Archive for the ‘Words, words, words’ Category


No Game No Life is pretty upfront about the basic idea behind the names of its characters. We have Sora (sky) and Shiro (white), whose names put together just happen to form the word blank (kuuhaku).

For a long time, I thought that was it. The series does get plenty of mileage out of the blank idea. The official way of writing that term within the series is just an empty space within Japanese brackets like this: 「   」. Throughout the series, Sora and Shiro delight in capturing various things in those metaphorical brackets, like one would in a camera lens, and thus claiming those things for their own.

blank 2 

The blank idea also plays nicely into the urban legend the siblings have going on. The title of Blank is an open declaration that the miracle gamer everyone wants to believe in does not exist: in the sense that Blank is the joint effort of two people rather than a single person, obviously, but also because the truth behind the siblings is much more down to earth than most gossipers would like to think.

Still, there was something left nagging at my brain – the reasoning behind Sora’s name. Shiro, after all, has her albino coloration, which is reason enough for her name both from an in-universe and the readers’ perspective. Sora’s connection to the sky seemed oddly lacking, or even inappropriate considering his hikikomori habits.


Then I had a talk with that white squirrel-cat thing called feal87. It was complaining that while Sora was constantly out doing something cool, Shiro had no personality at all. Feal, I found myself telling it, they both have similar, twisted personalities. The main difference between the two is that Sora covers up his poison and hurt with lies and deception, Shiro with silence and a mask of neutrality.

Then it clicked.


Shiro is the easier one of the two. Shiro’s white is, on the surface, a white of perfect purity. Her strength lies in the world of calculations and absolute truths. Aside from raw brainpower, Sora also points to her ability to retain perfect focus at all times as one of the reasons behind her proficiency at games. Internally, Shiro embodies the pure and serene mind. Her outward appearance keeps up the trend: the obvious white hair, the petite build and the sailor fuku all represent youth, innocence and purity.

There is only one catch to all of this: the purity of white is achieved through rejection. Just as white objects refuse to absorb light, Shiro refuses to interact with the world around her. She rarely speaks to anyone but her brother. Her great focus comes from shutting herself away from unnecessary interference. Her default expression is having no expression at all. Rather than an ideal, Shiro’s purity is her way of dealing with the “unfair” world around her.

If the duality of perfection and rejection contained within the color white sounds familiar, it has been extensively covered in the first arc of Monogatari Second Season. Come to think of it, Tsubasa and Shiro do have plenty in common.


Sora is the more difficult one to crack because the image and symbolism of the sky are just too powerful and distracting. It is necessary to take a step back to see the double meanings involved with his name.

The Japanese choose to view the sky as, among other things, a vast empty space. This explains why the terms sky and empty, share the same character, albeit with different readings: 空 can be read as, respectively, sora and kara. This is the reason why the sky is part of blank in the first place.

But a look through some other sky-compounds turns out to be quite enlightening:

空言 soragoto  falsehood, lie

空手形 karategata bad (fictitious) bill, empty promise

空威張り karaibari bluffing, bluster, bravado

空涙 soranamida crocodile tears

空空しい sorazorashii false, hypocritical 

It turns out that the sky has found its way into half the deception and falsehood going on in the Japanese language (and plenty of those retain the sora reading, to boot.) The last one is my favorite: just line up one Sora after another to get falsehood and hypocrisy.

Where his sister deals with the world by giving it nothing of herself, Sora has no qualms about sharing. What he gives away just happens to be 100% bullshit. While some viewers found it incongruous why Sora could easily communicate with others after years of seclusion, the answer is simple. For Sora, there is no actual communication going on. He is not putting his own feelings on the line, or trying to establish bonds, he is just trying to get the NPC around him to move the way he wants them to. Even then, there is plenty of stress involved in it for him, but Sora is probably good enough at lying to trick even himself into believing that it is all just a game, and that he can handle it all.

Life is a battlefield, and deception is Sora’s only shield.     

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Sora and Shiro, and by extension, Blank itself, were named for deception and rejection, the two ways in which the siblings learned to deal with the world.

It is awful and toxic. The siblings weaponized their concepts, creating Blank to lash out at the world by proving their superiority at every game. Blank is not allowed to lose, they say, but provide no reason for the rule. But that should be obvious. Blank was not born to play games and just enjoy doing it. Blank came to be to play and win, win, win. It is the siblings’ universal accusation against the entire world and the people within it: as long as the system is bound by specific rules, Sora and Shiro can thrive within it. And as long as the two can prove this truth, it is the senseless world around them and the people living within it that are responsible for the siblings’ inability to fit in. Blank cannot lose in order to protect that truth.

There is no shortage of hypocrisy in their beliefs, of course. Shiro needs her brother, somebody she can speak to without fear. Sora needs his sister, somebody who can see though his lies without fail. Their inseparable bond is made of the very elements they so vehemently deny through their actions. And their invincible armor is full of holes, ready to fall apart if confronted with the dangers of failure or separation – experiences mature people must at some time learn to face and overcome.


But this is also a reason why their journey to Disboard might yet turn out to be a journey of salvation. Because for the first time in their lives, Sora and Shiro will end up using Blank not to cut themselves away from the world, but to affect and change it. In the real world, the two were literally nobodies, an urban legend with no connections to anybody. In Disboard, they are king and queen, shouldering the responsibility for an entire race. And along with that new responsibility, the two might just find the trust and friendship they had once lost.

God might be just a spectator, like Sora claims. But he might have also set up Tet and Blank to meet each other, silently supporting the siblings from the shadows. 

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“Should have thought things through first,” Kohina thought as she found herself standing in front of the convenience store door, about to face the challenge of her first ever shopping errand.

Model Mantis VS Coffee

A silly fic that went all wrong? Homicidal loli goes shopping, but things are never quite as simple as they first appear.

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As far as I know, Enju-chan probably never met her parents. Childbirth cannot exactly be safe when infected, however lightly, with the Gastrea virus. Still, I would like to believe that Enju’s name did come from her parents, a parting gift for the child about to face the hardships of a post-apocalyptic world all on her own.

The name Enju (延珠) brings to mind a homophonic word written with the characters for long and lifespan, and meaning longevity (延寿, enju). The first of the two characters finds itself into Enju’s name as-is, expressing her parents’ wish for their child to lead a long and healthy life. Prayers for health/longevity are one of the most common meanings slipped into names in contemporary Japan, but the desire must be felt all the stronger in a dying and uncertain world, and especially so in the case born with a ticking time bomb inside her body.

The second of the two characters in Enju’s name, however, is made different without changing the reading. The character, read separately as tama (珠), refers to a sphere in general, and a pearl (真珠, shinju) by implication. As a symbol of fullness and perfection, the sphere often finds its way into Japanese names, as do references to jewels and precious minerals, which present the child as the family’s treasure. That, at least, is the surface meaning.

If we delve a bit deeper, we notice that the specific character for sphere used in Enju’s name can be further divided into two smaller characters. The left-side radical is a more general character for a sphere (玉, tama). The right side, on the other hand, refers to cinnabar/vermillion (朱,shu), giving us the additional, hidden meaning of cinnabar spheres.


Many Japanese parents choose to wait until the child is born before deciding on a name in order to include a reference to the time and circumstances of birth or the child’s characteristics in the name. I can only imagine what went through the mind of Enju’s mother when she looked into her daughter’s eyes for the first time and saw the crimson glow confirming her daughter as one of the cursed children.

But painful though that must have been, Enju’s mother chose to accept the truth head on, accepting her daughter the way she was born. In linking Enju’s eyes to a pair of jewels, she is telling her daughter that whatever society thinks of Enju, she is forever her mother’s greatest treasure. And with the first part of the name meant to grant Enju longevity, her mother chooses hope over despair, believing Enju can live a long and happy life despite the danger hanging over her head.

Names are like small miracles – they are messages that never disappear, even if fate will not allow the sender and receiver to meet ever again.

All speculation based purely on the anime, please refrain from posting spoilers.

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[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.51_[2014.02.03_15.14.49]

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…

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.25_[2014.02.05_01.42.46]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.57_[2014.02.05_01.41.30]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.41_[2014.02.05_01.57.04]

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.

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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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.16_[2014.02.03_15.20.55]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.52_[2014.02.05_02.26.10]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.40_[2014.02.03_15.28.27]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.15_[2014.02.05_16.06.11]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.08_[2014.02.03_15.25.31]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.20_[2014.02.03_15.25.22]

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).

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.45_[2014.02.05_17.05.51]

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!

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.02_[2014.02.05_17.25.27]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.47_[2014.02.05_15.38.16]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.52_[2014.02.05_15.37.17]

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.

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[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.29_[2014.01.31_13.31.23]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.41_[2014.01.27_21.37.15]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.43_[2014.01.31_14.12.55]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.29_[2014.01.31_14.22.30] 

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.34_[2014.01.27_15.20.07] 

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.57_[2014.01.31_15.11.19] 

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.46_[2014.01.31_15.27.44]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.18_[2014.01.31_15.32.42]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.03_[2014.01.31_15.37.15]

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! 

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[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.36_[2014.01.22_22.24.22]

Readers, are your brains okay?

Ehem. Keeping things short and simple as I will be very busy until next week.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.00_[2014.01.22_22.25.49]

Way to go rejoicing about finally being able to enter the nationals right in front of your senpai who will not be able to participate… They are lucky Subara-chan is an angel. She is too happy for her underclassmen to waste time feeling down.

[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.13_[2014.01.22_22.26.12]

Notice how Maho’s familiar/staff is drooling… It does not look very reliable. Just like Maho herself, I suppose.

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Maho’s hand after calling her second kan that day (on 6 of characters). This hand was supposed to show two things: 1) Maho cannot copy the same person twice a day (or at least during the same game) 2) Maho sucks when not in copy mode. And boy, does it do a good job.

Let us first assume she did win on that rinshan draw by drawing the 7 of characters. That would give her a rinshan only hand worth crap… which is cheaper than what she already has right now! Three concealed triplets are worth two points, but Maho threw that combination away to “feel cool like Saki”. Great going, Maho. The seven of characters was very likely to come out, too, since with all four “6 of characters” tiles visible to Maho, it is obvious that anything above that (7,8,9 of characters) will be very difficult to use for other players.

But what gets me more is that she announces she has no yaku on hand (it is a casual game, so I will forgive her for providing opponents with unnecessary information…) only to discard the three of bamboo immediately afterwards. There are times at the end of a game when people will kan on anything and everything in a “desperation kan” meant to increase dora counters. At those times, they will either be aiming for honor tiles or tanyao (no honors, no 1 or 9 tiles) as their yaku. That is what I would expect Maho to do here, but apparently, she is content holding onto that now-useless 9 of characters (which is a much safer discard anyway…). With a 7 of characters pon, this hand was still winnable… (Possible toitoi or sankantsu, other than the aforementioned tanyao).

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Nodoka’s advice here was for Maho to work more on her basics. That is very Nodoka like, since Nodoka famously disbelieves in “occult powers”. But I dare disagree with her here – there is relatively little need for vanilla-Maho to be a good player, considering that she does not make basic mistakes when copying others. I think the next episode will give me another opportunity to talk about this, but while it is often important to learn not to depend on your ability, it is often as important to learn to depend on it (aka making full use of that ability).

Maho is not yet fully self-aware of her own potential, and her ability also appears to have the restriction of Maho having to genuinely admire the person she is to copy, but the ultimate potential of that ability is off the charts. The average two han-chan match consists of about twenty hands. Are there twenty people out there with playstyles worth copying? I count at least fifteen out of those taking part in this very training camp! There is very little reason for a future!Maho not to shuffle through her repertoire of styles for the entire duration of a match, adjusting her playstyle according to her opponents and the current situation at the table.

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Call me a paranoid conspiracy maniac, but I love the plotline hinted at in the Hisa scene pictured above. Remember the ending of Achiga revealing the stage for the final match – all soundproof and reinforced as if to contain something? Remember the rules changing this year to increase the luck factor of the game? It is not just us, readers and watchers, who have noticed all the supernatural powers running wild. Someone out there knows, and wants them for their own. Let us hope it is for a purpose half as innocent as playing mahjong…

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OGman sees this scene as Ikeda giving up on Captain, and symbolically giving giving her up to Hisa. I have a different take on it. Remember that Mihoko is the Nagano first seed for the individual tournament. It takes just one look at the people gathered here to understand what Hisa is doing here – gathering all of the elite players present and facing them to rake in as much experience as possible playing opponents of the highest class. Which is the very same thing Mihoko needs to do if she is going to succeed at the individuals.

Kana pushes her captain to join the fray, but probably does this against her better judgment. It is hard to miss the attention Mihoko pays to her Ueno-san, and Kana of all people would probably like nothing more than for the two of them to stay as far away from each other as possible. But Kana chooses what is best for her captain at the moment over her own fears and misgivings. It is a simple, but moving, show of strength and love.

(By the way, the table formed here is the most terrifying one of the training camp, if you ask me. The awareness you are getting raped despite there being no flow control involved only makes things worse.)

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Let me get this out first: Hiroe is not exactly one of my favorite characters. But let me give credit where it is due.

From Achiga, we know that Hiroe is Himematsu’s ace player. As the ace of the fifth-ranked team in the country, she is easily one of the best players in the tournament as a whole, right along monsters like Teru, Toki and the Princess. And she accomplishes this without flow control.

In the snippet shown in this episode, we see Hiroe get her first yakuman (limit hand) in the tournament, and it is not a hand won through drawing the winning tile herself, but through tricking an opponent into discarding it (a hell wait, too!)

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Chinroutou is one of the easier yakuman hands to get (yeah right, around 0.0018% chance of getting it…), in the sense that it allows calls, so you can grab those 1’s and 9’s your opponents are likely throw away. The issue is, after the second or third call, everyone will already be very suspicious, and the final tiles are much more likely to be kept by other players.

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Hiroe’s opponent here has some rotten luck here. Going for a bamboo and honors hand does not leave her with many defensive options. Under most circumstances, discarding that 9 of bamboo would be mere common sense – it simultaneously fulfills two critical conditions: a) it is a safe tile against the dealer’s riichi (and ippatsu, too) b ) it leaves the chance of going out, and for a very expensive hand.

But this is a team tournament, and when your team has a 50 000 points lead, winning hands like those loses much of its importance. You do not want to deal in pointlessly, especially not to the school in second place. That is why Chachanon considers things thoroughly before dealing that tile.

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Had Chachanon suspected even a slight possibility of Hiroe waiting on a yakuman here, she might have avoided discarding any 1’s and 9’s at all cost. Which was why Hiroe created three lies in order to coax her winning tile out.

First, Hiroe calls an added-kan on the 9 of circles. Keep in mind that a kan made that way is treated like a discard and other players can ron on the tile added – so Hiroe shoulders double the usual risk during this turn. Further, every kan means an increase in the dora, but the one benefitting the most from that is the dealer here, who is already in riichi.

By taking such huge risks here, Hiroe basically lets the other players know she is already in tenpai. But since winning on the additional tile drawn from a kan is a rare thing (unlike what Saki’s playing style might lead you to believe), she is also communicating another message: “I stand to benefit from the additional fu and/or dora points”.

That is the first of her lies – a yakuman hand requires no point calculation, so fu and dora do not count at all. Hiroe’s play lends credibility to the idea she is going for a chanta (or possibly toitoi) hand.

But while calling that kan is useful in and of itself, it is merely a stepping stone for the second of Hiroe’s lies. What she really wants is an opportunity to say: “Rinshan kaihou… not.”

In the Saki world, people state their hand composition (yaku) when declaring a win. However, because yakuman hands require no point calculation in the first place, they do not stack with other yaku. A chinroutou declaration amounts to just one word: “Chinroutou”, and a “Rinshan kaihou, chinroutou” does not exist. What Hiroe needs here is just an excuse to state she was hoping for a rinshan and did not get it, and make it sound natural. For everyone else at the table, that is as good as tacitly admitting she is not going for a yakuman hand.

