What They Say:
The girls have to find two more members before they can be an official club, but Bansei holds a monopoly on the serious players. It is time to track down old friends and rebuild Achiga’s Mahjong Club!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ako, Shizuno, and Kuro go in search of more players. Their first stop is Kuro’s house, where we find her older sister, third-year high school student Yuu, whose weird and meant-to-be-endearing fetish is that she is cold all the time, including in the summer, so she wears a scarf year-round and even hides underneath a kotatsu (a heated table used by Japanese during the winter, normally) during the middle of the hot months of the year. But she also knows how to play mahjong on about the same skill level as her younger sister. So, no. 4 is on board.
And they get a lead on another girl, as Yuu mentions Arata Sagimori, a girl who used to be able to play against the adults when she was in elementary school. Kuro comes to visit Arata, but it seems that she stopped playing when Arado came back from the semi-finals in defeat and stopped playing herself. Even when Arado started the classes for little kids, Arata stayed away, as she was a fan of the “cool” Arado who won in the big leagues.
But as the new school year will be starting soon, the girls gather and it looks like they have the minimum number, as even Arata comes along, offering herself at least as an in-name-only member, so that they can be recognized as an official school club. But that’s not good enough. They still need an advisor. It just so happens that Harue Arado, the ace of Achiga’s legendary team, who ran a club for children when Shizuno and Ako were in middle school, but left two years before to go professional, is about to lose her day job, as her company plans to scrap their corporate mahjong team as a cost-cutting measure. The stars line up perfectly for Achiga, as Arado returns home and is surprised to find the Achiga Club active again. The stars line up for Arado as well, as she seems to suffer from a major case of choking when it comes to the top tier of competition (she was an ace player in the Japan League, but when her team got to the finals, she choked again, as she did in the National Semifinals when she was in high school). She wants to take the girls to the top, as she feels that she needs to get back to the National Semifinals to find something she may have left behind nine years ago when she was a high schooler.
In their way, of course, will be Bansei High. And at the end, we get an early look at the little girl who is probably their ace player.
So, we get a second episode that largely is involved in world and character building, along with further exposition and laying down markers for what is to come ahead. What we have gotten precious little of this time around is playing mahjong. I have to admit that I’m slightly curious about that: was there too much mahjong the first time around? When I saw the original series, I did not really get the feeling that there was too much mahjong. Thus, I do have to wonder why there seems to be so much deliberate avoidance of it in the first two episodes of the new series.
One interesting way in which they try to tie the two series together is by recycling some of the music cues from the original show. Go back and rewatch a few of the early episodes of the first series, and you’ll recognize some of the background music used here.Looking at what we do get, provides both a touch of interest and a slight feeling of warning. The interest comes from the new character Arata, and from the greater fleshing out of Arado. While I already know why there will be others interested in Arata for other reasons, I am curious as to what kind of player she will turn out to be. That will probably be tied into Arado, whose return is welcome, since she provides a nice “big sister” type of character, but one who has both an iron will to return to glory, and yet is not inhuman like so many other star players in the Saki universe. Her choking in big games makes her human, and thus somewhat more sympathetic than just about any of the original series characters were, to a certain degree.
The warning is that two of the characters are rather lacking in appeal at the moment. Yuu’s little “I’m always cold” thing is meant to be endearing, but it just comes across as bleh to me. And Shizuno, who was all fire and one-piece sweater jacket that makes one ponder the imponderable in the first episode, is increasingly becoming something of a cipher. Besides the fact that she wears this very long zippered sweat-suit top, there isn’t much else that defines her character at the moment. Ako has more depth, but that’s not saying much, as she’s quite shallow in terms of definition as well. Kuro is only slightly better. Now, this is just the beginning. There will be a lot of time to flesh out the characters more. But the fact that they could do it rather quickly for Arado and Arata in such a limited time (Arata has only appeared since this episode) and yet have failed to give any even minor complexity to Shizuno and Ako so far makes me slightly concerned. Of course, they could now just deflect that feeling by showing a lot of mahjong play, and that might well be welcome at this point. If they have deliberately avoided it in order to whet our appetites, it may well be working.
Fortunately, the show is not going to waste a lot of time putting the team together. Had they stretched it out over a few episodes, it might have been somewhat tedious. Granted, that may have given them time to flesh out the characters better, but I actually prefer the trade-off they made here. There will be time to provide some depth to the ones who are lacking it at the moment. Or, they could just divert us with a lot of mahjong, which has been conspicuously lacking so far. Anyway, the Achiga Girls’ Academy Mahjong Club is back in action, and even have an advisor in the form of Ms. Arado, who has returned to her hometown again, still hungry for answers to her own mahjong demons. It would be good if they started playing now.
Streamed by: Crunchyroll
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard