We come to the final showdown as the match enters its final hands.
What They Say:
Hand 19 – Friends
Amae Koromo prevented Saki from extending the game. The scene became more and more tense as there was an overwhelming point spread where Amae Koromo was far ahead putting pressure on Kajiki, Ikeda, and Saki.The prefectural competition’s finals, the last battle is about to begin.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We start, rather surprisingly, with a flashback to Koromo’s first meeting with her cousin Touka, after the accident that killed Koromo’s parents. Then we get a quick look back at Koromo’s life and see how lonely she has been the whole time. Touka has tried her best, in her warped way, to help, but sadly, it looks like she hasn’t done much to help the poor little girl (who’s actually older than Touka). We should still give Touka a lot of credit as it appears no one else wanted to bother with a “cursed” child and this whole montage does much to humanize the hammy caricature that is Touka.
But inside of Koromo’s mind, there is only darkness. She thinks that the only need for her, the only reason Touka and the others are kind to her, is that they need her abilities for playing mahjong. Therefore, she will wipe the floor with her opponents, since that’s her only reason for being.
How incredibly sad. And here, folks, for those who’ve never quite grasped how to define moe, is a primer on the subject. There is very high moe value in high level of pathos being injected into all of this. Pay some attention to the music in the background too. Ryuumonbuchi has been extravagant, arrogant, imposing up to this point. The music here, however, is quite soft, gentle and comforting.
And so Koromo starts off the final hands by winning yet another Bottom of the Sea victory. It starts to look really bad for everyone else. And yet, neither Saki nor Yumi of Tsuruga have given up. Even Kana of Kazekoshi has not completely lost the fight, though her chances of staging a comeback are extremely slim at best. As play continues, however, Koromo, for the first time ever, finds herself at a loss in another hand, as she draws a tile that she knows Saki needs. At this point she thinks deeply and carefully about what to do. And then, just to make things interesting, Saki interjects with how much fun she is having, playing against the opponents ranged in front of her, including Koromo. Koromo is slightly taken aback by this, since she had never had the experience before of someone telling her that they were having fun while playing mahjong with her. So, Koromo herself comes to a realization: that she does not have to be a puppet under the control of her instinct. She can choose to play how she feels, and thus she decides to discard the tile that Saki needs, knowing that she will lose some points, but choosing to do so.
Saki takes the tile, but does not claim the win on a ron. Instead, she makes a melded kong off of the 1 of circles that Koromo has discarded. There are special rules that come into play now (as we are informed in detail), which specify that if a player with a melded kong wins on their own draw (tsumo) after a kong, the person who was responsible for the melded kong pays the points for the entire table, a much higher point hit. But Saki does not take the easy tsumo on her first draw from the dead wall either. She declares another kong. And then another. At which point she draws another tile she needs in order to have a full flush, all circles, all pungs and kongs. A counted yakuman, which means that Koromo has just lost 32,000 points in one hand. And Saki has made an incredible comeback.
They brought out all the stops in terms of visual effects as each tile drawn by Saki throws waves of force across the table. The music as well swells into triumphant mode, building the climax even higher. The gusts of wind and odd lights all add to the supernatural aspect of Saki’s play.
Kiyosumi is through to the National Championships. Saki and Nodoka embrace. We have some other heartwarming moments with the other teams. And it’s all over.
For the moment.
As an ending to the match, we all might have sensed what was coming, but the execution was quite good. It threw off our sensibilities slightly by opening the episode with the first deep instance of Koromo’s inner thoughts, showing how sad her life story truly is. That the episode circles back around to the themes of family and friendship explored there at the end during the “losers’ consolation” phase of the action, creates a nice bond between opening and ending. There are tears, certainly, for the teams that lost, but there is also defiance (“wait until next year!” rejoinders) and the warmth of human contact.
For the winners, there is rejoicing and triumph, but it’s free of gloating or any smugness. That’s not the kind of people Kiyosumi are. We also see a rather familiar picture make its first chronological appearance.
With the conclusion of the Prefectural Qualifiers, we get to breathe a sigh of relief, even if, in our hearts, we knew who the winner was going to be from the very start of the show (if you were clueless about that, here’s a hint: the show is not called “Koromo,” though I’m sure there are many who would pay to see that show). The actual victory itself was, perhaps, slightly anti-climactic, since it did not end the show itself, which allows itself a few minutes after the tournament to cycle through the various teams and let their feelings be registered. It has been a long trip, but it has been worth it so far. Perhaps now even the characters will take a breath and relax for a moment until they push on to the next stage. As sports anime go, this one has done a pretty good job of balancing out the tension and drama so far.
Streamed by: Crunchyroll
Apple iMac with 12GB RAM, Mac OS 10.11 El Capitan.