’t already obvious though I am not bothered by fanservice in the least (especially wet shirts….I mean come on) unless it is overwhelmingly intrusive like with say……Queen’s Blade.

    @kadian1364: Jaalin explained our relationship quite well. It’s kind of like how I reserve a special place in my heart for Jason. 😛

  30. your thought hurts

    lol in the start, loli playing mahjong is all wrong >_> i mean its gamble right

    and for the seiyuu
    now that i see it O_o whoa, they sure gathered lot of good seiyuu there

  31. I must say that this first episode was quite funny, but unfortunately this show does end up closer to Yu-gi-oh than Hikaru no Go. But it’s a fault of the game really: Go is a combinatorial game (meaning no randomness at all) but Mahjong has quite a bit of luck involved, so they have to run with the “godly luck” premise.

  32. I”ve written Gonzo a very nasty letter saying that if they don’t put some epic toe sucking and ankle nibbling in this show by episode three Jaalin will be very let down.

    That will show them a thing or two….

  33. I love mahjong and even I didn’t like how they made this show. It’s not much the mahjong part of the show that I didn’t like (though I must say I got a bit annoyed) but the characters. Sure, the voice acting is awesome (JUN <3) but the characters have such generic personalities. It doesn’t help that the fanservice and yuri vibes are weird…

  34. Anoh, can we dispense with the Studio Wars? My tolerance for fan-favorites can be summed up with two words:

    Suwa Wars.

    Kanako on the left. Suwako on the right. Take your picks.

    Myssa Rei
  35. Well.
    I watched this show yesterday And I guess I’ll go on ahead and say it:

    “I found this show alot more interesting than K-ON was.”

    There, I said it, I feel better about saying it.
    This show is essentially the breath of fresh air I needed from the slice of life anime (Clannad even though it has its mystical moments)

    K-On was….
    Well it was like it was trying to be Both Haruhi and azumanga and didn’t quite live up to its own expectations of itself.

    Now, the music accompaniment was good but I really wonder where Kyoani was on this one.

    So, Ill be placing Saki higher on the list here. The plot, while humorous, is more held up by its over the top characters. A girl who obviously has a Lesbian crush on the main char, an over the top student Congress president, your obligatory guy so that the estrogen is canceled out. And the hopelessly moe type loli.

    While humorous to its fault. I feel that the show is truly a humor anime which K-ON and its attempts to be funny don’t seem to reach.

    Thats not saying that Saki is without faults.

    But I have ranted enough. I liked it, I’ll be following this K-ON and Shangri la along with the new FMA anime this season….

  36. I play mahjong and I find this pretty interesting. Nothing ground breaking, but it shouldn’t be bad. I don’t think why you find this one ridiculous. This and Hikaru no Go are kinda same. One has Shounen-Ai moments (there are WAY too many yaoi doujins), other shoujo.

    I don’t know what you were expecting but the first episode I found was pretty decent.

  37. This reminds me mainly of Shion no Ou, which the main game played there was Shogi. I like that one since the mix of characters are more interesting and the mystery story was pretty interesting. But I’ll still give Saki a chance.

  38. i really didn’t thaught that a anime about a mahjong couldn’t be interesting.

    But this first episode was kinda interesting.

    i did watch numerous time because i tried to get an impression in how the game is played.

    Because i tried to understand the game because i don’t know this version of mahjong…

    Only knew the get the same tiles version.

    But i’m certainly going to watch more episode’s 😛

    And i’m still trying to get a pc version of this mahjong….. 🙁

  39. Alright two quick things.
    I play mahjong. I rather like this show due to that. I have never played baseball in my life, I have always hated so much as watching baseball. I love Cross Game. Sports animes can work if they are done right, Suzuka is living proof of that. I also believe when everything is said and done Cross Game will be as well. I think you need to give this show a chance, we may be lucky and get treated to a semi-decent School Drama with some mahjong thrown in. That said, I highly doubt we will get that, but I can hope.

    Also, does Saki look remarkably similar to Miyafuji Yoshika to anyone else?

  40. I don’t know why but this highly got me to want to play this game. It looks fun, I guess that’s how I got into yu-gi-oh and got into the regional championships but whatever. I really like it and I’ll continue to watch it. Be surprised but this game is losing popularity since the years of 500BC days when it first was created by the philosopher Confucius. Even with the awesome effects the animation was amazing and just the game in general just is fantastic and wouldn’t mind trying to play this game since it’s like Jin Rummy with the melds like Pong (3 of a kind of tiles) Kong (4) Chow (Same suit in a sequence which is like a straight flush). I’ll watch it more, looks fun 🙂

  41. Funny thing, it’s actually the fanservice that lure me first to this show :). Anyway, fs aside, the manga is quite a good read. IMO, the manga is clearly better. It has slightly better artwork (that, or the char design just doesn’t work well with animation) and the atmosphere is also less ridiculous/exaggerated.

    As for mahjong rules, I don’t know anything about it before this, although I’m striving hard to understand ;). I still don’t understand most of the games, but that’s pretty much the same with HnG and SnO. So, its fine . The pace in the anime is just too fast, though ><.

    Ramiel Salbazier
  42. BTW, the yuri undertone doesn’t exist in the manga (as far as vol 2) except maybe for three consecutive pages and it’s the other way around :), aside from yuki’s one-time joke about nodoka being her wife

    Ramiel Salbazier
  43. rinsha tsumo… freaking ridiculous. if you watch the second episode it is even more ridiculous =.= though I actually kind of enjoyed this show. but then again I play lots and lots of mah jong too…


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