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Archive for January, 2013

kotoura

Kotoura-san, possibly the dark horse of the season? While I expect the show to concentrate on the comedy aspect from now on, the first episode certainly exceeded everyone’s expectations. But I will leave reviewing to others and do my thing and poke around at the names used in the show.

The last names of both out protagonists technically come from real-world place names, but that does not mean they are entirely coincidental. Kotoura-san (琴浦, literally referring to the Japanese plucked instrument koto and an inlet) should probably be taken as こと裏 instead. Her name then means “the bottom/hidden side of things”, referring to her ability to see through the everyday lies of those around her. The OP’s title, 「そんなこと裏のまた裏話でしょ?」/ Sonna kotoura no mata urabanashi desho?/ It’s the inside story behind those secrets, right? also makes use of this interpretation.

And of course, there is nothing better than the male lead forming a set with the heroine. Manabe Yoshihisa’s last name might be funny because of the character for saucepan in it, but the first characters of his last and first name refer to sincerity (真, ma/shin) and righteousness (義, gi) respectively, perfectly fitting Manabe’s honest character.

Hoping for the best for those two. Well, Haruka will have to suffer through Manabe’s perverted tendencies, but an honest idiot is still the best fit for her.

On a side note, Haruka living alone in a comfy apartment like that seems like it should be tough on her budget, but you can tell from the way people address each other in her family that the Kotoura are a “good family with traditions”. As in, Haruka is not only an esper but also loaded.

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achiga

Recent interview with series director Ono reveals that the Saki Achiga-hen special episodes will continue until episode 16, one episode longer than previously revealed.

Well, the more the better. The more detailed the portrayal of a Saki match, the more impressive it is, so more time can never hurt. If only they had done Achiga in a two cour format to begin with…

Source:

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tamako_market

The title of KyoAni’s latest show, Tamako Market, seems like a straightforward affair. Tamako is the main character’s name and the market is an important part of the setting – no tricks there. But viewers with basic Japanese reading ability might notice something odd about the title (no, not the bird nested between the “ma” and “ke”). It is all written in hiragana, up to and including the obvious loanword maaketto (market), which you would expect to appear written in katakana.

Two seasons ago, we had Mankind has Declined replacing its kanji and katakana with hiragana to strengthen the fairy-tale feeling of the setting. But this is probably not what is going on here, though director Yamada did admit that at one point, Tamako Market was planned to include significant fantasy elements (with a prince from a mysterious land appearing and Tamako possessing a magical ability).

The Japanese writing system has a long history which affects how the different scripts are viewed. At the point when only kanji were used in Japan, the art of writing was accessible only to the upper classes. Similarly, the original use of katakana was for notes during study of Buddhist texts. Hiragana, on the other hand, was the script of the masses ever since its invention. For a long time, it would not appear in official documents but it would in poetry and fiction. Both men and women were expected to know it, and hiragana was the script of everyday life – short notes, diaries, shopping lists…

The kana syllabaries are an original Japanese creation, and hiragana was the most widely used of the two. This means that, to this day, hiragana is the script the Japanese feel most comfortable with. The Japanese also value hiragana characters for their soft, curvy shapes. Research shows that when presented with the same text written using different scripts (kanji, hiragana, katakana), Japanese readers tend to point to the text written in hiragana as ‘warmer, more pleasant’ than the other two. This might also have something to do with how hiragana brings to mind the sweet days of childhood.

So the non-standard hiragana usage in the title can be seen as part of setting the mood of the show – a promise of a heartwarming slice of life. That Tamako’s name is one composed entirely of hiragana characters is also surely no coincidence.

While Tamako Market is KyoAni’s original piece, the studio has already met with this phenomenon in works it adapted. Remember Lucky Star? The obviously English-inspired title ends up written not in katakana, as you would expect, but hiragana – らき☆すた. And K-On? Both kanji (軽音) and katakana (ケイオン) would be perfectly fine candidates for the writing of the title, but again we get hiragana instead – けいおん. The unexpected appearance of hiragana in those titles can certainly be linked to their identity as soothing slice of life shows.

