The weary fighter. The fearless sacrifice. The beaten dragon. The executioner king. With Teru on a rampage, and the others doing everything they can in to try to stop her, this match has become one of the most compelling ones I’ve seen in the Saki universe so far. Once again I’m going to take this by character, and go over the impact each of the four characters taking part in this match had on this episode – plus one bonus. Let’s get to it.
The Weary Fighter – Onojouji Toki, Senriyama Girls’ High School. Toki is once again the undisputed main character of this match. Where once I was all about Achiga, now I’m actively rooting for Senriyama to go to the finals instead. The double gambit she pulled early on succeed at stopping Teru’s onslaught – but at a cost. Seriously, I haven’t seen a character looking this worn and beat up in a long time. Hell, I’ve seen dead characters with more life in them! And I’m not talking about the ones that still move around, I’m talking about the no-vital-signs-and-no-more-spoken-lines types.
Unfortunately, using the double took so much out of Toki that she actually played into Teru’s hand. It was good that she stopped Teru, but it might end up costing her more than she saved. Yet I have nothing but respect for her resolve, and her willingness to take all sorts of pain upon herself for the benefit of her friends. Of course, she’s being silly – her friends would rather she not kill herself for their benefit, and will scold her afterwards for making them worry. Still, I’m reminded of something I once read. It said that Japan has a culture that loves to watch its heroes suffer, and that the greater the pain, the greater the honor. If that’s true, there is a lot of honor waiting for Toki on the other side, if only she can survive the attack. Yet, I can’t help but think that if you replace the word “honor” with “glory”, this view isn’t so different from how most cultures feel. The greater the trials, the greater the glory if you can pull out a win, or even just make it out alive. I think humans instinctively respect those who can take a huge beating and come out the other side standing. I know I do.
Then there was the flashback to the Senriyama training camp, and the “Toki Shift”. Like Mihoko of Kazekoshi, I liked that the girls weren’t just foisting the troublesome stuff off on their kouhais, and were instead doing the work themselves. There’s no better way to truly become a team than working together so that all of you can keep going forward together. As for Toki and Ryuuka’s little talk at night, it was indeed uncharacteristic to hear that Sera was so moved to tears after last year’s loss, but not so strange, given the stakes she was playing at, and how far she went. The only thing I could think was that, at the rate things are going, Toki is going to be the one crying on that plane home this time.
The Fearless Sacrifice – Hanada Kirame, Shindouji Girls’ High School. I cannot get over how quickly Kirame (subara!) has rocketed to the top of my favorite characters list. During the Shindouji flashback, we learned that Kirame is definitely not their ace, and is in fact the opposite – she’s a sacrifice. What’s more, the only reason that Kirame is on the team is not because she’s the fifth best player at their school, but because she’s a specialist at not losing. Pretty smart on Shindouji’s part, given the kind of players they’re up against. But what really makes me love Kirame is that she overheard all of this…and then decided to go and be the best damn sacrifice she possible can. Oh man, Subara truly is subara.
And there’s more! Kirame is what enabled Toki to stop Teru’s first charge, she understood what Toki was thinking without needing to say a single word, she just keeps on playing normally even when Teru’s hurricane begins to roar, and while Kuro cries and Toki is barely able to stay upright, Kirame tirelessly works at mitigating Teru’s damage – and is having a blast while she does it! She’s truly, truly subara. How can I not vote for her? At this point, I’m starting to like both Senriyama and Shindouji better than Achiga.
The Beaten Dragon – Matsumi Kuro, Achiga Girls’ Academy. Speaking of, there’s Kuro. Not a lot to say about her once again, as she barely had any presence this episode. She’s really only done one thing (which some insightful commenters pointed out last week, and the characters said this week): because Kuro has been goobering up all the doras, she has prevented Teru from using them to raise her point totals, which has mitigated the damage Shiraitodai could do. That said, Kuro doesn’t deserve any praise for this since she didn’t do anything active to cause it. She just…was. Kuro, you may be helping inadvertently, but slavishly doing the same old thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Fail.
The Executioner King – Miyanaga Teru, Shiraitodai High School. Teru is, simply stated, a beast. Toki had to bring herself to what looks like the brink of death in order to pull just one win out of the champion’s jaws, and now Teru is making her do it again. Teru is simply overwhelming. Watching her go 130,000 points up on the next school has been painful to watch, but it’s also the reason why this match has been one of the most compelling ones of the entire Saki series. Though I want to know how Toki and Kirame (and I guess Kuro) are going to get out of this alive, what it really makes me wonder is how Tacos and the two other teams are going to handle Teru in the finals.
Bonus: The True Protagonist – Miyanaga Saki, Kiyosumi High School. This week, we were treated to some pretty hefty cameos from Kiyosumi. Saki’s actions here are what really interested me. While Teru was inside running rampant over the competition, clearly having sensed Toki’s weakness), Saki paused outside. I think she sensed the bloodbath that was going on as well, and it made her wonder how she was going to confront her wayward onee-san. Look, Saki Achiga has had a lot of storytelling deficiencies, but if its goal was to get us pumped up for Saki season 2, mission fuckin’ accomplished. When’s that airing again??
Next week, we’ll see whether Toki’s triple will be enough to stop Teru. I just have to wonder though, after she does it, will she even be able to lift the tiles anymore? All I can say is that the music during the preview was that of a King’s dirge, as the executioner sharpens her axe to cut off some traitors’ heads. At this point, there will be blood. The only question is whose it will be, and how much.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The weary fighter. The fearless sacrifice. The beaten dragon. The executioner king. Teru’s rampage continues as Toki barely holds on #Saki
- Genki announcer-chan really needs to cut back on the caffeine. That weird squeal was frightening o.O
- I love Saki’s random RPG inserts. I would watch that show. You see Kuro’s outfit there? I would watch the fuck out of that show
- Still, not all is bleak for Achiga. Their goal was never to win Nationals, but to play against their friend Nodoka one more time, and by the looks of it Nodoka is just about to realize that they’re there. Achiga can lose the match and still achieve the most fundamental part of what they set out to do, to see Nodoka again. That’s what I’m voting for now.
- Hang in there, Toki. Ryuuka is waiting for you. Ganbare.