Back with the first two episodes of the Spring 2012 series, Saki:Achiga-hen Episode of Side A (for future ease, I’ll just refer to it as “Saki”). Saki follows the story of Shizuno, Ako, and Nodoka as they become friends playing mahjong together with Kuro and the once ace-mahjong player now advisor, Harue. Until one day, Harue gets an offer to join the major leagues of mahjong, so the club had to be disbanded. Slowly, the girls started to drift apart and Nodoka even had to move away, joining another school’s mahjong club.
One summer day, Shizuno stumbles across a middle school mahjong tournament being shown on TV, with none other than Nodoka as the reigning champ. This excites Shizuno to restart the mahjong club at their school to try and reach the mahjong finals and play with Nodoka once again. She drafts Ako and Kuro, along with Kuro’s older sister, Yuu to join the club. Kuro also tracks down a legendary mahjong player and fan of Harue, Arata, who had given up mahjong when she saw that Harue no longer played. She decided to give the club a try when she saw that Harue had returned to the game and was on a corporate team. Unfortunately (or “fortunately”, depending on how you look at it), Harue’s team was disbanded and she’s visiting the school again when she finds the girls playing mahjong in the old club room. Now she’s agreed to help take the team to the nationals by playing them non-stop in preparation.
Fortunately for people (like me) who are ignorant of the workings of mahjong, the game itself is merely a set piece for the story of friends trying to reunite. Not much time or attention is giving to the girls actually playing the game, instead focusing on the character and plot development. The animation and visuals are pretty good, coupled with a lively cast of characters who draw your attention but show potential for growth. And any details related to the game that are used are either easy enough to pick from watching the scene, or the characters explain what’s going on.
I look forward to following Saki on it’s journey to the nationals, the players from Bansei (the elite-to-beat school) seem like a formidable first step to entering the tournament. Hopefully Harue’s training will pay off and Achiga’s girls can beat Bansei again like Harue did years ago.
Until next time,