Archive for June, 2012

The more Teru dominates the table in recent Saki episodes, the more does Toki act like a main character, pushing the Achiga representative Kuro ever deeper into the shadows… Which reminds me of a different sickly (up to a point), time-manipulating girl who went to steal the spotlight of her own series late into the show.

If you guessed Homura from Madoka Magica, you guessed it right (if you guessed something else, share in the comments). And if you remember, the coup de grace of Homura’s takeover was the reveal that the opening theme of the show was written from her perspective to begin with, only pretending to be a song about Madoka’s worries.

But Toki wouldn’t do something like this. Or would she?

(Towards the promised place, over the future)


Within the accelerating future

A miracle takes form

If I am holding your hand

How could I ever give up?

In my palm,

The countless wounds

From our battles

Come, let us go, the road awaits

Add one more move to the memories the world gave us

The overflowing sound becomes a rhythm and sets dreams abloom

I will fill the field with my song, a futuristic player

Our feelings overlap and reach towards the next smile

And, yes, a certain victory

Our intertwined fingers will give us strength

One day we’ll reach it, over the future

[Futuristic Player]

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If you are watching Fate/zero (like everyone else this season), you might remember that Kiritsugu’s parents came up with his name, which translates to ”to cut and join again”, after finding out that this unusual process was his origin, or the centerpiece of his existence as an individual. Names are important in any culture, but the Japanese delight in taking things to the extreme: not only do they have to choose a name that sounds good, looks good (kanji!) and has the desired meaning, but they also agonize over stroke counts that bring the best luck. But who could blame them? After all, a name can affect the child’s personality, future and yes, even mahjong powers.

Saki – to bloom

Saki is the most obvious example of this trope, as the meaning of her name is brought up in the series proper. With her favorite rinshan kaihou – the flower blooming atop the mountain – and the flower motif so common in her mahjong matches, the connection is easy to see.

Teru – to illuminate

The older sister could not be any worse than her younger sibling, could she? Kokaji-pro mentions that Teru’s ability to see through play styles and special powers within a single hand is referred to as shoumakyou – the mirror of demonic illumination. The connection is obvious when you look at the kanji, but might get lost in translation.

Amae Koromo

Koromo’s last name could be translated as “heavenly inlet”, which leads to her connection with the moon. Her favorite yaku is the haitei raoyue – scooping the reflection of the moon from the bottom of the sea. When Koromo’s moon and Saki’s flowers clash, we get katen gecchi (花天月地) – flowers blooming in the moonlight.

Toki – time (?)

When you realize that the Japanese word for time is toki, the reasoning behind the name of Senriyama’s ace does not seem like much of a mystery. But in fact, Toki’s name is written with the kanji meaning “bright, of a clear mind”, and the reading of the character just happens to have a connection with her special ability…

Japanese fans also often view Toki as a reference to this gentleman of Fist of the North Star fame, as they share their name and both suffer from less than perfect health. With all due respect to the classic anime series though, I think Onjouji Toki is much cuter.

Finally, Nanpo Kazue who played in the individual tournament in the first Saki series specialized in the south round games, and her last name translates to southern bay.

That would probably be all for the obvious examples – Saki does not overuse theme naming when distributing its powers. After all, there are still other ways to mahjong haxx…

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Today, we’ll be delving somewhat deeper into episode 8 of Saki, Achiga-hen. As opposed to last time, we’ll have to make do with relatively few pictures of cute girls playing mahjong in this post. Instead, there’ll be plenty of mahjong tiles involved (not much of an equivalent exchange, is it?)

Today’s question is: “What was so surprising in Yumi’s play against the Matsumi sisters, and how was it an effective strategy?”

Pictured above is the hand Yumi completed in her match against the Matsumi sisters. That particular hand ended with a small but elegant ron for Kajiki, scoring 1300 points from Matsumi Kuro. Now, if you’re a mahjong amateur like me, you might get the mistaken impression that Yumi was intentionally gunning for Kuro and that changing her wait to something that the younger Matsumi sister was likely to discard was all part of the plan… but that’s not exactly the case.

First, let’s start with Yumi’s hand, pictured both below and above. The third five-bamboo tile is Yumi’s draw for the current go-around and the dora tile for the round is the two-bamboo tile (as indicated by the one-bamboo tile in the picture above).

Yumi’s hand, while nothing to write home about, at least meets the conditions for the no terminals and honors yaku, so she can go out on it without declaring riichi, which Yumi decides to do by keeping silent (so-called damaten ). In real-life mahjong, keeping silent here would also be a smart choice, as Yumi’s hand has the potential to become stronger without making significant changes to it. Drawing an additional four-bamboo, for example, gives her the two identical sequences yaku, and there’s always the two-bamboo dora tile fitting nicely into one of her sequences.

But first things first, Yumi has to decide which tile to discard at the end of her turn. And obviously, she’ll discard the eight-bamboo to get the hand pictured below, right?

This setup allows Yumi to go out on three tile types total: the 2,5 and 6 of bamboo. It also allows her to switch her wait in case she draws the four-bamboo and wants to try for the two identical sequences yaku mentioned above. Everything is just perfect.

Except, Yumi doesn’t seem to agree. She discards the six-bamboo instead, leaving herself waiting for only one tile, the seven-bamboo. (see above)

Points to consider:

Was Yumi too distracted with Momo to play Mahjong properly?

How did Yumi adapt to playing against Matsumi Yuu?

How did Yumi adapt to playing against Matsumi Kuro?