I am sure many tournaments would deem this kind of bluff outright illegal – one does not usually speak at all at a tournament mahjong table. Just imagine Subara and Toki politely informing each other of what tiles they need to win at that semi-final table. Talking at the table is a great opportunity to cheat, usually by transmitting hidden messages. But in the Saki world, you do not get thrown out if you start undressing mid-game, carry in plush penguins or go “meooooooooow!” at your opponents – the table manners of this world are very loose indeed. And if the rules allow it, Hiroe has no qualms about using every bit of leeway she has to her advantage.

With that rinshan comment, Hiroe’s job is basically done. But lady luck decides to step in here and give her the material for one more lie by making her draw the 1 of characters. Hiroe has no intention of calling another kan here – do that and everyone will smell out the chinroutou, but just discarding it without a second thought contributes to Hiroe’s cause, since it makes her waiting for a hell wait chinroutou even more difficult to imagine.

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Was all of this this risky on Hiroe’s part? Most certainly. But it was not a desperation maneuver, either. Chachanon’s discards strongly hint at a bamboo-only hand. And since the 9 of bamboo is the only bamboo tile safe against the dealer at this stage, if Chachanon does indeed have the tile in her hand, it is extremely likely for it to come out on the very first turn. Hiroe correctly judged this hand and turn to be the sink or swim moment of the entire match, and bet everything on it.

You can certainly feel the effort Ritz put into this introduction of one of the better players of the tournament.

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In the meanwhile, Hiroe’s team is watching other matches, carefree as if nothing of importance was going on. Other than the comedy, I think this is also an expression of their absolute faith in Hiroe – nothing could possibly go wrong during their ace’s match. And it is no surprise if Hiroe comes back with a yakuman under her belt, either.

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I just want to say I loved Hayami’s work on the Princess’s lines here. Her words are always calm and kind, but there is that undercurrent of strong dignity to them that makes it obvious you are dealing with someone exceptional.

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The early introduction of Kainou pro. So far this is the most the show has diverged from the manga – Kainou pro would not appear until later in the manga. Well, it is not a significant change, and I think it will work out nicely in the end.

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Ueshige Suzu. Her family name means “heavy on top”/”stacked on top”, and relates to one aspect of her playing style… but like with Cold Touka, the show will likely take its sweet time before bringing this up. Well, that is Saki for you.

What is more important right now is the tidbit about her going from vice-captain to vanguard since last year. Vanguards tend to be steady players who set up the stage for the captain without taking significant risks. Vanguards are either absolute monsters, or have something that helps them counter those monsters. What will Suzu-chan bring to the table?

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Hosegawa “White Hope” Shiromi. Not exactly pumped-up for the match, and the very opposite of Yuuki in this regard. Looking forward to the incoming clash between the two.

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Cape Yuuki – always the show off. I really liked the fact that Yuuki decides to shoulder the pride of the other Nagano representatives and those Kiyosumi defeated up to this point. Hisa, Nodoka and Saki have personal reasons to take the tournament very seriously. Mako cannot help looking out for Hisa. But Yuuki was the only one who, up until now, could afford taking it easy. If they lose, she will just have another chance next year. But she does not let this dampen her motivation. From now on, it is business time.

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The people that come to Yuuki’s mind in the final moments before the match. We have seen Yuuki getting close with Ikeda and Mihoko, as well as playing with Jun during the training camp. But why Koromo? If the next episode preview is anything to go by, we might just get a flashback shedding some light on the matter.

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The ED, other than being full of foreshadowing I will not expand upon, takes a new approach to its content. So far, we have focused either on one school playing mahjong, or all the schools fooling around together. This ED acknowledges that all the new characters we will come to meet during this season are rivals struggling against each other for the same goal. Yet it chooses to paint this rivalry in bright colors, as something which may be intense yet fun at the same time. Considering the nature of Saki, where all the teams end up heavily developed and likable, this is a most fitting choice.

I also like the division between the EDs, where the chibi ED portrays all characters but Kiyosumi, whereas the crisis ED is Kiyosumi-only. Since Kiyosumi chibis have already gotten their fair share of spotlight, it is good the other characters can enjoy some increased focus. The crisis ED, on the other hand, will pop up when Kiyosumi is in trouble, not the other schools, so it makes sense for Kiyosumi to take it over.

