Hey doods and peeps. Welcome to another episode of The G-Views. Despite 3 new episodes being announced as of June 25th, 2012, I feel the initial 12 episodes are more than enough to come to a review of the show. Is the show as good or better than the undeniably awesome Saki? Let’s find out as we take a look at Saki, Achiga-Hen episode of Side-A.
As always, if I’ve reviewed a prequel or previous season, I post a link to it so here you go.
Themes: mahjong, school, yuri
Number of episodes: 16
Rating: 7/10. 8/10 if you added episodes 13-16.
Plot Summary: Nodoka Haramura’s appearance on television playing in a high school mahjong tournament inspires her old Jr. high school friends to reform their schools club so they can meet and play her in the National High School Mahjong Tournament.
The world you are about to enter is a world where high school girls of all shapes and sizes enter a squared circle and bleed, sweat and shed tears as they beat the hell out of each other into submission or incapacitation. A world where friendship and true love is put to the test in each match. A world where the 4 elements clash and tiles are slammed to the mat with indescribable force. A world where a wrestler’s best friends are her private “pillows”. This is the Mahjong Wrestling Federation, whose roster consists mainly of lesbians with superpowers.
Side-A is a spin-off/midquel of the main Saki series and as the title suggests, it follows the Achiga Girls Academy’s mahjong team. I don’t need to go into too many details about what to expect in this one as it’s more of the same as the original, just a different main cast. For fans of the original, most of the veterans do make appearances.
As I’ve mentioned before in a previous episodic analysis, If there’s one thing I’ve learned after watching Saki, is that “extreme mahjong wrestlers” need three things to go over with the fans: 1) a likable personality/gimmick. 2) lots of screen time. 3) and the most important, A FLASHBACK! While the prequel reveled with this content and various great exhibition and tournament bouts, the spin-off…let’s see exactly what went wrong with Side-A.
1: Not enough wrestling. That’s rather disappointing to many fans as even though we did see some matches early on, most of them were prematurely cut off, with only a few moves showcased and immediately followed by the end results. This could be due to the show’s short length but I personally think bad booking/writing/direction was to blame. The full length matches we did get on the other hand (One in particular) was TOO long. The message was explained after the 1st two parts, the 3rd part felt like filler and the 4th part could have been concluded in less than 10 minutes. Compared to the prequel’s matches, each had a decent amount of time to not only develop most of the wrestlers, but also give each of them the chance to show what they can do.
2: Not enough focus on the protagonists. What I’ve heard from fans who didn’t enjoy The Legend of Korra that much was that compared to the prequel’s splendid main cast, most of the newcomers are bland. Unfortunately, Team despite Team Achiga’s members being more adorable than Team Kiyosumi’s, Team Kiyosumi’s members have better gimmicks, more personality and better character development. Despite this fault, I don’t think their lack of character is to blame. It mainly has to do with.
3) Are Team Achiga TRULY the main characters? In this show there are two teams that have received the most attention, Team Achiga and Team Senriyama. The problem here is that at times it feels like Senriyama are the main characters. You wouldn’t believe how much time was devoted to Toki alone. Luckily her caretaker/girlfriend and the tomboy of the group were her best buds so they got time as well. The other two members also felt like they had character. Meanwhile on Achiga’s side, I can honestly say that Shizuno and Yuu are the ones with the more memorable gimmicks. Arata and Ako barely have any defining characteristics, the former due to her similarity to Toki in the soft spoken dept. so it’s hard to tell them apart and Kuro…hoo boy. Heck, even their coach is more interesting. Maybe their flashbacks weren’t cool enough? Hmm.
4) The cameos are more over with the fans. As mentioned earlier, the veterans make return appearances and as short of time they get on screen, their impact is greater than almost all of Team Achiga’s opponents. Heck, even the newcomers who we didn’t get to see wrestler (Probably because they’ll appear in Saki 2) are more interesting. Possibly the most interesting character in the entire secondary cast aside from Teru Miyanaga and Team Senriyama, is the Marvelous One.
Animation and music remain similar to the main series. If you’ve heard the original OST, you know whether it’s your thing or not.
Shizuno Takakamo: The only one in the main cast who legitimately tries to be entertaining. Spunky, energetic and wants to have as much fun as possible but is determined to bring her A-Game to every match.
Ako Atarashi: Possibly the girl who suffers the most from the short length of episodes. Apart from being Shizuno’s destined partner, there isn’t much else to say other than she has a lot of potential to be a great wrestler, but we don’t get to see her showcase many moves.
Arata Sagimori: Soft spoken, has a bowling motif and is a huge fan (Possibly crush on) of the coach. That’s it.
Kuro and Yuu Matsumi. While Kuro’s only defining trait is her romantic bond with her older sister, Yuu’s Kamen Rider scarf, fighting style and her extreme sensitivity towards the cold make her a more entertaining character to watch.
While the prequel is known for its many, MANY, yuri couples, Toki and Ryuuka are the best you’re going to get here. Sure, there are other couplings, but they hardly get as much screen time as the love shared between these two, which is still good.
Is Achiga-Hen a disappointment? Not really. It could have been much better though. I expect hardcore Saki fans’ opinions on this spin-off/midquel to be mixed. For casual Saki fans, it’s worth a watch. I just HOPE that if the show’s Blu-Ray sales are low (I hope not), it won’t have any effect on Saki 2′s production…because if it does, you bet your asses I’ll be fricken miffed!
Also, special thanks to Yuri Musings for the awesome mega.gifs
Update: After watching the additional 4 episodes that were delayed for one reason or another, the initial rating was increased by one point because those extra matches were really good and the Team Achiga members (most of them anyway), got a little more character development.