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Saki – The Nationals Episode #04 Anime Review

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

The first round of the match begins with Yuuki coming out strong as usual in the East Wind portion, but as this is the National Tournament, there are monsters lying in wait.

What They Say:
Episode 4: “Hand 4: East Wind”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As we finally get to a match, we see Himematsu’s team discussing strategy and worrying about Yuuki, who has freakishly good luck in the East Wind portion of her match. With good reason, since Yuuki gets off to her usual fast start, having won the position of dealer as well. Even when Jindai changes the order of drawn tiles by claiming a discard, Yuuki still wins the hand (though her original draw would have been a win within one go around of declaring riichi and would have doubled her score for the winning hand). It may get harder on the other contestants when Yuuki declares that she’s going to end their match in just the East Wind Hand 1 (as dealer, if she keeps on winning, she can continue to be dealer with bonus hands and could conceivably drive one of the other players out of the game to end the match). I have my doubts that this is how things are going to end up…but it will be amusing to see how it gets stopped.

How it stops is apparently when Jindai wakes up, having been sleep-playing for the first few hands. Though she doesn’t win the hand; she plays straight into Ueshige of Himematsu’s hand, but that ends Yuuki’s streak. Over time, we get to learn the powers that Miyamori’s Kosegawa has (the longer she delays, the more expensive her winning hand becomes), though we learn little of what exactly Jindai and Ueshige are fully capable of. It’s the usual formula that we’ve seen from Episode of Side A. We end, however, with Jindai beginning to power up, so we can expect her to blow things away next episode.

In the Saki universe, this translates as: "Run away. Run away now."
In the Saki universe, this translates as: “Run away. Run away now.”

To be honest, I think I liked the show better when there were fewer people with powers and abilities running around. Granted, this is the National Tournament, so we have to expect, as seen in the Achiga parallel story, that every team is filled with amazing talents and eye-roll-inducing powers. In this respect, it’s like watching the match episodes of Episode of Side A, though this time we get to see the Kiyosumi players involved. I’m sure there are viewers who are excited to see what new and interesting supernatural tricks Ritz Kobayashi has devised for the new players, but honestly I think it would be more interesting to see the games won through skill and knowledge, not feats of luck or abilities that defy logic. That’s not in the cards, however.

As episodes go, this was not terribly exciting. It was nice that they showed some of the pre-game strategizing by Himematsu, which shows that their leader, Kyouko, is a strategist along the lines of Hisa or Yumi. But we’ll see how much strategy and planning can work against the illogical fantasy beasts that form most of the players we will be seeing at this stage. The reason why it wasn’t exciting is because we could largely predict how things would go. Yuuki’s early wins were a foregone conclusion with her usual “power.” Kosegawa’s winning hand was also entirely within expectation, since they dropped massive breadcrumbs, going so far as to tie it to a Japanese folk tale in a lengthy explanation. The only time we were thrown a slight curve was in Jindai’s loss to Ueshige, since so far, Suzu has been on the losing side of things and we have yet to see any kind of power or ability from her. It’s good that Kobayashi throws out a red herring now and then, showing a realization that constant sign-posting is going to take away any and all suspense or surprise from the story.

The match continues.

In Summary:
Yuuki gets off to her usual fast start as the starting dealer in the East Wind portion of the first player round of the match. She doesn’t get her wish of ending the match in the East Wind, however, as the other players make use of their own abilities to counter her and extend play. It looks like one of the national-class monsters is truly going to awaken next episode.

Grade: B

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

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

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