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The calm before the storm has ended, and things are looking to heat up coming next week! Till then!

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[HorribleSubs] Saki - The Nationals - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.24_[2014.01.14_21.55.32]

The second episode is here, and with it the new OP and ED songs! In the pic above, we have Saki showing off a west wind tile – since that particular tile has no personal link to Saki, I assume it represents the western (B) tournament bracket Kiyosumi found itself in.

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The OP song is a simple upbeat tune in keeping with what the show has gotten us used to, with only hints of trouble and conflict to spice things up. There is some nice lyrics/visual sync going on. The pic above comes in for “our meeting – the gift from destiny that gives me courage”. We have “now I think I can put it into words” with Saki moping at home, but finally choosing to look up and face the challenge ahead. And the staff went out of their way to zoom in on Nodoka whenever the lines “I’ve been waiting for you” come up. Them Yuri hints.

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The Eisui girls take the final boss position atop the tower. The torii (shrine gate) comes as part of the miko package. Those gates differ from a normal gate in that they cannot block entrance, but rather serve as a symbolical connection between two worlds – the one of mortals and the one of gods. Well, there is apparently nothing symbolic about the gate pictured above, as there is very obviously something creepy and supernatural waiting just beyond it…

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Wait, wait. Tsujigaito-san? You are so not prancing around Tokyo with a katana in your hand, are you?

In principle, the possession of firearms and swords is prohibited.

Firearms And Swords Control Law. Article 2 

Japanese fans have been joking about Tsujigaito’s yakuza connections for some time now, but I am not sure if it would be funny to have her coming after in you in the dark of night…

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Teh Achiga. You guys will not be getting any scenes this season – let us put you in the OP to keep you nice and quiet.

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I will finish OP comments by bringing your attention to the opening scene where Mako looks up to see a worried Hisa facing the wind. The staff have been digging deep into this relationship since ep. 1, and I like what they are doing.

You might remember Hisa’s half-joking line from the first season: “This is my last year at high school. At least let me dream of winning the nationals.” Well, Hisa’s dream will become ever more real with every opponent they are able to overcome along the way, but the “weight” of that dream will likewise increase with every step.

Kiyosumi depends on Hisa a lot. She keeps everyone in line and motivated. She helps everyone curb their weaknesses and polish their strengths. She gets back the points that were lost in the Vanguard and Sergeant matches. Hisa is there for her team, but who has Hisa’s back?

Hisa’s hell waits might bring about miracles at the very last moment, but the flipside to that is that she cannot afford to make a single blunder – there will not be a second time for her to learn from her mistakes. And as much as she likes to put on airs, she is just human and the pressure will eventually get to her.

This episode, we saw Hisa nervous as she was forced to realize that dream of hers might possibly be coming true. And while most of the girls might not notice the cracks in Hisa’s armor, Mako is there, watching.

Hang in there, Hisa.

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Moving on to something lighthearted for a change, we have Hacchan and her clothing-failure issues. There were a few manga scenes where only miraculous camera angles kept Hacchan’s appearance decent, but the anime staff apparently decided to turn that into a game of sorts, with every other scene involving the girl being just barely work-safe.

Now, please remember that all national matches get recorded on video from several angles… Hacchan should better think about the records left for posterity…

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“We kind of failed to win, but it was very fun!”

Remember Senriyama’s Eguchi Sera hiding her tears after the lost inter-high? Remember Ryuuka and Toki’s promise of revenge? Remember the sweat and blood of that mahjong powerhouse which ended up fourth in last year’s tournament?

Well, Eisui does not have all of that. They climbed up to third in the nation because Princess here felt like “having fun with mahjong”, and if they did not get first, well, that is no biggie either.

Then again, last year Eisui was most likely a one-man team, with only one player willing and able to throw around supernatural warheads around the table. This might no longer be the case this year… (Heck, who am I kidding. It is no longer the case. Hacchan wants in on the fun~)

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Rinkai basically translates to coastal/seaside, so I like the touch of showing those girls hanging around a body of water. (No deep meaning behind the setting here, I think, except a connection to the recollection of Touka’s flow control.)