On a side note, I see a mochi replacing one of the strokes in the “ta” in the title…

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vlcsnap-2013-01-02-00h09m58s0

The 13th episode of Saki Achiga introduced us to two new abilities: Sumire’s [Sharpshooter] skill, which aligns her waits with a chosen victim’s predicted discards, and Takami’s [Harvest time], which lets her draw a hand composed of all her initial discards throughout the match in the very last dealing of the game.

Unlike Sumire’s ability, which is quite complex and requires the reader/viewer to make some additional assumptions about its mechanics, Takami’s ability is quite easy to replicate in real life. So how strong is it exactly? I played a few times Takami-style, giving myself 11 chances to collect discards (the same as in the Achiga match).

takami1

First attempt. With a near-guaranteed shousangen (two dragon triples and a dragon pair), and plenty of options leading to a honitsu (one color and honors), this hand should usually result in a haneman hand (12,000 points, or dealer 18,000). A daisangen yakuman (three dragon triplets) is entirely feasible under normal circumstances, but more risky.

takami2

Ugh. Trying to go for wind pairs/triplets left the hand crippled. The daisangen tiles are the same as above, but the odds of going out on this at all are very bad…

takami3

Lesson learned. The third attempt is just asking for a daisangen, with quick runs on the side.

takami4

See above, the fourth attempt can result in daisangen tenpai as fast as during the first go around. Terrifying.

To sum up, Takami’s ability:

  • might sometimes result in a slow hand if the discards are not chosen carefully (but Takami probably has plenty of experience with her own ability)
  • does reliably provide at least a shousangen hand almost every time, with other bonuses possible on the side
  • makes the probability of a daisangen hand ridiculously high

vlcsnap-2013-01-02-00h08m51s98

But! (there is always a but, isn’t there?)

The make-or-break of this ability is whether your opponents know how it works. Attempt four above, which is an almost guaranteed yakuman under normal circumstances, becomes very tricky if your opponents know exactly what you have in hand. Though admittedly, going out with the hand still requires much less luck than drawing into a daisangen on your own…

There’s basically no way to see through this ability on your first try, though. Takami’s discards are almost perfectly natural even as she aims for the eventual daisangen (dropping a dragon tile before discarding non-yaku winds is slightly unusual, but not outrageous), and the contents of her final hand remain unknown to other players as per standard mahjong rules. On average, Takami has to call once to complete her daisangen triplets, but a single call on dragon tiles is something so common that nobody will think about it twice. People will grow wary after a second call, and you can’t really expect a dragon tile to come out after that, but in Takami’s case, that’s all too late.

So the main factor holding Takami back is that she cannot hide her play style and people actually check and analyze her play records, leading to Senriyama and Achiga both realizing the truth behind her ability long before the match. Shindouji does not seem to have this intel, which makes Takami’s life much, much easier in this case.

But as for anti-Takami tactics, I am with the Sera-camp in getting as many points as possible during dealer hands, regardless of the consequences in the final hand. Sure, it is hard to avoid paying up 8.000/16.000 points when Takami starts with 11+ tiles of her choice, but getting that many points or more during two dealer turns solves the problem quite nicely. And even if Takami gets in a win, it might be a ron off another player, not necessarily a tsumo.

Saying that it is fine to let your opponent win a yakuman hand sounds kind of irresponsible, but Takami apparently does not have the basic mahjong skills to make her opponents regret this approach. Usually, a yakuman win in the last hand is enough for a reversal even in quite dire circumstances, but Takami has been losing points left and right throughout the whole match. There is nothing in her ability that could make it difficult for her to take a defensive, cheap and silent hand approach outside her dealer turns (where she wants to call a lot and win quickly if cheaply), so her huge point loss is entirely the result of the difference in ability between her and Sera/Ako.

So Takami’s ability is first-rate, but her poor mahjong skills and the fact that this is an officially sanctioned tournament make it impossible for her to bring out its full potential. That sounds like a good summation of Takami’s threat level… unless she is the final dealer. The final dealer gets to repeat the last hand as many times as they can keep going out… and the very thought is terrifying. Under the right circumstances, Takami might be one of the very few people in the Sakiverse who could give Teru a run for her money in a direct matchup. But first, Takami would have to survive until the last hand…

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