The title protagonist and one of the best characters in this anime.
The moment of truth has arrived, and today the inaugural ‘Anime of the Year 2009’ title holder will be chosen. Two of the initial candidates has already been reviewed, and you can read what I have to say about them here and here. As mentioned in the K-On review, the sport anime Saki is the last candidate that I will review before the winner is chosen. Being an anime that revolves around mahjong, the sport genre standard handicap will be applied in the scoring. Can Saki stops Wolf and Spice 2 from running away with the ‘Anime of the Year 2009’ title? Read on to find out the result.
This explains why there are lots of Saki hentai doujins at TokyoTosho. I have always wondered why, but after watching this anime, now I knows. There is also a similar character in Shion no Ou, but she was not exploited unlike the character above.
The title protagonist Saki Miyanaga, a first-year high schooler who is good at mahjong but hated the game (sounds familiar?) was forced by her friend from middle school to play a game in the mahjong school club. There, she meets the middle-school mahjong prodigy Nodoka Haramura and after a chain of events, the protagonist joins the club. As expected from a high-school sport anime, both of them vows to win the the prefecture tournament so that their club can qualify to the nationals (if you are not familiar with this kind of stories, you need to watch more Japan’s sports anime titles).
As mentioned above, the overall story in this anime is very typical for its genre, especially the ones that involves middle/high school students. We have the usual cliché-laden made-up reasons on why a given characters has to get to the nationals at all costs, then we also have the obligatory ‘training camp’ sessions (there are a couple of them here) and of course we have the tournaments where anime of this kind revels upon. Of course, a generic sports anime will not be complete without overexaggerations, and Saki delivers them in abundance. I thought Japan anime/manga industry has already left these kind of exaggerations behind to the last century, but they make their comebacks with a vengeance in this 2009 title.
Regular readers of this blog may compare this anime with the recently reviewed Shion no Ou, but actually IMHO this anime is more similar to Umisho. Why is that? This is because both of them are sports anime titles (although Umisho is not subject under the sport genre standard handicap because it was reviewed before I watch Capeta) and also both of them has lots of fan service. The huge amount of fan service in this anime far exceeds of Umisho’s; in fact you will be forgiven if you think that this anime is an adaptation of a dating simulation game (which seems to be common nowadays) instead of a sport manga.The fan service is not a bad thing though, and I really likes them. The quality of the stories in those two anime titles are comparable, but the yuri genre influence in this anime (yuri genre anime titles like Strawberry Panic are the ones that I actively avoid like a plague) drags this anime’s quality down. Of course, that’s simply a matter of preferences; you may like it, but I don’t.
Tantalizingly very short skirts like this one (very short even for non-hentai Japanese anime titles standard) are just one of the fan-service you can see in this anime.
Nevertheless, despite the average quality of the story in this anime, the presentation are excellent. One notable aspect of the presentation of this anime is the excellent usage of flashbacks. Let me warn you first, this anime has shitloads of flashbacks inside; combined, they can easily take up one-third of this anime’s airtime. They are used for many purposes, usually to advance the storyline but more often than not, to do character introductions and developments for characters that are not the students in the same school where the title protagonist is studying. Poor usage of this literary device has sunk many anime titles I have watched before, but here, even with the humongous amount of flashbacks, there are zero impact upon the anime’s story developments although the pacing may have been slowed down quite a bit during tournament episodes. The director really has done his/her job well.
Character developments in this anime are also done very well, with the title protagonist and her pink-haired big-breasted yuri-friend being the best of them all. Those flashbacks really helps at creating many likeable personified characters, either from the protagonist’s own club or the ones from rival schools. The ending is structured to accommodate a second season, which I think this anime should get. Umisho also has the same structured ending but there are no news of a new installment yet, so I hope Saki is not be left hanging just like that, because I want to know what will happen at the nationals.
One of the 'unique' character designs in this anime. Oh BTW, she is not blind, but there is a sharingan beneath those closed eyelids that she will use when in a pinch in a mahjong game.
The character designs in this anime is good and, well, unique. This anime is a story about women mahjong, but the designs in this anime are done as if to distract the viewers from the the fact that this anime is a mahjong anime. The pink-haired girl with gigantic breasts and that girl who closed her right eyes are some of the examples I am talking about.Black hair are rare in this anime, most of them are for secondary characters only.
Chihara Minori has really done an excellent job voicing an insane character that scares people like the rich blonde girl above.
Voice acting in this anime is excellent in general, if you exclude the two main protagonists (these two are stupidly average). The taco lover (Rie Kugimiya), the rich blonde girl (Chihara Minori) and the girl who can become invisible (Momoko Saito) are three outstanding characters in this aspect. Chihara Minori really impressed me with her gig here, I never thought she can voice a pompous yet hyperactive character like that. At first, I thought the rich blonde girl was voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro (the rich blonde girl character is similar to the rich purple-haired girl in Gosyusho-sama Ninomiya-kun voiced by her) but it turns out that I am wrong. Chihara Minori’s gig here is better than what she has done in Haruhi Suzumiya. Maybe, just like Mamoru Miyano, she has found her niche? Definitely a positive point for this anime.
Some good monologues from another character with excellent voice acting.
A positive point for this anime; the OST is good, and so are the OP/ED themes except the 2nd ED.
Even when just used as metaphors, these kinds of overexaggerations are simply over the top and eventually wears me down.
The quality of the animation is good, even in fast-paced scenes. Unlike the more mundane Shion no Ou, there are choreography in this mahjong anime, and they are quite good. Where else can you see magical girls appearing just after a character put a tile down on the table (I am looking at you the rich blonde girl). And of course, fires or lightning that emanates from the tiles as the characters swings their hand to put them on the table (almost everyone else). The directing is excellent, especially for the flashback management feats I have mentioned above.
When high-school female students plays mahjong in Japan, lightning comes out from their eyes to scare the wit out of their opponents.
7 out of 10. With this, I hereby declared that Wolf and Spice 2 is the first holder of ‘Anime of the Year 2009’ title.
Also in Japan, high school female students who plays mahjong also wears jerseys, like football players.