Please note, however, that in this scene Myeonghwa’s hair is not moving in the wind, despite her being outside and all. Now I can say with 100% certainty that her hair negates and absorbs wind energy while outside in order to release it when indoors, as seen in the first episode. She does that to look cool.


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Most of the episode went into the camp flashback. Pictured above is one of my favorite unusual combinations this episode spawned. Kana has a knack for being noisy and annoying, while Mako has that old man thing going on, so the two just do not mix.

While nobody makes a big deal out of it, Yuuki and Jun are hanging out and playing together, which is extremely important for Yuuki’s development. We remember all too well how easy it was for Jun to cut off Yuuki’s “eastern flow” during the tournament. It is absolutely necessary for Yuuki to learn to deal with flow interference. Which brings us to one of the main points of this episode (and likely the following one): territory control.

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Saki was able to kan her way to victory against a fully-powered Koromo. But in a sense, that was an easy fight, because the two were just going at each other head to head. There was nobody there with flow control aimed at plucking or blocking Saki’s flowers.

We might expect opponents capable of just that to turn up during the tournament. Actually, because of the unusual broadcast order that gave us Achiga-hen first, we already know that the final table will be a huge mess with Awai and Saki vying for kan control while Shizu tries to seal them both. Saki is crappy at non-supernatural mahjong, but she must be ready to fight under such conditions.

Part of her training was playing net mahjong, and now she got to face one of her natural opponents in the form of Cold Touka.

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Cold Touka wins cheap. To an outside observer, there is little to nothing that makes her stand out, except that she somehow wins again and again and again.

But to those at the table, she must be a monster indeed. “I couldn’t get a single kan in,” says Saki after the match. But we can see from the record above that as early as in the fifth hand of the match, Saki had already given up on her signature playstyle altogether, abandoning pairs that could eventually blossom into triples and, finally, kans.

Was Saki overcome with certainty that she could not form a kan under Touka’s influence, or had she tried for kans throughout the first few hands and failed so badly as to resort to a different playstyle? Either way, Saki failed to find a way to break through Touka’s control.

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Could this girl, Yumeno Maho, hold the key that will let Saki overcome that obstacle? One thing is for sure. Takei Hisa invited the girl to the training camp, and Hisa never does things without a reason.

Yumeno Maho, by the way, is an obvious play on the phrase yume no mahou (夢の魔法), or the power of dreams. What is the shape of Maho’s power, born from dreams and aspirations? (Tune in next week, heh.)

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Another important point raised in this episode is the existence of resonance-based powers. There is that thing in Saki where players will detect other powerful individuals from far away, and this episode in particular was full of people going Ping! Ping! Ping! for each other. This sensory ability has been shown to be completely separate from an individual’s level of mahjong ability, flow control and the like.

But this episode goes further and demonstrates the existence of powers and abilities that can only be activated against equally powerful opponents. Again, we saw an important example of that in Achiga-hen with Shizuno. Achiga’s captain did extremely well against powerful ability users in the semi-finals, bringing Awai in particular to her knees.

But that same Shizuno was in a pretty desperate situation in the quarter finals when facing completely ordinary mahjong players. There was no flow control for her to negate there – her opponents were not dependent on such abilities in the first place. In the same vein, Cold Touka did not awaken during the Nagano finals. How would have things turned out if she had awoken? Nobody can tell. But feel free to take the “Cold Touka incident” as an unspoken promise from Ritz and the anime staff – those unstable “resonance powers” might make or break the matches soon to come.

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Closing things up with the ED, I must admit I was surprised with what we received. Saki has always had a happy chibi ED and a crisis ED to choose between. What is odd is that we got what sounds like the crisis end after a very light-hearted episode. I hope this does not mean there will only be one ending this season, as I always liked the double EDs this series offered.

See you next week!

Other places covering this season of Saki:



Hanner’s Anime Blog

Shirogane no Suiren


Draggle’s Anime Blog


Subdued fangirling

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