Yuu’s hand

Starting with Matsumi Yuu, we know that her ability significantly increases the probability of her drawing warm tiles and, as a result, reduces the probability of her opponents drawing warm tiles. The disruptive effect of the ability is weaker than the pull effect, as the same deviation is divided between three players, but it is by no means insignificant. Additionally, Yuu appears to have two stages to her ability that she can trigger at will: the focused and powerful one where she draws in mostly the character and red dragon tiles, and a more widespread one drawing in all kinds of warm tiles. Data for her ‘stage one’ stands out significantly, and it is possible she uses it more often than the second one, unless cornered and in need of a defensive solution.

Having access to about as much data as Senriyama’s lieutenant, Kajiki Yumi came to the same conclusion – the only way to build an effective hand against Matsumi Yuu is to give up on character tiles and make hands based on pin and bamboo tiles. Quickly discarding character tiles for a pin and bamboo combination, as seen in Yumi’s discards above, was a strategy also used by Senriyama’s second player to get around Yuu’s stage one ability.

Kuro’s hand

Kuro, on the other hand, is all her older sister is turned up to eleven. Her ability drastically improves her odds of drawing dora tiles and also eliminates the possibility of any other player drawing a dora tile. While the show’s presentation concentrates on the offensive aspect of the ability as it is easier to appreciate, the average hand value of people playing against Kuro is lower than usual thanks to the second part of her ability. Actually, against opponents playing in accordance with probability and common sense, like Nodoka, Kuro has reasonable odds of preventing them from completing their hands in the first place!

But this is where Yumi shines. The 2,5 and 6-bamboo tiles offer at most twelve tiles as opposed to the four tiles of the 7-bamboo wait. After removing the hand and discard tiles visible to Yumi, the ratio is 7:4. However, Yumi realizes the following three points:

  • two-bamboo is the dora tile for the current round and it is impossible for anyone but Kuro to draw it
  • the only five-bamboo tile left is the red five-bamboo, which counts as a dora and it is impossible for anyone but Kuro to draw it
  • regardless of the state of her hand, Kuro will not discard any dora tile she draws

As such:

There is no possibility whatsoever that any of the five tiles will be drawn by Yumi or discarded by any player.

The actual odds for the waits are not 7:4, as it seems, but 2:4, and the ‘obviously superior choice’ is in fact a trap that is little better than a hell wait.


To sum up, Yumi can’t predict that Kuro will draw the seven-bamboo, much less that she will discard it. Yumi’s brilliance lies in acknowledging the disruptive effects of the Matsumi sisters’ abilities and finding the most effective moves in the abnormal probability zone the two produce, especially when together. With time, the friends and family of the Matsumi sisters probably developed habits that let them play effectively in those irregular circumstances, but Yumi proved to our heroes that top-ranked players who face Yuu and Kuro for the first time can and will adjust their playing styles based on research alone.

…and understanding.

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There is a story out there about a group of girls achieving their dreams through mahjong. It is a story where hope and hard work open the path toward a miracle.


Achiga is not that story.


Achiga is the story of girls who refuse to blink even as their faces are battered by torrents of merciless rain. A story about the young learning how to pick up the pieces of a broken dream.

Kajiki Yumi:”And I thought to myself, how would I play against you?”

Investigating the play-styles of people whom she was unlikely to ever play with after her school’s defeat.

Fukuji Mihoko: “The most I can do for these girls is to go all out against them.”

The captain who couldn’t lead her team to victory even as she herself took first place in the individuals, now reaching her hand out to those who were to be her competition.

Arakawa Kei: “Miyanaga Teru… isn’t human.”

Second place at individuals, coming back for more even when knowing the odds.

Sagimori Arata: “You won’t ask where we went?”

Fear of betrayal, strongest in those who have already tasted the pain of disappointment.

Takakamo Shizuno: “But a second time… is too painful…”

The first time at a loss for words, torn between what she wants and what she believes to be right.

Shimizudani Ryuuka: “No, nothing’s wrong.”

A sleepless night in the awareness that she’ll be using her best friend as a shield against something she couldn’t stop herself.

Matsumi Kuro: “Leave it to me!”

Meeting with Onjouji Toki in the corridor and exchanging no greetings. What words do you offer to the person who destroyed you just a few days before?

Akado Harue: “If I could just return to that place…”

Sending her protege off to battle. But are her eyes following the students of Achiga, or are they glued to announcer Kokaji-pro, the monster that taught her true despair ten years ago?

Hanada Kirame: “Miyanaga-san gave me a good beating last time, but I’m not losing today!”

A vanguard fulfills their duty towards the team. And if that duty is to be crushed in a hopeless battle…

In other words, this bright and fluffy episode was in fact thick with fear and unease. We see those who could and those who couldn’t stand up after experiencing defeat. We follow the steps of those facing imminent destruction…

If you have ever wondered why Shizuno is the main character of this show, this episode might just hold the answer.

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Introducing an amusing pastime the Saki staff set up for us – Achiga’s What to Discard?

The basic idea is the same as the chess puzzles that sometimes appear in western newspapers. You pick one tile which you consider the best discard and click on it. You’ll be taken to a screen saying what tiles other players picked and what the author of the question suggests. And you can do it 6000+ times, or as long as you don’t run out of steam.

As long as you can recognize the tiles, you can have plenty of fun with this even with no knowledge of Japanese. The small tile above is the current dora tile (not the dora indicator, which would be one tile lower). The numbers after the question number are the hand and turn number, respectively. But most of the time, you can safely ignore those.

All questions are user-submitted and you can make your own question without registering. Which of course results in tasks like: Win with a baiman. Also, you’re Miyanaga Saki and a suggested answer based on anticipating a future closed kan. If the answers to some of the questions seem weirdly off, there might something crazy in the additional info box…

Have fun!


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