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September 23, 2012

Anime Review: Saki

So how do you make an ordinary table game into something actually worth watching? Well to start off just add plenty of ridiculous special effects, a huge cast of high school girls, make them 90% yuri and power levels (not to mention a inter-school tournament), then you get Saki.

SakiSynopsis:

Miyanaga Saki is a high school freshman who doesn’t like mahjong. Ever since she was a child, she would lose her New Year’s gift money during her family mahjong game. If she won, her parents would be upset, and if she lost, well, she lost. As a result, she’s learned to play in such a way that her score always remains plus/minus zero: not good enough to win, but not bad enough to lose. When we meet her, she’s being dragged to her school’s mahjong club by an old friend. How will a girl who hates mahjong, yet has become adept at the game as a result of her upbringing, survive in this environment?

Review:

Well what can I say about my knowledge of Mahjong before watching this anime? Absolutely nothing at all except I do know that it is a table game which has many tiles on it. So with nothing else to do, I decided to give Saki a go and see how bored I will get. But. I. Was. Wrong. If you think that the anime is only just a bunch of girls that play Mahjong, you are half right. Yes, indeed there are plenty of girls int eh anime that do play Mahjong, but that isn't the important aspect here. To spice things up, the girls play Mahjong like you have never seen Mahjong being played before. Smashing down those tiles, whilst having supernatural powers that affect the result of the game is pure exhilarating. Also, to make the story move along, a tournament-type story is introduced where the girls aim to qualify for the nationals. Think of this as extreme Mahjong with cute (loli-like) girls with supernatural powers. There is plenty of fans service to be had here.

The art was quite good for most part of the anime. Some special effects sequences (such as the magical girl moments) did tone down the art to a more basic form, but it didn't ruin the overall experience. The characters all looked extremely cute and appealing to the audience. I most note that the girl's skirts were extremely short, but there were no panchira moments. There were also plenty of special effects and adrenaline-rushing moments to be had. The CG elements for the 3D-style Mahjong board was well done and illustrated the current status of the overall game quite well.

The characters' voice acting was perfect for all of the characters. I had no problems with the voices and background music throughout the anime. The theme songs were actually quite nice to listen to and lead into the episode nicely. The sound effects just dominated this anime. Every smash of the tile and roll of the dice made unique sounds and made the anime that much more enjoyable and exciting to watch.

From the moment I started watching the first episode, I was totally into this anime. Even though I did not understand anything at all about Mahjong, it actually was quite exciting to watch. Even now, I still do not get the game at all, but I slightly understand the terms used to make a 'call'. If you are a Mahjong player, or know about the rules, then you will probably enjoy watching Saki more than me. I must note that, the anime sometimes do a flashback or self-reflection scenes in a midst of a game at a crucial moment which slightly ruined the tension and flow of the story a bit.

Overall, it was actually quite an interesting anime to watch. It combines high school life of a Mahjong club girls into a tournament that possesses extraordinary power and skill. Just watching the main characters owning everyone in a round is just fun to watch. Whether you are young or old, into slice of life anime or not, Saki might be worth your watch.

STORY: 7
Well, if you minus the special effects and the yuri elements from the story, you just get a bunch of high school girls in a Mahjong tournament.

ART: 8
It was quite well detailed and presented. The characters looked cute and appealing.

SOUND: 8
Excellent voice acting for the characters and the theme songs were nice to listen to. There was plenty of sound effects throughout the anime.

CHARACTER: 8
The story centrals around the group of girls rather than just Saki alone, but everyone has a part of the overall story. The anime also features a variety of different girls from different schools with different personalities.

ENJOYMENT: 9
Fan service? There's plenty of that here from the unintentional yuri moments to the adrenaline-rush of the extreme Mahjong game.

OVERALL: 8
Well, you like slice of life animes with some competitive play, then Saki is definitely an anime for you.