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Saki Episode #09 Anime Review

4 min read
Saki Episode 9
Saki Episode 9

The long build up is finally over. It is the final team match of the Prefectural Qualifying Tournament. Whose team shall reign supreme?

What They Say
Hand 9 – Eyes Open
The finals have started and Kiyosumi’s mahjong club is in a state of panic! Tacos, the source of Yuuki’s power, was taken away. In shock, her sadness was seen as she gently lifts her hand. The match is with Kazekoshi’s captain!!!

The Review!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For the opening match, we have Yuuki, so we have to expect comic relief. And so it goes, with Jun Inoue of Ryuumonbuchi stealing Yuuki’s tacos (it wasn’t deliberate or malicious). Mihoko of Kazekoshi comes to the rescue with her motherly tenderness. But it’s a metaphor for how things go for Yuuki during her normally strong East Wind round of the opening half. Jun stole her tacos and also stole away the flow of the game, rendering Yuuki meaningless for the first half of play. A fairly predictable start for the opening match of the Finals, as it’s now time for the real fighting to start. Largely unknown Tsuruga Academy remains largely unknown, as their first player, Mutsuki Tsuyama, is mostly a bystander in this first matchup.

Of course, the tense and disquieting mood is not going to continue, as Kyoutarou appears during the half-time break to give Yuuki a fresh taco infusion (and as usual mistakenly talk about herself rather than Kyoutarou when she says “nice doggy!”). This is the time when she’ll make an amazing comeback, right? Filled with taco power, she’ll win back all the points she lost to Jun in the first half. It’s not that simple however, as Jun again engages in disruption tactics. We have already had this expectation planted in our heads thanks to the opening animation, which places Ryuumonbuchi clearly in the role of “villains” (though there aren’t really any villains in this show). So, Jun will run away with all of Yuuki’s points?

No, Yuuki, that would be you
No, Yuuki, that would be you

Not so fast. That’s because the episode titles generally have some meaning in this series. “Eyes Open.” Who must have the greatest eyelid cramp ever?

That would be our lovely, sweet, kind Kazekoshi Captain Mihoko Fukuji. It’s a warning sign whenever the show engages in over-dramatic animation sequences. We had that when Saki claimed her unusual winning hand at the end of Episode 1. We’ve had it here and there before. And now we have it again as Mihoko’s closed eye opens. It appears that her normally closed eye is a different color (anime seems to love heterochromia a real, but very rare condition where a person can have two differently-colored eyes) and has the ability to sense the hands of everyone at the table. And now Mihoko uses it to shut down Jun’s ability to manipulate the flow of play at the table in order to help Yuuki win a hand.

But Mihoko is doing it only to take down Jun. Which she manages to do in spectacular fashion. By the end of the round, all three other teams are in the red while Mihoko has taken 42,000 points (each team has 100,000 at the start) from the others.

The Kazekoshi Girls are quite happy with their captain's performance
The Kazekoshi Girls are quite happy with their captain’s performance

And this is what makes what could otherwise be an incredibly boring opening round at least somewhat unexpected and exciting. The twists and turns of play are what interest us in sports stories (and this is very much told as a sports story; this isn’t your “girls in a club doing nothing” show that has become rather popular over the past few years). It’s the quick changes in momentum and advantage, the unpredictability that drives interest in sports. The problem with many sports shows is that the original author becomes too wedded to one or another “strategy” in terms of making the flow of play unpredictable. In much later installments, this does affect Ritz Kobayashi a bit, as one gets to learn what her preferences are for plotting the flow of play. Here at the start, however, it was a well-executed trap that Jun Inoue, and some in the audience, fell into. A good start for a long slog ahead.

In Summary:
The Prefectural Qualifying Finals, which will determine which one school will advance to the National Finals, beings. While I had thought that things would move a bit more swiftly, it looks as if there will be at least an episode for each match round (recall, five players, so five match rounds total), which would take us to the halfway point of the series. We get to see a lot more play than we did in the first couple of tournament rounds, though it is still all in a highly abbreviated manner, which gives those who have never played the game little idea of how the whole thing works. While Yuuki did not play badly, Mihoko was just too good for everyone, including the overconfident Jun Inoue of Ryuumonbuchi. It’s game on at this point and an interesting question to see who will dominate in the next round.

Grade: B+

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 12GB RAM, Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite