Saki: Zenkoku-hen Episode 9: Sortie


Pic661I felt like everything just defused in a really anticlimactic manner after all the build-up we were treated to last week. Maybe it was partly to do with the decline in animation quality, but I also had the impression that Nodoka would go on a renchan while Sae continued to struggle valiantly in stopping Hatsumi’s suushiihou in its tracks. Instead, Sae stopped trying (Toki would never just give up like that!) and Hatsumi still ended up stuck in tenpai. While she did eventually manage to win her yakuman tsumo, with Nodoka paying the dealer penalty, I felt that it could have been so much more – in the end, Miyamori’s “anti-Usuzumi tactics” meant that much of the threat she possessed ended up being mere hot air. And if you’re thinking that sounds familiar, it was unfortunately what happened to Jindai too during the vanguard match. It might not be right to say this given how unpredictable Saki’s matches tend to be, but at this point it looks like Eisui are pretty much doomed – both their aggressive, occult point grabbers have come and gone, and now Iwato Kasumi has to pick up the pieces amidst a monstrous battlefield while barely hanging onto third. If anyone played really well in the fukushou match, it was Kinu! She managed to safely protect Himematsu’s lead after Hiroe’s efforts, while staying wary of Hatsumi – admittedly she didn’t have to physically strain herself, but hey, that’s just how it is.

Pic703So. We’re finally moving into the taishou match, and we’re doing so at breakneck speed – I have no idea what’s going to happen for the three remaining episodes, but we’re already done with an entire hanchan! While Saki managed to pull off a couple of cool wins that reminded me of a certain champion (exuding nothing but quiet confidence with that rinshan nomi) the main threat is definitely identifying itself as Anetai Toyone so far. Putting her height aside, I’ve always been sort of creeped out by her, and those red eyes aren’t helping – nor is her strange tendency to chase after riichis like that. It’s an occult power for sure, and despite its oddness Toyone does benefit a lot from it. A power involving riichi gives you the possibility of lots of ura-dora, and the high ippatsu rate is nice too. And then you have the psychological advantage over people who are new to your power – which, in this case, refers to everyone. The one thing I don’t get is how she manages to be in tenpai around the same time Kyouko is – what sort of crazy flow control is that?!

In light of the monsters she’s up against, I can’t blame Kyouko for going for cheap, fast hands in order to end everything quickly. Putting aside her constant riichi gambles (which must have hurt her points a lot) she’s still building her nest egg as much as possible even though Himematsu are so far ahead in points, no doubt in order to soften the blow if anything happens to her… or rather, if anything goes after her.


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7 Responses

  1. Katreus says:

    To clarify, Sae blocked until the gap between her and Kiyosumi grew large enough that a yakuman tsumo would be beneficial to decreasing the gap with 2nd place (the safe spot). As Kiyosumi sits East, she pays 16k and Sae pays 8k in a yakuman win, which is a relative 8k point gain on Kiyosumi. (This is not necessarily the same as a relative 8k point gain on 2nd place, but at this point in time, Eisui had lost enough points that they would not overtake 2nd even with a yakuman.) The difference to 2nd place was 7,700 at the beginning of the match. Sae drops the blockade when the point difference reaches 29,000. At the beginning of South 1, the difference is 19,000 and the successful yakuman tsumo drops the gap to 11,000. Not great, but much better than the alternative. A very good and smart performance by Sae given the limitations she had to work with.

    I like Toki… but strategically, Toki’s insistence on arranging a direct hit on Teru and beating her straight up was ill-considered. It was a decision fitting with Toki’s rather aggressive and determined character, but it was not a good decision for her team. The ‘smart’ option would actually have been to use her power defensively and avoid playing in to easily maintain the 2nd spot and secure her team’s entry into the finals. Not very glamorous, but very practical. (She was not the only player to display this sort of ‘pride’ though… Kirame, in her own way, did so as well as did, for example, Awai. If Side A seems to play with the idea of “(personal) pride,” then Side B seems to play with the idea of “(team) pride” and strategic information asymmetry.)

