It’s been a long time since I’ve written a full end-of-series impressions post but after completing Saki I feel the absolute need to do one. Now that I have come to the hopefully temporary standstill on my journey with Kiyosumi High School’s mahjong club I can finally say that I fully enjoyed the adventure. I went into the series knowing barely anything about the original manga and having played only one game of mahjong in my entire life but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with Saki and its characters.
There are two main reasons for watching Saki in the first place; mahjong and cute girls or possibly both. One of the astounding qualities about Saki is its ability to balance between being an exciting mahjong series as well as a dynamic character-driven series. Both types of audiences will enjoy the series and by the end it may be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Saki being a story revolving around a high school mahjong club is of course going to involve a great deal of detail and jargon around the activity in question. One of Saki’s strength’s is that knowledge of the rules of the game are unnecessary to enjoy the story. As I had mentioned I have only played mahjong once before and during that one incident I had to learn the rules on the fly. Saki makes no attempt to dumb down the rules of the game as virtually all of the characters introduced throughout the series are serious about the game and know the rules by heart. It’s because of this that despite the series’ heavy usage of obscure rules and terminology it is just as easy to be thrilled by the characters themselves and the energy surrounding them as they face off as it is to be thrilled by the game itself.
Saki features a huge cast of interesting characters each with their own personality quirks and back stories from an absurd love of tacos to the ability to fade into the background. Saki herself at the start of the series hates mahjong due to family circumstances but has the amazing ability to break even by the end of every game–a feat even harder than just merely winning. Due to her uncanny ability she astonishes the mahjong club and piques the interest of a certain national-level member Nodoka who Saki is ultimately able to form an amazing friendship with and learn to love mahjong. Saki delves into several such heart-warming friendships and it is easy to fall in love with several characters including those from opposing schools as all the characters are likable in one way or another and receive a fair share of screen time.
Although mahjong play is treated as extremely serious by the cast of characters the anime likes to remind us that this is an anime. Although the characters themselves possess no otherworldly abilities several times throughout the series the characters demonstrate their skills in the form of over-the-top animation sequences. Haramura Nodoka for one sometimes assumes the role of her online mahjong avatar Nodocchi in fictional battles between opponents that can sense her power. Although I came in expecting merely giggles from such scenes I found myself genuinely captivated watching the tension and emotions of the characters taking material form during intense matches. In particular I was so mesmerized by the final play during the prefectural tournament finals that I had to rewatch the scene multiple times.
Although I can’t say with absolute certainty having not read the manga I have heard that Saki actually followed the original story quite well. I am extremely glad Gonzo opted to stay true to the source material as I honestly doubt that Gonzo could construct such a wonderful story on their own. Interestingly enough the anime caught up with the manga so it will be an eternity to me until I get to learn what happens next.
With what essentially amounts to a massive preview for the nationals at the end of the final episode I am stricken with anticipation for a possible second season. With a major plot revelation still unresolved I’m anxious to see more of the characters I have so become enamored by. Sadly without Saki my Mondays seem empty and the energy and excitement that rallied me at the beginning of each new week is gone. I guess all that is left for me to do is read the manga and polish my skills playing mahjong as I await the return of the Kiyosumi Mahjong Club.