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Saki – The Nationals Episode #02 Anime Review

4 min read
Saki - The Nationals Episode 2
Saki – The Nationals Episode 2

So, we’re at the Nationals, but we’re not about to get to the Nationals any time soon as we get more flashbacks and side stories.

What They Say:
Episode 2: “Hand 2: Support”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We begin with shrine maidens (some better dressed than others). Jindai’s team recounts the previous year a little bit while relaxing in the bath. But no time to waste on that, it’s time for Kiyosumi’s first match. At least we get to see the full OP and interestingly it’s Jindai who gets the “evil boss” position in the parade of opponents (a position held by Touka Ryuumonbuchi in the original series and Teru Miyanaga in the Achiga parallel story).

Kiyosumi’s former opponents come out to wish them luck in their first match, beginning with Ryuumonbuchi followed by Tsuruga. Then we get a video message from Kiyosumi, arranged by the Student Council…er Congress…Vice President (much to Hisa’s embarrassment, though she appreciates it nonetheless). There are also memories of the training camp that Hisa invited the other Nagano schools to. I begin to wonder when they’re ever going to show Kiyosumi playing a match. While I appreciate the fun times to be had showing the Nagano teams, if you’re going to have the National Tournament be the focus of the series…then how about showing the tournament?

The training camp takes up the rest of the episode (so, we’ll get to Kiyosumi’s first match when?). Instead of seeing the tournament of the present, we learn a little something about Touka Ryuumonbuchi of a tournament past: when she is around too many strong opponents, as happened at the Nationals the year before, she goes into some kind of trance and becomes “Cold Touka.” This alarms Hajime, but excites Koromo, since she gets to play more interesting matches. So, what happens when Cold Touka goes up against Koromo, Saki, and Fujita the pro? Apparently she becomes nearly unbeatable, even against powerful opposition. It takes a toll though, as she can only keep it up for a while and then passes out, forgetting everything that happened. It’s an impressive performance, though Touka herself rejects the style of play that she employs while in her altered state.

If you're a beginner at mahjong, this is not the table for you
If you’re a beginner at mahjong, this is not the table for you

The other amusing bit of side business we get is to see Maho, the little middle school friend of Nodoka who gives off a weird aura. Hisa already noticed something special about her from the very start, when looking over the play records of the previous year’s middle school tournament, though what makes Maho special will remain a mystery for at least another week.

The ED is unveiled and it’s not terribly special, from both an animation standpoint and musically. Several still shots of the main characters and a song from Miyuki Hashimoto, who also sings many of the opening and ending themes for the franchise, “True Gate,” that is up-tempo, but lacks a certain amount of energy. Saki does a bit of running as well, figuratively running after her dream I assume.

Maho, the hidden terror from middle school
Maho, the hidden terror from middle school

To be honest, as much as I do like (and I do) the teams from the original series, I would like the story to move forward at this point. If they wanted to do all of this backstory, by all means, do it, but don’t have it constantly spliced into the present. Start the series with the last training camp before the trip to the Nationals, but once we get to the National stage…show us the National stage. Having all of this build up and lead up is frankly getting a touch tiring. I want to see Kiyosumi play in the Tournament. As it is, we already know, thanks to the Achiga parallel story, who comes into the Finals from the A Side of the tournament. I want to get through the B Side prelims fairly quickly because I’m sure the Finals should take several episodes. In that sense, they’re moving as slowly as you could in a two cour series, though sources have stated that this isn’t going to go beyond a single cour.

It’s nice to visit the past, but there’s a point where you need to starting moving ahead or else risk making that future irrelevant as everyone continually wallows in the past. Hopefully, we start moving forward by the end of the next episode.

In Summary:
The present continues receive short shrift in favor of the past, as we have a lengthy flashback to the final training camp Hisa arranged with the other Nagano schools in order to warm up her team before the National Interhigh Tournament. Sure, it’s fun to spend some time with the amusing weirdoes that abound in the Saki universe, such as Koromo and Touka, but at some point this show is really going to have to move forward or risk appearing to flounder around aimlessly, stuffed with filler while avoiding the the real focus, Saki’s drive to reach the finals in order to speak to her sister in the only way she thinks will work: through mahjong.

Grade: B

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard

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