    As mentioned, Toyone has been deliberately sitting on her powers rather than flashing them around because it would be a good trump for her team — and her team worked hard to help her do so. One of the characteristics of this match that I consider most intriguing is that the players are very intelligent, pragmatic, strategic, and team-oriented. They are willing to throw away their personal pride for the sake of the team. A different feel but fun in its own way.

    • Vantage says:

      Personal pride versus team pride is a very nice way of putting it. We’re definitely seeing a different sort of dynamic to the one in Achiga-hen – as you say, in acting pragmatically the Side B girls put the good of the team first and foremost. That might actually explain why I’ve been finding Side B noticeably less flashier (so to speak) than Side A was. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, although there would have been many feels if Sae had decided to go all futuristic player and continue blocking Usuzumi. And of course there are still some occasional supernatural hijinks here and there, although this has got nothing on Side A’s telepathic yuri sex or daisangen harvesting (I even feel sort of ridiculous typing this).

      I do think there’s considerable value in characters upholding personal pride though, as strategically flawed as it might be. Their strong desire to stand up for their beliefs in spite of any potential repercussions is admirable, and there’s lots of emotional value in sharing their personal struggles. It’s something I really liked about Toki in particular, and you end up caring more as a result – despite the futility I still rooted for Senriyama over Achiga, assuming Shiraitodai’s success as a given. I’d like to think that Toki kept apologizing to Ryuuka for her recklessness not only with her health, but also with risking Senriyama’s campaign through exacting vengeance on Teru, a risk arguably justifiable through its significance. This was less so with Awai, whose arrogance prompted her downfall.

  2. Katreus says:

    Side B has less power spam, which accounted for much of the flashiness in Side A. Different genres – Achiga is shounen and Saki has always been seinen – and different rounds, of course. Side A QF was not particularly interesting or flashy what with it being the Senriyama show and the fight over 2nd place. The difference between the occults in Side A and Side B is striking in that Side A’s are dependent and Side B’s are complements. I think Side B’s flashiness lies in high-level mahjong strategy and the interplay of powers. For example, what Mako accomplished may not appear to have been flashy but she basically worked around Aislinn’s power and masterstroked 3 players at once over and over in her match. Honestly, one of the most incredible performances in Saki thus far (in terms of sheer competence). Hiroe’s traps were very well executed as well with the yakuman trap in the 1st match being especially evil. She’s arrogant but she has the skill and ability to back it up as a national ace-tier player.

    As for Toki, quite a conundrum really. Without Toki’s valiant if misguided stand, we would not root for Senriyama half as much, but doing it made it all the more probable (leaving aside Doylist explanations that Achiga had to go through as main) that Senriyama wouldn’t make it through. In any case, you’re right that Teru is not likely to forget Toki’s stand just as Kokaji didn’t forget Harue’s.

    Hilariously, Awai’s arrogance both prompted her downfall but also was her saving grace. (Her bigger problem is that she’s dumb.) If she had been pragmatic, she’d have called ron on Shindouji, which she assumed would grant her 2nd place. Because she was arrogant and aimed for the 1st place win, she went for another han in menzen tsumo to add to her presumed 4 dora and that han ended up the difference between 2nd and 3rd. If she had been smart, she’d realize that given Shizu’s displayed power, she couldn’t depend upon the ura-dora and thus, winning off Shindouji would not actually lead her to the safe spot of 2nd place so she’d aim for the tsumo han consciously to secure 2nd place. A strange match and win altogether. Incredible powers aside, none of the Captains covered themselves in glory with their performance.

    • Vantage says:

      Although she’s indeed arrogant and dumb, I still quite like Awai. She brings some life to an otherwise solemn Shiraitodai. Although – wouldn’t Awai still have ended up in 2nd place even if she’d called ron on Shindouji? It’s probably not something she would have cared about given her assumption of 4 ura-dora, but if she’d won off Himeko she’d have had ippatsu as well. She lost that once Ryuuka called chi on Shizu’s 6-sou, which she then replaced with the tsumo han.

      It’s very true that none of them covered themselves in glory… it’d be more apt to say they all covered themselves in hax instead. Himeko could use the offspring of her yuri lovemaking, while Awai’s daburii and kan-ura combo was just as destructive. Of what I’ve seen of the Sakiverse thus far, those abilities wreck the most havoc in terms of consistent, sheer point gains (other potential contenders include Teru, Jindai and Koromo, but Teru’s an exponential winner, Jindai has to go through a lot of complicated fluff and Koromo’s been nerfed recently). Shizu was there as the dark horse, and I guess Ritz just had to think up something for Ryuuka so she didn’t end up feeling left out. That being said, it was still very much an entertaining watch. It’d be interesting to see how those four would fare in a match without their powers, thus predominantly relying on the high-level mahjong strategy of Side B. I assume Ryuuka would do very well with her precise play, and maybe Himeko too (who was noted by Teru herself to have high individual skill).

      • Katreus says:

        Awai is certainly an entertaining character. She makes me laugh in any case, and yes, the rest of Shiraitodai can seem a bit glum at times. (Although Seiko beating Awai with the circular framing to prevent ‘corners’ was quite funny.)

        Re: South 4 – Scores at this time are:

        Achiga: 111,500
        Senriyama: 102,100
        Shindouji: 98,900
        Shiraiotdai: 87,500

        Awai needs a baiman hit on Achiga or Shindouji or a haneman on Senriyama or self-drawn. See the calcs for the Shindouji hit:

        Baiman / Haneman hit on Shindouji:
        Achiga: 111,500
        Shiraitodai: 103,500 / 99,500
        Senriyama: 102,100
        Shindouji: 82,900 / 86,900

        … Awai’s original wait was a 1234red5789sou red55 RRR for 6 sou with iitsu, yakuhai, 2 aka dora. That’s 5 han + 1 han from tsumo to win. She can’t ron Senriyama because that would only be a mangan. Her other alternative was riichi ron for Senriyama or riichi, ippatsu AND ura-dora hopes if she had to ron on someone else.

        When she picks up her 4th R, she throws that all out the window to declare a kan then riichis. Calling a win on Himeko is 2 han iitsu, 1 han yakuhai, 2 aka dora, 1 han riichi,and 1 han iipatsu … or a 7 han haneman, 12,000 points. Except… she needs a baiman for Shindouji to squeeze past Senriyama for the 2nd place. So, without the ura-dora, she loses.

        Re: Hax – Yep. I’d mostly agree with your analysis (and I even agree that it was entertaining). I was just a little disappointed with what seemed like some rather poor choices on the part of the Captains. The number of times that players played into one another for rather large hands without being forced to due to riichi was concerning. It’s just my personal preference that I’d rather see everyone play skillfully with or without their power.

        For Himeko, I’d worry about her defense. Most of the higher level players seem to have a 6th sense for opponents’ hand values or when players are reaching tenpai either reading discards or the flow but she doesn’t seem to have that skill, which would be problematic. It might just be an issue that she’s a discard reader and it’s hard to read discards for a player like Awai who can start off with a double riichi.

        • Vantage says:

          Ah, I see now. It would have been a 7-han haneman either way. Winning off Himeko would have needlessly dragged Shindouji down, when in reality Awai should have been looking to go after Senriyama. Winning on tsumo changes the 12,000 to a 3000/6000, which takes just enough off Senriyama to inch Shiraitodai into 2nd.

  3. Katreus says:

    In retrospect, this match had a lot of rons, although unavoidable for many of them given riichi.

