This week’s Saki showed the first half of the vanguard match, which means it was a Yuuki episode through and through. But it was more than Yuuki raking in some points while she still can – Ritz made it a point to show how Yuuki overcame several of her main weaknesses in the short period after the Nagano prelims and before the national competition.
Last time around, Yuuki had her East round luck disrupted by her opponent, Jun, messing with the flow of the game through some unusual calls. The people at the table now know very well about this, and disrupting the flow through calls is the very first thing they try in this match. (Remember me mentioning information warfare as a central theme in this arc a while back?) This time around, Yuki no-sells the whole attempt.
Kataoka Yuuki is dangerous, Ueshige Suzu hears, but predictable – she will call riichi as soon as she can. Conversely, as long as she is not in riichi, you are safe to attack. And so the girl goes all out… and gets stung by Yuuki’s silent hand.
Yuuki’s newfound tenacity and the determination to milk the east round for every single point it is worth seem to know no bounds. When the heavens conspire against her to take away her double-riichi haneman (12 000) hand through the four-same-winds-in-a-row rule, Yuuki temporarily breaks up her tenpai to come back with a hand which is a haneman at the very least, and a tsumo-riichi-pinfu-iipeikou-sanshoku-dora 2-aka 3, all in all 11-han, 24 000 point sanbaiman at best. No wait, throw in an ippatsu and an ura dora or two and a 32 000 counted yakuman is plenty possible.
This girl is scary.
Yuuki is scary, and everyone knows this (except for the useless press, heh). Look at the first hand, when the other players attempt to disrupt Yuuki through calls. Calling once against a riichi can be useful just for the ippatsu-keshi – preventing your opponent’s win during the very fist turn-around after declaring riichi, which is worth one han more.
But even having achieved that by calling once, there is an expectant pause after Shiromi discards her second tile. When it turns out nobody can call on it, we see Jindai close her eyes, knowing the hand will be over in seconds. There is a common awareness between Shiromi and Jindai that Yuuki will go out on that hand immediately as long as she is allowed to draw even one tile, and so the two do what is in their power to skip Yuuki’s turns… sounds familiar? Yes, Yuuki gets the same treatment Miyanaga Teru of all people got in her semi-final match.
When faced with Yuuki’s double riichi, Suzu recalls there being “some superstition about fast riichi plays”. The superstition in question goes: “with a fast riichi, it is either the 1 or 4 of bamboo” （早いリーチは１・４索）, which likely came about as a result of twisting the phrase “a fast riichi tends to be cheap” （早いリーチはやすそう）.
It it difficult to see, but Yuuki’s waits for this hand were the 1 of bamboo, the 4 of bamboo… and the north tile Suzu decided to discard. That is probably Ritz’s way of saying Suzu was destined to play into this hand regardless of whether she believed in superstitions or not.
Expressing different personalities through the minute details of behavior at the mahjong table is a mainstay of Saki. Notice how Jindai Komaki makes sure to hold her long sleeve back with one hand whenever she draws a tile. There are various formalities to watch out for when moving around in traditional miko attire.
…let us not think about the other exhibitionist miko on the team for a moment.
Shiro, on the other hand, constantly sits at an angle towards the table. Probably a habit which lets her put on elbow on the table for support when she gets tired. She seems to be keeping up appearances for the duration of official matches at least, though.
Regarding Shiro, a large part of the exposition regarding her connection to the Mayoiga legend was anime-original, which made for an exciting watch. If Kasumi’s narration throughout the scene seems familiar, her voice actress Oohara Sayaka is the person who did Irisviel in Fate/zero and handled the narration leading up to the reveal of Excalibur’s power… she knows her stuff.
People in the anime tend to sum up Shiro’s power as “her hand getting more expensive the more she hesitates”, but not only does it improve her scores, it seems to help her detect dangerous tiles in advance and act as an all-around buff in several areas.
We get some further hints that the outbreak of supernatural powers all over the mahjong tournament might be a recent development. I also had to laugh at the pro doing the commentary seemingly recognizing the legend hiding behind Shiro’s playstyle at a glance, while the other lady doing the commentary is like “Huh?”. Ghostbuster time.
If you play mahjong – you have certainly had this kind of experience when you call riichi on a meh hand just because it was fast… only to have the dealer call riichi right after you. Yikes!
Thankfully, Suzu got lucky here since Komaki was hoarding all the bamboo tiles for herself and blocking both Yuuki and Shiro’s hands only to draw into Suzu’s winning tile herself.
As far as Komaki is concerned, Horriblesubs/Crunchyroll seem to have screwed up on her big time. Shortly after Komaki wakes up, they have Kasumi remark that “Once Komaki-chan is awake, she works really hard,” which completely misses the point. What Kasumi is saying here is that “Once Komaki-chan is awake, she is your normal hard-working girl.”
As in, waking up is a debuff for her, because she no longer acts as a medium for a greater power, but merely plays her own (average) best. Like Saki remarks, Komaki’s awakening brings about the disappearance of a great power, rather than the appearance of one. No wonder that the first thing she does after waking up is playing into Suzu’s hand! And the Eisui girls immediately start discussing how large of a behind they will end up shouldering after letting human-Komaki face the vanguards of the other teams.
Komaki seems to have misfired, for some reason, and the Eisui girls are currently in a pinch! Or so you would think, if they were not discussing making a 60000+ points comeback with smiles on their faces. Seems like the miko team brought in some other supernatural artillery just in case their ace has a day off.
Is Komaki really out of the game, or can she still fight back against the others even when awake? Judging from her attitude, she will certainly try! Tune in next week to see where this match goes!