Saki: Zenkoku-hen Episode 3: Start
Hisa… you’re evil. Even though Maho ended up being the overall loser multiple times, Saki still looked pretty butthurt post-game. It looks like Maho’s strong start last week clearly foreshadowed the events to come – her sudden resemblance to Yuuki was no coincidence. While it’s probably not much use in a proper tournament (as she’s only able to use it for a single hand per game) it’s still frightening to learn about her ability to copy somebody else’s playing style and skills. And it definitely instilled quite a lot of fear into Saki – it even gave me the chills to see Maho pull it off so smoothly, as if she knew she’d win off the dead wall (I swear she didn’t even look at the tile before slamming it). While rinshan kaihou isn’t a unique yaku at all, its probability of success isn’t great either – I myself can count the number of times I’ve scored one with my fingers. Saki takes pride in it as her signature yaku, and it must have felt awful to see someone else pull it off like that.
I love how Nodoka hasn’t recognized Maho’s ability at all (sonna occult arimasen), and is just chalking it down as an attempt to emulate either her or Yuuki on a regular basis – it looks like she’s as stubborn as ever over superstition and the existence of abilities, despite having experienced this sort of mahjong climate for so long now. Anyway, I’m sort of glad we glossed over the rest of the training camp – as nice as it is to see some friendly mahjong, I’m far more interested in the nationals! It’s what we’re all here for after all.
That one chinroutou was enough to make me invest myself in Himematsu – or more specifically, in Atago Hiroe. She’s quickly becoming one of my favourite supporting characters – is everyone at the nationals supposed to be this awesome? That comeback is the sort of crazy mahjong you’d expect at this level… and to think, two other 9-sous were already sitting in the pond, making it a hell wait! I can’t even tell whether Hiroe fully intended for that kan to lower her opponent’s guard, especially as she had no way of knowing she’d draw a 1-wan from the dead wall. Wait, this is Saki we’re talking about, of course she knew somehow. Either way, Himematsu are much more of a threat to Kiyosumi than I’d initially thought, and to top that off they’ve already got Eisui to deal with. At least it’ll be Hisa going up against Hiroe – and Hisa’s pretty devious herself. That renchan must have been a beast of a victory… Yuuki probably helped shave off a lot of points, but still! She knocked someone below zero without needing Nodoka or Saki!
It’s a real shame we never got to watch that, but at least we’ve reached the good stuff now. Next week is where the real challenge starts, with the vanguard match of the quarterfinals. Yuuki’s cape is all well and good, but she’ll need more than that to stop the first national-class monster we’ll see in Side-B – Eisui’s vanguard Jindai Komaki.