While Saki may be described as a series about high school girls activating crazy powers to crush each other in mahjong, this episode was much more about those characters failing to activate or capitalize on their powers.
For a short list:
- Yuuki bites off more than she can chew when in the south round, and pays for it dearly
- Jindai Komaki manages to bring out some of her power… for the last two turns of the last hand of the match
- Ueshige Suzu fails to “explode” during the match at all
- Aislinn Wishart gets her ability completely disabled throughout her match
With Suzu, some readers might question whether she even has an ability in the first place, considering her bad showing in this match. But the flashback conversations took place before last year’s Interhigh, when Suzu was placed as vice-captain. Doubtlessly, she had to explode at least once during last year’s tournament, or nobody would take her seriously enough to give her a position as crucial as the vanguard in this year’s tournament.
What exactly went wrong?
Suzu can only explode against strong players going all out.
The Princess gets possessed by her gods when in a pinch.
Their biggest misfortune might have been meeting each other at the table. Suzu will go off as long as the Princess goes off, but the Princess will not go off until Suzu goes off. While those two wait for each other to reveal their “true power”, Shiromi and Yuuki have free reign to rake in as many points a they can. It probably did not help that Yuuki is only powerful for half of every game, while Shiromi has serious issues with “going all out” at all. The events surrounding Cold Touka acted as foreshadowing that very powerful abilities might just fail to go off if certain conditions are not fulfilled, and both Eisui and Himematsu learned this lesson the hard way in the first match of this round.
Funnily enough, this coincidence resulted in Komaki seriously desiring for a god to possess her… for the first time in an official match. Again, we get confirmation that the girl who brought her no-name team to third place in the nation last year was never even trying up to this point…
Yuuki’s last hand in this match was pretty cheap, but with a three-sided wait, there was little reason to hold back with the riichi. Were this an individual match, a wait-and-see approach might be much more likely to protect the lead until the very end (Yuuki could still win from her own draws without declaring riichi, too). However, in a team tournament, attempting to widen the lead here seems reasonable enough.
At this point, the discards of all the other players are quite plain – there is no indication of anyone going for a one color or otherwise unusual hand. Considering that three of the 1 of circles are already discarded, and that Yuuki has a hidden triplet of the 2 of circles and can go out on any of the 1-3-4 of circles, a one color circle hand probably did not even register as a possible threat in Yuuki’s mind.
Little did Yuuki imagine that all eight of her winning tiles will end up in the hands of her opponents! (Komaki having a whooping six of them, and Shiromi the remaining two.)
The possessed Komaki effortlessly combines this defense with a powerful offense and has Yuuki draw her winning tile immediately after the one color hand is all ready… You do not want to play against that girl when she is in that state.
With a closed chin’itsu, pinfu, iipekou, ikkitsuukan and one red dora, the Princess’s hand scores in at 11-han – just enough for a 24 000 point sanbaiman.
The interesting point here is that it was entirely possible for her to call riichi here and get a 13-han counted yakuman (32 000) with the added riichi and ippatsu (or else riichi and tsumo). Either possessed Komaki never calls riichi as part of her playing style, or she decided to refrain from doing so to avoid the very slim possibility of someone overcoming her flow control and disrupting the game through calls or the like. If the Princess did call riichi, it would be possible for Suzu to call on the Princess’s discard and for Shiro to play into the Princess’s hand with a 6 of circles, thus reducing the worth of the hand to “merely” a 16,000 point baiman… though why the others would try to save Yuuki here is beyond me, so this is all just theory.
Grin all you want, Awai. Nobody can take you seriously, anyway.
I mentioned a while back that mahjong power and sensing power are not proportional in the Saki universe, but there does seem to be at least some correlation, as all three of the most powerful monster players around were receptive to Komaki’s “descent”.
On the other hand, there are times where people fail to show up on the radar, as was the case between Shiro and Mako.
In exchange for Kasumi explaining the folklore behind Mayoiga last week, granny Toshi has a lecture on the origins of the Princess’s powers. If the hints strewn about last time were not enough, this week the Miyamori group drops all pretense of being a bunch of normal high school girls with a dream, and they reveal themselves to be a bunch of occult-driven high school girls with a dream. They discuss the Princess getting possessed like one would discuss the weather, and then Shiro is all like: “Not voodoo aura from you three? You’re not being Aislinn, then.” Miyamori is now ahead of Eisui (and tied with Kiyosumi) in the number of supernaturals deployed.
Eisui’s second player keeps up the proper miko etiquette, so it is growing increasingly likely that the exhibitionist miko is the only one on the team with a shortage of common sense and manners.
There is one person at the table, though, who sticks out.