    Re: Riichi Chasing Power – This one at least makes more sense than Sumire’s. In any case, she only has to be in iishanten, which most average players can end up doing fairly quickly, and she doesn’t even need to aim for a yaku or sensible waits so it’s even easier (because riichi will act as her yaku and her power can guarantee the latter). It’s actually bringing a hand to completion that’s usually hard but Toyone cheats around that with her power. As soon as someone gets into tenpai and declares riichi, she’ll get a tile that def. advances her hand to tenpai so she can declare a chasing riichi. Then the first riichi declarer draws and prob. discards Toyone’s win tile. The ippatsu is basically guaranteed. Toyone doesn’t seem to get many ura-dora though. A lot of her wins are just riichi ippatsu.

    In a way, it’s better if Toyone has small, crappy waits. It means the likelihood that her wait will be the same as the other player’s will be minimal. If both sides are waiting on multiple tiles, there’s a greater possibility of overlap so that the 1st player can just tsumo it.

    Re: Kyouko’s Strategy – Sort of the opposite way around? She won 3 cheap hands in the beginning and then after that, it’s constant point loss. She’s not building a nest egg at all at this point. That being said, trying to go through the round quickly was the right idea but she was a too aggressive in going after the points to extend her lead. Her riichi gambles, as you note, doesn’t pay off at all, and she basically annoyed Saki. Annoying a flow controller is a *very bad idea*.

    Re: Do not annoy Saki – First, as a general note, +/- 0 in a regular match (25k start) is anywhere from between +4600 to +5500. Kyouko’s call in East 1 unintentionally prevents Saki from getting the 3 sou that will complete her kan for a rinshan tsumo. Kyouko’s next two wins, one a tsumo and one a ron on Saki, makes Saki even more put out with Kyouko. Kyouko is now up 10500 and Saki’s -3600 down from her starting point. Saki promptly daiminkans Kyouko’s attempted riichi in East 4 for 9000, wiping out most of Kyouko’s gains, and putting her at +5400.

    South 1 and South 2 are the start of Miyamori’s riichi chasing. Note that both Kiyosumi and Eisui think the first is strange and think it’s beyond coincidence by the 2nd. It’s about this time that Eisui formulates her hypothesis as to what Toyone’s power is. Eisui intervenes on South 2 Bonus 1 with a quick tsumo to keep the round moving and prevent a dealer renchan, which drops Saki back to +4000. Saki promptly hits back with a +1500 tsumo to stay at +5500. In order to stay in her sweet spot, she either needs to lose 900 or less points over 2 rounds or someone wins by ron on a non-Kiyosumi player.

    Here’s the strange thing. Kyouko got a *lot* of yaku-less hands with some dora that would require a riichi to win on. (Kyouko didn’t help herself by going for the riichis stubbornly.) We can guess that Saki was unprepared for the 1st two riichi chasing by Toyone given her reactions. It’s interesting to me that for the 3rd and 4th riichi chasing, we can only see the other 3 players. Eisui wonders if Himematsu will be alright with the riichi … There’s no portrayed reaction from Saki. For that matter, we don’t even *see* her on screen. The framing of the shots seem to crop her out. So what *is* she doing?

    In any case, Kyouko losing points is good for Saki regardless of whether Saki is annoyed with her. The original gap to 1st was 28000 at the start and rises to 42100 at one point before Saki’s daiminkan rinshan win drops it to 24100. It then steadily drops as Toyone keeps winning to a bare 900 by the end of the 1st hanchan.

    Re: Kasumi – It’s a little sad that her team didn’t manage to get a lead for her. We’ve seen a lot of players play defensive *roles* as required by their team, but Kasumi is perhaps the first person we’ve seen that is a defensive *player* and a excellent one at that. Her defensive play is *fantastic*, but with this point spread, she’ll need to go on the offensive. In the course of the hanchan, she was only hit by tsumos for a combined point loss of 1500 and quickly won on a bonus hand to prevent a dealer renchan in South 2. I think we can definitely see how Eisui can be a fearsome team. Imagine trying to get past Kasumi with a lead. Not only will you be prevented from getting renchans (so less hands to gain points in), you’ll have to do so by out-gaining the gap PLUS whatever points Kasumi gains.

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