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Saki – The Nationals Episode #08 Anime Review

4 min read
Saki - The Nationals Episode 8
Saki – The Nationals Episode 8

The match continues and Nodoka continues to be a bystander.

What They Say:
Episode 8: “Hand 8: Fortress”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So, the severely underdressed loli employs a cheat…ahem…is fortunate enough to be able to gather up all of the winds (which can gain you a very expensive hand) when she is sitting North at the table. Fortunately for our sanity, Sae from Miyamori is well aware of this, being warned by her coach, Kumakura, and has a countermeasure available: she can lock an opponent’s hand in place so that they won’t be able get the remaining tiles they need to complete a winning hand. The block works once on Usuzumi, but she counters by deliberately losing to move the seating positions back to her advantage. The next time loli has the North seat, she again begins to collect winds, but Sae’s seal works again.

Unfortunately, the power to employ the block is extremely tiring and Sae doesn’t look to be able to keep it up yet another time (and it would have to be two more times to shut down Usuzumi entirely). Again, to her misfortune, it appears that Nodoka is oblivious to Usuzumi’s powers, so Nodoka keeps on helping Usuzumi gain the necessary East tiles to build the hand. Kinue of Himematsu is aware as well of the cheat, but is largely powerless to do anything about it as she has no powers and is more concerned with defending her team’s points.

We get a flashback to flesh out Sae and Kumakura a little as we see the first time Kumakura came to Himematsu as a teacher. Already back then, Sae could sense Kumakura’s connection to mahjong. And we learn that it was Kumakura who brought the unusual Toyone to Himematsu. Back in the present, Sae reminisces with Shiro during the break in her match. It does much to give a little more depth and feeling to the girls from Himematsu…while at the same time showing one rather big weakness to Ritz Kobayashi’s writing for one of the main characters: Nodoka.

You remember Nodoka? Large breasts. Main character. No?
You remember Nodoka? Large breasts. Main character. No?

Just as in the prefectural tournament of the first season, Nodoka hasn’t really done much at the table once she’s had her little Nodocchi awakening scene. Thus how Stealth Momo had most of the attention along with Touka Ryuumonbuchi during their match up. This has happened again, with a lot of focus being placed on Sae and Usuzumi, with Nodoka largely being passive. But, as in the past, Kobayashi seems aware that having Nodoka fade away to nothingness becomes noticeable, so something must be done to get her back in the spotlight. This time, we have a sign that Nodoka is not entirely unaware of weird tile calling. During their downtime earlier in the tournament, Hisa alerted her to someone calling for wind tiles unusually and she finally figures it out as we near the end of her match. Will she be able to do anything with this information? Not in this episode.

I continue to be in Waiting for Saki mode. Largely because Nodoka is not a very interesting player and the others are not all that interesting either. Usuzumi is severely underdressed; Kinue just sits around and looks worried all the time; Sae is perhaps the most interesting, because they gave her some character focus and fleshing out this episode, but even then, it was not really all that compelling. It feels as if much was left out (though I have no idea about the original manga other than that according to those who are familiar with it, the anime has done a fairly good job of being faithful to the source). There should be more to the story than we’ve seen. If that is all there is…then it’s not much. Weak tea.

I am happy at least that strategy is playing a role in this round, since next round will probably involve the greatest amount of cheating…I mean the involvement of luck. Kinue, Nodoka, and Sae are all using strategy to do their best. This is why characters like Usuzumi hold no appeal for me. She’s a one-trick pony. And if you tie the pony up to the hitching post, she has absolutely nothing.

In Summary:
This round is pretty boring, largely consisting of Sae using her power to stop Usuzumi from using her own. Kinue sits by looking worried while Nodoka just sits. Sure, the overly buxom one does win a nice hand, but she’s largely absent from the stage though I can’t blame the writers entirely for that: she isn’t that interesting a player.

Grade: B

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

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

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