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Saki Episode #17 Anime Review

4 min read
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Saki Episode 17

Things begin to look grimmer and grimmer for Kana Ikeda as she and her team are under intense pressure. Is Koromo unstoppable, or is there a way to counter her baleful influence?

What They Say
Hand 17 – Nightmare

Amae Koromo’s powerful lead ends the first half of the match. She is keeping the other schools as far as possible. Most of the players haven’t been able to hide their state of shock from what just went on. Ikeda cuddles up to Fukuji; Momoko encourages Kajiki; Saki and Nodoka hold hands and make a promise together. So begins the second half.

The Review!
Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Koromo Amae of Ryuumonbuchi appears to have dealt Kazekoshi a near death blow with her multiple wins. Kana Ikeda is reduced to a very small number of points. Saki and Yumi are both holding on for dear life, but not in the instant elimination danger of Kazekoshi, though Kazekoshi’s elimination would spell the end of the tournament and instant victory for Ryuumonbuchi anyway. Things look pretty grim. As the contestants file out of the room during the mid-match break, Koromo gleefully skips out, while Saki runs for the bathroom. Kajiki slowly makes her way out. As Ikeda sits with her head buried in her hands at the table, Mihoko, the captain of Kazekoshi, comes to visit her and console her.

It’s not surprising that after the intensity of the first hanchan (the first complete go around of the players sitting as “dealer” twice during the course of play. Two hanchan are played each match round) needs to be dialed back a bit in order to give the audience a chance to catch up with what has happened. Time for some non-play interaction.

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Koromo has a chat with the pro Fujita at the vending machines outside, where the pro reveals that she thinks Koromo isn’t really playing mahjong at all, more being made to play. Kajiki gets a bottle of water and Momoko suddenly appears (of course). As for Saki, she gets lost trying to find a bathroom. Nodoka, who has rushed from the team viewing room to find her finally does track Saki down and the two have a little heart to heart. With a gentle reminder about what Saki promised Nodoka (about them both going to the Nationals), Saki seems to have her confidence restored.

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That sinking feeling returns…

Though things do not improve with the return to play in the second half of the match round. Koromo goes out and hits the entire table for yet another Bottom of the Sea. Two hands follow where Koromo wins off discards from Kana. In the next hand, she takes all of Kazekoshi’s remaining points in another win off of Kana’s discard. But it is much more malevolent than that, for Koromo deliberately changed her winning hand in order to take exactly all of Kazekoshi’s remaining points, when she could have knocked them out and ended the tournament right there. Instead, Koromo wishes to make everyone at the table her plaything. As Hajime, watching from the Ryuumonbuchi team room notes, this is what Koromo did to her when they first played mahjong. Koromo likes to make the other players into her toys. She feeds off their psychological misery. Did I mention that she’s supposed to have a tragic backstory of her own? Of course, thus we’re not meant to really hate Koromo too much.

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Saki has a secret smile

All of that changes, however, in the end, as Saki deliberately allows Kana to win off of one her declared kongs, thus getting them out of the 0 points trap that Koromo had devised. Saki is smiling. That’s never a good sign for everyone else.

A brief hit of the brakes as we have the short intermission between halves of the match round. Time for each of the contestants to have a moment to reflect (Yumi), be consoled (Kana), gloat (Koromo), and find a bathroom (Saki). I think part of what makes this series and story work is that it has been well paced, throwing us forward rapidly when necessary but also knowing when to take a moment to sit and ponder what we’ve seen. Pacing is something that too many shows get wrong, so kudos to Manabu Ono (director) and Tatsuhiko Urahata (series composition) for getting it right in this show.

In Summary:
Things get very dark indeed, as Koromo dominates the table with a malevolent spirit, trying to turn the other players into her playthings. A series of wins off of Kana of Kazekoshi brings them to the brink of instant elimination and the end of the tournament. As Yumi and Saki look on helplessly, it seems that they are to become little more than toys for Koromo Amae. A small shard of hope, however, emerges by the end. With a fairly good balance between looking into the emotional lives of the players during the downtimes and the intense action at the table during play, this episode does a good job of holding the viewer’s attention as we wait to see the finale to this match.

Grade: B+

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 12GB RAM, Mac OS 10.11 El Capitan.

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