That’s a long title. Finally Saki is back after a 3 year (April’09 – Sept’09) break-of-sorts. That’s a long time. However this particular version of Saki is just a spin-off, that might mean we won’t get to see the main series characters much at all. But does this make Saki: Achiga-hen any less interesting to watch? Find out after the break.
First things first, as with most spin-offs, one does not need to have watched the original to understand what is going on. Having the knowledge though helps in understanding the series better. Secondly, one does not need to necessarily need to know how to play mahjong to watch this series, since we all know when it comes down to any activities involving gambling or chance, the characters tend to have hands that are statistically close to 0%. From what I remember, the mahjong games moves at a fairly fast pace too so there’s little to miss out on.
Well, if mahjong is not the focal point of this series, then what is? At this point it is fairly early to tell but I’m guessing it’s a mixture of 40% mahjong 50% slice-of-life and 9% sugar spice and everything nice, don’t forget the 1% of chemical X! OK, the last 10% would be elements like yuri undertones (thus far absent) and a little bit of fan-service.
As with all introductory episodes, we are introduced to the main characters of this series: Takakamo Shizuno (Yuuki Aoi) the lead female; Atarashi Ako (Touyama Nao) her best friend; Matsumi Kuro (Hanazawa Kana again!) senpai and club #1 along with Akado Harue (Shindo Naomi), a former legend of the school + adviser. Haramura Nodoka (Koshimizu Ami) makes a return as well as a cameo appearance for loli Kataoka Yuuki aka Tacos.
Premise and plot wise it is fairly straightforward at this point. They all used to be close together in elementary school, but grew distant during middle school. And then on a fateful day where Shizuno and Ako saw Nodoka winning the middle school championships on TV, they made a pact to strive for the nationals under Achiga’s once disbanded Mahjong Club in order to play with Nodoka again. To do that they will have to recruit a couple more players who should appear in the upcoming episodes.
As for my actual opinions on the episode and general direction taken by the series, remember; this isn’t Fate Zero where people are dying and blood is being spilled everywhere. This is about
cute girls doing cute things busty (well one only really) girls playing mahjong. Believe me or not I actually watch this for the 40% mahjong part, since I know how to play real mahjong and a little Japanese mahjong. (Thank you Saki for piquing my interest..) Though I wouldn’t mind that 10% too, the remaining 50% is not quite my cup of tea but I’m fine with it..for now.
I wonder how the trio are going to win their matches because two of them don’t seem to have any special powers, yet. Like it or not, strange haxxing skills are here to stay because honestly who would want to watch a normal mahjong game in an anime? Kuro’s ability to get all the dora tiles is a neat ability but comparing to the monsters from the original Saki series it pales in comparison. And actually if you get too many dora tiles you can’t win either.
The characters thus far are a bit bland for me in terms of personality, in comparison to the original series where perhaps Saki herself is the most plain character. Hopefully that will improve with the next couple of episodes since I don’t think we’ll see anymore appearances from the original cast except for a small cameo role or two.
Animation wise it’s decent, but very obvious that the more distant shots are disproportionate, especially the legs and ears. Music OP/ED wise nothing too memorable either. I don’t really like to complain nor judge too much so I’ll leave it at that.
In case I get mistaken, let it be clear that this is no top-tier show, but rather a lighthearted series about girls playing mahjong. Managing expectations is very important when watching something new. In this case, I won’t say I’m disappointed since it is pretty much what I expected. And again, I’m not a technical junkie as well.
The main purpose of this post, along with other First Impressions post is to let readers get a better idea of what a series about without having to dedicate 20 minutes to watching it and instead check out some screen caps and opinions instead. So there we go, this is Saki: UBER LONG TITLE HERE. Worth watching? Depends. Worth covering? No there are better picks this season, though I’ll continue to watch and hope it delivers some form of a pleasant surprise.