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Saki – The Nationals Episode #05 Anime Review

4 min read
Saki - The Nationals Episode 5
Saki – The Nationals Episode 5

The first round ends with Kiyosumi needing to score some points to ensure their advancement in the tournament. It will be Mako’s turn to deal with a rather annoying power user.

What They Say:
Episode 5: “Hand 5: Gods and Demons”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So, even more flashbacks, this time a look back at Himematsu and particularly Ueshige’s strengths and weaknesses. We learn that Suzu only got onto the match team through Kyouko’s recommendation. We also learn that while she is not a particularly strong player in general, she can suddenly manage a major winning hand at times, going off like an explosion. That won’t matter much if the other players can completely counter things. Yuuki manages to get a good hand together, but then Jindai cheats…ahem, I mean activates her powers and steals the victory from Yuuki. It’s part of what makes this show…boring.

Though this does make things more dramatically exciting from the storytelling viewpoint, as it’s not going to be Kiyosumi steamrolling over their opponents. It’s game on from this point as the first players’ round is over. Yuuki is in tears, but as we already know who will be going to the Finals anyway (since, well, it was given away at the end of the first season), we need not worry too much.

So, what weirdoes does Mako have to deal with? The whiteboard drawing foreign exchange student Aislinn Wishart (from New Zealand) represents Miyamori; Eiui sends forth shrine maiden #2, Tomoe Karijuku, while Himematsu gives us a girl with a weird hairstyle (who they don’t identify for us yet, but we later see is Yuuko Mase from her turn as dealer). We then learn from Kyouko of Himematsu and the girls of Miyamori what Aislinn’s play style and power are: she can imagine tiles and turn her imagination into the tiles that appear on the board. It’s noted that Aislinn almost always reaches tenpai, being one tile from victory, and has a very high winning percentage. It looks like cheating is the order of the day again…

Drawing up plans on how to deal with the opposition
Drawing up plans on how to deal with the opposition

…until Mako shows that strategy can beat silly supernatural powers. Sure, her winning hand is a cheap crappy hand that scores 300/500 (1100 total), but hey, a win is a win. Perhaps it’s the fact that Mako has been exposed to so much supernatural crap for so long, she’s now attuned to whenever it happens and can counter it. Her ability to read the discards of her opponents comes in handy, as she is able to estimate what is in other players hands and is able to disrupt Aislinn’s ability to wish tiles into existence with great effect. Without her power, Aislinn is near useless. Every time she tries to reimagine the tiles into her desired formation, Mako destroys it. And a good thing too, otherwise this would get boring quickly.

On to round three already.

While we continue to get the run of powers, there are signs that Kobayashi realized that there needs to be a place for intelligence and strategy, otherwise the drama quotient of the story would disappear entirely. Things were fairly well balanced this time around as the amount of cheating…er…supernaturally-aided victories was balanced by some good old fashioned strategy and experience. Jindai’s final winning hand against Yuuki to end the first players’ round was thankfully balanced against Aislinn’s inability to make her power overwhelm all of her opponents in the second players’ round, as Mako’s knowledge and experience allowed her to counter it. I hope that the future rounds of play continue to exhibit this kind of balance, which was sorely lacking at times in the Episode of Side A tournament matches, where it was more a matter of powers being throw up against each other and the most dreadfully cheating one beating out the slightly less dreadfully cheating ones. Of course, Saki herself is one of the worst cheaters of them all, with her ability to conjure kong/tsumos out of thin air on a regular basis, but…she’s the main character, so she needs to have that ability at times.

One positive thing to note: they’ve done a decent job of throwing out red herrings more, making it somewhat harder to guess when the long and boring explanation of someone’s special ability will result in their immediately winning a hand or fall flat, as happened with Suzu’s special ability, which never manifested itself in this match.

In Summary:
Yuuki’s misstep in the final hand of the first round is made up for by Mako’s masterful play in her match up. Even one of those pesky cheating powers in the hands of one of her opponents was unable to beat her experience and knowledge of the game. And a good thing too, since the lack of any ability of mere humans, using only their brains, to defeat the demons with luck under their control at the table would destroy any ability to generate suspense or drama. One hopes the current balance between the power of the supernatural and the use of knowledge and experience will be maintained in future rounds.

Grade: B

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

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

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