Introduction: My anime reviews are simply for fun and my opinion of a series. Therefore, they should be taken light-heartedly. :`) I do my best not to throw in huge show spoilers either. I may elaborate, but I won't directly give anything away. Also, many things about me and this journal have been discussed in the Introduction entry here, if you're interested. The bolded words in the middle of my reviews have been fully defined in the Introduction or in the Anime Terms entry here . Lastly, for a full list of anime shows that I am reviewing, visit my Ultimate Anime List entry
Initial thoughts: Who knew Mahjong was so exciting?!
Setting: Mainly in the Mahjong Club at School / Mahjong Tournament Building
Plot: It’s a race to win! Several different schools and girls are competing to be the number one Mahjong Champion. My opinions on this show are definitely skewed due to the fact that I have never played Mahjong before and have absolutely no idea of the rules. Of course, that didn’t stop me from being completely absorbed into this show. Luckily, the subbed videos that I watched online threw in some helpful facts about certain Mahjong hands as the games progressed. The show does not provide a lot of starter information for Mahjongly-challenged fans such as myself, so I suggest either reading about the game first or watching in-depth subtitles if you want to have a better idea of what is happening. (Although, I enjoyed the series regardless of understanding some of the hands.) I was generally surprised at how captivated I became while watching each episode. I’m fairly certain that almost anyone would find something to enjoy about it because of the range of factors it included: action-like dramatization of competing, comedy, shoujo-ai, small slice-of-life, widely diverse characters, and obviously, any actual Mahjong players. That is assuming that someone likes at least one of those and doesn't oppose the others.
The story centrally focuses around the two main characters, Saki and Nodoka, who are members in their school’s Mahjong club at Kiyosumi High. However, as the episodes progress we receive a wider range of characters not only from their club but from several other schools. Aside from over-the-top but enjoyable action sequences where a player throws down a winning tile on the game table with electricity spiraling out of their hand, the characters are what gives this show heart. (If you did not identify with at least one of them, then why would you care if they won?) Saki and Nodoka have their own personal demons to surpass while working their way up to the top. At first, their opponents, who may come across as intimidating (Momoko…), seem like their enemy. However, as the matches continue, the story shifts to the other character’s backgrounds and why they are competing in the championship. By the time some of the final matches arrived, I had a hard time deciding who I wanted to win. Turning intimidating opponent (enemy) characters into likeable sub-characters in a span of twenty-five episodes is pretty impressive. It’s less than that if you actually subtract the episodes that they were not yet present.
If you thoroughly analyzed some of the characters, then you could probably place this show into the Magical Girl genre as well. Some of the girls seem to have a magical upper hand while playing the game and display above human abilities against their opponents. Although, these “talents” may just be an exaggerated version of their skills as Mahjong players. For example, one girl plays the game so inconspicuously that the players do not even see her tiles before she pounces on their discards. Therefore, her character flashes from visible to invisible along with her tiles during crucial moments. Then you have characters who seem to have the ability to read the other’s minds before their moves. I was definitely on the edge of my seat while watching the matches. There were also a lot of Moe characters thrown into the mix as well. There was so much that I kept humming that limbo song with the lyrics, "How moe... can you go?!" while watching some of the episodes. Haha... sorry. Moving right along.
There were, however, some things that did not strike my fancy about "Saki". There were several instances of fan-service, that I don’t feel were necessary to the show's direction. The most blatantly obvious fan-service image was the way that Nodoka’s breasts were drawn. (She is definitely going to have back problems in the future…) Needless to say, they were abnormally large and distracting more than sexy, to me, anyway. It did help that some of the other characters would make fun of the absurdity of her breasts though. Touka: “What’s with those useless blobs of fat?!” (Aside from that, I really liked the way that the characters were drawn and the artwork on the show.) Instead of focusing so much on breasts and close-up skirt shots, perhaps the show could have simply extended the yuri moments among the characters to make their relationships more meaningful. Where there should have been obvious yuri moments, they were reduced to hints and teases. I suppose “Saki” is going more for ecchi than yuri anyway. I simply think it would have come across better as vice versa. Also, with all of the senpai-love implied on this show, I had flashes of “Marimite” roll into the back of my mind. Although, “Marimite” does not reduce itself to ecchi moments. Of course, my agenda for watching “Saki” was not for the yuri. A show promising to bring excitement from people simply playing Mahjong is what peaked my interest. (My interest was certainly fulfilled in that way!) The last flaw of the show is that the finale was not the end of the story’s main plot. In fact, the show ends with, “This is just the beginning!” This leaves me wondering if there will be a second season. It has already been a year or so since the first season, but I have faith that another one will come along. I have no proof, of course, but the manga is still on-going. Personally, I would love to watch another season to see how everything is resolved. So here’s hoping…
Favorite Characters: Where to start? I really liked Hajime Kunihiro, the Magician’s daughter. She was adorable without meaning to be and wore a small star stick-on tattoo on her cheek. She also wore handcuff shackles, but you’ll have to watch the show to see why. :p I also liked Mihoko Fukuji with her special eye power. Kana was also adorable when she became overly excited and temporarily displayed cat ears. The relationship in which I had hoped would evolve more was surprisingly not the main characters but Kana’s and Mihoko’s. Although with the direction that the show was going, the only REALLY prominent relationship was between Momoko and Yumi. They were definitely as close to yuri as you could get without actually displaying it on the screen (especially after that hot springs episode). All in all, I enjoyed the majority of the characters and hope their stories progress in a second season. Also, here's a little chart I found of the characters and the teams in which they belong. It's easy to get them mixed up when watching the final round. (http://hashihime.atspace.com/etc/saki/ch
Kyotaro: *holding a bag of Tacos* Sorry it took me so long.
Yuuki: Th-those are tacos! *grabs bag* That's a good doggy!
Yuuki: Anyway, you're awesome, Kyoutaro!
Kyotaro: Well... it's not like I hate tacos or anything.
Yuuki: So, the cursed blood of the taco-lover runs through your veins as well?
Kyotaro: I am not cursed! And apologize to the Mexican people.