Saki Episode 22

Posted by DiGiKerot in Saki at September 7, 2009 on 7:08 pm

After an absence of a week, Saki is back on the air. I figured it made this weeks episode worth it’s own post, though from the looks of things there’s only going to be three more episodes after this week. How will one possibly survive afterwards?

Anyways, this weeks episode saw the formal introduction of the latest threat, Kazue Nanpo, whose South Wind expertise proves to derail a Yuki riding high on her first day winnings and a spectacular round as East Wind.

There’s some debate as to whether Kazue will be appearing in the manga, or if she’s exclusively an anime-only character – curiously, those who have gone back and checked the early episodes (which isn’t me – I’m going off hearsay here) clocked her as appearing in the background back in the sixth episode, but apparently she’s also visible manga chapters covering the same content. I suppose we’ll find out when the manga chapters covering the singles tourney published, but even if her role is anime-unique, at least they’ve trawled the manga content for her design.

That said, Kozue hammering Yuki is really just set-up for the next couple of episodes, methinks.

Anyhow, as predicted, Saki isn’t really trying – she’s reverted back to her old +/- 0 ways due to concerns over possibly preventing Hisa getting to the nationals on what is her final chance to do so. Nodoka isn’t pleased, however, as they’ve previously promised to do their best together. As a result of a stern talking-to, Saki manages to pull herself up into twelfth position within four games, only to find herself thrown into a game with a Hisa who won’t pull punches, and a Momoko itching for revenge.

It’s an interesting position we end up in at the end of the episode. As the leaderboard goes, Mihoko has a very clear lead – large enough that Mihoko could probably take too pastings as still make it through. After third place, though, everyone is pretty much grouped together – it’s only fifteen points down from Touka in fourth to twelfth place Saki, and given everyone Saki is up against in her current match is placed higher, anyone winning that game with a decent score could hit the qualifying positions.

Which makes Hisa’s gameplan against Saki kind of curious – it’s not high scoring. Those who actually know how to play Mah Jong tell me that it’s very much a Hisa-style play due to the crazy risk she’s invoking – she schemes to throw Saki off-balance by showing the other players how to counter her play style, but this is going to keep everyone other than Saki pretty much on even footing points wise. Basically, the one who ends up winning the game will be the one who manages to pull a good score out of the last hand of the game. Hisa is obviously taking the long odds on that being her – it could just as easily be Saki assuming she isn’t too shaken. They have the misfortune to be going up against Momoko, though, who hit’s the episode’s end in Stealth Mo-Mo-Mode, making the break away from the rest of the bunch before Hisa has the chance to jump herself.

Now, if the show was being consistent, you’d think that the girl with the glasses (who no-one seems to remember the name of) would have at least some immunity to Momoko’s special techniques – Hisa notes she’s an online-type player, and as we saw when Momoko played Nodoka, their tendency to focus on the tiles more than the players plays to their benefit. That doesn’t seem to help her here, though, just as it didn’t help Touka earlier.

How Saki and Hisa are going to fair is another question entirely. Honestly, I don’t think Momoko – or anyone from Tsuruga – is likely to be in the top three in the end. Tsuruga seem to have hit a narrative dead-end. Saying that, I think it’s quite likely that she’ll come out trumps in this particular game, leaving Hisa and Saki in a most dramatic situation. In actuality, though, I think it’s Hisa who is going to come out on top here, pulling something crazy out at the end and leaving Saki in one hell of a hole to dig herself out of.

Honestly, though, Saki really needs to lose at this point. Hisa may seem full of herself, but Saki has an understated, but very present, sense of arrogance about her. She’s been making the assumption that if she actually tries to play, she’ll steam-roll everyone. Obviously getting trashed by Fujita-pro wasn’t enough – she really needs to be knocked down a peg or two at this point, as it’d probably do her the world of good in the long term.

But Saki losing here (which I’m assuming is going to happen) means that she’ll have a huge point margin to make up, else she’ll have to start pulling other people down. This presumably means that she’s going to go up against at least a couple of the top-rated players. I’m expecting Saki to go up against at least Kazue, and probably Mihoko as well since she’s going points to lose at this point, in the final game. With Kazue’s strong South Wind play, it makes dramatic sense for someone who improves as the game goes along to be the heroines opponent at make-or-break time. As for the forth player, I’m going to go out on a limb here as suggest it may be Nodoka.

Whether Saki will actually end up going through to the Nationals off the back of that game is another question – obviously the expectation is for Saki to pull out an amazing play right at the last minute to win the game, but there’s always the possibility that she’ll not win by quite enough to pull herself through.

I think she probably will. With only three people going through, I reckon it’s going to be Mihoko, Touka and Saki who will be hitting emerging victorious. It’d seem too convenient for them to use this as an excuse for all three of the significant non-Kiyosumi schools to go through, but on the other hand having more than one Kiyosumi player hitting the finals would seem like a waste. It wouldn’t shock me too much for the final game to see Nodoka being scuppered by Saki in the end. Saki will make some big hands against all of her opponents, dragging Nodoka and Kozue out of the running at the end just enough for Touka to make the top three, and knocking Mihoko down to third.

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