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Posts Tagged ‘Hanada Kirame’

Saki_Rinshan_Kaihou_Blu-ray

The Saki universe has two types of mahjong matches: individual and team matches. What we get to see in the anime is mostly the latter. But to be honest, most Saki teams are pretty crappy at doing this “team” thing. Shows like Chihayafuru make it clear that a team battle is something completely different from a set of individual battles, but the tag team matches in Saki often boil down to just that – a series of individual matches with a joint score. Which is not to say that the concept of a team is completely meaningless in the Saki universe. Let’s take a look at how major players in the series took advantage of team tactics (or failed to).

 

Kiyosumi

The good:

  • placing Yuuki as vanguard and thus relieving her from the duty of thinking tactically about point differences (acknowledging and eliminating an individual’s weakness)
  • Hisa concealing Nodoka and Saki’s ability level by having them go last in the team order, making it unnecessary for them to play seriously (or at all) before facing the strongest teams in the regionals
  • Hisa helping develop the skills of all her other teammates

The bad:

  • extreme differences in playing styles and approach to mahjong make it impossible for team members to give each other tactical advice, to the point that Nodoka outright refuses to listen to crucial bits of advice from her team captain

Kazekoshi

Kazekoshi:

The good:

  • positioning matched to work against crucial opponents (vs Inoue Jun); learning from experience 
  • ace in the opening position lets the other team members play a calm, better game
  • team captain offers tactical advice during match breaks

The bad:

  • nobody but the captain ever does anything for the team – with around 80 members, there is nobody in the mahjong club to watch and analyze matches of rival teams in time for it to matter
  • weaker members are completely unable to see the difference in ability between themselves and their opponents, failing to turn to a defensive style when necessary

Tsuruga:

The good:

  • clear awareness of team members’ respective ability levels lets the first three players play a honest “survival-style” mahjong
  • positioning may cause opponents to let their guards down, making them easy pickings for the best players waiting at the end

The bad:

  • the fact that they have to give up three matches to begin with is pretty sad

Ryuumonbuchi:

The good:

  • reliable ace in vanguard position sets the flow of the game in the team’s favor
  • Koromo’s taishou position lets her play at night, at the peak of her ability

The bad:

  • team members put personal issues over victory on a regular basis, Touka to show off, Koromo… for plenty of reasons

Achiga:

The good:

  • Kuro in vanguard position acts like the usual ace against ordinary teams, and as damage control against monsters that outrank her (hands scored against her will be less expensive than average without dora)
  • mentally tough taishou doesn’t let a chance for victory slip by for emotional reasons
  • the coach is one of the most perceptive people in the Sakiverse, providing her team with crucial intel, as well as supporting them through training and other ways

The bad:

  • damage control is all fine and dandy, but it is somewhat questionable if pitting Kuro against top tier opponents all the time is really the best use of her potential 

Senriyama

Senriyama:

The good:

  • as always, a vanguard ace is always a good idea, especially with Toki, who is the most powerful defensive player we have seen to date while being “only” very good on the offense, and therefore more suited to preventing the team form going into minus points rather than gaining back those points as a taishou
  • team members actually adjust their playing style to the point totals in terms of offense/defense, playing cautiously when in the lead (why this is a rarity is beyond me)
  • the team analyzes data of their opponents before a match (sorry Kazekoshi) and adjusts their tactics accordingly

The bad:

  • the coach sets somewhat questionable goals before the team members, pressuring them into making risky decisions (insistence on first place)

Shiraitodai:

The good:

  • reliable ace in vanguard position, backup ace in taishou position (perfect for any team which can afford it)
  • willingness to study their opponents and pick the most “convenient” opponents to leave in-game, if possible
  • team members show the initiative to study the team’s weaknesses and the playing styles of other teams in order to offer suggestions or countermeasures

The bad:

  • the third and fourth player should just kill themselves… or practice playing mahjong without relying completely on their abilities

Shindouji_ani

Considering the above points, the only team that acts like an actual team throughout the entire match is Senriyama. No wonder that they are ranked #2 in the country despite mostly lacking “supernatural firepower”.

But I did leave one team for last – Shindouji.

You see, a team like Senriyama has three ace-level players and their fourth can hold her own easy enough, so they can easily adjust their strategy by evenly shifting the pressure (the necessary points) between several players, not forcing anyone to bite more than they can chew. This also means that there is no need for complicated tactical decisions beforehand or precise role assignments.

Shindouji, on the other hand, only has two players who can comfortably take on monsters, so they are more like Kazekoshi in terms of combined ability level (okay, maybe slightly better). However, this is a team with an idea.

I mentioned above that putting your best players in vanguard and taishou positions is likely the best formation. That is exactly what most strong schools in Sakiverse do. The Shindouji team was made to destroy that formation.

Schools using that formation have weaker players in positions 2-3-4, and the last player (taishou) is their last resort in case something goes wrong. What happens when a school like that goes against Shindouji?

