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Posts Tagged ‘Onjouji Toki’

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Some of you expected me to go gaga over episode 12 of Achiga, and I won’t disappoint. I don’t think a single post is enough to cover all the points of note, so I’ll start things off with the main character.

Onjouji Toki. It goes without saying that she has been overdoing things, taking crazy risks and turning a tile-matching game into a life-or-death ordeal. What I haven’t touched upon in previous posts is that everything she’s done in the Teru match is utter nonsense in terms of helping out her team win the match. Two teams advance to the finals, and there’s basically no way for Toki not to place second if she just bails all teh time. The other players get ronned from time to time, Toki doesn’t. The abysmal probability of her losing second place despite that disappeared when she won the first hand of the match and when Shindouji and Achiga ate one ron each, proving Teru was not aiming to knock out the no.2 seed Senriyama specifically.

The reason Toki’s actions were suicidal, in more ways than one, was because her fight was never about point totals to begin with.

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In the tournament one year ago, Eguchi Sera did not face Miyanaga Teru. But she ended up with a no less painful role. After all, “by the time it was their turn, the match was as good as over.” How did Sera feel, tens of thousands of points behind her opponents and unable to do a thing about it? The powerlessness she felt back then was like what Ikeda Kana experienced in her fight against Amae Koromo – forced to go for high-scoring hands against opponents who could not possibly play into those hands – a merciless quicksand dragging her ever deeper into despair. The existence called ‘Miyanaga Teru’ made everything meaningless – her effort, her determination, her dreams. And when Ryuuka tells Toki of Sera’s sadness, it is because that is easier than talking about her own memories and pain. After all, she went through the same.

Losing happens. They both knew this. They could get over it. There was just one problem. This.

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Osaka is huge. It is 2,871,680 people kind of huge. Those thousands of lights support the students attending Senriyama. The several hundred students take pride in their mahjong club. The several dozen mahjong club members come along for the Nationals to cheer on their regular team. The five member team based its schedule around supporting Onjouji Toki.

Tell those people that Miyanaga Teru is an absolute power and that second place is good enough. Tell them that it wasn’t worth trying. Tell them it wasn’t worth pulling out all the stops.

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Toki risked a lot. But as the champion draws the tile that will cost her 16 000 points, we see her look up. Miyanaga Teru and Onjouji Toki lock gazes – the first time during the match that the champion is forced to look somebody straight in the eyes, acknowledge them. Like Kokaji-pro right now, Teru will remember this match even after ten years have passed. She might not remember Toki’s name, and that’s fine.

Senriyama did it.

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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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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)

Imagine

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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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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