Aislinn actually throws her tiles down onto the table. Part of that is probably her innocent and carefree personality, but more importantly, she does not have enough mahjong experience to even know proper table manners. Aislinn has been playing the game for a bit over six months, and most of that time was spent in the anything-goes Miyamori mahjong clubroom.
Still, within that short time, she has managed to achieve a level of ability giving her the highest hands-won percentage in the nation within the prefectural tournaments. This means she won more consistently than Miyanaga Teru
The only times when Teru can be reasonably expected to lose a hand (especially at the prefectural level of competition) are the very beginning of a given match, and later on when her point inflation gets out of hand and makes it impossible for her to complete a hand expensive enough fast enough. Still, if you remember what Teru’s match looked like, you can imagine the looks on the faces of Aislinn’s past opponents.
The funny thing is, there is nothing obviously outstanding about Aislinn’s hands and playstyle as compared to other famous monsters. Her ability only activates after the tiles are dealt, so there is nothing stopping Aislinn from starting with a crappy hand. Neither are Aislinn’s “ideals” aimed at voraciously creating high-scoring combinations every hand. She just nudges the flow enough to successfully go out every hand. In that sense, her closest equivalent seen so far is Cold Touka. But Aislinn does seem to get a peek at both the discards and final hand shapes of her opponents, too, which is crazy.
An interesting point is that Aislinn’s discards are perfectly ordinary, despite her being able to tell which tiles are unnecessary well in advance. We do not know whether this is a result of her lack of experience, a back-up measure in case her ideal is not fully realized, or possibly a drawback of her ability where she would break her own ideal if she played an irregular game. If not for this fact, Aislinn could throw away unnecessary but dangerous tiles in the very beginning of every hand, significantly augmenting her defense – one of the possible ways she could improve from now on (as if a power-up for her was particularly necessary).
But what Aislinn needs, and badly, is to go through the same training Yuuki did. Because instead of her dominating the table, we get a repeat of the Yuuki vs Jun match, except with Kiyosumi dealing out the punishment this time around.
Aislinn’s flow control only resulting in down-to-earth tile combinations comes back to haunt her. Someya Mako might not be able to counteract crazy monster hands, but she is dangerous against anything still within the realm of “bad luck”. What we get is a curious result where Aislinn dominates the table as a whole, and Mako pulls the rug from under her feet at the very last moment each hand, thus making Mako dominate everyone in turn.
The only way Mako can stop Aislinn is going for crappy hands instead of statistically beneficial ones. Normally, this would only be a half-measure, because a single high-scoring win from anyone else at the table would result in nullifying the effort that went into Mako’s numerous trash hands. But nobody is going to score big at this table, because Aislinn is not letting them!
While making unusual calls to break up the flow is something we have already seen, and could be considered a risky but effective strategy in the Saki universe, Mako’s biggest show-off moment was this red 5 of circles, where she started using the other players for her purposes. By choosing to discard a red dora, Mako immediately makes her hand 1-han cheaper, but this sacrifice is not meaningless, because the 1-han from the red dora is more important to Himematsu’s player than it is to Mako at this time.
With a pon on the red 5 of circles, Himematsu gets 5-han from the dora alone. Add a tanyao, and you get a 12,000 haneman (plus another 6000 from the dealer bonus). While the jump from a 5-han hand to a 6-han hand results in a whooping 6000 point difference, the difference between a 4-han and 5-han hand in this case is a negligible ~400 points. There is no guarantee Himematsu would have called on the non-dora 5 of circles.
And, Mako’s weird discard here proves decisive in having Eisui deal into her hand. Not only is everyone focused on the dealer’s potential 18,000 hand, but Mako’s winning tiles become completely unreadable to the other players, who cannot follow her reasoning.
The match ends with Mako’s all out victory. As a result of her trash-hand tactics, the placement and point totals do not change as you might expect, but Kiyosumi easily rises to the top at the expense of Miyamori. Rather than a feat of strength, it is a triumph of experience. The young may not always…
Wait, everyone but Mako is a third year here >_>. I blame Mako for her granny-speak.
To make due on my obligatory name references, I will mention that Aislinn is an Irish name meaning “dream”. Breaking up the last name Wishart into its components of “art” and “wish” should be easy enough for everyone. So Aislinn is one of the characters with their abilities encoded into their name.
Also, the above pic has Miyamori’s Kurumi in her “default position” on Shiro’s lap. The Saki Biyori manga calls this the “Shiro charger”, but there does not seem to be any power transfer going on. I think.
Seems like those two would get along.
There will be delays in the airing of the next two Saki episodes because of Japanese elections. Episode 6 will probably air with only about an hour’s delay, but Saki is scheduled to take a one week break after that on.