They get a fair share of points by throwing their ace at the sacrificial pawn Hanada. That said, we are talking about somebody who stopped Miyanaga Teru twice, once without the help of supernatural powers (I cannot even imagine what happened in that match). Whatever they get, it won’t last for long. Yoshiko comes next, and her sense of when to go for high point hands and when to go flushing everything down with silent trash hands is great. It might seem like her achievements during the match presented in the anime are not that great, but this is an unprecedented 15.000+ victory of a normal mahjong player over an elite ability user like Sumire. Lieutenant Ezaki might pull through or not (everything depends on the politics), but either way, club president Mairu is hot on her heels. Now comes the scary part. Mairu preying on the weaker vice captains should at best be enough to repair the damage done to Hanada. But the power difference is superimposed doubled on the taishou (captain) match, through Mairu and Himeko’s promised victories (reservation –> key). This is where Shindouji completely breaks the balance where pouring more strength into one battle should result in worse results in another. The more uneven the Mairu matchup is, the easier the next round becomes for Himeko. The taishou match, supposed to be a battle of equals, may very well turn into a slaughter in Shindouji’s favor.

It is indeed beautiful how each member contributes to the team strategy, be it Subara’s sacrificial pawn resolution or Yoshiko’s playing style adjustments against Sumire. But who set all this up remains a mystery. Shindouji’s coach has yet to make a proper appearance, while individual members were not informed about the precise reasoning behind their positioning (Subara was supposed not to know about the reasons behind her selection, Ezaki did not realize why the club president goes fourth etc.) Will we learn more about this team at a later date, or will it remain a mystery forever? Only time will tell. 

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Subara (a.k.a Hanada Kirame)

Exam time over, back to mahjong girls.

 

Saki 11 had more of Teru going wild, Subara’s ‘sacrificial pawn’ one-liner that had many Japanese fans swoon and Toki realizing that yes, the nationals make you do crazy things.

 

It also had Toki and Subara stopping Teru’s East 4 dealer turn.

 

How the two team up and give it their all for a common goal is nothing short of beautiful. First of all, Subara proves herself the best prepared for her match against Teru. Sitting as the next player after the champion, Subara decides to pon her way to victory. Of course, it’s not like she just got a hand full of pairs to begin with and went with the flow – she had to aim for pairs and triplets to begin with, throwing away her sequences. Why pons? Calling a lot makes both her hand and the general flow of the game easier to read for both Toki and Kuro, which is not without meaning. But more importantly, each time Subara calls pon, Miyanaga Teru loses an opportunity to draw a tile. If Subara pons on Toki’s discard, the order ‘resets’ back to Subara’s turn and Toki gets an extra draw. If Subara pons on Kuro’s discard, both Toki and Kuro get an extra draw. If you count in the discards Subara salvaged for her own hand, she gave team Teru Busters ten tiles of advantage while the champion was just sitting there, unable to do a thing. With four more draws to her hand, Toki is finally able to outrun Teru to a tsumo – this is what Toki refers to when saying that Subara ‘allowed her to win.’ And Subara knew this is what she has to do from the very beginning – as she says, she has no choice now that she’s South to Teru’s East. It’s not something you can do with every hand, not even something guaranteed to prove effective every time, but it was a tactic that a powerless human came up with against one of the most powerful probability manipulators of the Saki universe, and it worked. My respect, Subara sempai.

Of course, the reason the tactic worked so beautifully this time around was because Toki was out there being awesome, too. Playing into Subara’s pons while advancing her own hand could be compared to tightrope walking while juggling burning sticks, a feat so fiendishly difficult it seems simply impossible for an ordinary person to accomplish. Then again, Toki is not even close to being ‘ordinary’. Two turns ahead – the power that brought the Senriyama Ace to the brink of exhaustion ideally giver her pon / not pon information on eight different tiles ahead of time – that’s almost a fourth of the entire tile set! And all the while, Toki gets exclusive info about the tiles that will and won’t come on her draws, further accelerating her own hand. With the double boost provided by Subara’s tactics and her own ability, it is no wonder Toki was able to break through the stream of Teru’s endless strikes.

 

And yet, this victory was not what Toki really wanted. Sorry Shindouji, I couldn’t see your last tile. And what does Subara do in response? She flips her last remaining tile face down. It doesn’t matter. That was marvelous.

 

Now, hiding a losing hand before shuffling for the next hand is nothing uncommon. It’s often considered bad manners to brag about your would-be winning hands, and there’s usually little reason to give your opponent more info about your playing style than necessary. But just as discard do, this simple action can have deeper significance in Saki. Kajiki Yumi wordlessly hides her one-away from tempai kokushi musou hand that could have been the key to her victory over Saki and Koromo. Nearly winning doesn’t count. Hisa flips her tiles face down before Saki can draw her winning tile in their Individuals match, already knowing what’s to come and admitting defeat. That’s as far as I go.

Subara doesn’t know exactly how Toki’s ability works, but she understands enough – ‘Sorry, I couldn’t see your last tile.’ Onjouji Toki wanted to play into Subara’s hand, but couldn’t. Was one of the tiles in my winning hand the one Shindouji needed to go out? That’s the question lurking in Toki’s mind as she claims victory. Not her victory, their victory, even if the heartless point totals say something else. But Hanada Kirame understands. She flips her last tile down and buries the answer to the question in darkness until the match is all over and they go their separate ways. It doesn’t matter. That was marvelous.

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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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