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Posts Tagged ‘Senriyama’

vlcsnap-2013-05-28-16h49m42s164

You know I have my gripes with Shiraitodai as a team. Their team creation method that insists on gathering players of a single type is downright ridiculous, making it completely possible that half of the school’s top 10 players end up warming the bench while amateurs (coughSeikocough) that got lucky to team up with Teru somehow go on to represent the school. The result is obviously an incredibly unbalanced team almost entirely reliant on Teru, and even lacking the flexibility to at least try and protect the huge leads Teru gains.

But honestly, Awai takes the cake.

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Shiraitodai in last place. Needs a baiman from Achiga or Shindouji (8 han, 16,000 pts), or a haneman from Senriyama or own draw (6 han, 12,000 pts) to advance to the finals.

Make no mistake, this is bad.

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Luckily enough, Awai manages to turn her hand into a haneman-capable shape. It is still a difficult situation, as she basically has no choice but to go out on a self-drawn six of bamboo if she wants to move on to the finals (or call riichi and add the possibility of going out on Ryuuka’s discards). Still, Awai is determined to see things through to the end.

Only, all her self-restraint and reason seem to be blown away the moment she draws the tile necessary for her kan. She ignores what she sees as a opportunity for a 24,000 point victory from Shindouji just because “it wouldn’t get her first place”. There’s no benefit to getting first place here, except for bragging rights, so I cannot see it as anything but Awai putting her personal pride before the good of the team.

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The result we all know: Awai just barely manages second place anyway. The real kicker is, had she followed her erroneous assumption that she will get four kan dora and did the reasonable thing (winning from Shindouji), Awai would have won a 7 han baiman hand… and lost to Senriyama, making Shiraitodai drop out of the finals!

This really makes me question what Ritz wanted to convey here. Awai wins only because she was selfish AND cocky? That’s a broken Aesop if I have ever seen one. vlcsnap-2013-05-28-18h58m26s41

Either way, I cannot see Shiraitodai as a serious team anymore, and I am looking forward to seeing them get their assess kicked in the finals. I am sure Ritz will make them look stronger in the main story than here, but Shiraitodai will always be the least team-like team out there, and it is a shame teams like Senriyama and Shindouji had to make place for those “returning champions”.    

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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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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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