I finally had the motivation and chance to sit down and plow through the last few unwatched episodes of Saki – Episode of Side A, which I will refer to as Achiga-hen, because the English translation hurts. The original season of Saki, Achiga-hen, and the Nationals arc are streaming free and legally on Crunchyroll (with regional restrictions). I have previously reviewed some of the Saki anime and a few random volumes of the manga.
The set-up is a terrific bit of propganda – Mah Jong is, /handwave/ an incredibly popular game with millions of players not, as it is in our reality, a game notable mostly for it being played by housewives and old men. Nope, in this, much cuter, world, even adorable high school girls compete in televised competitions.
What makes Saki enjoyable to me mostly, is that I know nothing about Mah Jong. So the overblown drama of “tsumo” and “ron” might as well be in Martian for all I know. I love the hilariously melodramatic flaming eyes and elemental power analogies, and the occasional allegorical wings spreading and magic keys. If only Mah Jong was half that interesting, probably lots of young people would play it.
Achiga-hen followed the players from Achiga Girls’ School, an institution with a tarnished reputation and a general distaste for Mah Jong, after a brutal loss a decade ago. The team is reanimated and, despite everything, competes to make the Nationals.
There is, as there was with the first Saki, a fair amount of service – specifically of the thigh/skirt edge-staring sort. Let me just remind you, my dear readers, it really is not okay to stare at girls the way this anime does. It’s creepy and unpleasant. But, as occasionally creepy and unpleasant as this was, it was actually less creepy and unpleasant than the original series.
To add to our already full list of rather decent Yuri couples, from an increasingly large cast, we now must add Toki and Ryuuka, and Himeko and Mairu.
But the real strength of this series is a simple thing – there aren’t any bad guys. Not really. We knew Achiga was going to win – the arc isn’t called “Shiratodai-hen” after all, but it was kind of sad to meet more interesting new characters with stories and relationships of their own, then have to watch them lose. T_T I’m going to have check out the manga past Volume 8, which is where it had gotten up to last time I picked up a bunch of volumes in Nakano.
Art – 9 As ever, absurd
Story- 5 Girls playing Mah Jong. Seriously, that’s it.
Characters – 9 This series’ strength, absolutely
Service – 6 Nothing actionable, but nothing you should brag about liking, either
Yuri – 4
Overall – 8
If you hated Saki, or found it uninteresting or lacking I won’t try and convince you to watch Achiga-hen. But if you didn’t hate it, just haven’t gotten around to watching this arc, there ought to be enough over-animated Mah Jong and Yuri to keep you watching.