OP: 「TSUBASA」 by StylipS
I can’t say it enough – while the early parts of Saki Achiga alternated between weirdly fast and simply lackluster, the semi-finals have been a total blast. This episode was no exception. I felt like I was watching Nodoka and Saki and the rest of Kiyosumi again, with all the chill-inducing mahjong tanoshii that entails. Get fired up!
Third Round, Part 2 : The Yakuman Harvest
Players: Atarashi Ako (Achiga) vs. Shibuya Takami (Shiraitodai) vs. Eguchi Sera (Senriyama) vs. Ezaki Hitomi (Shindouji)
With the majority of this round happening last time, we only got the climax here, and I must say it was of the anti variety. Takami busted out a Daisangen, scoring 8,000 / 16,000 for a total of 32,000 (half of which came from Senriyama). A fierce hand – but she lost much more than she gained over the entire round, coming in behind both Sera and Ako for points scored. Verdicts were passed on the player’s performances, and I went huh. That was odd.
That is, until Sera and Ako talked about the frightening potential of Takami’s power – what happens if she is the dealer on the last hand? If the dealer wins, you go into bonus hands, and with her power operating she’s liable to get yakuman after yakuman. Losing a boatload of points to get one stellar strike isn’t ideal, but doing it to get two? Three? More? Holy hell. And chances are that’s exactly what will happen in the finals. Too bad the two frenemies Ako and Sera won’t be there to fight against the storm together. Watch out Sera, FunaQ is pissed at your flirting!
Fourth Round: Bondage, Evil Genius, and Revenge. The Champions Falter!
Players: Sagimori Arata (Achiga), Matano Seiko (Shiraitodai), Funakubo Hiroko (Senriyama), Shirouzu Mairu (Shindouji)
Given the Achiga player involved, I didn’t expect this fourth round to be so exciting, but boy was it! Much of this is owed to Shirouzu Mairu (Kano Yui), Shindouji’s ace and the practitioner of bondage majong. While FunaQ was initially paying attention to Matano Seiko (Shimizu Kaori), Shiraitodai rightly picked up Mairu as the principal threat.
For those who may have not caught it, here’s how her power works: Mairu sets a limit (sometimes called a reservation) on herself of how many han she’ll win with. Then, if she wins with that many, her yuri love partner Tsuruta Himeko (Oogame Asuka), who plays last, will win the same hand with double that many han. In laymen’s terms, that means for every hand that Mairu wins be matching her stated limit, Himeko will get a metaphorical key and win even bigger. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword, because if she sets a limit on herself and fails to make it, Himeko has almost no chance of winning.
What makes Mairu so dangerous is not only her special ability, but the fact that she’s just a damned good mahjong player. While Shiraitodai’s fifth best player can whoop normal aces, Mairu isn’t a normal ace, and it showed. I couldn’t believe how much Seiko was getting whopped! I was getting shades of Izumi from her, though she didn’t take her beating quite as badly as Senriyama’s young’n did.
While a lot of the danger came from Mairu, she was indiscriminate in who she took points from, whereas another player was not. FunaQ came out in this round as a twisted evil genius, proving that she’s not some bench warming number-crunching team manager for a reason – that girl can play! I was impressed by how good she was, but best of all was how she tricked and screwed with her opponents. Rather than take points as they came, she targeted Seiko with traps and feints that took points away from the champions Senriyama seeks to slay. Seriously, not only did FunaQ rocket to the top of my favorite character’s list with all her evil brainiac glory, but she actually pulled Senriyama within a hair of besting Achiga for second place, and dragged Shiraitodai down in the process.
But, not quite! Though overshadowed for most of the series, and even most of this match, Arata came out swinging like never before. Her first strike (ha ha ha) was a good one, but she went up a whole level in my estimation when she pulled that glorious trick out of her sleeve. Her own play style is too obvious, too easy to defend against – it’s like playing against Kuro, you know exactly what she needs (circles), so don’t give her those and you’re fine. Then she mixes in Harue’s old style, and suddenly she’s tearing people up and nobody knows what to think. Woohoo!
This, my friends, is Saki crazy mahjong at its finest. Not since Toki collapsed have I gotten those old chills, that thrill up my spine that says something special is happening on-screen, and I have no idea what it is or who will win. The last hand came down to Mairu and Arata going head-to-head, with Mairu labouring under a seven reservation to give her team a chance at the win…and Mairu pulls it out! Holy hell guys, that was exciting!
Looking Ahead – onto the Fifth Round
The stage is set. Thanks to the machinations of Arata, FunaQ, and Mairu, the top three teams (Shiraitodai, Achiga, and Senriyama) are all within spitting distance of one another, and Mairu has collected some powerful keys for Himeko to use. Next time is going to be a terror of a match. Shindouji is primed, Awai is loose, and Ryuuka is determined not to let Toki’s pain be in vain. Can Shizu withstand multiple monsters and come out with at least second place? And what are these “gears” Harue and Ako were talking about? It might just be that Shizu has a special ability of her own. I don’t know what the final round will hold, but it’s going to be damn fun to see!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Shiraitodai is overwhelmed in by Mairu’s bondage, FunaQ’s evil, & Arata’s burning spirit of revenge! Mahjong tanoshii, woohoo! #SakiAchiga
- Oh gods Hajime, Koromo, you two need to wear more clothing! Or at least keep the ones you’re wearing on, Koromo.
- I very much enjoyed Himeko’s reaction every time Mairu set her limit. I hope that doesn’t keep up when you’re on national television Himeko, or you’re going to be really embarrassed. Wait, what am I saying? Of course I hope that happens!
- Toki is awake! Now Ryuuka can really fight. Erh–uh oh. Watch out, Achiga.
ED: 「Futuristic Player」 by 橋本みゆき (Hashimoto Miyuki)